NU Conference

Jul 31st, 2006, in News, by

The Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) have reaffirmed their committment to the secular state, among other goings-on at their national conference in Surabaya.

Opened by the vice-president Jusuf Kalla, who opens lots of similar events, the conference saw discussion of a wide range of topics, from the purely religious to the political and economic.

Secular

NU lawmaking body chief Sahal Mahfudz said the organization needed to reaffirm its commitment to the country's secular traditions amid concerted moves to introduce sharia as a legal foundation for drafting legislation.

The NU upholds pluralism in line with the Pancasila. We oppose the implementation of sharia because this will only lead to disintegration. Sharia can be implemented without being formalized.

Sahal said at the opening ceremony of the three-day national NU ulema conference in Surabaya, East Java. He added that the NU should continue to be at the forefront in campaigning for the preservation of indigineous Indonesian values.

The organization has been particularly vocal in its opposition to the passage of sharia-based bylaws in several areas of the country. NU chairman Hasyim Muzadi said in a recent interview that the country risked disintegration from the campaign of some groups to turn Indonesia into an Islamic state.

Kalla, who officiated at the opening of the congress, also believed there were efforts to create conflict by promoting Islam to replace Pancasila in multiethnic, religiously diverse Indonesia.

One indication of the plot is the drawing up of numerous sharia-inspired bylaws.

he said, and backed the NU's campaign against the implementation of sharia in the country.

We fully support NU's stance on opposing the sharia-inspired bylaws that have been enacted in several regions.

Since the passage of the regional autonomy law in 2000, 22 municipalities and regencies have implemented bylaws showing the influence of sharia, including stipulations for Koran literacy among schoolchildren, the obligation for some women to wear headscarves in public and heavy punishments for adultery, alcoholism and gambling.

Apparently all of the clerics attending the congress agreed on the NU's commitment to the country's territorial integrity and the principle of pluralism. An edict jointly signed by NU chairman Hasyim Muzadi and the chairman of the organization's lawmaking body, Sahal Mahfudz, said the state ideology of Pancasila, the Unitary State of Indonesia and the 1945 Constitution were final and conclusive.

Any efforts to replace Pancasila as the country's sole ideology will only lead to disintegration.

the edict reads.

It said that any efforts to uphold principles drawn from religious teachings must be peaceful, to avoid pitting religious followers against the state.

Gossiping

An edict, or fatwa, was issued prohibiting Muslims from broadcasting, publishing and watching "infotainment" news, or television gossip shows.

After weighing up different interpretations of Muslim tradition none of the clerics in attendance were opposed to the edict, it was said.

Over the past few years, a number of television stations in Jakarta have turned gossip into a no-holds-barred enterprise. More than 40 gossip shows are broadcast every week by a total of 11 stations.

This fatwa will be issued because ulema are concerned gossip shows will destroy young people and because the Koran strictly forbids spreading gossip.

one Agil said to the Jakarta Post.

Airing another person's dirty laundry in public was unislamic, he said.

For example, publicly humiliating a polygamous official is haram because polygamy is a part of their private life.

He said the fatwa would be slapped on broadcasting celebrity gossip, not news, like crime or corruption reports. Journalists and other people involved in the production of gossip shows are sinners, he said, as are the "gossip addicts" who lap up juicy celebrity tidbits without bearing in mind the humiliation they cause. Agil urged Muslims to switch off gossip shows or, at the very least, change the channel.

Gufron Sakaril, the public relations manager of private TV station Indosiar, said:

We are going to examine the edict thoroughly and seriously, to find out which part is considered haram.

He added that gossip shows, locally known as "infotainment", were the products of entertainment journalism.

Budi Darmawan, SCTV's senior public relations manager, said the NU's plan to ban celebrity news was legitimate in a democracy.

We'll wait and see what the edict is like. In our defense, gossip shows always stick to journalistic principles by covering both sides of the story and getting confirmation.

Gossip, or entertainment news, Budi said, was the same everywhere in the world, in that it was not always positive. He said the common perception that gossip shows got high ratings was not true as local soap operas scored higher.

Money Making

The Nahdlatul Ulama plans to open gasoline stations as part of measures aimed at improving the financial independence of the country's largest Muslim organization and the welfare of its members. A memorandum of understanding was signed on Saturday by Pertamina president director Ari Sumarsono and NU lawmaking body chairman Sahal Mahfudz on the sidelines of the organization's national meeting. Sahal said:

The agreement is important to make NU more financially independent and to enable it to improve the economic welfare of its members.

Currently, NU depends on regular donations from its members and the public at large to finance its operations nationwide.

Under the deal, the 40 million-strong NU is granted a concession to open gasoline stations and help market other products of the state oil and gas company. Sahal said the organization would appoint NU Islamic boarding schools (pesantren) to establish and run the gasoline stations. The selection process would be "professional", he added.

We don't want to see all the pesantren scramble for the project.

Ari Sumarsono said it was hoped the deal would boost the competitive edge of Pertamina against foreign business rivals such as Shell of the United States and Malaysia's Petronas, which have begun establishing gasoline stations in Indonesia.

However, some NU members raised the question whether NU would be critical of Pertamina, which some say is plagued by corruption and serves as a cash cow for politicians.

So far only the modern Gontor Islamic boarding school in Ponorogo, East Java, which is not affiliated to NU, or Muhammadiyah, the second largest Muslim organization in the country, owns a gasoline station.

Liberalism

There was intense debate within the congress about what the NU's stance should be on liberal Islamic thinking. Some participants went as far as suggesting that the NU ban members from joining the Liberal Islam Network (JIL). JIL activist Zuhairi Misrawi says he is unconcerned about his organisation being a topic of discussion but regrets that the congress gave no opportunity to JIL activists to clarify the policies of the group.

Debate also raged over whether NU members could attend ceremonies to mark the opening of a church or temple.


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