Why the Ties Sukarno Forged With Nahdlatul Ulama Remain Relevant for Indonesia


By. M. Rizvi

This year’s presidential election was marked by many remarkable events, ranging from an impressive show of people power to the darkest of political black campaigns. But while the election process has caused divisions within some strata of society, it has also generated a sense of solidarity that was rarely seen in past elections. A fascinating development, in some areas, was the revitalization of the strong ties created by Sukarno, the country’s first president, and Hasyim Asy’ari, the founder of the Islamic organization Nahdlatul Ulama.

Both men have had a lasting impact. Sukarno is widely seen as a model of Indonesian nationalism and was a pioneer of the patriotic movement while Hasyim was the founding father of NU, now the largest Muslim organization in the world, which preaches a moderate Islam that rejects the idea of an absolute Islamic state in Indonesia.

NU emphasizes that our independence can only be safeguarded by national unity, peace and religious pluralism, and the mixture of Sukarno’s and Hasyim’s similar ideologies and objectives has played an important role in Indonesia’s history. The joint fight against the imperialistic Dutch is one example, and both also had a hand in formulating Pancasila, the official philosophical foundation of the Indonesian state.

Cooperation in Pekalongan

This year’s presidential election saw a spiritual and ideological rekindling between Indonesian nationalism and NU, particularly evident during campaigning in the Central Java town of Pekalongan, the country’s most famous producer of the traditional batik textile.

Kuntho Witjaksana, a 45-year-old resident of Jakarta temporarily relocated to Pekalongan two months prior to election day to focus on a volunteer initiative. He had left his business and family because he wanted to start a more organized volunteer group for Joko Widodo and Jusuf Kalla. Why did he choose Pekalongan?

Kuntho’s father was the head of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) branch in the town and had been a congressman in the late 1980s. The initial step Kuntho took was to approach his father’s old political allies who still had a loyal following despite being politically inactive for years. Through this, he established his Relawan Persatuan group: volunteering for the cause of unity. The group attracted more than 5,000 people who became active members in a relatively short time. The association included supporters of the PDI-P, the Golkar Party and the National Democrats (Nasdem).

On the other side of town, Muhamad Jawad, 28, a young member of the Pekalongan branch of NU, also promoted its ideologies to local residents. He, and other affiliates of the organization, went door to door to remind the town of the plight and history of NU and to choose the candidate who they felt best represented the Nahdliyin, or followers of NU’s teachings. At a townhall meeting, Kuntho and Jawad met and discussed their ideas and realized how similar their beliefs were. It was a microcosm of the relationship established by Sukarno and Hasyim.

For the past few years, there has been a separation of sorts between the Nahdliyin and the nationalistic movement at the grassroots level. There is a growing sentiment that nationalism is synonymous to secularism and that NU is strictly a religious group with concerns only to the spiritual and religious ritualistic aspects of life while ignoring the more essential topics of nation-building. This divide could drive the two groups further apart and consequently lose sight of their common goal.

‘Watermelon organization’

It needs to be reminded that Sukarno once proclaimed in one of his speeches that he “loved” NU and that NU was widely regarded as a “watermelon organization”: green, for Islam, on the outside but flush red, for Indonesian nationalism, on the inside. The late Abdurrahman Wahid, Indonesia’s fourth president who was also known affectionately as Gus Dur, once said that to vote for either PDI-P or his own National Awakening Party (PKB) (with a heavy NU influence) would not make much difference, due to their many shared viewpoints. This philosophical fusion was one of the fertile seeds planted by Sukarno and the Nahdliyin that flourished and helped obtain Indonesia’s independency. A significant event that many forget was that Sukarno and NU were instrumental in the process of re-annexing West Irian (now called Papua) back to the republic from Dutch colonial rule in 1962.

The historic presidential election this year was an example of how these two associations can achieve a goal collectively, as shown by Kunto and Jawad. Their organizations campaigned together, held meetings to discuss village safety, and coordinated activities of members of their groups in unison to distribute campaign material across the town. Both the volunteer group and NU even sat down and performed a traditional prayer to wish for a smooth, democratic election process and to pray for the forefathers of both organizations.

A former member of the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI) in Pekalongan affirmed that these types of joint prayers between PDI and NU were a routine occasion in the old days and that he had longed for such a moment. In essence, Kunto’s and Jawad’s groups renewed the bond that had been thinning between them over time. During their newfound relationship, they were able to successfully assist the city of Pekalongan and its surrounding districts to vote for their presidential candidate at an impressive 70-percent rate. This is an example of the cooperation that Sukarno and Hasyim had in mind when they forged their partnership.

Sukarno and NU were shoulder to shoulder in building Indonesia to become Baldatun thayyibatun wa robbun ghafur — a place where all could live in tranquility and amicability. Re-implementation of this chapter in our history in present times is crucial now that Indonesia is threatened by radical religious groups that are trying to gain a foothold here. It is significant what the present government is doing in censoring and blocking their propaganda, but to prevent future problems, the work paved by Indonesia’s past leaders should never be forgotten.

Sukarno once asserted that a great nation is a nation that appreciates the sacrifices and deeds of its past heroes. Their contributions are an asset not only for the past and present but, more importantly, also for the future of Indonesia.

M. Rizvi is a professional in the oil and gas sector, and an observer of Indonesian politics.


Posted on August 14, 2014 and filed under Inspirasi.

Golongan Minoritas dalam Politik Islam Modern: Hak dan Peranan

Oleh : Novriantoni

Dalam rangka menjaga kerukunan antar umat beragama yang plural, Dr. Alwi Shihab menganjurkan untuk meneladani Rasulullah SAW yang sanggup mempersatukan warga negara Islam yang cukup beragam latar belakang ras, suku, agama dan golongannya saat itu. Dalam hal ini, beliau mempunyai beberapa gagasan penting yang antara lain: Pertama, kita harus mampu mensosialisasikan semangat ajaran serta keteladanan Nabi Muhammad SAW. Toleransi dan moderasi yang mereka ajarkan harus senantiasa menjadi acuan dan pedoman dalam pola interaksi kita dengan umat agama lain. Kedua, yang perlu digaris bawahi adalah, kita semua sebagai bangsa, diharapkan mampu untuk memahami kepekaan masing-masing menyangkut kecintaan serta ikatan batin masing-masing dengan para panutannya. Sebagaimana umat Islam, demikian pula agama lainnya, seyogyanya tidak terpengaruh oleh sejarah konflik yang pernah terjadi di dunia luar.

Gagasan Alwi Shihab diatas sebenarnya beranjak dari pemahaman terhadap fenomena kerukunan beragama di Indonesia yang banyak dinilai oleh para cendikiawan sebagai proyek percontohan dalam toleransi keagamaan, dan patut ditiru oleh dunia (is a model of religious tolerance that other contries could do well to emulate). Seperti prediksi Fazlurrahmâ n, bahwa Islam yang sejuk dan menarik dan yang menghidupkan kembali nilai-nilai toleransi dan moderasi Nabi Muhammad, menyingsing dari bumi Indonesia. Dr.Laurence Sullivance, kepala pusat pengkajian agama-agama dunia di universitas ternama dan tertua di Amerika, Harvard, secara terbuka juga menyatakan bahwa Indonesia secara kreatif telah mewujudkan pendekatan baru dalam menciptakan kehidupan keagamaan yang harmonis, yang tidak dijumpai di negara-negara Eropa dan Amerika. Selain itu Prof. Mahmû d Ayoub, profesor pada Universitas Temple Philadelphia menyatakan: “Pengalaman agama dalam masyarakat Indonesia di banding dengan masyarakat Islam lainnya, merupakan model yang paling dekat dengan nilai al-Qur’â n dan sunah Rasul.


Posted on May 14, 2014 and filed under Blog.

The good, the bad and the violent


Islamic scholar and former Indonesian Foreign Minister Dr Alwi Abdurrahman Shihab Dr Alwi Shihab believes that there should be a clear distinction between Islam and the various strands of Islamic thought.

Religious leaders and intellectuals must pick the reading of appropriate sacred texts leading to peaceful and harmonious relations among nations instead of inciting anger against each other.

That’s the advice from Islamic scholar and former Indonesian Foreign Minister Dr Alwi Abdurrahman Shihab.

“Each religion preserves a canon of warrior narratives to be drawn upon when it feels itself concerned or when it is the victim of injustice.

“But there are just as many that promote peace and harmonious relations. Which do you use?” he asked during a public lecture at the International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) on Global Challenges to Religious Extremism on Wednesday. Dr Alwi argued that every scholar was a product of his environment and every intellectual thought a product of the time.

He cited Imam Ibn Taymiyah – the ideological inspiration for the Wahhabi movement in the 18th century – who had stated unequivocally in a fatwa: “Jihad against the disbelievers is the most noble action.”

However, Dr Alwi stressed that the 14th century scholar was a prolific writer at a time when hostility between Muslims and the Mongols, and the Christians in the wake of the crusades, was at its height.

He said it was likewise in Christianity with Martin Luther who had hatred and bitterness towards Islam because Vienna was then under siege.

He also cited President Sukarno’s inculcation of hate for Malaysia because of past policies of the colonial powers.

Referring to the tragic events of Sept 11, Dr Alwi reckoned there were at least two factors – external and internal – that led to them.

The first was the United States policy towards the Muslim world, in particular on the Arab-Israeli conflict, which needs to be re-visited.

He said current Islamic radicalism was almost anti-nationalist and its proponents see the United States as the prime obstacle to their transnational Islamic vision as it provides repressive regimes uncommitted to the pure teachings of Islam the means to stay in power.

“This explains why Osama bin Laden keeps a close link with both the Egyptian Jamaat-al-Islamiah and Islamic jihad groups intent on eliminating President Husni Mubarak after successfully assassinating President Anwar Sadat.”

As for the internal factor, Dr Alwi said the reform movements in Islam could be categorised into two groups: the Salafi – purit­an Wah­habi – which tries to return to the pure teachings of Islam and refuses to submit to Western culture; and the modern one that is trying to merge Islamic and European civilisations.

Dr Alwi said Wahhabism rejected all religious practices adopted after the third century of the Muslim era, philosophy, sufism, shiism and local practices. “The destruction of Buddha statues by the Taliban regime is a clear manifestation of that.”

He said the Islam of these terrorists did not do justice to the civilised and peace-loving part of Islam.

“But it has to be recognised as one strand of Islam. Every religion is like a rope woven from many standards. Within Christianity, there are several violent strands persecuting Jews, attacking Muslims and declaring war against all manner of offenders,” he said, adding that it was human beings and not religion that was violent.

To a question from the floor, he said a strong media was important to portray Islam as a peace-loving religion: “When I was teaching in the United States about Prophet Muhammad, the students told me ‘Your prophet is not so bad!’”

Dr Alwi said extremist views made it more often in the news because moderate views were “not commercial and attractive”.

He said the recent election in Indonesia showed that Islamic parties were losing support to the secular one headed by Muslims and that people raised in an environment of education and tolerance were accepting of diversity.

“Even in Saudi Arabia, they are now mindful of this. The curriculum in school is being changed. They were unaware of the consequences of their good intention of going back to the basics of the religion.

“In Indonesia, you can tell the difference between students from the religious institutions and the secular ones – the former are more tolerant because they have been exposed to the many interpretations and schools of thought in Islam unlike the latter who learn just one.”

Dr Alwi said there should be a clear distinction between Islam and the various strands of Islamic thought. “If you are comfortable with one interpretation, then take it, but do not say that other interpretations are wrong.”

Resource: http://www.thestar.com.my/Story/?file=%2F2009%2F4%2F26%2Ffocus%2F3770156&sec=focus

Posted on April 7, 2014 .