Sunday, January 17, 2010

Islam in Haiti

The estimated population of Haitian Muslims is about 3250, representing approximately 0.04 percent of the population, although local Muslims claim the actual number is larger, nearing 5000 due to many Muslims that supposedly aren't counted due to inaccessibility or unavailability. Islamic organizations in Haiti include the Bilal Mosque and Islamic Center in Cap-Haïtien, which offers programs in Islamic studies and daily prayers, and the Centre Spirituel Allah ou Akbar in Port au Prince.

The history of Islam on the island of Hispaniola (which Haiti shares with the Dominican Republic) begins with the slavery in Haïti. Many Muslims were imported as slaves to Haiti. Although many were forced to abandon Islam over time, their Islamic heritage has persisted in the culture of native Haitians. Additionally, a revisionist history of Dutty Boukman, whose death is largely considered the start of the Haitian Revolution, suggests that he was Muslim. In the early portion of the 20th century, a wave of Arab immigrants came to the Americas, in which a surprisingly noticeable amount settled in Haiti (and other countries as well). It is said that the first to arrive in Haiti around 1920 was a man hailing from the Palestinian village of Aizariya, near Jerusalem, along with 19 other families. Today, the majority of the country's Muslims are indigenous Haitians, followed by the ethnic Middle Easterners. As a result of limited financial resources, they were unable to build a mosque or school until 1985, when a residence was converted into a mosque and a minaret was constructed. In 2000, Nawoon Marcellus, a member of Fanmi Lavalas from San Raphael, became the first Muslim elected to the Chamber of Deputies of Haïti.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Islam in Thailand

Islam, while a minority faith in Thailand, is quickly growing, with the 2005 statistics from National Statistic Office of Thailand estimating approximately 2.2 million, or equivalent to 4.5% of the adult population of 49.5 million (this number does not include children below the age of 15), are Muslims[1] Most Thai Muslims belong to the Sunni sect.[2]

Demographics & Geography

Popular opinion seems to hold that a vast majority of the country's Muslims are found in the Thailand's three Southernmost provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat. However, the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs' research indicates that only 18% of Thai Muslims live in those three provinces. The rest are scattered throughout Thailand, with the largest concentrations being in Bangkok and throughout most Southern provinces.
According to the National Statistics Office, in 2005, Muslims in Southern Thailand made up 30.4% of general population above the age 15, while less than 3% in other parts of the country.[3]

 Ethnicity and Identity

Thailand's Muslim population is diverse and multicultural, with ethnic groups having migrated from as far as China, Pakistan, Cambodia, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Indonesia, as well as comprising indigenous Thais, while about two-third of Muslims in Thailand are ethnically Malay.[4]

 Indigenous Thai

Many Thai Muslims are ethnically and linguistically Thai, who are either hereditary Muslims, Muslims by intermarriage, or recent converts to the faith. Ethnic Thai Muslims live mainly in the Central and Southern provinces - varying from entire Muslim communities to mixed settlements.

 Malay Muslims

In the three Southernmost border provinces, the vast majority of the local Muslim population is predominantly Malay in origin. These people, known colloquially as Yawi, speak a dialect of Malay that is not mutually understood by Thai speakers.[5] This adds to the culturally unique identity of Thai Malay Muslims.
The high number of Malay origin inhabitants in the Southern region is due the historical nature of the area, which was once known as the Pattani Kingdom, an Islamic Malay kingdom established in the nineteenth century, but later annexed to Siam (the older name of Thailand).[6]

Chinese Muslims

Chinese muslims walking inside a mosque in Amphoe Pai, northern Thailand
In the far North, as well as in select Central and Southern urban areas, there are pockets of Thai Muslims of Chinese Hui origin.[7] Most Chinese Muslims belong to a group of people called Chin Ho or Haw in the Thai Language, although most of the Chin Ho are not Muslim. Some historians believed that the name Chin Ho can be explained to be a combination of "Chin" (China) and "Ho" (Hui). It also bears a striking similarity in pronunciation to the name of Zheng He, one of the first great Imperial Chinese diplomats to have visited Thailand in its early Siamese history, who was also of the Chinese Hui extraction. The Chin Ho people, thus, can be seen as "The People of Zheng He"[citation needed] - traders and emigres who carried with them Hui Muslim traditions from China. One of the most famous Chinese mosque is Baan Haw Mosque, located in Chiang Mai Province.

Burmese Muslim groups

Burmese ethnic groups, such as the Rohingya are refugees and economic migrants whom are scattered throughout Thailand's refugee camps, rural fishing villages, as well as in many small towns and cities close to the Myanmar border.
Northern Thailand, as well as being home to many Chinese Muslims, also is home to many Burmese, and mixed Chinese-Burmese or Pakistani-Burmese peoples.

Other Asian Muslim groups

Other represented groups include Cham Muslims, originally from Cambodia who can be found between the mutual border and Bangkok as well as the deep south.
South Asians, including Tamils, Punjabis, Bangladeshi, and Pakistanis can be found throughout Thailand working in professions ranging from wealthy business owners to lowly paid labourers.
Other groups include Indonesian Muslims, especially Javanese and Minangkabau.

Distinctives of Thai Islam

Except in the small circle of theologically trained believers, the Islamic faith in Thailand, like Buddhism, has become integrated with many beliefs and practices not integral to Islam.
In the South, it can be difficult to draw a line between animistic practices indigenous to Malay culture that were used to drive off evil spirits and local Islamic ceremonies because each contained aspects of the other.

Places of Worship

According to National Statistic Office of Thailand in 2007, the country has 3,494 mosques, with the largest number (636) in Pattani province.[8] According to the Religious Affairs Department (RAD), 99% of the mosques are associated with the Sunni branch of Islam with the remaining 1% Shi'a.

Governance & Education

Education and maintenance of their own cultural traditions are vital interests of these groups.
The National Council for Muslims, consisting of at least five persons (all Muslims) and appointed by royal proclamation, advised the ministries of education and interior on Islamic matters. Its presiding officer, the state counselor for Muslim affairs, was appointed by the king and held the office of division chief in the Department of Religious Affairs in the Ministry of Education. Provincial councils for Muslim affairs existed in the provinces that had substantial Muslim minorities, and there were other links between the government and the Muslim community, including government financial assistance to Islamic education institutions, assistance with construction of some of the larger mosques, and the funding of pilgrimages by Thai Muslims to Mecca, both Bangkok and Hat Yai being primary gateway cities.
Thailand also maintains several hundred Islamic schools at the primary and secondary levels, as well as Islamic banks, (Pattanakarn, Bangkok), shops and other institutions. Much of the packaged food marketed is tested and labeled halal (unless it has pork), regardless of who eats it

Monday, January 11, 2010

Islam in Singapore

About 15% of Singapore's population are Muslims. A majority of Malays are Sunni Muslims. Other adherents include Indian and Pakistani communities as well as a small number of Chinese, Arabs and Eurasians.[1][2]17 per cent of Muslims in Singapore are of Indian origin[3]. While the majority of Muslims in Singapore are traditionally Sunni Muslims who follow the Shafi'i school of thought, there are also Muslims who follow the Hanafi school of thought as well as Shi'ite Muslims.

Legal History

In 1915, the British colonial authorities established the Mohammedan Advisory Board. The Board was tasked to advise the colonial authorities on matters connected with the Mohammedan religion and custom.
In 1963, Singapore became part of Malaysia. Singapore separated from Malaysia and declared independence in 1965. The constitution of the independent republic included two provisions relating to the special position of the Malays and the Muslim religion i.e. Articles 152 and 153.
Article 152 states:
(1) It shall be the responsibility of the Government constantly to care for the interests of the racial and religious minorities in Singapore.
(2) The Government shall exercise its functions in such manner as to recognise the special position of the Malays, who are the indigenous people of Singapore, and accordingly it shall be the responsibility of the Government to protect, safeguard, support, foster and promote their political, educational, religious, economic, social and cultural interests and the Malay language.
Article 153 states:
The Legislature shall by law make provision for regulating Muslim religious affairs and for constituting a Council to advise the President in matters relating to the Muslim religion.
In 1966, Parliament passed the Administration of the Muslim Law Act (AMLA). The Act came into effect in 1968 and defined the powers and jurisdiction of three key Muslim institutions: (i) the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore, (ii) the Syariah Court, and (iii) the Registry of Muslim Marriages.
These institutions are under the purview of the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) though the minister responsible for these institutions is the Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs.

Key Muslim institutions

Islamic Religious Council of Singapore

The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore or Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura(Muis) is a statutory board which plays an important role in the administration of Muslim affairs.
  • Function and duty of the Majlis
Section 3 (2) of the Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA) states that:
It shall be the function and duty of the Majlis —
(a) to advise the President of Singapore in matters relating to the Muslim religion in Singapore;
(b) to administer matters relating to the Muslim religion and Muslims in Singapore including any matter relating to the Haj or halal certification;
(c) to administer all Muslim endowments and funds vested in it under any written law or trust;
(d) to administer the collection of zakat and fitrah and other charitable contributions for the support and promotion of the Muslim religion or for the benefit of Muslims in accordance with this Act;
(e) to administer all mosques and Muslim religious schools in Singapore; and
(f) to carry out such other functions and duties as are conferred upon the Majlis by or under this Act or any other written law.
  • Membership of the Majlis
Section 7(1) of AMLA lists the membership of the Majlis. It states:
The Majlis shall consist of —
(a) a President to be appointed by the President of Singapore;
(b) a Vice-President, if one has been so appointed under subsection (6);
(c) the Mufti;
(d) not more than 7 members to be appointed by the President of Singapore on the recommendation of the Minister; and
(e) not less than 7 members to be appointed by the President of Singapore, from a list of nominees to be submitted by the President.
  • Office of the President
Under section 14(1) of AMLA, the President of Muis is also the Chairman of the Majlis and "shall preside at all meetings of the Majlis". The President of Muis also has "general control of all deliberations and proceedings of the Majlis" under section 19(1) of AMLA.
While AMLA provides for the post of Vice-President, Muis does not have a Vice-President.
  • Office of the Secretary
The Secretary of Muis also attend the meetings of Majlis but does not have the right to vote under section 8(1) of AMLA. The duties and powers of the Secretary is delineated in section 20 of AMLA. It states:
Subject to such directions as may be given to him by the President, the Secretary shall —
(a) have charge of all correspondence and documents of the Majlis, including all books of account thereof and all title deeds and securities;
(b) be generally responsible for the proper collection of, accounting for and disposal of all funds of the Majlis; and
(c) in all other respects carry out such duties as may be imposed upon him by this Act or allotted to him by direction of the President.
  • Office of the Mufti
Apart from the President and Secretary of Muis, another important office is that of the Mufti. Under section 30(3), the "Mufti shall be ex-officio a member of the Majlis."
Section 30(1) authorises the President of Singapore to appoint a fit and proper person to be the Mufti after consultation with the Majlis. In 1967, Mohamed Sanusi Mahmood was appointed as Singapore's first Mufti. He was succeeded by Syed Isa Semait in 1972.
  • The Legal Committee
The President of Singapore also appoints the members of the Legal Committee (also known as the Fatwa Committee). The relevant provision relating to the Legal Committee is section 31 which states:
(1) There shall be a Legal Committee of the Majlis, consisting of —
(a) the Mufti;
(b) 2 other fit and proper members of the Majlis; and
(c) not more than 2 other fit and proper Muslims who are not members of the Majlis.
(2) The members of the Legal Committee, other than the Mufti, shall be appointed by the President of Singapore on the advice of the Majlis for such period as he thinks fit.
(3) A notification of every such appointment shall be published in the Gazette.
(4) The Mufti shall be chairman of the Legal Committee.
Under section 33, the Legal Committee is authorised to follow the tenets of the Shafi'i school of thought. It states:
(1) Subject to this section, the Majlis and the Legal Committee in issuing any ruling shall ordinarily follow the tenets of the Shafi’i school of law.
(2) If the Majlis or the Legal Committee considers that the following of the tenets of the Shafi"i school of law will be opposed to the public interest, the Majlis may follow the tenets of any of the other accepted schools of Muslim law as may be considered appropriate, but in any such ruling the provisions and principles to be followed shall be set out in full detail and with all necessary explanations.
(3) In any case where the ruling or opinion of the Majlis or the Legal Committee is requested in relation to the tenets of a particular school of Muslim law, the Majlis or the Legal Committee shall give its ruling or opinion in accordance with the tenets of that particular school of Muslim law.

Syariah Court

In 1880, the British colonial authorities introduced the Mahomedan Marriage Ordinance which officially recognised the status of Muslim personal law in Singapore.
In 1958, pursuant to the 1957 Muslim Ordinance, a Syariah Court with jurisdiction to hear and determine disputes pertaining to Muslim marriages and divorce cases was established.
The Court replaced a set of government-licensed but otherwise unsupervised qadhi (Muslim judges) who had previously decided on questions of divorce and inheritance, following either the traditions of particular ethnic groups or their own interpretations of Muslim law.
Today, the Syariah Court continues to exist as a court of competent jurisdiction with power and jurisdiction to hear and determine disputes defined by AMLA.

Registry of Muslim Marriages(ROMM)

The ROMM registers marriages when the couple are both Muslims. In the case of mixed-religion marriages, the marriage is registered at the Registry of Marriages.
Previously, the registration of Muslim marriages as well as divorces were conducted under one unit, which is the Syariah Court.
It was first located in a bungalow at Fort Canning and later moved to Canning Rise in 1983.
Appeals on decisions of the Syariah Court and the ROMM are heard and determined by the Appeal Board.
Unlike Muis, the Syariah Court and ROMM are not statutory boards but constitute a part of MCYS.

Muslim Organisations

Malay-Muslim Organisations

Apart from these key Muslim institutions, there are also community self-help groups, voluntary welfare organisations and civic groups like the Association of Muslim Professionals, Yayasan Mendaki, Muslim Missionary Society (Jamiyah),PERDAUS, Singapore Islamic Scholars and Islamic Teachers Association (PERGAS), Muhammadiyah and Islamic Theological Association of Singapore (Pertapis).

Indian-Muslim Organisations

There are also many Indian-Muslim organisations in Singapore e.g. Federation of Indian Muslims, Singapore Kadayanallur Muslim League, Singapore Tenkasi Muslim Welfare Society, Thiruvithancode Muslim Union, and United Indian Muslim Association.

Religio-Cultural Groups

Shi'ite Organisations

The Shi'ite community consists of Twelver Shi'ites, Ismailis and Dawoodi Bohras.
In Singapore, the history of the Twelver Shi'ites began with the immigration of the Khoja commmunity from India. A member of Khoja community spearheaded the founding of the Jaafari Muslim Association.
During the 1980s, Malays from the Muslim Youth Assembly (Himpunan Belia Islam) joined the Shi'ite community. A centre known as Hussainiyah Azzahra was later established.
The Jaafari Muslim Association and Muslim Youth Assembly cater to the Twelver Shi'ites.
The spiritual leader (Da'i al-Mutlaq) of the Dawoodi Bohras is Mohammed Burhanuddin, who represents the twenty-first imam. The Anjuman-E-Burhani caters to the Dawoodi Bohra community in Singapore. Bohra traders started settling in Singapore in the 1820s. The mosque for the Bohra community is the Burhani Mosque which was established in 1829. It has since been rebuilt and is now an 11-storey complex comprising of prayer halls, function halls, meeting rooms and offices.
The Ismailis are followers of Aga Khan. The Aga Khan has decided to establish an Ismaili Centre and regional representative office of the Aga Khan Development Network in Singapore.[4]


The Muslim Converts' Association of Singapore (also known as Darul Arqam) provides support for converts.


There are 69 mosques in Singapore. With the exception of Masjid Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim (which is administered by the State of Johor), all the mosques in Singapore are administered by Muis. 23 mosques were built using the Mosque Building and Mendaki Fund (MBMF). Masjid Al-Mawaddah, the twenty-third MBMF mosque, was officially opened in May 2009.


There are six full-time madrasahs. There are also part-time madrasahs.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Islam in Indonesia

Islam is Indonesia's dominant religion and approximately 86%, or about 200 million, of its population identify as Muslims, making it the world's largest Muslim population.
The Indonesian Central Statistic Bureau (BPS) conducts a census every 10 years. The latest data available, from 2000, indicated that of 240,271,522 people, 86.1 percent of the population label themselves Muslim, 5.7 percent Protestant, 3 percent Catholic, 1.8 percent Hindu, and 3.4 percent "other or unspecified"[1]. The country's religious composition is a politically charged issue, with some commentators saying that the census perennially undercounts non-Muslims.[citation needed]
Most Muslims are Sunni, although some follow other branches of Islam. Shia number around one million.[2] In general, the Muslim community can be categorized in terms of two orientations: "modernists," who closely adhere to orthodox theology while embracing modern learning; and "traditionalists," who tend to follow the interpretations of local religious leaders (predominantly on Java) and religious teachers at Islamic boarding schools.


[edit] The spread of Islam (1200 - 1600)

Mosque in Medan.
The first Indonesians to adopt Islam are thought to have done so as early as the eleventh century, although Muslims had visited Indonesia early in the Muslim era. The spread of Islam was driven by increasing trade links outside of the archipelago; in general, traders and the royalty of major kingdoms were the first to adopt the new religion. Dominant kingdoms included Mataram in Central Java, and the sultanates of Ternate and Tidore in the Maluku Islands to the east. By the end of the thirteenth century, Islam had been established in North Sumatra; by the fourteenth in northeast Malaya, Brunei, the southern Philippines and among some courtiers of East Java; and the fifteenth in Malacca and other areas of the Malay Peninsula. Through assimilation Islam had supplanted Hinduism and Buddhism as the dominant religion of Java and Sumatra by the end of the 16th century. At this time, only Bali retained a Hindu majority and the outer islands remained largely animist but would adopt Islam and Christianity in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Despite being one of the most significant developments in Indonesian history, historical evidence is fragmentary and generally uninformative such that understandings of the coming of Islam to Indonesia are limited; there is considerable debate amongst scholars about what conclusions can be drawn about the conversion of Indonesian peoples.[3] The primary evidence, at least of the earlier stages of the process, are gravestones and a few travellers' accounts, but these can only show that indigenous Muslims were in a certain place at a certain time. This evidence cannot explain more complicated matters such as how lifestyles were affected by the new religion or how deeply it affected societies. It cannot be assumed, for example, that because a ruler was known to be a Muslim, that that the process of Islamisation of that area was complete; rather the process was, and remains to this day, a continuous process in Indonesia. Although it is known that the spread of Islam began in the west of the archipelago, the fragmentary evidence does not suggest a rolling wave of conversion through adjacent areas; rather, it suggests the process was complex and slow.
In the late fifteenth century, the powerful Majapahit Empire in Java was at its decline. After it had been defeated in several battles, the last Hindu kingdom in Java fell under the rising power of Islamized state Sultanate of Demak in 1520. Islam in Java then began to spread formally, largely influenced by the Wali Songo (or the Nine Saints).[note]

[edit] European colonization

Mosque in the early twentieth century in Indonesia
The Dutch colonized Indonesia for many reasons, however the main reason was for economical purposes. Indonesia was full of resources, such as coffee, sugar and spices. Spices in particular such as cloves and nutmeg were what brought in most of the money for the Dutch.
In the late 19th century, reformist Muslim who led by Jamaluddin al-Afghani and Muhammad Abduh influenced Maritime Southeast Asia. The Minangkabau ulema play an important role in the early reform movement.[4] In 1906, Tahir bin Jalaluddin published al-Iman, the Malay newspaper in Singapore. Five years later followed publication of al-Munir newspaper in Padang. In the first 20th century, Muslim modernist school arose in West Sumatra, such as Adabiah (1909), Diniyah Putri (1911), and Sumatera Thawalib (1915). Later, islamic movement also developed in Java with the birth of the NU and Muhammadiyah.[5]

[edit] Post Independence

When Indonesia declared independence in 1945, it became the largest Muslim-majority nation in the world. Today it has about 88% of the population of 235 million people following Islam. In recent years there has been a trend toward a more orthodox interpretation of Islam. In 2006 poll, 58% of people surveyed believed adulterers should be stoned, as is mandated by Islamic law, up from 39% five years before.[6]

[edit] Demographics

Mosque in East Java.
Muslims constitute a majority in most regions of Java, Sumatra, West Nusa Tenggara, Sulawesi, coastal areas of Kalimantan, and North Maluku. Muslims form distinct minorities in Papua, Bali, East Nusa Tenggara, parts of North Sumatra, most inland areas of Kalimantan, and North Sulawesi. Together, these non-Muslim areas originally constituted more than one third of Indonesia prior to the massive transmigration effort sponsored by the Suharto government and recent spontaneous internal migration.
Internal migration has altered the demographic makeup of the country over the past three decades. It has increased the percentage of Muslims in formerly predominantly Christian eastern parts of the country. By the early 1990s, Christians became a minority for the first time in some areas of the Moluccas. While government-sponsored transmigration from heavily populated Java and Madura to less populated areas contributed to the increase in the Muslim population in the resettlement areas, no evidence suggests that the Government intended to create a Muslim majority in Christian areas, and most Muslim migration seemed spontaneous. Regardless of its intent, the economic and political consequences of the transmigration policy contributed to religious conflicts in Maluku, Central Sulawesi, and to a lesser extent in Papua.

[edit] Organizations

The leading national "modernist" social organization, Muhammadiyah, has branches throughout the country and approximately 30 million followers. Founded in 1912, Muhammadiyah runs mosques, prayer houses, clinics, orphanages, poorhouses, schools, public libraries, and universities. On February 9, Muhammadiyah's central board and provincial chiefs agreed to endorse the presidential campaign of a former Muhammadiyah chairman. This marked the organization's first formal foray into partisan politics and generated controversy among members.
Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the largest "traditionalist" social organization, focuses on many of the same activities as Muhammadiyah and indirectly operates a majority of the country's Islamic boarding schools. Claiming approximately 40 million followers, NU is the country's largest organization and perhaps the world's largest Islamic group. Founded in 1926, NU has a nationwide presence but remains strongest in rural Java. The Islam of many NU followers has heavy infusions of Javanese culture, and followers tend to reject a literal or dogmatic interpretation of Islamic doctrine. Many NU followers give great deference to the views, interpretations, and instructions of senior NU religious figures, alternately called "Kyais" or "Ulama." The organization has long advocated religious moderation and communal harmony.
Mosque in Sumatra.
Membership of the Indonesian Islamic Propagation Institute(LDII) continues to grow.[7]
A number of smaller Islamic organizations cover a broad range of Islamic doctrinal orientations. At one end of the ideological spectrum lies the controversial Islam Liberal Network (JIL), which aims to promote a pluralistic and more liberal interpretation of Islamic thinking. Equally controversial are groups at the other end of this spectrum such as Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), which advocates a pan-Islamic caliphate, the Indonesian Mujahedeen Council (MMI), which advocates implementation of Shari'a as a precursor to an Islamic state, and the sometimes violent Front Pembela Islam (FPI). Countless other small organizations fall between these poles.
Separate from the country's dominant Sunni Islam population, a small minority of persons subscribe to the Ahmadiyah interpretation of Islam. However, this group maintains 242 branches throughout the country. In 1980 the Indonesian Council of Ulamas (MUI) issued a "fatwa" (a legal opinion or decree issued by an Islamic religious leader) declaring that Ahmadiyah is not a legitimate form of Islam.
In addition there are small numbers of other messianic Islamic groups, including the Malaysian-affiliated Darul Arqam, and the syncretist Indonesian Jamaah Salamulla group (also called the Salamulla Congregation or God's Kingdom). Its leader, Lia Eden, is currently facing charges of disdaining Islam and many Islamic organizations in Indonesia consider them as a heretical form of Islam.

[edit] Islam in Indonesian society

Many Indonesians are Modernist Muslims.
To a significant degree, the striking variations in the practice and interpretation of Islam — in a much less austere form than that practiced in the Middle East — in various parts of Indonesia reflect its complex history. Introduced piecemeal by various traders and wandering mystics from India, Islam first gained a foothold between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries in coastal regions of Sumatra, northern Java, and Kalimantan. Islam probably came to these regions in the form of mystical Sufi tradition. Sufism easily gained local acceptance and became synthesized with local customs. The introduction of Islam to the islands was not always peaceful, however. As Islamized port towns undermined the waning power of the east Javanese Hindu/Buddhist Majapahit kingdom in the sixteenth century, Javanese elites fled to Bali, where over 2.5 million people kept their own version of Hinduism alive. Unlike coastal Sumatra, where Islam was adopted by elites and masses alike, partly as a way to counter the economic and political power of the Hindu-Buddhist kingdoms, in the interior of Java the elites only gradually accepted Islam, and then only as a formal legal and religious context for Javanese spiritual culture.
These historical processes gave rise to enduring tensions between orthodox Muslims and more syncretistic, locally based religion — tensions that were still visible in the early 1990s. On Java, for instance, this tension was expressed in a contrast between the traditionalist santri and abangan, an indigenous blend of native and Hindu-Buddhist beliefs with Islamic practices sometimes also called Javanism, kejawen, agama Jawa, or kebatinan. The terms and precise nature of this opposition were still in dispute in the early 1990s, but on Java santri not only referred to a person who was consciously and exclusively Muslim, santri also described persons who had removed themselves from the secular world to concentrate on devotional activities in Islamic schools called pesantren—literally the place of the santri.
In contrast to the Mecca-oriented philosophy of most santri, there was the current of kebatinan, which is an amalgam of animism, Hindu-Buddhist, and Islamic — especially Sufi — beliefs. This loosely organized current of thought and practice, was legitimized in the 1945 constitution and, in 1973, when it was recognized as one of the agama, President Suharto counted himself as one of its adherents. Kebatinan is generally characterized as mystical, and some varieties were concerned with spiritual self-control. Although there were many varieties circulating in 1992, kebatinan often implies pantheistic worship because it encourages sacrifices and devotions to local and ancestral spirits. These spirits are believed to inhabit natural objects, human beings, artifacts, and grave sites of important wali (Muslim saints). Illness and other misfortunes are traced to such spirits, and if sacrifices or pilgrimages fail to placate angry deities, the advice of a dukun or healer is sought. Kebatinan, while it connotes a turning away from the militant universalism of orthodox Islam, moves toward a more internalized universalism. In this way, kebatinan moves toward eliminating the distinction between the universal and the local, the communal and the individual.
Another notable view is the division between traditionalist and modernist Islam. The nature of these differences was complex, confusing, and a matter of considerable debate in the early 1990s, but traditionalists generally rejected the modernists' interest in absorbing educational and organizational principles from the West.[citation needed] Specifically, traditionalists were suspicious of modernists' support of the urban madrasah, a reformist school that included the teaching of secular topics.[citation needed] Traditionalists also sought to add a clause to the first tenet of the Pancasila state ideology requiring that, in effect, all Muslims adhere to the sharia.[8] On the other hand, modernists accused traditionalists of escapist unrealism in the face of change; some even hinted that santri harbored greater loyalty towards the ummah (congregation of believers) of Islam than to the secular Indonesian state.[citation needed]
A mosque in Bukittinggi.
Despite these differences, the traditionalist [[Nahdlatul Ulama, the progressive Consultative Council of Indonesian Muslims (Masyumi), and two other parties were forcibly streamlined into a single Islamic political party in 1973—the United Development Party (PPP). Such cleavages may have weakened Islam as an organized political entity, as demonstrated by the withdrawal of the Nahdlatul Ulama from active political competition, but as a popular religious force Islam showed signs of good health and a capacity to frame national debates.
At some time the Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam), a radical group based in Jakarta, emerged. The Islamic Defenders Front raids gambling dens, nightclubs and bars in the city to punish proprietors and patrons whom they allege do not adhere to Islamic mores. This group has also barged into foreign-owned hotels (e.g., Novotel in Surakarta) for the purpose of expelling Americans.[citation needed] The Islamic Defenders Front and similar groups have no official support from the government, but a large number of Indonesian citizens and even lawmakers are sympathetic to at least some of their goals.

[edit] Religious freedom

The Indonesian Constitution provides "all persons the right to worship according to their own religion or belief" and states that "the nation is based upon belief in one supreme God." The Government generally respects these provisions; however, some restrictions exist on certain types of religious activity and on unrecognized religions.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs extends official status to six faiths: Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism. Religious organizations other than the six recognized faiths can register with the Government, but only with the Ministry for Culture and Tourism and only as social organizations. This restricts certain religious activities. Unregistered religious groups cannot rent venues to hold services and must find alternative means to practice their faiths.
Although it has an overwhelming Muslim majority, the country is not an Islamic state. Over the past 50 years, many Islamic groups sporadically have sought to establish an Islamic state, but the country's mainstream Muslim community, including influential social organizations such as Muhammadiyah and NU, reject the idea. Proponents of an Islamic state argued unsuccessfully in 1945 and throughout the parliamentary democracy period of the 1950s for the inclusion of language (the "Jakarta Charter") in the Constitution's preamble making it obligatory for Muslims to follow Shari'a. During the Suharto regime, the Government prohibited all advocacy of an Islamic state. With the loosening of restrictions on freedom of speech and religion that followed the fall of Suharto in 1998, proponents of the "Jakarta Charter" resumed advocacy efforts. This proved the case prior to the 2002 Annual Session of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), a body that has the power to change the Constitution. The nationalist political parties, regional representatives elected by provincial legislatures, and appointed police, military, and functional representatives, who together held a majority of seats in the MPR, rejected proposals to amend the Constitution to include Shari'a, and the measure never came to a formal vote. The MPR approved changes to the Constitution that mandated that the Government increase "faith and piety" in education. This decision, seen as a compromise to satisfy Islamist parties, set the scene for a controversial education bill signed into law in July 2003.
Shari'a generated debate and concern during 2004, and many of the issues raised touched on religious freedom. Aceh remained the only part of the country where the central Government specifically authorized Shari'a. Law 18/2001 granted Aceh special autonomy and included authority for Aceh to establish a system of Shari'a as an adjunct to, not a replacement for, national civil and criminal law. Before it could take effect, the law required the provincial legislature to approve local regulations ("qanun") incorporating Shari'a precepts into the legal code. Law 18/2001 states that the Shari'a courts would be "free from outside influence by any side." Article 25(3) states that the authority of the court will only apply to Muslims. Article 26(2) names the national Supreme Court as the court of appeal for Aceh's Shari'a courts.
Aceh is the only province that has Shari'a courts. Religious leaders responsible for drafting and implementing the Shari'a regulations stated that they had no plans to apply criminal sanctions for violations of Shari'a. Islamic law in Aceh, they said, would not provide for strict enforcement of "fiqh" or "hudud," but rather would codify traditional Acehnese Islamic practice and values such as discipline, honesty, and proper behavior. They claimed enforcement would not depend on the police but rather on public education and societal consensus.
Because Muslims make up the overwhelming majority of Aceh's population, the public largely accepted Shari'a, which in most cases merely regularized common social practices. For example, a majority of women in Aceh already covered their heads in public. Provincial and district governments established Shari'a bureaus to handle public education about the new system, and local Islamic leaders, especially in North Aceh and Pidie, called for greater government promotion of Shari'a as a way to address mounting social ills. The imposition of martial law in Aceh in May 2003 had little impact on the implementation of Shari'a. The Martial Law Administration actively promoted Shari'a as a positive step toward social reconstruction and reconciliation. Some human rights and women's rights activists complained that implementation of Shari'a focused on superficial issues, such as proper Islamic dress, while ignoring deep-seated moral and social problems, such as corruption.
There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States. This coincided with a continuing de-escalation of violence in the country's main areas of interreligious conflict: the eastern provinces of Maluku, North Maluku, and Central Sulawesi.
Some Muslim, Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist holy days are national holidays. Muslim holy days celebrated include the Isra and Mi'raj, Idul Fitr, Idul Adha, the Islamic New Year, and the Prophet's Birthday. National Christian holy days are Christmas Day, Good Friday, and the Ascension of Christ. Three other national holidays are the Hindu holiday Nyepi, the Buddhist holiday Waisak, and Chinese New Year, celebrated by Confucians and other Chinese. On Bali all Hindu holy days are regional holidays, and public servants and others did not work on Saraswati Day, Galungan, and Kuningan.
The Government has a monopoly on organizing the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, and in February, following the latest hajj, the Department of Religious Affairs drew sharp criticism for mismanaging the registration of approximately 30,000 prospective pilgrims after they had paid the required fees. The Government unilaterally expanded the country's quota of 205,000 pilgrims, claiming it had informal approval from the Saudi Government, an assertion that proved incorrect. Members of the House of Representatives have sponsored a bill to set up an independent institution, thus ending the department's monopoly.