Contemporary Islam in Indonesia

On the 29th of February 2004, thousands of robed members of Hizbut Tahrir marched through the streets of downtown Jakarta to mark the 80th anniversary of the fall of the caliphate – when Kemal Ataturk in the name of Turkish nationalism, having already abolished the Ottoman sultanate, deposed its last sultan as Caliph.

Hizbut Tahrir is a ‘new’ Islamic movement in Indonesia, one among many whose primary roots are planted within a wider Islamic ambience outside of Indonesia. Its call for the restoration of a universal caliphate and its rejection of nationalism and state power would have, in an earlier period under President Suharto, met with immediate suspicion and probable suppression. The movement is a good exemplar of the changing Indonesian Islamic community, pointing metaphorically in two directions: to the contemporary state of ferment in the Islamic world and to historical developments of the past century. Thus the present situation in Indonesia, as indeed within the Islamic world as a whole, may be considered in all of its immediacy or as the continuation of a long and as yet unresolved phase in Muslim history.

For those who follow current Islamic debates on the Internet, Hizbut Tahrir is also instructive. Within days of Syaikh ‘Abdurrahman Ad Dimasqiyah’s denunciation of the Hizbut Tahrir in a sermon given in English (and probably delivered in England), an appropriately edited version of this sermon appeared in Indonesian on the As-Salafy website. Thus, as has been the case for centuries, Indonesia is firmly, intimately and inextricably linked to diverse sources of ideas and debate in the Islamic world and consequently subject to its many internal reverberations2.


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