In an informal breakfast meeting cosponsored with the U.S.-Indonesia Society (USINDO), Dr. Hidayat Nur Wahid met with Indonesia experts to discuss such topics as religion in politics, disaster relief, and corruption.

Last October, Hidayat was appointed chairman of the Indonesian People's Consultative Assembly, which comprises parliamentary and regional representatives and has the power to amend the constitution and (under certain circumstances) impeach the president. However, his talk focused less on his national role than on his previous activities as leader of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), Indonesia's fastest growing Islamic party, and Islamic politics in general.

Hidayat emphasized the compatibility of Islam and democracy and maintained that religion can be a source of integrity in politics. He asserted that the Indonesian public increasingly supports PKS candidates because they keep their promises, do not engage in criminality, and have offered help and support to all victims (not just Muslims) of the December 26 tsunami disaster. He pointed out the importance of swing voters, who are increasingly dissatisfied with major party leaders, to future election outcomes.

Responding to a question on women's roles, Hidayat expressed confidence that women's political participation will gradually expand both in Indonesia and the Middle East, just as it did in Western countries. He pointed out that 40 percent of PKS candidates are women.

He underlined the importance of including minorities in democratic decision making; "otherwise the nation would disintegrate."