Democracy a la Indonesian Islam

One of the monumental works of Samuel P. Huntington, The Third Wave: Democratization in the Late Twentieth Century, illustrates a map of the international democratization up to the late of twentieth century. The map includes three waves of democratization and two reversals. Indonesia and the other third world countries, which are independent lately, fused in the second wave of democratization. Afterward Huntington inserts Indonesia as one of countries swapped by the second reversal wave of democratization. It means that Indonesia either is a non-democratic state or excluded from the issue of democratic state.

The evocative question is about the most valid parameter to determine whether a state is in the wave of democratization or in the authoritarianism or non-democratic domain. This question leads to various matters, particularly social-cultural ones: whether culture, religion, race, geographical site, level of education, level of economic welfare is determinant in the growth of consolidating democratic climate. Islamic culture has been perceived as unsound for the growth of democracy. Therefore, the option for political system in the Muslim world, according to some observer like Fareed Zakaria, is not democracy. This assumption based on various facts regarding the failure of consolidating liberal democracy in several Muslim countries. In many cases, instead of carrying the wind of change for Muslim society, democracy becomes instrument for the emergence of religious fundamentalists and social friction.

Eventually, Fareed Zakaria proposed the system of liberal autocracy as a transitional system before coming into democratic system: meaning, instead of rushing in being democratic state, Muslims world must go trough a long process in the liberal autocracy.

Result of the research on the Islamic political orientation in Indonesia held by PPIM UIN Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta, Freedom Institute (FI) and Liberal Islamic Network (JIL) in November 2004 is quite astonishing. Despite the election 2004 had been running well and became a strong raison d’être that Indonesia deserved to be the most democratic state among Muslim majority countries, this research indicates a brittle base of the process of democratization in Indonesia, which may be the representation of the Muslim world in general. Support on the Islamist agendas is quite shocking: 41.1% of the Indonesian Muslims opposed a woman becoming president; 55% backed stoning adulterers to death; 58% supported half share of girl inheritance; 41% backed the ban on bank’s interest; 39% supported polygamy; and 40% said thieves should have their hands hacked off in Indonesia.

Furthermore, Muslims intolerance upon the Christians is disturbing for the maintenance of democracy and civil liberty: 24.8% of Muslims were objecting the Christian teacher in public school; 40.8% was objecting the Christian’s religious service in their region, and 49.9% opposed churches in Muslim majority area.

One may say that the above phenomenon is in the level of attitude and it maybe different in the practical level. According to this research, 2-3% of Indonesian Muslims boycotted non-Islamic good or service, raid sin places or joined the demonstration against the Muslims’ miseries on the earth. Meanwhile, 15.9% of them supported Amrozi, Imam Samudera etc (Bali’s blast actors). The question is this: what is the explanation behind the democratic process of election and the defeat of Islamic parties by the nationalist (secular) parties in Indonesia? One may answer that the non-democratic Islamic group used democracy as a legitimating instrument to gain the power.

In addition, Muslims tend to vote for secular parties because Islamic parties are fragmented. If there is only one choice of Islamic party (campaigning the Islamist agendas), Muslims might united their votes. Nevertheless, why do not Islamist political powers amalgamate? This question reflects optimism for democracy in the Muslim world, that everywhere including the Muslim world, there is always the passion of interest for power struggle. That is the most fundamental base for democracy.

Since the beginning, doubt on the growth of democracy in the Muslim world appears in various debates. Several requirements such as historical, geographical, economical, cultural, social basis, religious requirement etc fulfilled by western democratic society is not actualized in the Muslim world. One of those requirements is good tradition of capitalism that becomes the medium of the growth of democracy since it supposes free competition that in the end delivers bourgeoisies, which is the pillar of democracy in Europe and USA. Barrington Moore explains this in a brief statement: “No bourgeois, no democracy.”

Another factor is that the Muslim world has never experienced a long resistance as endured by the West. The Western history was full of various clashes: between church and state, between kings and aristocrats, between Catholic and Protestant, the emergence of industrial revolution that indicates the tension between the aristocrat and bourgeois, clash among bourgeoisies, war between nations and so on. Those raise the recognition upon human individual possession and rights. Division of power and mechanism of power struggle that involves as many people as possible is due to the long process of interest struggle as mentioned above.

The important thing is that democracy is unique to each country and sometimes is hard to define. Decision of public policy by involving several members of the upper class society in Greece 2500 years ago was called as democracy. Providing public the right to vote in Germany in the beginning of 1930 that delivered ultra-dictator leaders, Hitler, was also the process of democracy. The two most democratic countries, USA and UK, used different system where USA used presidential system and UK used parliamentarian system, which are democratic. Greek people had never imagined that representation system and the involvement of various “common” people in the deciding public policy would be called as democratic today.

Difficulty to define democracy leads Fareed Zakaria to perceive democracy just as ‘a good government’. Since it is not sufficient to perceive democracy only in its procedural way (the election) because such democracy often delivers terrorist, racist, and fascist leaders or them who have the project to neglect constitution and withdraw individual rights. Democracy should not be perceived as merely liberal democracy, where there is election and there is rule of law, a separation of power, and the protection of basic liberties of speech, assembly, religion, and property. In fact, democracy and liberalism are often poles apart. It is relevant to perceive democracy as a good government: where there is good government, there is democracy. Hence, democracy becomes a non-rigid concept. Islam has its own concept of democracy, which might be different with other concept of democracy, including the Western world.

Liberal autocracy is a pessimist terms for the Muslim world, particularly Indonesia, to gain position in the international wave of democratization. Soeharto has toppled down, and there is no reason for going back to Soeharto’s era only to go toward the real democracy. Saiful Mujani’s terms of “Islamic democrat” represents the concept of democracy a la Islam, as far as it does not indicate democratic pessimism in the Muslim world. Here is democracy a la Islam, particularly Indonesia, where the election runs well in the midst of intolerance attitude of Muslims. Although Muslims cannot release their religious fanaticism, it does not matter when democratic life runs well.[]

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