Ahmad Najib Burhani , , JAKARTA | Sun, 02/21/2010 4:10 PM | Opinion
"People like hamburger, but Muhammadiyah keeps selling gethuk *an Indonesian cassava dish*." This is a statement from a prominent leader of the young generation of Muhammadiyah in Surakarta, Central Java, who has been accused of having inclinations toward a salafist, borrowing the term from Olivier Roy (2004), or neofundamentalist orientation.
For the first time since hearing this statement three years ago, I did not assume any deeper meaning or interpretation beyond the opposition between old and new. It is only after getting involved in activities and studying the religious behavior of various groups in Muhammadiyah, I became aware that the difference between "hamburger" and "gethuk" is not simply old versus new commodities, or old organizational management in the Muhammadiyah versus a new one; it is more about a conflict between old religiosity versus a new one.
In the first half of the 19th century, there was a bloody conflict in western Sumatra between kaum mudo (younger people) and kaum tuo (older people). The kaum mudo intended to purify religious beliefs from any external elements such as local culture and mysticism. Through this process, they wanted to revive Islam so that it could compete with and overcome Western encroachment as had happened during the beginning of Islam and in the Middle Ages.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Ahmad Dahlan (the founder of the Muhammadiyah) represented a new generation of Muslim who struggled to revive Islam by challenging traditional beliefs. The established order of socioreligious life became the subject of criticism because of its ineffectiveness and its powerlessness compared to external power.
On Nov. 25, 2009, the Muhammadiyah, one of Indonesia's biggest Muslim organizations, celebrated 100 years of its establishment and the recurrent generational conflict between the "old generation" and the "young generation" has reappeared in the organization.
From our historical records, the younger generations at those times (the beginning of 19th and 20th centuries) are often considered as representing new progressive views against the outdated beliefs of the kaum tuo. They were the champions of change which we are now celebrating.
In contrast to the perspective of the past younger generations, some activists in the Muhammadiyah perceive the current younger generation represents nothing but a dangerous view of religion. Is that view coming from our biased perspective as members of the older generation or that a real fact?
In theological discourse, there are two types of younger generation that currently exist in the Muhammadiyah: young-salafists and young-progressives. Both of them do not feel comfortable and satisfied with the way the older people handle the movement and practice religious teachings.
The conflict between the older generation, which I usually call the "puritan group", and the young-salafist group, following the previous comparative between hamburger and gethuk, revolves around several issues.
The former prefers the Indonesian type of Islam, concerned with social-oriented religion (e.g. schools, hospitals, and orphanages), has a national and local orientation, believes that salvation can be achieved through social activities, and praises the achievements of the West and does not hesitate to adopt Western innovation.
Conversely, the young-salafist generation inclines to promote global or transnational Islam, believes that there is only one Islam by abandoning sociological and anthropological facts about the multiplicity of religious practice. They are concerned with personal faith, a ready-made and easily accessible set of norms. For them, religion is more about experiencing faith, doing rituals, having certainty in life. Islam is more about an individualistic religion.
Different from the salafists, the young-progressive group tends to be elitist. Their activities revolve around theological issues. For them, salvation can only be reached through intellectual exercises. Freedom of thought is the key idea in this context.
From these three groups, which one will prevail and determine the face of Islam for the next 10 to 100 years? Which one will dominate the Muhammadiyah? It is difficult to assess and predict. However, there are general tendencies in our society which can be used to analyze the current generational conflict, namely: the elite versus the masses, the social versus the individual, and knowledge versus faith.
tendency of contemporary religiosity, not only in Indonesia, is against elite, social, and knowledge-based religiosity. Only a few people are interested in theological debate. What we call a resurgence of religiosity in current times is more about an "other-worldly" orientation than a "this-worldly" and social orientation. However, social factors are always changing. It is in the hands of religious people to determine the future of religiosity.
The writer is a researcher at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) and the Maarif Institute.