While religion is important, more significant is brotherhood and friendship. (Antara Photo/Prasetia Fauzani)

'If You Don't Want Pancasila, Don't Live in This Country,' Say Nahdlatul Ulama Activists


FEBRUARY 09, 2017

Jakarta. Indonesians are at a crossroads where a new direction for their nationhood might be determined, as the state ideology Pancasila faces another challenge from hardline Muslim groups that demand the so-called Jakarta Charter to be reinstated.

The Jakarta Charter of 1945 was adopted by the drafters of the Constitution as its preamble. It was similar to Pancasila, but had some adjustments — an obligation for Muslims to follow Islamic law. Realizing that many people in eastern Indonesia were not Muslims, Mohammad Hatta, Indonesia's first vice president and one of the country's founding fathers, rejected the charter. Muslim leaders agreed to remove the provision and eventually made the original Pancasila the ideological foundation of the republic. 

Recently, however, the Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI, has brought the issue back, taking Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's blasphemy case as an excuse. Ever since, the organization has been mobilizing Muslims to participate in rallies and triggering ethnic and religious tensions against the pluralist and secular foundations of the state.

FPI leader Rizieq Shihab in a public speech has reportedly mocked the decision by both secular and religious leaders to drop the Jakarta Charter. The charter itself has become a kind of Pandora's box.

"The truth is, there are people in this country who never stop opening this Pandora's box of the Jakarta Charter," an intellectual and activist of the Nahdlatul Ulama, or NU, Zuhairi Misrawi, said in Jakarta on Wednesday (08/02).

With hardline Muslim groups constantly staging mass demonstrations, it becomes apparent that they are pushing for establishment of a state based on Islamic law, Zuhairi added.

"They are doing it through mass mobilization. With the rallies, they attempt to change the state ideology. We should be aware of this," he said.

Rallies that carry a hidden political agenda to change the state ideology can be harmful to Indonesia's diversity and pluralism.

"Everyone needs to have an open heart for diversity as the foundation to make the nation stronger; we need Pancasila for this purpose. If you want to alter Pancasila and establish an Islamic state, this country is not for you. Please just leave it," Zuhairi said.

In a similar tone to Zuhari, former student activist, Syafieq Alieha, also of the NU, said the existence of hardline Muslim groups depends on divisive ethnic and religious sentiments, and they want to maintain these tensions by seeking to turn Indonesia into an Islamic state.

Syafieq accused the groups which plan to stage a mass rally in Jakarta on Saturday, of merely trying to strengthen their political existence.

"The lives of these groups depend on divisive sentiments. If those get stronger, their political position will also become stronger," Syafieq said

For the past four months, the groups, led by the FPI, have been demanding that the leadership of Jakarta be Muslim. The capital city is now governed by Ahok, a Christian of Chinese descent.

Ahok, who is campaigning for re-election, has been accused of blasphemy for referring to a Koranic verse during a public speech in September. He is now standing trial over the issue.

According to Syafiq, hardline Muslim groups want to maintain religious and ethnic sentiments ahead of the gubernatorial election on Feb. 15.

Saturday's rally will be irrelevant and can spark more negative sentiments that will not lead the nation to a better direction, he said.