Nahdlatul Ulama Moving Rightwards

May 9th, 2006, in News, by

Voices have been raised that the largest Muslim organisation in the country, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), is moving towards intolerance.

Nahdlatul Ulama, whose name means something like “the awakening of the traditional Islamic teachers and scholars”, has recently demonstrated its support both for the Indonesian Ulema Council’s (MUI) fatwa which declares the Jamaah Ahmadiyah sect heretical and and for Religious Affairs Minister Maftuh Basyuni’s statement that the Ahmadiyah congregation should found a new religion and stop calling itself a part of Islam, Herdi Sahrasad writes in the Jakarta Post.

Some hardline Muslim groups have likely been emboldened by these moves of the NU and thus their declaration that the blood of the Ahmadiyah congregation is halal, or permissible to be taken, can be seen as a consquence of the weakening of this important pillar of moderation in Indonesian Islam.

On a separate occasion, the NU Central Board announced its support along with Muslim hardliners and political parties for the enactment of the pornography bill, which many aver will restrict freedom of expression and justify state intervention in the private lives of individuals.

Zuhairi Misrawi, a young NU activist, says:

NU has really moved to the right.

Later again the NU expressed support for sharia based bylaws adopted by some regencies across the country. The bylaws have given rise to a “morality police” in the regions, which in some cases has prompted certain groups to take the law into their own hands.

Previously the NU, especially when under the leadership of Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid, had been known as a guardian of freedom and democracy in the face of the authoritarian New Order regime.

Expressing his concern about changes in NU behavior, American Indonesianist Robert Hefner cited the phenomena as an indication of an emerging uncivilized society in Indonesia, which does not respect plurality.

Other analysts speculate that NU has transformed itself into a communal and sectarian organization which has a hidden agenda to advance the “Islamization” of Indonesia in more expressly political terms.

Zuhairi said that NU’s support for the implementation of sharia in some regions and the pornography bill marked a setback and even violation of the organization’s 1926 khittah (founding principles), which view pluralism and multiculturalism as rahmatan lil alamin (a blessing for all humankind and the universe).

NU’s khittah is moderate and tolerant to others, respectful of pluralism and differences within Indonesian society. The question is why has NU changed into a more intolerant Islamic organization?

One of the answers is the lack of independence among the NU leaders in their policy making. As is known, some top NU leaders are also active in MUI, so there is important influence from MUI leaders on the NU in determining the organization’s policies, stance and behavior, especially in responding to complex socio-religious problems.

Another reason is that the NU now lacks liberal and enlightened leaders such as Gus Dur, who during his tenure as chairman played a key role in shaping the organization as a promoter of moderation and tolerance.

Or the move ever rightwards could be seen as simply part of the logic of Islam’s penetration into Indonesia, a gradual tightening of the noose, expunging of the foreign influences that were once accommodated for tactical or practical reasons, but now are seen as unneeded.

4 Comments on “Nahdlatul Ulama Moving Rightwards”

  1. Magy says:

    How do you move a whole population towards Arabic values thought there is no grassrot support for it. Feer. Nobody wants to be, unaccepted, not be part of the group. This is a very powerful tactic. With the SBY government NOT standing up to defend the constitition, there is room for local authorities to set up Arabic rules to follow. The pressure to obey is enormous. Feer is the basic emotion. While greed is the basic emotion at the political level. How many wotes do I get for promotion of tolerance and pluralism in a country that does not want to be connected with western societies?

    Indonesia is at the crossroads – with many crucial policy decisions that will ultimately define what Indonesia will be the next 20 years. Very sadly – I just can conclude that a number of important decisions already has been taken that is leading directly to a dogmatic fundamentalistic interpretation of Islam.

    There is, unfortunately, no “Gus Dur” out there daring to stand up for a Muslim pluralistic and tolerant society – the Arabs has stolen the agenda. What a pitty for such a blessed country with so many beutiful people and so much god faith in others and happiness – sad indeed to watch this happen in 2006. Indonesia had so much going for it, I’ve been following this country for 15 years now – I have never been so pessimistic about the curent weak domestic public debate in favor of a Muslim Indonesia belonging to the international community – instead the arguments have been hi-jacked by fundamentalists and extremists.

  2. Rockstar says:

    what is the advantage of Islamization?
    will it be the solution for the crisis?

    here what I think. If this country tried to rob the most fundamental value of humanism -which is the human rights-, I would definitely feel insecured. Why wouldn’t I? The only freedom left had been taken away by force. This is totally wrong.

    Economically, I don’t think it would get any better. It’s more toward a free fall. You could not expect to trust a government that had betrayed his own people by forcing you to do something against your own will.

    It’s sad, why can’t we just go from the fundamental that Soekarno – Hatta have established? We have far greater critical issues in front of us. By doing this, it’s creating a turmoil and restless among the people. What is good about that?
    Why can’t these people of NU see?

  3. Karlira Kanakahuko says:

    What kind of policy in Indonesia?
    To all Nahdlatul Ulama members, do you want more Indonesian regions and provinces separate from your nation, like East Timor? If you don’t like to be happen, do not impose imperial Arabic law in Indonesia. Do not force to Sharianize Indonesia. It results to inferiority and more very less progressive Indonesia.

  4. the Moslem says:

    The freedom of religion and belief must be the priority in the democratic country. No problem for me to go both left or right wing as long as in the coridor of solidarity and the rule of law.

    For Indonesia, it is clear that the frame of the freedom of religion is the 45 constitution and Pancasila. Furthermore, Indonesia has also ratified the international convention on civil and political rights which obligate to the state parties for protecting, respecting, and fulfilling the nationals’ human rights. Also the process of legal finding, one of the value reservoir is religion. It must be understood that all religion in this notion is equal, not in a specific religion.

    I think, all kind of fanatism and fundamentalism is equally dangerous for common interests. Also, human rights and democracy as well as liberal fundamentalism such as the religious one is the same dangerous.

    I hope fully that we can open mind to all ideas, include the moeslem hardline group have, with the spirit of human dignity. Many people condemn the ideas but really do not understand what the ideas are. When we criticize about Communism, Islamisme, Cristianism, Terrorism, Materialism,…the question are… we really understand and have deep understanding about this notions so we can justify them?

    Just showing and sharing what the best you can devote to other human being.

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