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Despite being touted as the Muslim world’s largest democracy, a new survey released by the Pew Research Center on Tuesday revealed that 72 percent of Indonesia’s Muslim population would favor an Islamic legal code as the “official law of the land” if given the option.
The survey, which focused on 39 countries and interviewed 38,000 people, found that most followers of the world’s second-largest faith want their religion to shape not only their personal lives, but also their social and political interactions as well.
According to the CIA World Factbook, Indonesia is home to roughly 216 million Muslims, or 86.1 percent of the country’s population.
“Most Muslims believe Shariah [Islamic law based on the teachings of the Koran] is the revealed word of God rather than a body of law developed by men based on the word of God,” the report read.
The survey revealed, though, that most countries were selective in which aspects of Shariah they wanted to implement, and 44 percent of Indonesians said that there were “multiple interpretations of Shariah.”
In Indonesia, half of those who wanted Shariah enforced in the archipelago said that it should be applied to both Muslims and non-Muslims, and only 18 percent held the belief that one should be put to death for leaving Islam.
The study also found that Muslims, especially in Indonesia, are generally more comfortable with applying Shariah to their family lives than in the public sphere.
For instance, 93 percent of Indonesian Muslim men and women surveyed expressed the view that a wife is always obliged to obey her husband. However, 81 percent stated that a woman should be able to decide for herself whether or not to wear a veil.
When asked if sons and daughters should receive the same inheritance rights, 76 percent of Indonesians championed equal shares for men and women.
Fewer than half of Indonesian Muslims (45 percent) polled who advocated for Shariah as the law of the land were in favor of dishing out punishments like amputations for thieves and robbers.
Ismail Hasani, a senior researcher at the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, was skeptical of the results of the Pew Forum's survey.
He said that although the survey was conducted by a prestigious organization, he believed that it might not actually represent the true opinions of Indonesians.
By his count, Ismail predicted that if a domestic survey was taken, no more than half of Indonesians would advocate for the implementation of Shariah Law
“I believe that if people were asked directly, ‘Do you want Shariah Law to be imposed by the state?’ the amount who would say ‘yes’ would be less than 50 percent,” Ismail told the Jakarta Globe in a phone interview on Wednesday.
He added that Indonesians view Shariah Law and the country’s other laws in an equal light.
“Setara has noted that Indonesians are comfortable with the current situation, with Pancasila as the state’s ideology,” he said.
Ma’ruf Amin, the chairman of the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), welcomed the results of the survey.
The head of the body’s fatwa (a ruling on a point of Islamic law), Ma’ruf commented that many aspects of Shariah have been implemented by the central government into the country’s general laws, such as the Hajj Law and various anti-pornography measures.
“Most of the country’s population are Muslims, so I think it represents the desires of most Indonesians to have more Shariah Law,” he told the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday.
Furthermore, he added that if Shariah is what the people want, the government should respond to their wishes. He argued that Shariah is not antithetical to Pancasila and would not disrupt Indonesia’s diversity.
“With the application of Islamic law, non-Muslims rights must not be reduced. They must have the same rights. Shariah Law includes general regulations that are beneficial to everybody, and the specialized rules outlined [in the Koran] would only be applied to Muslims,” he said.
Meanwhile, despite the archipelago’s seeming commitment to religion in all spheres of life, the Pew survey reported that 78 percent of Indonesian Muslims communicated a fear of religious extremist groups having a presence in their country, though only 19 percent of those surveyed said that strains between more and less devout Muslims are an issue for the country.
Though Muslims the world over are in agreement that theirs in the one true faith, Indonesians stray from the pack in their view of proselytizing others.
Sixty-five percent of Indonesian Muslims do not feel it is their religious obligation to convert others to Islam, though 31 percent think that they should make an effort to do so. Furthermore, only a third of Indonesian Muslims (36%) consider conflict between religious groups a serious national issue.