Published on The Jakarta Post (http://www.thejakartapost.com)
The Jakarta Post | Tue, 07/13/2010 4:36 PM | Opinion
There is no doubt that Muhammadiyah, as a social religious organization like Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), has played a significant role in building the nation’s cha-racter. Muhammadiyah’s contribution in education and public service has been written with a golden pen in the pages of Indonesian history.
However, after the reformasi period — in which political parties have taken a greater role in the national leadership — mass social organizations, such as Muhammadiyah and NU, have had to reorient their visions and missions.
Unlike in the New Order period, in which the military dominated national leadership and the birth of leaders from civil society were hampered, the reform period welcomed civil leaders to appear in the stage. Against this backdrop, Muhammadiyah has to reconsider its position in the national arena — whether the organization should play a role similar to that of political parties or recommit to education and public service by, consequently, distancing itself from short-term political maneuvers.
However, from the organization’s recent national congress held in Yogyakarta the aforementioned mission seems unclear.
The top tier of Muhammadiyah remains in the hands of Din Syamsuddin, a former Golkar activist who has never managed to completely cut ties with politics. Perhaps, due to his pragmatic political consideration, Syamsuddin’s position in the eyes of the public is often ambiguous, if not confusing.
For instance, in a move likely to detract votes from the National Mandate Party (PAN), established by former Muhammadiyah chairman and the head of parliament respectively Amien Rais, Syamsuddin lent weight to the birth of the Nation’s Sun Party (PMB), which failed to reach the threshold at the last general election. And in an apparent attempt to widen his audience among various Muslim groups, Syamsuddin attended and spoke at the “caliphate conference” held by the hardline HTI (Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia).
Lately, Syamsuddin has delivered statements on Muhammadiyah’s position vis-à-vis the administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Literally, the content of the message seems trivial. However, the implication of the statement seems to suggest that the government should take Muhammadiyah into account in the government’s political decisions, which would effectively place the organization in the position of a political party.
It is true that Muhammadiyah has given birth to the motor of reforms, Amien Rais. In this way, this religious organization played a role which political parties during the New Order Golkar, PPP (United Development Party), and PDI failed to take. The three political parties did not initiate reforms, far less recommend that Soeharto, who ruled the country for more than three decades, step down. It was social leaders outside politics such as Amien Rais, Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid , Nurcholish Madjid, Gunawan Muhammad, Sri Bintang Pamungkas, Emha Ainun Nadjib, and many other intellectuals who led Indonesia to reform.
However, after reformasi was carried out, daily political agenda was rightfully returned to political parties, whose performance unfortunately is still disappointing.
Social religious organizations, such as NU and Muhammadiyah, should return to “barracks” to guide the Islamic community with the spirit that Ahmad Dahlan (Muhammadiyah) and Hasyim Asy’ari (NU) projected.
The two leaders, together with their colleagues, founded the two organizations without hoping for immediate political reward or positions from the Dutch colonial government.
For the sake of religiosity and the betterment of the fate of the country’s Muslims, the two organizations were established and later infused with politics.
Now, with Din Syamsuddin at the helm, many wonder whether political pragmatism will prevail in Muhammadiyah in the next term. If so, the status quo will win. Serious change in the direction of the organization is hard to expect.
Muslims, on the other hand, are hoping the presence of religious leaders with sincerity and vision, who forget short-term political gains. Otherwise, the community would fall prey of radical ideologies, which have never based their dogma on the Indonesian way of life. Ironically, radical ideologies have slowly but surely penetrated into the body of Muhammadiyah. Some with radical ideologies have room to broadcast their ideas in the organization. They often attacked their fellows in the organization with the brand of being “too liberal”. Radicals have also taken over certain mosques, leaving some Muhammadiyah activists to keep complaining.
Muhammadiyah has enough capital with intellectuals, facilities and other resources. Muhammadiyah, together with NU, can fight back. Forgetting rivalries which often marred the old days, the two should share the fight against the new common enemy, radicalism.
Muhammadiyah together with other organizations of same and different faiths should always stay in the front row to continue the task of protecting this nation’s diverse cultures, religions and ethnicities.
Din Syamsuddin, who wore a complete traditional Javanese suit and hat during the opening ceremony at the Mandala Krida Stadium in Yogyakarta, reminded us that Muhammadiyah is the sun which enlightens the earth. He should be reminded that in this galaxy there are millions stars, including the suns, which exist side by side in harmony. Any crash or collision would mean the end of the world as we know it.
The writer is a lecturer at Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic University, Yogyakarta.
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