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Viewpoints of Prominent PKS Parliamentarians on the Future Development of PKS in Indonesia
May 19, 2012 by Dr. Farish A. Noor
Q: Let me hazard a guess here and say that this might be due to your cadre training system where you not only read things like the works of al-Banna, Maudoodi, Sidiqi, etc but also works on philosophy, management, economics, etc. In the case of PAS at least, that cadre system is not as focused and the Ulama in the party still have a dominant position thanks to the fact that they are organisationally and institutionally entrenched.
ZM: Yes, and also because in PKS as a party there is perhaps more room for pragmatic younger members who are less concerned about theological disputes and more focused on real-life issues like poverty and corruption.
You see we are aware that the state has enormous coercive power: We learned that during the Suharto New Order era, and that is also another big difference between us in Indonesia and the Islamists of Malaysia. In Indonesia then, to go against the system could leave you dead. We had to be patient, and we had to learn new ways to deal with the reality of a state that had military power in its hands. So our younger members of PKS were patient, and while we worked slowly we trained ourselves for the eventuality of the collapse of the New Order and also to prepare ourselves with real-life skills.
There is still the old guard of course, and I am not going to deny that there are still conservative voices even in PKS, including those who talk of an Islamic state, Sharia Law, Hudud, etc. But in time the new generation will take over, and that’s what the cadre training is all about.
As I said at the beginning, the PKS is a community and it is a learning community. We are learning how to come to power and how to change the nature of power in a state system in a plural society. Look at me: Like you, I studied in the United Kingdom and I am an economist. In 1994 I was President of the Students’ Council.
As an economist I do not look at the world through the lens of some nostalgic Islamic kingdom from the past, but from the present-day reality of markets. What we want to do is engage with that reality and change the way we govern and interact with that reality. Economists see the world in terms of markets, market forces, and we accept that the world is complex and with differences. There are no simple solutions for the likes of me: We don’t accept simple slogans that promise instant results.
Q: And you maintain that such a pragmatic, technocratic approach will prevent PKS from ever going down the radical path? What about your individual members though? How can you prevent them from having sympathies with the more radical groups like FPI, MMI or HTI
ZM: Yes, I believe our approach thus far has kept us on the same path, which is the path towards political engagement. I cannot account for the rise of groups like FPI or HTI, but lets not exaggerate their importance. These are small groups, clusters, and they have minimal impact as far as the political evolution of Indonesia is concerned. These groups make noise, shout, do demos, but have they really changed the face of Indonesian politics? I don’t think so.
As far as our individual members are concerned, like I mentioned we are a political party and like all parties our membership is wide and vast. No party, not even the PKS, can control every single member and we should not be blamed if one or two do things that go against the party’s policy. But the whole point of the cadre training system is to inculcate the values we talked about earlier, and to render them immune to the rhetoric of other more violent or emotional groups.
Personally I don’t even bother with the likes of HTI or FPI, because they have nothing to teach us or to contribute to our cause. And as long as they remain violently radical, then they cannot and will not get the support of the mainstream of Indonesian society. And furthermore, the more radical and extremist they get, the better for us, because as a result PKS looks even more moderate! (laughs)