Viewing cable 07JAKARTA1306

07JAKARTA13062007-05-09 05:41:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Jakarta
DE RUEHJA #1306/01 1290541
P 090541Z MAY 07
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 06 JAKARTA 001306 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/08/2012 
Classified By: Political Officer Catherine E. Sweet, Reason 
¶1.  (C) Summary.  Recent growth in local bylaws based on 
Islamic law (perda syariah) has been exponential, totaling at 
least 46 by early 2007.  While many refer directly to shari'a 
and Islamic praxis, most bylaws address issues of morality, 
allowing their proponents to argue )- however disingenuously 
-- that the regulations are not religiously based and making 
the edicts more palatable to individuals who might otherwise 
oppose Islamic law.  Most Muslim opinion leaders with whom we 
have spoken expressed mixed feelings about the perda syariah 
that generally reflect the public's ambivalence, while 
significantly fewer condemned the laws.  Although opponents 
contend that that the regulations violate the constitution 
and Indonesia's decentralization regulations, the Supreme 
Court recently upheld the only perda syariah contested in 
court to date, and legal experts argue that the 
Constitutional Court has no jurisdiction over local 
regulations.  While the Home Affairs Ministry does have the 
statutory authority to void the laws, it has declined to 
become involved, as has the central government more broadly. 
Explanations for the explosion of perda syariah focus on 
sociological rather than ideological factors, centered on the 
social and political dislocation that followed the end of 
authoritarianism.  And although most of our contacts agree 
that the number of perda syariah will continue to increase in 
the shorter term, they believe that this is a largely 
temporary phenomenon in most areas.  Meanwhile, unintended 
consequences of the perda syariah movement include a growing 
militant movement on the predominantly Hindu island of Bali 
and the passage of a "Christian perda" in Manokwari, West 
Irian Jaya. End Summary. 
¶2.  (U) In February, the West Sumatran provincial legislature 
passed a regulation requiring public schools to teach the 
Qur'an to all Muslim primary and secondary school students 
and compelling Muslims wishing to marry to demonstrate their 
ability to read and write portions of the Qur'an in Arabic. 
It is the latest in a series of local law based on Islamic 
dictates that have been passed over the past seven years. 
Recently, the growth in what are known locally as "perda 
syariah" has been exponential.  By early 2007, the Indonesian 
Women's Coalition had documented 46 different shari'a bylaws 
that are in place and eight that are in draft, a total that 
has more than doubled in the last year alone.  Most of these 
regulations have been implemented at the sub-provincial 
regency or city level, although a handful have been passed by 
provincial legislatures.  Most perda syariah are concentrated 
in four provinces:  West Sumatra, West Java and Banten, and 
South Sulawesi, with others scattered elsewhere in Java, 
Sumatra, Sulawesi, East and West Nusa Tenggara, Lombok, 
Kalimantan, Madura, the Riau Islands and, of course, Aceh. 
Perda Syariah:  A Broad Appellation 
¶3.  (U) Of the four dozen or so "perda syariah," only about 
15 percent of the refer directly to shari'a.  For example, a 
2002 regulation in West Java's Garut regency authorized the 
creation of an institution that would research how to apply 
shari'a law; two other laws established similar institutions 
in Cianjur, West Java and Madura.  In South Sulawesi's Maros 
regency, a new institution was created to oversee alms-giving 
(one of the five pillars of Islam), specify how much 
residents should donate, and how often. 
¶4.  (C) A further one-third of the perda syariah are linked 
to Islamic praxis.  Several require students and those 
seeking marriage licenses to demonstrate proficiency in 
reading the Qur'an in Arabic (South Sulawesi's Bulukumba, 
Maros and Enrekang regencies; and West Sumatra's Lima Puluh 
Kota and Pesisir Selatan, and Solok regencies), while others 
oblige Muslims to wear "Islamic" clothing.  However, 
definitions of who must wear such attire and what constitutes 
proper clothing vary.  In Maros, South Sulawesi, for 
instance, all male Muslim civil servants and students must 
wear long pants with short- or long-sleeved shirts (including 
while exercising), while women must wear loose, long-sleeved 
shirts that cover their rear ends, long skirts or slacks that 
reach the ankle, and veils that cover their "aurat" 
(literally, aurat is the Arabic term for genitalia; its 
meaning has been broadened, however, to include all areas 
JAKARTA 00001306  002 OF 006 
that certain Muslims believe cannot be exposed in public.  In 
this case, aurat includes a woman's hair, neck and breasts). 
According to the text, the legislation seeks to instill 
"Muslim character and morality," as manifested in the wearing 
Muslim clothing, which demonstrates one's Muslim identity and 
devotion to the faith. 
Shari'a Regulations or Morality Laws? 
¶5.  (SBU) In large part, however, Indonesia's perda syariah 
are concerned with issues of morality, allowing their 
proponents to argue )- however disingenuously -- that the 
regulations are not religiously based.  Of these "morality 
laws," about fifteen percent are specifically concerned with 
outlawing prostitution while another twenty-five percent are 
devoted to "combating immorality." 
¶6.  (U) The anti-prostitution edicts are quite far-reaching 
in defining solicitation.  The most notorious is Tangerang's 
2005 law, which stipulates that in this city on the outskirts 
of Jakarta, "every person whose appearance or conduct is 
suspicious, such that it produces an opinion that he/she/they 
are prostitutes, are forbidden from being in a street, field, 
lodge, guest house, hotel, boarding house, rented house, 
coffee stall, entertainment center, movie theater, street 
corner, dead-end street, or other place in the district."  In 
early 2006, Tangerang's authorities picked up and prosecuted 
some two dozen women for violating the law; among them was a 
married woman named Lilis Lindawati, who had left her office 
at 8:00 PM and was awaiting a bus to take her home. 
According to Lindawati, the police brandished a tube of 
lipstick they found in her purse as proof that she was a 
prostitute.  After being imprisoned for four days and fined, 
Lindawati appealed her conviction.  She was unsuccessful, 
however, and on March 1 the Supreme Court unanimously upheld 
the lower court's ruling; there are no further avenues for 
¶7.  (U) Like the prostitution statutes, the "combating 
immorality" laws are similarly broad, encompassing a 
multitude of sins both defined and deliberately left vague. 
In the West Sumatran city of Bukittinggi, for example, a 2000 
law on "Controlling and Taking Action against Social Ills" 
criminalizes prostitution; the use of narcotics and alcohol; 
eating, drinking, and serving food during the fasting month 
of Ramadan; and gambling.  It also forbids a woman from 
wearing clothing that "may stimulate sexual desire of men who 
see her in a public place;" such clothing includes anything 
that reveals a woman's midsection (between her breasts and 
knees), is form-fitting or transparent.  A similar law in 
nearby Solok adds homosexuality and adultery to the list of 
banned activities. 
¶8.  (SBU) Despite protestations that the "morality" 
regulations are not shari'a laws, the mores that they 
prescribe are clearly linked to Islamic dictates:  a ban on 
alcohol, the requirement that women cover their hair and 
bodies, a prohibition against consuming food or drink during 
Ramadan.  Yet calling them morality laws may make them more 
palatable and acceptable to individuals who might otherwise 
reject the notion that God's law should replace secular laws. 
Perda Syariah:  Muslim Leaders' Arguments For... 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
¶9.  (C) In fact, our discussions with a wide range of Muslim 
opinion leaders suggest that this strategy is working.  While 
hardline and radical Islamist groups like Hizbut Tahrir 
Indonesia (HTI), Dewan Dakwah Islamiyah Indonesia (DDII), 
Persatuan Islam (PERSIS) and Abu Bakar Ba'asyir's Majelis 
Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI) openly advocate for the 
implementation of shari'a, mainstream organizations are more 
conflicted.  Typical of this is the Prosperous Justice Party 
(PKS), a member of the governing coalition, which publicly 
claims that it supports Indonesia's secular system of 
government (especially in front of Western audiences).  Most 
observers, however, believe that if given the chance, PKS 
would push for greater adherence to shari'a.  When we raised 
the perda syariah issue with several PKS parliamentarians, a 
member who arrived to the meeting late (and did not have the 
benefit of being briefed by his more savvy colleagues) 
unapologetically declared that PKS supports the perda 
syariah.  His colleagues visibly blanched at this rare 
deviation from the party's carefully crafted message. 
JAKARTA 00001306  003.2 OF 006 
¶10. (C) Yet many other Muslim leaders have expressed 
genuinely mixed feelings on the perda syariah to us.  One 
representative from the Indonesian Muslim Youth organization 
(PII) said that though his group does not support forced 
religion, perda syariah exist because society supports them; 
within a democratic system, he argued, this was the public's 
right.  Similarly, a representative from the moderate Muslim 
Students' Association (HMI) commented that a country's 
government must reflect the wishes of society ) if the 
people want shari'a-based rules, so be it (although he 
pointed out that there is no consensus on which 
interpretation of Islamic law should be used). 
¶11. (C) As noted above, still others contend that public 
morality laws -- even those governing religious duties -- 
should not be considered shari'a.  For instance, the head of 
the Bandung, West Java branch of the Indonesian Ulama Council 
(MUI) argued that none of West Java's laws qualifies as 
shari'a (even those mandating when individuals must pray), 
but simply constitute moral guidance to ensure that Muslims 
uphold their religious obligations.  Yet even Indonesians who 
are less dogmatic than the MUI have said that the perda 
syariah do not offend their sensibilities.  In an exchange 
that we have heard repeated in various forms from numerous 
individuals, a political science professor at Surabaya's 
Airlangga University told us that regulations such as those 
requiring Muslim women to cover their heads and compelling 
individuals to demonstrate their ability to read the Qur'an 
would be problematic only if they applied to non-Muslims. 
For Muslims, however, "it is their duty." 
¶12. (C) The leaders of Indonesia's two largest Muslim 
organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, have 
not taken public positions on the perda syariah.  According 
to one contact on Muhammadiyah's central board, both NU's 
Hasyim Muzadi and Muhammadiyah's Din Syamsuddin have 
deliberately kept silent precisely because the public is so 
ambivalent -- rather than risk alienating their supporters by 
choosing sides, they prefer to hide behind ambiguity. 
Lower-level leaders in NU and Muhammadiyah have also 
expressed discomfort to us about having to take a position in 
the perda syariah debate, although NU tends to come out more 
strongly against the perda syariah than Muhammadiyah.  For 
instance, the chairman of Muhammadiyah Youth maintained that 
while his group opposed shari'a bylaws (noting the 
difficulty, among other issues, of determining whose 
interpretation of shari'a should be applied), he claimed that 
the appellation "shari'a" has been applied too loosely to 
include morality laws.  Similarly, Rozy Munir, the head of 
NU's international relations committee, said that although NU 
opposes shari'a bylaws and does not favor an Islamic state, 
it also rejects the concept of a secular state. 
...and Against 
¶13. (C) Meanwhile, few Muslim intellectuals have joined 
women's and human rights organizations in condemning the 
perda syariah.  Prominent feminist Lily Munir decried the 
bylaws as part of a "process of deception" that she believes 
Islamist hardliners are carrying out, cloaking anti-woman, 
anti-progressive tendencies in the sunnah.  Munir argued that 
these are not truly shari'a laws, and said that their 
proponents are capitalizing on the general public's ignorance 
of the distinction between fiqh and shari'a.  (Note.  The two 
terms are often used interchangeably.  Technically, shari'a 
is the word of God as written in the Qur'an, while fiqh 
derives from Islamic scholars' legal rulings about shari'a 
provisions.  While the shari'a is immutable, fiqh is not. End 
Note).  The executive director of the Muhammadiyah-linked 
Ma'arif Institute, Antoni Raja, concurs with Munir that the 
term "shari'a" has been perverted.  For example, he said, 
there is no provision in shari'a or fiqh requiring that a 
Muslim be able to read the Qur'an before obtaining a marriage 
license.  Claims that such a law is based on Islamic law, 
therefore, are false. 
¶14. (C) Opponents of the perda syariah believe that the 
regulations are inconsistent with national laws in two 
separate ways.  First, they say, since Indonesia's 
constitution is based on the principle of "pancasila" and not 
Islam, religiously based laws are unconstitutional.  Second, 
the perda syariah are inconsistent with Indonesia's 
decentralization regulations, which specifically grant the 
JAKARTA 00001306  004 OF 006 
national government sole authority over religious matters. 
However, as mentioned above, the Supreme Court has already 
upheld the only perda syariah contested in court to date: 
Tangerang's anti-prostitution regulation.  Although 
anti-perda activists have suggested that the laws could be 
challenged in the Constitutional Court, legal experts contend 
that the Constitutional Court has no jurisdiction over local 
regulations (reftel). 
¶15. (C) The Home Affairs Ministry, which has supervisory 
power over regional governments, does have the statutory 
authority to declare the perda syariah null and void. 
However, the ministry has declined to become involved, as has 
the central government more broadly.  While President 
Yudhoyono has reportedly told women's groups privately that 
he does not support the shari'a bylaws, he has neither spoken 
out against nor taken any action to invalidate them.  Our 
contacts attribute this largely to Yudhoyono's unwillingness 
to risk angering the Islamist parties in his coalition, but 
note his fundamental indecisiveness as an exacerbating 
factor.  Robin Bush of the Asia Foundation added that 
pro-shari'a Islamist groups have also been effective in 
silencing their critics by accusing them of being anti-Islam 
or handmaidens of the U.S.; this has made politicians 
especially afraid to oppose them. 
Why Now? 
¶16. (C) Our contacts give various reasons for the explosion 
of perda syariah, most of which are sociological rather than 
ideological.  Saiful Mujani, executive director of the 
Indonesian Survey Institute, characterized the perda syariah 
as "a problem of democratization."  In his opinion, illiberal 
forces have exploited the new decentralization laws to 
advance an anti-plural, anti-rational, and anti-democratic 
agenda from below.  Muslim intellectual Bachtiar Effendy 
agreed, arguing that after Suharto's downfall, order and 
stability should have been established before political 
liberties were granted.  When the opposite occurred, Effendy 
said, Indonesia's political and social systems broke down: 
the government does not govern, the educational system is 
utterly ineffectual, and children have no real prospects for 
the future.  Consequently, people blame not only the state 
for these failures, but also secularism.  This has created an 
opening for proponents of shari'a, who propose that Islam is 
the solution to Indonesia's ills. 
¶17. (C) In a similar vein, NU's Rozy Munir described what he 
sees as a decline in public morality after the upheaval of 
the 1990s.  Munir spoke of poverty; the sudden push for high 
economic growth that has left people without jobs, economic 
access or the ability to compete globally; rural-urban 
migration that continues to lure the unskilled to the cities, 
where they cannot find jobs; and competition for 
status-conferring luxury goods as factors exacerbating 
Indonesia's moral decay.  Grappling with this profound 
dislocation, Indonesians have turned to the one thing that 
provides them with moral clarity:  religion. 
¶18. (C) Others are more cynical, believing that proponents of 
perda syariah are manipulating the public.  The Ma'arif 
Institute's Raja told us that local governments are peddling 
visions of an Islamic utopia to mask their inability to 
deliver services, while Muslim liberal Syafi'i Anwar from the 
International Center for Islamic Pluralism contended that 
hardliners in organizations like the Indonesian Ulama Council 
(MUI) have taken advantage of ordinary Indonesians' respect 
for and deference to Muslim clerics to advance a radical 
agenda.  Although Anwar says that the MUI has not directly 
pushed for the implementation of perda syariah, they have 
influenced popular perceptions by signaling their support for 
the regulations. 
¶19. (C) Still others cite the influence that foreign Muslims, 
particularly Gulf Arabs, have brought to bear in promoting 
shari'a.  Political science lecturers Muradi and Nasrullah 
Nazsir from Bandung's Padjadjaran University cited the case 
of Cianjur, West Java, which has passed a number of perda 
syariah.  Cianjur is awash in Saudi money, and is home to 
Arab proselytizers who have moved permanently into the 
community, constructing mosques and buying land that is later 
donated for communal use.  In doing so, Muradi and Nazsir 
said, the Arabs ingratiate themselves with the locals, who 
are then willing to move the society in a more religiously 
JAKARTA 00001306  005 OF 006 
conservative direction in line with the pious Arabs' wishes, 
including implementing shari'a. 
Whither Shari'a? 
¶20. (C) Although most agree that the number of perda syariah 
will continue to increase in the shorter term, the majority 
of our contacts think that this is a temporary phenomenon in 
most places (although the regulations might be longer-lived 
in historically more conservative areas like South Sulawesi 
and Aceh).  Airlangga University's Aribowo, for example, sees 
the bylaws as a part of a transition process from 
over-centralization to effective decentralization.  In his 
view, while it is relatively simple to push shari'a 
regulations through at the regency level or below, it will be 
significantly more difficult to do so at the provincial or 
national level.  Effendy also believes the promotion of 
Islamic law is just a temporary phase in Indonesia, although 
he acknowledges that some people find this intolerable even 
in the short-term.  However, he argues, neither conservative 
nor liberal Islam is right for Indonesia. 
¶21. (SBU) This, of course, raises the question of just what 
degree of influence ordinary Indonesians feel Islamic values 
should have on laws governing their lives.  Public opinion 
surveys fairly consistently reflect serious ambivalence on 
the public's part that largely mimics Muslim opinion leaders' 
views.  Supporting the assumption that Indonesians favor 
democracy over theocracy is a September 2006 poll conducted 
by the Indonesian Survey Institute (LSI), in which 85% of 
respondents indicated that the current constitution and state 
doctrine of pancasila provide the best framework for 
Indonesia; 76% likewise agreed that democratic values are 
compatible with Islam.  Of those who indicated that Islam is 
incompatible with democracy, slightly more than half said 
that Islamic values are better for Indonesia than democratic 
¶22. (C) Similarly, there is little evidence of Islamist 
political parties gaining ground.  In fact, a number of 
public opinion polls have shown that the most popular 
Islamist party, PKS, is actually losing support.  Mujani, 
however, is skeptical of using support for Islamist political 
parties as a measure of sharia's popularity.  Religious 
sentiment at the mass level has not been captured by the 
political parties, he argued, because Islamist political 
parties have so far failed to articulate an Islamic agenda 
and prominent Muslim elites like Amien Rais, Abdurrahman 
Wahid and Hasyim Muzadi have established non-Islamic parties 
that dilute the Islamist parties' strength. 
¶23. (SBU) Yet public attitudes about specific shari'a-based 
practices seem to indicate a greater degree of support for 
Islamic law than the data above would suggest.  For instance, 
in the LSI survey 50% of respondents agreed or strongly 
agreed that adulterers should be stoned to death, 37% agreed 
or strongly agreed that the government should sever the hands 
of Muslim thieves, 39% agreed or strongly agreed that men 
should be permitted to take more than one wife, and 37% 
agreed or strongly agreed that the charging of interest 
should be prohibited. 
¶24. (C) At the same time, only 28% agreed or strongly agreed 
that the police should ensure that Muslims fast during 
Ramadan, and just 29% agreed or strongly agreed that the 
police should enforce attendance at Friday prayers. 
Padjadjaran University's Muradi and Nazsir have an 
explanation for this apparent contradiction:  people will 
support shari'a regulations that are convenient for them, but 
reject those laws that affect them adversely.  (We note, for 
example, that shari'a activists are not clamoring for 
confessed Muslim terrorists to be executed, as Islamic law 
prescribes for murderers.)  The Asia Foundation's Robin Bush 
likewise suggested that self-interest largely drives popular 
reaction -- or lack thereof -- to the perda syariah.  If the 
regulations have a negative impact on individuals personally, 
as the Tangerang statute did by limiting women's ability to 
go out after dark or the draft anti-pornography and 
pornographic action law did by proposing a host of 
restrictions on people's day-to-day activities, the general 
public may react negatively.  Otherwise, she said, they will 
continue to be largely complacent, particularly about laws in 
localities far from their own. 
JAKARTA 00001306  006 OF 006 
Unintended Consequences 
¶25. (C) The perda syariah has been denounced by women's 
groups, human rights organizations, and non-Muslims.  Yet 
these opponents have had little success in reversing this 
trend.  As the Ma'arif Institute's Toni Raja points out, the 
NGOs that are most actively fighting the perda are located 
only in Jakarta.  Outside the capital, where the majority of 
the perda are being implemented, these groups have no 
credibility; as Raja commented, these Jakarta-based 
Indonesians are seen as "foreigners." 
¶26. (C) There have been, however, some unintended 
consequences of the perda syariah movement.  The vice rector 
of Bandung's Parahyangan Catholic University, Anak Agung 
Banyu Perwita, told us about a growing militant movement on 
the predominantly Hindu island of Bali.   According to Banyu, 
who is Balinese, there is an increasingly large and vocal 
segment of Bali's population that is agitating for Balinese 
special autonomy, along the lines of Aceh's autonomy 
arrangement, to ensure that Islamic law cannot be imposed 
locally.  The Balinese fear that shari'a-based laws banning 
alcohol or criminalizing skimpy dress would devastate their 
tourism-dependent economy, he said. 
¶27. (C) Meanwhile, in West Irian Jaya's Manokwari, the local 
legislature has passed a "Christian perda" declaring the area 
a "Gospel" region.  The law is similar in many ways to the 
morality laws cited above, with passages prohibiting 
prostitution and illegal drugs, and including 
Christian-specific provisions limiting public activities on 
Sundays and Christian holidays.  But it goes further than 
many of the perda syariah by failing to exclude 
non-Christians from its dictates; indeed, non-Christians are 
specifically targeted.   For example, the law prohibits the 
establishment of Muslim spaces of worship (like prayer rooms) 
near government offices, and it forbids all individuals from 
wearing headscarves in public and educational facilities, as 
well as in all public and private offices. 
¶28. (C) When Jakarta will step in and assert its authority 
over the regions remains an open question.  Yet as the 
regulations become more evidently sectarian in nature and, as 
in the case of the Manokwari bylaw, openly hostile towards 
other faiths, it seems that there will have to be some sort 
of recalibration by the central government.  What is clear, 
however, is that Indonesian society's drift toward increased 
religiosity ) however temporary it may be -- is both real 
and ongoing.