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5 Crisis, Conspiracy, Conflagration Jakarta, 1998 It was in the aftermath of a series of religious riots in various provincial towns and cities that the long-anticipated transition from the authoritarian regime of President Suharto in late 1997 and early 1998 culminated in the May 1998 riots in Jakarta, Solo, and several other cities and the resignation of Suharto later that month. Spates of localized collective violence along similar lines had foreshadowed the onset of previous moments of national -level political transition over the course of the twentieth century. The disturbances that accompanied the rise of the Sarekat Islam in the 1910s, for example, presaged the long-deferred Revolusi for independence in 1945-49, which featured many episodes of collective violence alongside the armed guerrilla struggle against the Dutch. The riots in West Java in 1963 were likewise followed by the fall of Soekarno, the assumption of power by Suharto in 1965-66, the anti-Communist pogroms that eliminated the Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI) during these years. Disturbances developed in Makassar and Central Java in 1980 even as the group of prominent retired military officers and Muslim politicians represented in the "Petition of Fifty" (Petisi Limapuluh) launched the most frontal challenge to Suharto's leadership since his assumption of power in the mid1960s . If each of these waves of localized collective violence occurred during periods of heightened ambiguity, anxiety, and anticipation with regard to the position of Islam in Indonesian society, so too did the impetus for nationallevel transition come in no small measure from those forces and figures who claimed to represent Islam in the country. Studies have shown that the energies , aspirations, and associational and educational networks associated 106 Crisis, Conspiracy, Conflagration 107 with Islam made an enormous contribution to the struggle for independence during the Revolusi of 1945-49. The prominent role of Islamic organizations in the fall of Soekarno and the violent destruction of the PKI in 1965-66, most notably in the public demonstrations by HMI and parliamentary maneuvers by Nahdlatul Ulama in Jakarta, and the massacres of alleged PKI members by NU youth (Ansor) and militia (Banser) groups in East Java, are likewise well known and well documented. In 1980, once again, the specter of an ascendant, insurgent Islam was evident in PPP's rising popularity, the refusal of PPP and HMI to accept Pancasila's precepts as their founding principles, and the Petition of Fifty's unprecedented attack on Suharto's misuse and distortion of the state ideology and his attack on Islam in the name of Pancasila. Echoes of Malari More than any other such moment in Indonesian history, the sequence of provincial disturbances in 1995-97 and mass rioting in Jakarta in May 1998 echoed the series of events that had begun in Bandung in mid-1973 and culminated in what came to be known as the Malari riots in Jakarta in mid-January 1974. In August 1973, in the West Javanese capital city of Bandung in the aftermath of a traffic accident and dispute involving a Muslim teenager in a horse-drawn wagon and three Chinese youths in a Volkswagen, crowds numbering in the hundreds set Chinese cars and motorcycles on fire and attacked Chinese-owned shops and residences in the city. 1 That rioting and episodes of violent religious conflict elsewhere in the country unfolded against the backdrop of rising protests by PPP (the then newly formed Islamic party) and other leading Muslim organizations and individuals against the government's promotion of a new marriage law. First introduced by government representatives in parliament in August 1973, the proposed legislation provided for secular administration of marriage laws, which would remove marriage, divorce, and the entire realm of family law from the religious court system under the Ministry of Religious Affairs to the secular courts under the Ministry of Justice. Such a shift of judicial and regulatory powers from religious to secular authorities, and the elimination of religion as an obstacle to marriage between citizens of different faiths, one former minister of religious affairs warned, threatened to erase "the limits of religion" in Indonesia.2 Against statements by the Catholic leader of Golkar's Parliamentary contingent that excessive religious devotion constrained progress toward national development, PPP 108 Riots, Pogroms, Jihad members walked out of parliament, accusing the government of hostility to Islam and espousal of atheist principles similar to those that had been held by the PKI. It was only through the extraparliamentary intervention of the military leadership, represented by General...


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