The moderates against the radicals or the radicals against the moderates is not a new phenomenon in any country and Indonesia is no exception to this. The recent spate of attacks by fundamentalist Muslims against minority sects proffering an alternative view to the mainstream teachings of the faith indicates an escalating battle for control of religion. What is at stake? Perhaps the secular status of Indonesia.
I have written previously on this issue but it is one worth revisiting briefly. The MUI fatwa has provided the basis for the attacks by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and the Indonesian Mujahideen Council (MMI) on the Ahmadiyah sect. The attacks have seen the mosques and property of Ahmadiyah followers burned and damaged. These attacks have also been directed personally at followers.
Unfortunately, the President has provided explicit support for the power of the MUI and the fatwas that it issues by stating that he will abide by them. This support has only emboldened the FPI and the MMI to advance their conservative agenda of establishing a pan-Asian Caliphate and then implementing / imposing Syariah law throughout the newly established Caliphate.
Interestingly, the MUI is funded generously by the Government but the Government is not bound to abide by any decisions made by the MUI. In fact, the Government could go a long way to reducing the importance of the MUI by refusing to fund it.
The question here though is: Are the moderates prepared to step up and take back the debate on secularism and lead a revival of moderate thought? The answer to this question will go a long way to determining the social stability Indonesia enjoys over the coming years.