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65 The Role of Professional Organizations in Indonesia’s Socio‑political Transformation Ann Marie Murphy Ann Marie Murphy is Assistant Professor at the Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University, Adjunct Research Scholar at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University, and Associate Fellow at The Asia Society. She can be reached at . 66 Executive Summary This essay analyzes Indonesian professional organizations in the fields of law, journalism, medicine, and business to determine whether these organizations have been captured by proponents of conservative Islam and whether the activities of these organizations are consistent with democracy, pluralism, open markets, and positive relations with the West. Main Argument: Indonesian professional organizations exhibit no evidence of Islamist capture. Instead, these organizations are undergoing dramatic institutional transformation as their members seek to overcome the Suharto-era politicization of the professions. At the same time, many Muslim professionals have embarked on social activism programs motivated by Islam’s call for social justice: for example, doctors are volunteering in health clinics and lawyers are creating legal-aid organizations. With the important exception of the radical Islamic press, these activities are largely consistent with democracy, pluralism, open markets, and positive relations with the West. Policy Implications: • Narrowing the wealth gap between pribumi (indigenous) and non-pribumi Indonesians is fundamental to domestic reform. Programs supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) would raise the economic stake of indigenous businesspeople and help reduce demands for a state-sponsored redistribution of wealth, a measure that could be detrimental to pluralism and open markets. • Press freedoms, one of the defining achievements of the reformasi (democracy) era, are under threat from social conservatives who blame such freedoms for creating spiritual pollution.Ifagreementcannotbereachedbetweenpressadvocatesandsocialconservatives over the licensing of content that many Indonesians consider morally unsuitable, then press freedoms may erode. • Indonesian legal reformers and businesspeople have called for greater legal transparency and professionalism among lawyers and judges. U.S. support for legal reform may be beneficial in reinforcing trends toward democratization, good governance, and a more stable legal environment for Western business interests. 67 murphy I ndonesia’s socio-political landscape since the fall of Suharto in 1998 has been marked by two dramatic contests: first, the contest to consolidate democracy between reformasi (democracy) advocates and elites whose interests are threatened by an open and accountable government; and second, the contest between competing Muslim groups that are attempting to influence the country’s political development in ways consistent with their interpretations of Islam. Suharto’s successor, B.J. Habibie, abolished the 1985 Mass Organization Law that had prohibited organizations from adopting Islam as their asas tunggal (sole foundational principle).1 This led to the creation of Islamic-based political parties, professional groups, and social-service organizations. Radical groups have also taken advantage of these freedoms.2 The social aims of some of these groups are fully consistent with democracy, pluralism, open markets, and positive relations with the West, but others are not. One of the thorniest issues facing Indonesia today is how to reconcile support for democracy with the desire of some Indonesians for an infusion of Islamic tenets into the country’s legal code. This issue is at the heart of the debate over local sharia laws (Islamic law). On the one side are democracy advocates who argue that all laws must conform to Indonesia’s constitution, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, religion, or gender. On the other side are conservative Islamic groups that contend that Muslims should be governed by sharia in all aspects of life, not simply in family law as is currently the case. Indonesia is engaged in culture wars over these issues, and how such debates play out will have important implications for the United States, which has a strong interest in an Indonesia that continues to consolidate democracy, promote social stability among the country’s diverse population, keep markets open, and maintain good relations with the West. Indonesian professional organizations occupy a strategic position in the country’s social life, and their control, or capture, by Islamic conservatives or radicals would create an important platform from which to influence the country’s political future. Yet there is no evidence of Islamist capture occurring. Moreover, despite the historical 1 Azumardi Azra, Indonesia, Islam, and Democracy (Jakarta: Solstice Publishing, 2006), 16. During the Suharto era, all organizations were forced to adopt pancasila, a set of five guiding philosophical pillars intended to unite the country, as their foundational principle. 2 For purposes of...


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