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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Q. And what about the more vocal Islamist groups like the Fron Pembela Islam or the Hizbut Tahrir of Indonesia. Unlike the Tabligh that has been passive thus far, these groups (FPI and HTI) openly criticise the PKS at times and even claim that you have sold Muslims out to democracy, which they claim is haram and un-Islamic. How do you deal with such groups?

FH: Yes, these groups are more vocal and even more aggressive at times, but again they are making the same mistake of neglecting politics or thinking that we can live outside or without politics.

Anti-political Islamist groups that criticise Islamist parties are naïve because they often fall back on nostalgia and Utopian visions of the future. Some talk about the ‘Khilafat’ and the coming of a new Caliphate rule that is extra-territorial, beyond the nation-state, etc. But honestly, how many times have we heard this, and has any of this become reality?

As a political party, we (PKS) say: Be realistic. There is no point boasting about Islamic ‘resurgence’ when you have no concrete results to offer. And that’s what we want: State capture and state control is less about just gaining power and more about showing that with power we can deliver real, tangible results that are meaningful and real to people.

Hizbut Tahrir does not believe in a democracy for example. Well, then, tell us what sort of system do they have in mind then? All this talk of non-democratic Khilafah governance has just been promises with nothing tangible. Show us some results then! How will they govern and manage the most basic things like wages, public transport, water for the people?


Q. So you do not see groups like the Hizbut Tahrir of Indonesia as a real problem or challenge to PKS?

FH: No. We in PKS have always taken the middle path and we work towards winning control of a plural state. The state is therefore the resource base (sumberdaya) for us: Through the state we can do many other things, including dealing with radical groups like that.

In the end we wish to win power over a plural state because we want to prove that Islamist politics is plural and that it can deal with pluralism for the common good of all. I emphasise the point of the common good here, for this is where we differ with some radical groups that say ‘Muslim power for Muslims only’. That’s not true. Islam is for everyone and if we come to power we wish to prove that we can cater for the common good of all people, including non-Muslims.

Now some radical groups don’t like that, and don’t agree with that- but that’s our position because we see Islam in universal terms. If they wish to limit themselves then that’s their right, but not ours.


Q. And you don’t take the challenge of groups like HTI or FPI seriously then?

FH: There is no challenge, because compared to us their knowledge of Islam is shallow (cetek). Ismail Yusanto (leader of the HTI) cannot debate with his, as his own knowledge of Islam is shallow compared to our cadres. The same goes for groups like FPI or MMI. Look at Abu Bakar Ba’asyir now- where is he? Before he was arrested he was even ousted from the MMI he created. These groups will splinter and collapse because they are focused on narrow concerns based on their shallow understanding of religion and their narrow approach to dealing with real socio-political challenges. These groups are institutionally bankrupt of ideas, and that is why they fragment all the time. They challenge us, but who is in power- us or them?

All this criticism of PKS’s role in politics is based on a shallow form of escapism. They reject democracy because they know that they do not stand a chance in an open, plural democratic space.