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6 From Lynchings to Communal Violence Pogroms, 1998-2001 With the ascension of B.]. Habibie to the presidency in late May 1998 came the much anticipated elevation of Islam to the seat of national state power in Indonesia. Habibie, after all, had long served as the chairman of ICMI, the All-Indonesia Association of Islamic Intellectuals, and more generally as the patron and promoter of a broad variety of modernist Muslim activists and organizations seeking patronage and protection from the state. Although many individual Muslims had reservations about Habibie's own piety, honesty, and effectiveness as a leader, his ascension to the presidency represented a major triumph for a wide range of groups organizing under the banner of Islam.1 His cabinet included prominent members of ICMI, and other politicians affiliated with a number of modernist Islamic organizations assumed formal and informal positions of power and influence in his administration. Never before had forces favoring the so-called Islamization of Indonesian state and society enjoyed such proximity to power. Small wonder that Amien Rais, chairman of Muhammadiyah and champion of the university campus-based campaign for Reformasi and Suharto's resignation, helped to wind down student protests in late May and early June 1998 with pronouncements that the new Habibie administration deserved a six-month trial period. At the same time, however, the position of Habibie-and of Islam more broadly-remained fragile within the Indonesian state; the powers of the new president and his allies were circumscribed and challenged from both within and without. The retention of General Wiranto, former Suharto adjutant , as minister of defense and armed forces commander in chief, for example, signaled the limits of Habibie's influence within the powerful 132 From Lynchings to Communal Violence 133 military establishment, even as the realities of the Asian economic crisis dictated further subordination of Habibie's famously "nationalist" pet projects to the austerity and discipline of an IMF restabilization program. Also in Golkar, the long-dominant party in parliament (and in the People's Consultative Assembly tasked with selecting the president and vice-president), Habibie's position soon appeared precarious. Within weeks of his elevation to the presidency, a bitter fight for the Golkar party leadership surfaced, in which Akbar Tanjung, a Habibie ally and former head of the modernist Islamic student association HMI, only narrowly defeated General Edy Sudrajat , a former defense minister and longtime subordinate of the powerful Catholic military and intelligence czar of the 1980s, General Benny Murdani . The position of Islam within the Indonesian state, it was clear, was far from hegemonic, and the possibilities for promoting substantive Islamization remained highly circumscribed. The Habibie Interlude It was in this context of evident insecurity and uncertainty that President Habibie initiated a process of liberalization. The summer of 1998 witnessed the loosening of restrictions on press freedoms and the release of scores of political prisoners, even as greater freedom of association encouraged the formation of literally dozens of new political parties. Before the end of the year, moreover, plans for a general election in mid-1999 had already been announced, with many of the restrictions of the long Suharto era lifted to allow for much freer competition. This move in the direction of democratization was soon accompanied by shifts toward decentralization: the passage of two important pieces of legislation on regional autonomy in 1999 devolved considerable administrative and fiscal powers to regencies (kabupaten ), cities (kotamadya), and, to a lesser extent, provinces (propinsi), while allowing local assemblies (DPRD) to elect regents (bupati), mayors (walikota), and governors (gubernur), hitherto essentially appointed by the Ministry of Home Affairs in Jakarta. Given the overwhelming majority of statistical Muslims in Indonesia as well as the Islamizing trends in the country noted by countless observers since the 1980s, many figures within the Habibie administration understandably hoped that the political space opened up by these moves would be occupied in large measure by forces rallying behind the banner of Islam. After nearly a decade of claiming to represent not just Islam but millions of Indonesian Muslims, this segment of the national political class projected considerable self-confidence in this regard. What constraints continued to 134 Riots, Pogroms, jihad circumscribe and threaten the new regime could be ascribed to powerful enemies within the Indonesian state (e.g., residual secular and Christian influence in the military) and the international arena (i.e., Christian and Jewish conspiracies to contain Islam and oppress Muslims throughout the world). Against these essentially external, hostile, and parasitic forces stood...


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