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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Indonesia's Muslim party widens its appeal

By Peter Gelling International Herald Tribune

DEPOK, Indonesia Nurmahmudi Ismail brought the whispering gossip of more than 300 colorfully attired Muslim women to an end when he sprang out of his small truck and waded through the crowd, greeting fans along the way.

All eyes were fixed on him as he spoke eagerly about the importance of education, and alternated between humorous stories and the most serious point of his agenda - halting corruption.

Nurmahmudi, 44, is the newly elected mayor in this important satellite city of Jakarta where college students and a large, conservative Muslim constituency live side by side. He won on a platform of strict Islam and clean government, a combination that is the essence of Indonesia's fast rising Islamic party, The Justice and Prosperity Party.

"These women need to know that they have to play a part in ensuring their government is responsible," Nurmahmudi said. "I told them to tell my office if they think they are being treated unfairly or are victims of corruption."

The Justice Party is relying on the U.S.-educated Nurmahmudi to show the rest of Indonesia that it can more quickly improve living standards than the secular-based parties that have failed to tackle all-pervasive corruption.

Next year, Jakarta, a crumbling city of 13 million where the very poor fight for survival among a thin crust of exceedingly rich, will hold its election for mayor. The Justice Party, with its eye on the presidential elections in 2009, is out to win.

The victory in Depok was a major jolt for the political establishment and a victory in Jakarta next year, would send an unmistakable message about the party's appeal, said Muhammad Qodari, research director and political analyst at the Indonesian Survey Institute.

"Winning Jakarta would bring the party national attention and it could then promote their leadership in Jakarta and Depok all over the country," he said.

The Justice Party leaders said they know that making an impression on Jakarta's diverse electorate will mean moderating the party's staunch Islamic principles and amplifying its fight against corruption.

Through methodical campaigning of the kind that helped Nurmahmudi win Depok, the Justice Party has made steady strides in the last few years. In the 2004 Parliamentary elections, it won more than 7 percent of the vote, up from less than 2 percent in 1999. The party was one of only two to increase its votes. One of its senior officials, Hidayat Nur Wahid, is now the leader in the People's Consultative Assembly, a useful high-profile position for the party.

The party has already begun campaigning for the big prize, the Jakarta mayoralty. The chief of the Jakarta chapter, Triwisaksana, has encouraged members to reach out to non-Islamic voters, especially the large and economically powerful Christian, ethnic- Chinese population.

Depok and Nurmahmudi are a kind of test run for the Jakarta race, an effort to show there is little to fear in the rule of an Islamic party.

"It is not enough to say we are moderate we have to demonstrate it," said Zulkieflimansyah, a party leader and member of Parliament. "Nurmahmudi will prove that we can talk not only about morality but that we mean business as well - anti-corruption and transparency is good for Muslims and non-Muslims alike."

With this in mind, the new mayor of Depok, the seat of the nation's prestigious University of Indonesia, is ever- present in his community.

Nurmahmudi spoke to the 300 women, members of an Islamic education group, for nearly two hours, not missing a beat even as sweat began to pour down his forehead. He told them exactly how much they should pay for a national identification card, the cost of which is often inflated by corrupt bureaucrats. If they were charged too much, they should report to him, he said.

By 10 a.m. he was back at his office meeting with civil servants. At 12:30 p.m., he broke for noon prayers. After work, he held an open house for constituents.

Nurmahmudi earned a Ph.D. in poultry science at Texas A&M University, and it was there that he became impressed with the American school system.

He said he hoped to promote a similar system in Depok.

He was also impressed with the American highway system. The potholed roads of Depok are famous, even among the decrepit roads of most of the country. But before filling in potholes, Nurmahmudi's first priority, something he thinks will lead the way to many other improvements, is transforming the culture of government.

"My dream is that my staff changes their orientation from thinking they are people of power to thinking they are servants of the people," he said.

Nurmahmudi's election was especially sweet for the Justice Party because he defeated the more powerful and established Golkar party candidate.

Still, even as Nurmahmudi takes hold of Depok, some voters are suspicious of the Party's Islamic principles.

The party is playing a leading role in promoting a sweeping anti-pornography bill that calls for women to wear long-sleeve clothing and bans risqué publications and artwork. Last month, the party staged protests alongside more radical Islamic groups condemning Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Progressive, younger leaders in the party, many of whom were educated in the West, try to convince skeptics that Islamic law is not viable in Indonesia, which has a secular Constitution.

But while courting nonreligious voters, the Justice Party risks alienating its traditional followers who are concerned that its political pursuits are detracting from its original mission of instructing Muslims about Islam.

Nurmahmudi seems to straddle the two camps. Islam plays a "very important" part in government, he said.

"Voters still don't know what to think of the Justice Party, are they moderate or are they conservative?" Qodari said. "Nurmahmudi will show what the true face of the Justice Party is."


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Blogger latifabdul said...

<<<"Voters still don't know what to think of the Justice Party, are they moderate or are they conservative?" Qodari said. "Nurmahmudi will show what the true face of the Justice Party is.">>>
Yes...I am woory to...I voted the Justice Party at last election, but now I consider not to vote the Justice Party, if the Justice Party will promote the Islamic State like Saudi Arbia...Iran

Because Saudi Arabia does not respect other sects of islam such sect Syiah, Ahmadiah, Sufi ect.

There is no freedom of religion. It means against ALLAH'laws...against International laws (HAM).

If a muslim or Party follows apart of ALLAH's laws, and against others (QS.2:85) ALLAH will punish them in this wolrd and hereafter.It will not succesful.

So I am worry about that. The Justice Party should learn from Masyumi Party that failed to promote Islamic state like Saudi Arbia ....and that party was banned by goverment.Because ALLAH will not will that kind of goal.

Please learn from the failure of Masyumi Party,if the Justice Party will not want to fail.
Wassalamu'alaikum wrwb

8:29 PM  
Anonymous hafez said...


untuk latifabdul:

rupanya masih ada juga "muslim" yang takut dengan penerapan syariah tuhannya sendiri. fatahimhu alal islam!

5:12 AM  

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