Wahdah Islamiyah′s social criticism is not limited to Islamic minorities. It extends to non-Muslim Indonesians who, while an accepted part of the country′s diverse population, must be prohibited from entering public office lest they corrupt the Muslim community. Cadres argue that Muslims should receive preferential treatment from the government when it comes to social welfare.

Beyond that, they argue that elected officials and their advisors must have the same aqida (creed) as the Sunni majority. One Makassar-based preacher publicly proclaimed that it was non-Muslim politicians and political aides that had corrupted the current generation of Indonesian Muslim politicians. They had done this through practices like serangan fajar, or ′dawn raids′, where political candidates hand out money to potential voters the morning before an election.

Islam and citizenship

The result of such efforts is that, in effect, Wahdah Islamiyah′s cadres promote a stratified understanding of citizenship that skews Indonesia′s constitutional recognition of six religions in favour of the Muslim majority. The rights of all other recognised religions remain, in their opinion, guaranteed by the state, but only so far as they do not challenge the hegemony or values of Sunni Islam.

The rights of those who fall outside these categories, such as the Shia, Ahmadiyah or LGBT communities, must be restricted – not only on the basis of being religiously ′deviant′, but because they threaten the unity and morality of the Indonesian nation as a whole. It is perhaps ironic that the growing political acceptability of such conservative Islamic activism and the increased presence of religious dictums in public life, has gone hand-in-hand with the expansion of democratic institutions and practices in Indonesia.

The resignation of Suharto provided fertile ground for groups like Wahdah Islamiyah to expand their reach. They have formed relationships with political actors and government departments. Their influence on public debates concerning the confluence between national and religious identities has grown.

These views may only have the support of a minority of Indonesia′s population, but, as shown during the mass demonstrations against Ahok, they have gained considerable traction. This underlines a gradual, but profound, transformation of the concept of citizenship in Indonesia.

Chris Chaplin

© Inside Indonesia 2017

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