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Thousands rally for imposition of Islamic law in Indonesia

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 city.

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 scale.

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 personal life.

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.

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