Political Islam: Why is the wave of religious conservatism rising in Malaysia but declining in Indonesia?

In neighboring Indonesia, concerns about the rise of political Islam and religious conservatism appear to be subsiding, especially in the run-up to the latest elections held last month.

Observers noted that all three presidential and vice presidential candidates did not succumb to using identity politics to garner votes.

The three groups are: Anies Baswedan, former Governor of Jakarta; Muhaimin Iskandar, leader of the Islamic State Awakening Party (PKB). Mr. Prabowo Subianto, the current Minister of Defense, and Mr. Gibran Rakabumin Raka, the Mayor of Solo. Former Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo also ran for office, along with former PKB member Mahfud MD.

The winning duo, Prabowo and Gibran, were not members of an Islamic party, unlike the other two candidates.

There were concerns that the elections would be marred by religious conservatism, especially as identity politics dominated the 2019 presidential and parliamentary elections and the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election.

Ujan Komarudin, an expert on Islamic politics at Jakarta’s Al Azhar University, said some political groups want to impose Islamic ideology, but Indonesian society is heterogeneous and they struggle to win elections. I believe that

“Objectively speaking, there are certainly people and groups who fight for Islamic ideology and political Islam.

“But if you look at Islamic society, Islam itself here is heterogeneous. It’s not homogeneous,” Ujan said.

Approximately 87 percent of Indonesia’s population of more than 270 million people are Muslim, but many are not devout, Ujang added.

Many Indonesians practice a moderate form of Islam, or are Muslim according to their identification documents, but do not actually practice the religion.

“This affects voters’ behavior and choices (during elections),” Ujan said.

Additionally, analysts have warned the CNA that the different ideologies of various Islamic political groups and the inability to muster mainstream support, as well as the country’s fundamental philosophical theory, Pancasila, are under threat from rising conservatism in Indonesia. He said that it seems like he is competing against the

Different ideologies dominate Islamist parties

Ujan believes that Indonesia’s Islamist parties are not united and have different ideologies. This is different from Malaysia, where the Islamist party, Parti Islam Malaysia (PAS), is the dominant party.

“For example, do the PKB or the National Mandate Party (PAN) function based on their own ideology? I don’t think so,” Ujan said.

“They function based on their interests, whether they form coalitions or campaign. When they talk about Islam, they do not emphasize Islamic values, but general or universal We emphasize our values.”

Currently, there are nine political parties in the Indonesian parliament.

Five of them are nationalist parties, and four of them, namely PKB, PAN, Prosperity and Justice Party (PKS), and United Development Party (PPP), have an Islamic ideology.

PKB was the only party to see a significant increase in votes in last month’s parliamentary elections, making it the fourth party in the next 2024-2029 parliament, whose members will be sworn in in October.

Based on the 2019 election results, it became the fifth largest party in parliament, after the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), Golkar Party, Gerindra Party, and National Democratic Party (Nasdem).

“Thank God for the results of the parliamentary elections. PKB is grateful.

“We have had a huge coattail effect because Anies’s running mate, Muhaimin, is leading us,” said Zainul Munashchin, secretary of the PKB’s electoral victory division.

The coat tail effect is The tendency for influential members of a political party to attract votes from other candidates of the same party.

In recent elections, Anies and Muhaimin were supported by a coalition government consisting of the PKB, PKS and the nationalist party Nasdem.

Before the coalition government was formed, some analysts were of the opinion that the PKB and PKS could not cooperate because they believed in different forms of Islam. However, PKB’s Zainul told CNA that his party’s alliance with PKS was “purely tactical.”

Meanwhile, PAN, which supported Prabowo and Gibran, was founded by members of Indonesia’s second largest Islamic organization, Muhammadiyah.

PAN Secretary-General Eddy Soeparno said the reason the PAN performed slightly better in February’s general election than it did five years ago was because its founder took part in events attended by hard-liners, who were then right-wing. He said this was because he was aware of the

The PPP, the Islamist party remaining in parliament, is the oldest, having existed for 51 years.

It was one of only three political parties during the Suharto regime, along with the nationalist party Golkar and the PDI, now named PDI-P.

However, in recent years it has lost its status.

Muhammad Romahrumzii, chairman of the PPP Advisory Committee, said there were a number of factors contributing to this.

One reason is that there are no strong leaders or political institutions.

“We need to make a major change of direction at the next party congress,” Romafulmuzi told CNA, adding that the meeting, scheduled for December next year, could be brought forward depending on the latest election results. added.

According to the official results released by the Indonesian General Election Commission, the PPP did not meet the minimum threshold of 4% to enter the lower house. The PPP will challenge the election results in the Constitutional Court, but this is the first time since it was formed in 1973 that the party will not have a representative in parliament.

Islamic politics expert Adi Praitono Islam Negeri Sharif Hidayatullah University speculated that because Indonesia has a multiparty presidential system, political parties are run based on interests rather than ideology.

“Everyone tends to just be chasing electoral votes,” Addy said.

“In Indonesia, everything is measured by political interests rather than ideology.”

Pancasila is a way to rein in identity politics

In line with this, Al Azhar University’s Ujan pointed out that Islamic conservatism is not a selling point for most Indonesians.

“I don’t think conservatism is a threat to Indonesia because Indonesia’s democracy is built on Pancasila,” Ujan said.

Pancasila is an Indonesian ideology that stands for belief in one God, justice and civilized humanity, national unity, democracy guided by inner wisdom among its representatives, and for all Indonesians. It consists of five principles of social justice.

“And Pancasila is the home of all religions in Indonesia, creating harmony,” Ujang said.

Ahmad Koilul Umam, a political lecturer at Islamic University Paramadina in Jakarta, agreed.

“This is what makes Indonesian Islam so different from Islam in other parts of the world,” he says.

Umam said Pancasila has become Indonesia’s identity and its history dates back to the country’s first president, Sukarno.

Ahmad Suadi, dean of Islamic Nusantara at Nahdlatul Ulama Indonesia University, told CNA that Pancasila is a reference point for all political groups because it encompasses various ideologies.

“In Indonesia, there are many religious elements that are used by the state. But because of Pancasila, they are not part of the political symbolism,” Ahmad said.

Analysts believe Pancasila is a key element in maintaining national unity in a country home to about 1,300 different ethnic groups.

“We are grateful that Indonesia has Pancasila, which unites different religious communities. Therefore, there is no reason for Islam to be dominant and threatening,” Ujan said.

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