The prob­lem of Mus­lim in­te­gra­tion in In­done­sia must be ur­gent pri­or­ity


The is­sue of Mus­lim in­te­gra­tion is not ex­clu­sively a Euro­pean prob­lem, but is also an is­sue in many Mus­lim- ma­jor­ity coun­tries. Over the last two or three decades, me­dia and po­lit­i­cal talks have ad­dressed the mat­ter as if it is a spe­cific prob­lem of West­ern coun­tries.

Re­cent cases of atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by Mus­lim crim­i­nals such as the mur­der­ous attack on the ed­i­tors of Char­lie Hebdo in Paris have reignited the end­less ques­tion of Mus­lim in­te­gra­tion.

What is im­por­tant to un­der­line here is that many schol­ars and ex­perts be­lieve that Mus­lims have failed to ac­cept Euro­pean val­ues. They give var­i­ous ex­pla­na­tions for this fail­ure, which we can sum up into three ar­gu­ments.

First, the fail­ure re­sults from an un­just so­cial and po­lit­i­cal sys­tem. In France, for ex­am­ple, the sys­tem has caused mul­ti­ple in­se­cu­ri­ties among marginal­ized Mus­lims.

They en­dure the low­est ed­u­ca­tion lev­els, of­ten have the low­est paid jobs and are more prone to un­em­ploy­ment than the French ma­jor­ity.

Sec­ond, the fail­ure is mainly due to the in­com­pe­tent poli­cies that the Euro­pean gov­ern­ments have taken with re­gard to Mus­lim im­mi­grants. The right wings, who have long been be­hind this ar­gu­ment, blame West­ern gov­ern­ments for be­ing too tol­er­ant to­ward Mus­lim im­mi­grants.

They ar­gue that wel­com­ing Mus­lim im­mi­grants was the first mis­take the West­ern gov­ern­ments com­mit­ted.

Grant­ing mi­grants’ quest for their re­li­gious rights was an­other blun­der. The cur­rent rise of Mus­lim ex­trem­ism, so the ar­gu­ment goes, is mainly due to this over- tol­er­ant pol­icy, which has been in place since the 1970s.

The third ar­gu­ment is sim­i­lar to the sec­ond with a dif­fer­ent tone. They blame the gov­ern­ment’s pol­icy over Mus­lim immi- grants, not for its tol­er­ance ( let alone over- tol­er­ance), but rather for its in­flex­i­ble and in­tol­er­ant ap­proach to­ward Mus­lims.

The bill that bans the use of head­scarves in France, the reg­u­la­tion on minarets in Switzer­land and the re­stric­tion on ha­lal food in the Nether­lands do not re­duce Mus­lim fun­da­men­tal­ism, but rather in­crease dis­trust and in­con­ve­nience among Mus­lims.

Look­ing at th­ese three ar­gu­ments and putting them in a dif­fer­ent con­text, we will find that the is­sue of Mus­lim in­te­gra­tion is not char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally a Euro­pean prob­lem. In most Mus­lim ma­jor­ity coun­tries whose con- sti­tu­tions are secular, Mus­lim in­te­gra­tion is equally cru­cial. In­done­sia is not an ex­cep­tion.

If by “in­te­gra­tion” we mean the process by which peo­ple ( cit­i­zens) can live and work to­gether un­der shared na­tional val­ues, Mus­lims are the most anx­ious re­li­gious groups who try to cope with this process. I am talk­ing about Mus­lims in their own land, In­done­sia.

In Europe, Mus­lims’ at­ti­tude in ex­press­ing their re­li­gious iden­ti­ties and their de­mand for more Is­lamic reg­u­la­tions in public spa­ces is of­ten con­sid­ered a form of dis­en­gage­ment from the na­tional ( West­ern) val­ues; hence their process to dis­in­te­grate from the na­tion.

In In­done­sia, such an at­ti­tude can be found in var­i­ous groups of Is­lamic fun­da­men­tal­ism.

Or­ga­ni­za­tions l ike Hizbut Tahrir In­done­sia ( HTI) clearly call for an Is­lamic caliphate and de­nounce the In­done­sian Con­sti­tu­tion. The group has been cam­paign­ing against the state and its po­lit­i­cal fab­ric. In the past 15 years, the group has ac­tively re­cruited mem­bers, par­tic­u­larly from uni­ver­sity stu­dents, and in­doc­tri­nated them to dis­obey the repub­lic.

There are other groups that share the vi­sion of HTI, par­tic­u­larly in terms of the will to Is­lamise the coun­try. Th­ese groups dis­agree with HTI’s bid for a caliphate but fully agree with its Is­lamiza­tion agenda, such as the im­ple­men­ta­tion of sharia in a wider scope of the coun­try.

Is­lamiza­tion in the sense of im­pos­ing Is­lamic val­ues in peo­ple’s public life is not only an In­done­sian phe­nom­e­non. It can be found in other pre­dom­i­nantly Mus­lim coun­tries whose con­sti­tu­tion is not based on Is­lamic law. Turkey is a clear ex­am­ple in point.

If dis­in­te­gra­tion refers to the process of dis­as­so­ci­at­ing peo­ple from the big­ger group, what Is­lamists have been do­ing in all over the Mus­lim world is un­ques­tion­ably an act of dis­in­te­gra­tion. Like in Europe, Mus­lim fun­da­men­tal­ists are try­ing to dis­en­gage from na­tions not merely be­cause of the fail­ure of poli­cies set by secular gov­ern­ments, but mainly due to the fail­ure of Mus­lim them­selves.

It is ironic for any­body, whether in Europe or in Mus­lim coun­tries, to keep blam­ing gov­ern­ment poli­cies but fail to un­der­stand the com­plex­ity of Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties.

The fail­ure of Mus­lim in­te­gra­tion might be shaped by the dis­crep­ancy of so­cial and po­lit­i­cal sys­tem in secular gov­ern­ments. But it should not be ig­nored that dis­loy­alty and the spirit of dis­en­gage­ment are in­her­ent in some Mus­lim groups.

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