Sunday, December 14, 2014

Rationality and Enlightenment: A Comparison of Educational Reforms Promoted by Gülen Movement and Muhammadiyah

1. Introduction

I have been working on Islamic social movements in Indonesia over almost four decades now. Since the 1990’s, I have also extended my geographic coverage to other parts of the Islamic world mostly through Malay speaking peoples’ networks. However, it was only three years ago (2008) on my second trip to Turkey that I learned the existence of the GM. A Turkish Japanese couple organized a group tour, and my wife and I joined it. The couple has been supporters of the movement and trying to spread its network in Japan. In Turkey, my wife and I were introduced to the leaders of the Journalists and Writers Association, and visited a couple of Gülen -inspired centers in the eastern part of Turkey. Through that trip, we came to know for the first time the fact that GM in the form of ‘Turkish schools’ was extending to Indonesia, too, and also to other parts of Southeast Asia. Then, on a later occasion in Indonesia, we had a chance to visit Kharisma School in the out skirt of Jakarta, even though it was a very brief visit. Those visits made us curious of the GM very much and we started to learn more about it through its publications and website information. Then, the above-mentioned couple organized again a group trip to Turkey the last summer.  My wife and I were exposed again more of Gülen-inspired activities now going on in the country. 
Thus far, as you see, my knowledge and understanding on the GM has been very limited. But the movement is attractive enough for me as a researcher on Islamic movements to make me venture into a comparison with the Muhammadiyah movement in Indonesia, which I have been familiar with for many decades.
As pointed out by Barton, the two robust Islamic social movements in Indonesia, Nahdlatul ‘Ulama’ (NU hereafter) and Muhammadiyah, have many parallels to GM. However, I will focus my attention mostly on Muhammadiyah partly because its education system is perhaps the most extensive in the Islamic world and comparable to GM as Barton pointed out, and partly because I am more familiar with Muhammadiyah than with NU. Nevertheless, I will mention NU as well when it becomes relevant to my discussion.
Today, Muhammadiyah has grown to be the largest private school system in Indonesia with more than 10,000 educational institutions --- ranging from playgroups and kindergartens to colleges and universities. It also operates more than 450 institutions of medical services including hospitals, clinics, delivery houses; more than 450 social welfare institutions including orphanages, elders houses, the poor houses; and more than 550 economic mutual help associations including microfinance unions and cooperatives.[2] The movement is now widely recognized as the second largest Islamic faith-based civil society organization in Indonesia with roughly thirty million members and supporters, alongside its ‘rival’, i.e. the traditionalist Islamic organization, NU, which claims forty million members and supporters.

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