The leader of Muhammadiyah says the members of his organisation are free to align themselves with political parties of their choosing provided such parties have shared values with Muhammadiyah.
Although Muhammadiyah, the second largest Muslim group in the country, is often associated with the Partai Amanat Nasional, PAN, Din Syamsudin says that this is not so and members of his modernist Islamic organisation are free to support any political party they choose but with qualifications.
Upon the occasion of his receiving a delegation from the Islamist-leaning Partai Bulan Bintang (PBB) Syamsudin averred:
So it's not true if people say or claim that Muhammadiyah leans to one particular party. [i.e. PAN]
(Jadi tidak benar jika ada yang mengatakan atau mengklaim Muhammadiyah condong pada partai tertentu.)
This was qualified by saying that he hoped the Muhammadiyah faithful would choose to support parties that upheld values that are held dear by Muhammadiyah. With this in mind he invited the Islamists of the PBB to make their case to Muhammadiyah people, considering that the two groups had a proud, shared history in the form of the defunct Partai Masyumi, banned in 1959.
There is a historical relationship. The PBB represents a continuation of the Masyumi tradition on certain levels and Muhammadiyah was once a special member of Masyumi. It's clear there is much in common between the two of us, above all in our visions and missions.
(Benar ada relasi historis. Sebagaimana diyakini kawan-kawan di PBB bahwa pada tingkat tertentu PBB merupakan kelanjutan Masyumi dan Muhammadiyah anggota istimewa di situ. Maka tak pelak banyak kesamaan di antara keduanya terutama pada visi dan misi perjuangan.)
From a formal organisational standpoint, Din said that Muhammadiyah had decided not to throw in its lot with any one party but denied that this meant an abandonment of PAN.
The reports state the leader of the PBB, M.S. Kaban, upon hearing the good news, was unable to conceal his glee. He said that he was pleased that Muhammadiyah was no longer associated with just one party and that it had opened up its "market" to other parties. Kaban said that he had been waiting for this great day for a long time.
This declaration that it is okay to enter the Muhammadiyah market is one we have been waiting for for a long time because until now Muhammadiyah was identified with a certain party and this represented a pyschological barrier.
(Pernyataan yang menyilakan memasuki pasar Muhammadiyah ini memang kami tunggu-tunggu karena selama ini Muhammadiyah identik dengan partai tertentu sehingga ada sekat psikologis.)
Kaban went on to say that the doors of his party were wide open to allow the entrance of Muslim activists and organisations. Together they would struggle for the cause of Islam via political means.
Din Syamsudin also said that he hoped that the various Islamic political parties would join forces and that the PBB would take a leading role in this initiative. Great issues needed to be dealt with from an Islamic viewpoint, and Islamic parties were there to do the job:
There needs to be cooperation [between Islamic political parties] so that religious social organisations are no longer dragged into problems of a political nature. Terrorism and the anti-pornography law are issues which political parties should handle, not social groups.
(Perlu kerjasama gerakan kultural dan struktural agar ormas keagamaan tak lagi diseret-seret ke persoalan yang berdimensi politik. Isu terorisme, UU Anti Pornografi dan Pornoaksi semestinya partai yang menangani, bukan ormas.)
This all can be interpreted as an affront to the PAN and its relatively secular ethos, a PAN which under the leadership of Amien Rais has avoided "Islamic" issues, and interpreted as a boost for parties, such as PBB, which overtly associate themselves with Islam. It is another chapter in the story of the growing power of Islam in the country.