Political Islam on the Decline

March 28, 2006

Source: Asia Times


On March 28, 2006 Asia Times ran an opinion piece by Andrew Steele, managing editor of the Van Zorge Report on Indonesia. Steele writes, "Islam maintains a more visible place in secular Indonesia than it has in years. New mosques are popping up everywhere, while more and more women wear jilbabs, or Islamic headscarves, than before. That rising tide of Islamic expression in daily life, however, is not translating into greater support for the country's many mushrooming Islamic political parties, particularly the Partai Keadilan Sejahtera, or the PKS. The PKS's impressive showing in the 2004 legislative election, in which the party increased its representation in Indonesia's main legislative body, the DPR, to 45 seats from the seven seats it won in 1999, caught many political pundits off guard. Questions arose about whether Indonesia's move toward more democracy would steer the country in a less secular, more Islamic, direction. The party's "clean and caring" campaign message struck a chord with many voters who had already grown tired of the ineffectiveness of Indonesia's better-known political parties... However, voters have always been suspicious that the PKS would eventually push for sharia law and other pieces of conservative legislation that would move Indonesia in the direction of a more pro-Islamic state... Shifting its focus from corruption-busting to promoting a more Islamic fundamentalist agenda in Indonesia's secular society has affirmed fears that the party was all along masquerading behind anti-corruption issues to push forward their hardline religious views. Public opinion polls, academics and former PKS supporters say the party in its current manifestation is falling out of favor with the more democratic-minded Indonesian electorate. Widespread perceptions that the party is consumed with internal disputes and petty power struggles have greatly undermined the party's credentials for affecting political, economic and social change."