The current campaign waged by the US and its allies against Col. Muammar Qaddafi’s merciless dictatorship also entails a war of ideas.
Qaddafi and his followers have shielded themselves from democratic protesters with a predictable and boring rhetoric of anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism.
Libya will be occupied by the West, just as Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam were occupied! Colonial powers harbor nothing but jealousy of the Third World’s advancing wealth! Oil is at the root of every problem!
The rhetoric evokes the bitter experience of the Islamic world under a long period of Western colonialism. It is not surprising that the US and its allies have been branded as crusading armies bent on destroying their Muslim enemies.
Conspiracy theorists have already drawn analogies between colonialism and the recent Libya campaign. Some Indonesian politicians have promoted this rhetoric in public. Whether anyone wants to listen is a different issue.
Hidayat Nur Wahid, a senior politician of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), said that the goal of the current war in Libya was “to seize the nation’s oil”, adding that “European countries have suffered from an economic recession. They need new resources to revive their economy.”
It sounds like the rhetoric of Iranian president Ahmadinedjad, except in an Indonesian format. Compare Hidayat’s words with those of Ahmadinedjad on the Libyan crisis: “The Westerners have to cast aside their colonialist ambitions.”
The rhetoric of imperialism and colonialism can also be found in the case of Ahmadiyah, the minority Islamic sect that has suffered repeated harassment at the hands of Indonesian radicals.
According to the hard-liners, the European Union, the UN and US congressmen asked the Indonesian government to pay serious attention to the plight of Ahmadiyah. Many Indonesian officials, rather than heeding their warnings, fired back at perceived international pressure.
Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi, for instance, rejected demands to revoke laws that discriminate against the Islamic sect. Gamawan’s response to the US congressmen does not surprise us, as he warmly welcomed the FPI leaders’ proposal to disband the group. You can guess which faction the man sides with.
On March 23, I was invited to speak at the Religious Affairs Ministry’s dialogue and public hearing on Ahmadiyah that was held in Central Jakarta.
I made myself as clear as possible to other participants that the failure to protect any citizen of Indonesia means the beginning of the nation’s collapse. I reminded the audience about the domino effect. After Ahmadiyah, the Shiite, Christian minority, and liberals, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah — all groups that are not considered purely “Islamic” by Islamists — will be targeted by the radicals.
I realized that most of the participants disagreed with me. Before my turn to speak I listened to members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) — an organization whose fame lies in their radical stances and terrifying tactics — give their threatening opinions.
The Religious Affairs Ministry used to be a place where the idea of religious pluralism and other progressive concepts were incubated under the leadership of A. Mukti Ali, Alamsjah Ratuprawiranegara and Munawir Sadzali. Now the ministry has become a rendezvous for the FPI leaders.
I am afraid that Ahmadiyah will be disbanded by a more “authoritative” law, enacted after the government’s “consults” with different groups.
In fact, nobody is sure that the government listened the sound judgments conveyed by scholars and activists at the seminar. As usual, politicians placed political interests ahead of all other concerns.
Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali, who also chairs the United Development Party (PPP), revealed his true colors.
At a conference in Samarinda he urged fellow party members not to hesitate to make Islam as an ‘ideology’ (The Jakarta Post, March 27, 2011). He also denounced liberal thinking (The Jakarta Post, Feb. 23, 2011).
Indeed, at the ministry’s dialogue I heard a moderator provoke the audience when he said that the US and Western powers were meddling in the case of Ahmadiyah — a form of intervention that we must not bow down to.
This rhetoric reminds us the way Abu Bakar Ba’asyir often defends himself in the court. He has repeatedly said that he was arrested under orders from the US. The conspiracy theories then followed: the Indonesian government was a mere toy of the world superpower, the US.
I am afraid to draw some points of similarities among the opinions conveyed by Qaddafi, Ahmadinedjad, Hidayat Nur Wahid, the FPI leaders, Ba’asyir, two of the President’s current ministers and perhaps other state officials. I question to what extent radical thinking has penetrated the government.
Has this government and other political leaders already knelt down before the FPI’s leaders?
The writer is a lecturer at Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University, Yogyakarta.