Azyumardi Azra, CBEProfessor of History, Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University Jakarta, Indonesia
- Based on certain understanding/interpretation of religious beliefs and practices.
- Based on ethnicity (ethno-political centrism) or tribe (political tribalism).
- Religio-communal politics is divisive both intra and inter-religious communities.
- Religio-communal politics can be included in the politics of SARA (Suku/ethnic group, Agama/religion, Ras/race, and Antargolongan/social classes.
- Religio-communal politics has never been effective in post-independence Indonesia.
Religio-Communal Politics: Identity Politics
A tendency among people of particular religion, race, social background to form and launch exclusive political alliances and mobilization; moving away from traditional broad-based political party politics. An expression to articulate the feeling being marginalized or oppressed—a process of consciousness-raising. All politics basically have a tendency of identity politics (incl. religio-political sectarianism) or rather primordial; could harm democracy; and could be pathological (demonization of opponents).
Sectarian spirit or tendencies; excessive devotion to certain school of thought, madhhab or aliran or denomination, colored by political interest that would lead to religio-political sectarianism. A concept and praxis of religio-political bigotry, discrimination or hatred, arising from attaching feeling or relations of inferiority or superiority to differences between subdivisions within a group. Excessive devotion to certain elements of schools of theology, law or shari’ah/fiqh, spiritualism or Sufism (tasawuf), then is justified by twisted interpretation and practices of religion.
Muslims without Religio-Political Sectarianism?
OT POSSIBLE, Theologically and Doctrinally. Different understanding and praxis of Islam (madhhab or aliran) because;
- Multiple meanings of certain ayat of the Qur’an.
- Rejection of certain hadith or acceptance of weak or fabricated hadith.
- Different levels of knowledge among mufassir, fuqaha’, ulama’—let alone the lays.
- Different religio-intellectual and relogio-political tendencies.
- Different socio-cultural and political milieu.
Why Religio-Political Sectarianism Could Be Strong among Muslims?
Political tendencies combined with truth claims among different or certain elements of madhahib; excessive madhhab fanatism. Links with bitter/heated political conflicts, contestations and supremacy among political elites. Links with tribalism and ethno-centric politics. Historical burden of the religio-political contestation and conflict in the past. Current economic and political contestation among Muslim nation-states that spill over to all parts of the Muslim world, including Indonesia.
Mass actions on November 11, December 2 (2016) etc. have been claimed by some Muslims or otherwise as the rise of ‘Islamic populism. Some asserted: “If Donald Trump’s populism can win why not us—Indonesian Muslims”. Most of the actions were led by a kind of ‘unholy alliances’ (or also ‘strange bed fellows) among different—and conflicting) political groups, including dischanted ex-military, marginal secular/abangan politicians—some of them have been accused by police of plotting to topple President Jokowi.
Viability of ‘Islamic Populism: 2018 Local and 2019 Presidential Elections
The post-Jakarta elections failed to significantly resulted in the rise of a kind of ‘Islamic populism’ in other provinces and/or cities/districts because: –different constellation of religious demography, political groups, candidates of contested positions, and the relative position of Muslim hardliner groups vis-à-vis mainstream moderate Muslim organizations. But religio-political sectarianism could to some extext continue to color local, legislature and presidential elections.
The Decline of ‘Islamic Populism: The 2019 Presidential Elections
The Islamic populism camps (‘212’) had been disarray before the elections. Some took side with the Jokowi-Ma’ruf Amin and some other with Prabowo-Sandiaga Uno. Larger groups that initially supported Prabowo-Sandi broke away when their proposed candidates for Vice-President were rejected by Prabowo. With Jokowi-Ma’ruf Amin won the presidential elections, the Islamic populism groups lost its impetus and declined significantly.
What to Do to Address Religio-Political Sectarianism
Reconsolidation of wasatiyah (justly balanced) understanding and praxis of Islam. Develop attitude of tawasut (middle way), tawazun (balanced), adil (fair) and tasamuh (tolerance).
Dissemination of the paradigm and practice of wasatiyah Islam among different segments/levels of Muslim society. Nurture the ummatan wasatan outlook through family, formal and non-formal education and society. Strengthen networks and cooperation among wasatiyah Islamic organizations and institutions.
What to Do
Acceleration of further consolidation of democracy. Restrengthening the ‘four pillars’ of the Indonesian state—Pancasila, UUD 1945, NKRI and Bhinneka Tunggal Ika. Acceleration of just and fair socio-economic distribution. Firm and consistent law enforcement. Scaling up intra and interfaith dialogues.
International Symposium on Religious Life (ISRL), MoRA, APAI, ICRS, LIPI, Bandung, Indonesia, 2-5 November 2020