WHILE an overwhelming majority of Indonesians think the nation’s democracy is the best system, one in 10 supports the idea of imposing an Islamic caliphate in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.
According to a survey on Indonesians’ attitudes to Islamic extremism released by Jakarta-based pollster Saiful Mujani Research and Consulting (SMRC) on Sunday, 9.2 percent of the population believes the democratic system should be changed to become a global caliphate.
An overwhelming majority of 79.3 percent, however, said the current system based upon Indonesia’s 1945 Constitution and its pluralist state ideology of Pancasila should be kept intact.
The survey consulted 1,500 randomly chosen participants from across the archipelago during May, the month in which religious and ethnic tensions were flaring around the jailing of Jakarta’s Christian governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama for blasphemy against Islam.
Presenting the research on Sunday, lead pollster Saiful Mujani noted that 9.2 percent of the Indonesian population in support of a caliphate is more than the total population of Singapore at around 20 million people, reported Kompas.
But “we cannot ignore that 180 million Indonesians still support” the Republic of Indonesia in its current state, he said. “I think the government should not worry.”
A total 33 percent of Indonesians report to have heard of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Of those who do know IS, 53 percent were unaware that they are struggling for a caliphate.
The survey found that 92.9 percent of respondents said Islamic State sympathisers should not be allowed to live in Indonesia. Moreover, a whopping 99 percent of Indonesians said they were very or quite proud to be Indonesian, as opposed to only 0.5 percent who said they weren’t very proud.
Remarkably strong sense of patriotism: How proud are you to be Indonesian? Very proud (62.5%) – fairly proud (36.5%) – not so proud (0.5%) pic.twitter.com/yxIbmgkKN2
— Bastiaan Scherpen (@bscherpen) June 5, 2017
Interestingly, only 28.2 percent said they had heard of Islamist group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), who played a significant role in the movement against Ahok for allegedly insulting the Quran.
The Indonesian government recently announced its intention to ban HTI, which advocates a global caliphate that would enforce Shariah law. The group is already banned in most Muslim-majority countries, however since 1998 has operated freely within Indonesia’s democratic system.
Unlike IS supporters, HTI advocates a non-violent path and to overthrow democracy from within – particularly by infiltrating the government. Indonesian authorities say their activities contravene the state ideology of Pancasila.
After terrorists affiliated with IS executed a twin suicide bombing in Jakarta last month, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has further stepped up his rhetoric against radical groups, saying he will “clobber” organisations threatening the state – using language reminiscent of the Suharto era.
He has warned the government might ban a number of groups, stating in an interview with Tempo last Wednesday that: “I’m not talking about one or two organisations but it could be four, five or six.”
The director of the Institute for the Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) Sidney Jones recently told the podcast Indonesia at Melbourne that moves to ban HTI would simply push them underground, further radicalising certain elements and making intervention from authorities more difficult.
She noted that the prominent Indonesian IS fighter in Syria Bahrun Naim, believed to have masterminded last year’s January attacks in Jakarta, was formerly a member of HTI before joining the violent struggle with IS.
Naim would be happy with the decision to ban HTI because it increases a sense of persecution and marginalisation from mainstream Indonesian society, said Jones.
Speaking on Sunday, SMRC’s Saiful concluded that given a majority of citizens reject IS and HTI, that these groups are “public enemies” in Indonesia.