Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Tasikmalaya's newly elected mayor wants to introduce Sharia (Islamic law) to please local extremists who backed his candidacy for the post. Budi Setiawan himself made the announced yesterday, a "personal commitment," he said despite strong opposition from various groups in the city, activists and movements, including university students. In taking office, Mr Setiawan reiterated his desire to implement his project of making Tasikmalaya, a city in southeastern West Java Regency (province), a jurisdiction based on Muslim "values and morality".
Mayor Setiawan justified his proposal by saying that he received "strong backing from Muslim leaders" during the election campaign, and now wants to honour his "commitment" to fundamentalists, ensuring that city bylaws would be based on Islamic law in matters customs and behaviour.
Despite support for the mayor by the local parlamentarian, Asep Maosul, his plans have been met with a barrage of criticism and popular outrage. Opponents say that politics and public morality cannot be the privilege of a single individual or religion and violate human rights and freedom of expression. However, such a controversy is not new. For some time, the authorities have tried to "Islamise" the city.
On paper, Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, is a secular nation, based on the 1945 constitution that grants the same rights and respect to all religions even though Muslims are a majority.
Yet, in some places like Aceh, scene of a violent uprising in the past, central authorities have allowed the introduction of the Islamic law in order to secure peace.
In other places, the principles of separation of state and religion and that of equal rights have not prevented abuses and violence. For example, in Bogor, Mayor Diani Budiarto shut down the Yasmin Church. His counterpart in Bekasi did the same to the Philadelphia Protestant Church.