JAKARTA (AP): Thousands of white-clad, religious conservatives
rallied and prayed in cities across Indonesia on Sunday, demanding
the imposition of traditional Islamic law in the world's most
populous Muslim nation.
Organizers said 20,000 supporters gathered in several cities, but
police and witnesses said only about 2,000 marched in the capital,
Jakarta, and a few hundred in Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest
The rallies were part of a campaign to convince the country's
Muslim majority to embrace Shariah orIslamic law. Although more than
80 percent of the country's 210 million people are Muslim, only the
war-torn province of Aceh has implemented the system on a small
Shariah law is derived from the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed,
Islamic tradition and the Muslim holy book - the Quran. It is a
wide-ranging system that regulates many aspects of public and
Women wearing headscarves and men dressed in long, white robes
were among the demonstrators who marched through central Jakarta on
Sunday. They carried banners reading, "Uphold Shariah" and chanted
"Allahu akbar" or "God Is Great."
Some speakers urged supporters to vote only for candidates who
support Sharia in the April 5 parliamentary elections. Others turned
the event into a religious gathering, leading the crowd inchanting
passages from the Quran.
"If you are Muslim, you have to struggle to establish Shariah
law," said Harimoekti, an activist with the conservative
non-governmental organization Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, or Indonesian
Liberation, which helped to organize the rallies.
"Under Shariah law, we can prevent corruption and improve the
daily lives of people," he said. "The world would be a beautiful
place with Shariah."
In Surabaya, the crowd marched to local government offices
calling for the removal of anyone without sufficient Islamic
credentials. "This peaceful march is aimed at encouraging voters to
take advantage of the election by choosing the best leaders," said
Usman of Hizbut Tahrir.