Muslim Aversion to Non-Muslim Rule  

Ibn Kathir is insisting that the only valid form of legislation is the Islamic sharia, that only Muslims can rule, and any Muslim who looks to non-Muslims for political or legal direction is an infidel.

 According to verse 5:51, such a person is already "one of them": in other words, they have to be considered an infidel too, and have apostatized from Islam, for which the penalty is death.

 The admonition to Muslims not to take non-Muslims, and especially Christians or Jews, as allies or leaders is orthodox, mainstream Islamic teaching.

 In the light of this, it is disappointing that the Australian Age newspaper's Indonesian correspondent, Jewel Topsfield, offers the following gloss:

 Some interpret [verse 5:51] as prohibiting Muslims from living under the leadership of a non-Muslim. Others say the scripture should be understood in its context -- a time of war -- and not interpreted literally.

 It may be true that a few contemporary moderate voices may say this verse should not be taken literally, but this is certainly not the mainstream view of centuries of Islamic jurisprudence.

 The Muslim aversion to non-Muslim political leadership has many outworkings around the world.

 In Egypt, Christians make up around 10% of the population, but less than 1.5% of the parliament is Christian. For decades there had been no Christian governors for any of Egypt's 27 governorates, until Mubarak appointed Major General Emad Mikhail as governor over Qena.

However, massive protests broke out after imams preached sermons in Qena mosques teaching that God does not permit Christians to have authority over Muslims. Demonstrators marched the streets crying, "A Muslim governor in a Muslim country" and "There is no god but Allah and Christians are the enemies of Allah." 

The protests led to the governor's appointment being temporarily suspended in order to
 reestablish the order.

 Ahok's position is difficult. Since his opponents were unable to discredit him politically for being a Christian, they are now upping the ante by accusing him of blasphemy instead, demanding that the state launch legal proceedings against him. In Ahok's speech, he had brushed aside those who were citing 5:51 against him, saying they were
 telling lies.

 In fact, he made no comment on the Qur'an itself, apart from implying that a particular interpretation was false. His offense was to criticize the misuse of the text by others for political purposes. Yet this gave enough leeway for a vast crowd to be inflamed
 against him.

 There is a famous hadith or tradition of Muhammad, which states:

 Whoever sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to doso, then with his heart -- and that is the weakest of faith. This is interpreted by many to mean that a Muslim must use the highest level of force available to remove something evil. 

The protesters in Jakarta were exercising their religious duty by speaking out against a
 Christian being in political authority over a 95% Muslim city, using his alleged blasphemy as a trigger point. Some went further than just words, threatening action "with the hand": former terrorist Nasir Abas, turned police consultant, carried a sign saying "Punish Ahok or our bullets will."

Do not consider it a breach of faith to kill them -- the breach would  be to let them carry on. They have violated our covenant with them, so how can you be held guilty against the violators? How can they have any pact when we are obscure and they are prominent.

 Indonesia is often held up as a model of a moderate Muslim-majority nation. Its constitution is not Islamic and many Indonesian Muslims espouse moderate views. 

However the global Islamist movement has nevertheless made strong inroads in this the most populous Muslim nation. Undoubtedly it will be a landmark test for Indonesia's tolerance whether Ahok is permitted to continue in office. Those Muslims who are raising both their voices and their hands to protest against him will not be easily silenced.

 This outbreak of intolerance bodes ill for Indonesia's future. Governor Ahok is being supported by significant Muslim leaders. GP Ansor, the former chairman of the largest Indonesian Youth organization called the complaints a "hoax," and politician Nusron Wahid stated that Ahok had said nothing to insult Islam. For his part, Governor Ahok has apologized to Muslims, saying, "To Muslims who felt insulted, I apologize. I had no intention to insult Islam." He stated that "Religion is a very personal matter and should not be mixed up with public discourse." 

However his Muslim opponents clearly hold a different view about the place of Islam in public life!

 Ahok is being questioned this week by the police, pending a possible charge of blasphemy. The thought that an Indonesian court might find Ahok guilty of such a charge is troubling. To do so would require proof that Ahok intended to incite hatred against Muslims, defame Islam or incite apostasy. 

The prosecution might argue that in pooh-poohing the legitimate and well-established Islamic prohibition against non-Muslims taking authority over Muslims, he was denigrating the religion. Even if no charges are laid, Ahok will certainly come under very great political pressure to withdraw his candidacy.

 In Indonesia today it is apparently unacceptable to some Muslims that a prominent Christian might express an opinion about what the Qur'an says. Yet the same Muslims claim the right to stridently disallow this Christian candidacy for political office, based on the very same Quranic passage.

 Does Islamic sharia permit non-Muslims to live alongside Muslims as equals?

 This is supremacist reasoning, which incites hatred while denying the object of hatred any voice in the matter. If this intolerance is given credence by the Indonesian police and courts, it bodes very ill indeed for the nation's future.

 Yet the greater concern is a question for us all: Does the Islamic sharia permit non-Muslims to live alongside Muslims as equals in one world? This is a crucial question, not just for Indonesia, but for Europe, for America, indeed for every nation with more than a tiny minority of Muslim citizens. According to the hundreds of thousands protesting in the streets of Jakarta this week, the answer to this question is a resolute and loud "No!"

​by Mark Durie The New English Review November 2016

 Mark Durie is the pastor of an Anglican church, a Shillman-Ginsburg Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and Founder of the Institute for Spiritual Awareness.

Related Articles
* The Jihad on Christian Church Tents
 * Murdered Christian Children

 The Middle East Forum

Originally published under the title
 "Violent Protests in Indonesia Blow an Ill Will for Religious Tolerance."
To subscribe to the MEF mailing lists, go to