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Restraining Radicals  
The mass of Hizbut Tahrir. TEMPO/Dian Triyuli Handoko
Thursday, 18 May, 2017 | 06:16 WIB
Restraining Radicals  

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The government`s intention to legally dissolve Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (HTI) in court should not prompt protracted arguments on its pros and cons. In any democratic nation, silencing different lines of thinking should certainly be avoided. Nonetheless, when such thoughts take the form of an attempt to replace the foundations of the state, strategic measures must be taken.

Actually, even dissolution in itself would be ineffective. The mass base of HTI supporters has already taken root in our society. Its systematic recruitment based on an ideology has enabled this group to attract many followers. HTI has impressed not only the grassroots but also the middle-class and people in higher strata of society.

Sympathy for HTI grew stronger when the anti-communist issue came to the fore, especially after direct elections of regional chief executives were held in several areas. The use of the communist threat to defeat political opponents in those elections developed into a national trend. HTI garnered support because it was seen to hold the strongest beliefs to counter and contain communism. In several regions, law enforcers even brought in HTI to counter what they claimed to be the ‘re-awakening of communism’ in the country.

Not surprisingly, HTI was able to quickly infiltrate various groups in society, including those in higher education, the primary base of its members. HTI sympathizers are not only found on campuses, they can now be found among various government institutions. A video recently circulated, depicting a former minister and a commissioner of a state-owned bank openly supporting HTI and an Islamic state, is just one example of the increasing influence of this radical organization.

The concept of the rise of universal Islamic leadership, headed by a caliph, is HTI’s main pitch. At several public events, the group declared that a caliphate would resolve all our problems: moral decadence, poverty, non-performing bank loans, poor urban transportation, and on and on. One prescription for all ills: an illusion that many people have regrettably put their trust in. The group does not need democracy, although to achieve a caliphate, it does make use of democratic mechanisms: freedom of association, assembly as well as holding demonstrations to get its message out to the public.

Even so, the government’s plan to dissolve HTI must be carried out democratically. If the courts later agree to this dissolution, appropriate further steps must also be taken. One is to invite the major Islamic organizations, such as NU and Muhammadiyah, to once more convince their constituents and reaffirm that Pancasila is the foundation of the state, the best choice for a diverse country like Indonesia. Discourses on Pancasila as the basis of the state must continue. The state must maintain the public’s right to freedom of association and assembly.

But, whenever that right is abused by an organization to suppress freedoms, firm measures must be taken. Freedom, however it is viewed, does have its limitation, and that is the commitment of everyone to safeguard democracy and that freedom itself. (*)


Read the full story in this week’s edition of Tempo English Magazine


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