Viewpoints of Prominent PKS Parliamentarians on the Future Development of PKS in Indonesia

May 19, 2012 by Dr. Farish A. Noor

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I. Interview with Fahri Hamzah, Member of Parliament/Commission III of the PKS, Jakarta, 4th October 2011.


Q. The PKS today is seen as the most upcoming and forthright Islamist party in Indonesia, but there remain many Muslim groups, including even radical ones, that claim that PKS has ‘sold out’ in a sense because it has become a political party. Looking at the political landscape of Indonesia today we see all sorts of Islamist groups, organisations and movements that operate according to a logic that is different from the PKS. On the one hand there are Salafi-fundamentalist movements like the Tablighi Jama’at who regard politics as something un-Islamic, not because it is haram, but because it is not Sunnah. They take the view that during the Prophet’s time there were no political parties, so why ought there be Islamist political parties today? Then there are the more vocal and hardline groups like the Fron Pembela Islam, the Majlis Mujahidin Indonesia, and the Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia who regard populist democratic politics as un-Islamic on the grounds that democracy is haram and that there is no room for democracy in Islam. How do you – the PKS – deal with these criticisms and where do you locate the PKS in the constellation of Islamist movements in Indonesia today?

FH: I have two things to say to that: Firstly, how do you define religion in this case? Is religion for them (critics of PKS) something that is specific and limited, something that has a limited meaning and application? As far as we (PKS) is concerned, Islam is not a thing that has limits: Islam is not something that is confined to specific margins, and you cannot say this is Islamic and that is not. Islam as far as we are concerned is and has to be comprehensive. (Islam itu secara seluruhan.) So where does this dichotomy between Islam and politics arise from? Are they suggesting that Islam’s limits stops at politics?

Secondly, we in PKS see Islam in terms of an idea, and a universal idea. In fact I would argue that for centuries the idea of Islam has been part and parcel of Muslim social life and that this was only interrupted during the colonial period when suddenly Muslims were cut off from their religious roots and identity, as Tanzim Ansari argues in his work ‘History Disrupted’.

Between the 19th and 20th centuries many Ulama argued that there was this dichotomy and that it had to be overcome. As an idea, Islam shares continuities and similarities with other ideologies: As an ideology we can see similar themes and concerns, such as for equality and social justice, in other ideologies such as Communism. In terms of economics there are similar ideas in the critique of usury and some other practices that have become the norm in Capitalism. Thus there is nothing outside the idea of Islam, and nothing that is un-Islamic

That is why in Islam – understood as an idea that is universal and a way of life – there is emphasis on micro-concerns as well. Note how Islam guides our lives in all things, even how we bathe, eat, do our toilet, etc. Nothing is ever entirely outside the idea of Islam, so why should politics be outside Islam?

Groups like the Tablighi Jama’at or even the FPI or HTI do not see that the rise and fall of Muslims depends on the resources we have at our disposal, and that among those resources we have is the state. The state is one of the resources that Muslims must avail themselves to. We cannot neglect the state in that respect.

But at the same time we (PKS) do not believe in empty rhetoric or nostalgia about quick solutions, like the idea of the Islamic state. The state is a resource, like I said, but there is no such thing as an Islamic state. The state is just a tool, it can and has to be used by Muslims. But that does not mean it is Islamic. Talk of such an Islamic state has just made so many Muslims confused (keliru). Even Medinah was not an Islamic state I would insist: The Prophet Muhammad did not create a state in the modern sense, but what he did was introduce the concepts of a civil society and concerns about social and civic welfare, etc. That doesn’t mean that this was an ‘Islamic state’. The state is a new concept and has only come about over the past couple of centuries, but now that it is here and it is a reality, it is a resource we need to learn and control.

That’s what the Tabligh and other groups like the FPI, HTI do not seem to understand, because they do not understand what we mean when we say that Islam is an idea that can be inculcated into governance and state-building.