Friday, July 9, 2010


Friday, July 9th, 2010
Muhammadiyah’s century
The Jakarta Post | Tue, 07/06/2010 - Editorial
There are few organizations like it. A sociocultural mass base numbering in the millions. A force of societal stability. A catalyst for cultural change. Indonesia is blessed by the presence of two such mainstream groupings: Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah.
In its centennial year, Muhammadiyah is undertaking its congress to elect its next chairman and ultimately shape the direction of the organization. With a network of schools, universities, hospitals and various institutions under its aegis, few organizations are as well placed and equipped to help determine the direction of this nation.
Since it was formed by Ahmad Dahlan in 1912 in Yogyakarta, Muhammadiyah has been founded on the pillars of reason and progressive change. Rejecting the traditonalist dogmatic approach, it instead advocated for rational reasoning and interpretation, or ijtihad, within its community.
For a lack of a better word, it was already “secular” even before the birth of the state or conservative ulemas decided that secularism was taboo.
From this ideological underpinning, most Indonesian Muslims can be considered Muhammadiyah-ist in their thinking — to be reasoned and utilize common sense in the practice of religion rather than blindly importing Arabism as the basis of practicing their religiosity.
Under the chairmanship of Din Syamsuddin, Muhammadiyah has retained its basic virtues which have allowed its leading figures to become contributing members of the greater society.  The moderate stance of Muhammadiyah has been a bulwark against growing conservatism and those who would corrupt the religion of peace for a personal agenda of intolerance and violence. Greater assertiveness is expected of the organization in this cause.
We are hopeful that Muhammadiyah members once again employ their common sense by electing a chairman, Din or anyone else, who reflects the nationalistic pluralistic values that embody this nation.
To do otherwise would represent a threat to the fine balance of diversity which enriches the world’s greatest archipelago.
Muhammadiyah’s new century presents greater challenges and responsibilities. As Indonesia embarks on an open political system, institutions like Muhammadiyah are a linchpin in the fight against dogma. Voices of unreason will triumph and its caustic message accepted as conventional wisdom if the likes of Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama refuse to challenge them.
We further urge that Muhammadiyah continue its independent stance without bowing to the temptations of being prostrate to the status quo. A position pledged by Din when he opened the congress over the weekend.
In a time when coalitions are formed for the sake of political profit, Muhammadiyah should underline its role as a loyal critic of the government, whoever is in power. A counterweight on the side of the people while at the same time rejecting the temptations of delving into the formal practical political arena.
It is an appeal as beguiling as the menace of Muhammadiyah being infiltrated by those who would seek to exploit it for political ends. But with 100 years of common sense and the wisdom of thousands of learned Muhammadiyah graduates, there should be no reason that it cannot overcome these challenges.
The past century has been an era of teaching and educating. The coming century should be one in which Muhammadiyah raises itself as a pulpit of enlightenment.
Congress promotes ‘need for tolerance’
Slamet Susanto, The Jakarta Post, Yogyakarta | Fri, 07/09/2010
Muhammadiyah, the country’s largest modernist Muslim organization, must develop programs to promote pluralism and religious tolerance, agreed participants Wednesday on the penultimate day of the group’s 46th congress in Yogyakarta.
The congress’ Commission E said it saw a need to promote interfaith cooperation, mutual tolerance and acceptance among different community groups to help create positive social conditions.
“Muhammadiyah supports and promotes pluralism — but we reject pluralism that leads to syncretism and says that all religions are the same,” said recently-re-elected Muhammadiyah Chairman Din Syamsuddin.
As part of the community, people must recognize the existence of other religions and be aware that there is some truth in every religion, he said.
However, people must also remember that all religions do not share the same truths, he added.
“We must recognize diversity in religion and have mutual respect for each other and be tolerant.
However judgments on truth should be made in accordance with an individual’s faith,” he said.
“Lakum diinukum waliyadiin,” he added, referring to a verse from the Koran that is translated as: “To you, your religion, and to me, mine”.
Muslims must be oriented towards the future to meet the challenges of the current age of technological development and Islam must be developed with “deep insight” to adapt to future developments,
he said.
Substantial understanding about Islam must be developed to prevent the religion from becoming a commodity and to stop the destruction of Islam’s meaning and substance, Din added.
Muhammadiyah has been a pioneer and actively involved in creating dialogues between nations and civilizations to promote peace on earth.
Development over time and between civilizations have increased frictions that could lead to the birth of conflict, he said.
“Cooperation and dialogue are needed to minimize the effects of friction between civilizations. Muhammadiyah will actively take part in it,” Din added.
Din said that Muhammadiyah has been actively involved in the resolution of the southern Philippines conflict, together with the UK, Japan and Turkey and other social organizations.
Din added that Muhammadiyah has also been actively consulting with the United Nations on frictions between civilizations to help improve awareness of the importance of dialogue between civilizations.
“We will gather world religious figures, businesspeople and scientists to meet at the World Peace Forum, our third [forum],” he said.
The congress recommended the use of an “inverted evidence” scheme as the most effective way to fight the country’s rampant corruption.
It also recommended reform to make legal institutions independent to help the fight against corruption and other social diseases.
Finally, the congress recommended the establishment of an economic institution to help empower economically challenged people and development of the nation’s religious character.
Muhammadiyah aims to usher in ‘cosmopolitan’ Islam
Sri Wahyuni, The Jakarta Post, Yogyakarta | Wed, 07/07/2010
Entering its second century of existence according to the Islamic calendar, Muhammadiyah vowed to promote what it called a “cosmopolitan” Islam that would open up dialog and build bridges between civilizations.
The pledge was conveyed by Muhammadiyah Vice Chairman Haedar Nashir on Monday evening as he was presenting the organization’s centennial manifesto in front of participants of Muhammadiyah and its women’s group, Aisyiyah.
“Muhammadiyah conveys an Islam that says no to conflicts between civilizations, an Islam that fosters cooperation, dialog. A cosmopolitan Islam is a golden bridge for a dialog between the East and the West,” Haedar said.
The pledge came amid growing anti-Islam sentiment in some countries in Europe, where Islam is portrayed as being incompatible with Western and democratic values.
Muhammadiyah, the country’s second-largest Muslim organization, has over the past years been working to ease tension between Islam and the secular West.
However, theses efforts have recently been criticized as ineffectual, with many traditionalist Muslims still perceiving the West as hostile to Islam.
The centennial manifesto is Muhammadiyah’s beacon that will guide its future programs and actions, Haedar said.
“Suppose we are walking, we need a direction, a road to walk in and idealism or thoughts to hold to so that we will not just walk without purpose,” he said.
The five-point statement, he added, included a statement of gratefulness to God for allowing Muhammadiyah to survive long enough to enter a second century.
It also reflects on what the organization has achieved for the community, the nation and the humanity over the past 100 Islamic years.
Since it was established in 1912, he said, Muhammadiyah has made breakthroughs and reforms in the fields of religion, modern education and had been instrumental in developing social infrastructure, including by building educational institutions and hospitals.
“Entering the second century, we have become a success story,” he said adding that the statement also identified major problems faced by the nation and state.
“All the problems are described to lead to a commitment that in entering this second century, Insya Allah [God willing], we will continue to work without tiredness to enlighten the community, the nation and the world,” he said.
Muhammadiyah also says in the statement that it understands Islam is not just a set of commands and
restrictions but also as a guide for life. “Therefore in the eyes of Muhammadiyah, Islam is a way of life,” he said.
Based on this notion, he continued, Muhammadiyah’s take on Islam was of a progressive Islam that would give birth to Islam as a religion of civilization.
In terms of nationhood and humanity, the statement renews Muhammadiyah’s commitment to the country not just because of nationalism but because of its religious belief.
As such, nationalism is neither a passive nor dogmatic doctrine but must be manifested into love for the country that will transform Indonesia into a developed, prosperous, sovereign and just country.
Through the statement, Muhammadiyah also renewed its pledge to bring enlightenment to society and the nation by practicing the teachings of Islam that are liberating, empowering and developing.
“This must be reflected in the agenda of programs and actions of Muhammadiyah, whose main character is a movement of enlightenment,” he said.

Editorial: Muhammadiyah at Critical Crossroads
Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim organization, Muhammadiyah, has long been a bastion of moderate Islam in this country. Its 30 million members hail from the urban middle class and support many of the organization’s social and educational programs.

Its forward-looking, progressive stance has been at the forefront of improving the lives of its members. Not only does the organization run schools, it has a university with campuses in more than 20 cities.

Acknowledging the role of women in modern society, the socio-religious organization has also established a women’s wing.

In fact, it recently endorsed a decision to allow female motorcyclists to ferry delegates at its congress in Yogyakarta, thus rejecting an earlier fatwa by clerics banning women from riding motorcycles.

As such, Muhammadiyah has always kept pace with the changes in societal norms and has adopted a pragmatic approach to religion.

But as it approaches the end of its first century since being formed in 1912, Muhammadiyah is at a crossroads.

The organization, which has played such a central role in educating and improving the social as well as economic lives of its members, must now decide whether it will stay in politics or refocus its resources on its grassroots work.

This is not an easy decision. The social organization entered the political realm after the 1998 political crisis as many of its members felt that it could achieve much more through the National Mandate Party.

Although PAN is not officially linked to Muhammadiyah, many of its members are sourced from the organization.

All 39 candidates running for Muhammadiyah’s top post have pledged that they will quit politics if elected, thus ensuring that the organization will cut all links to PAN even if those links are superfluous.

By returning to its original mandate, Muhammadiyah can do much more for its members and concentrate on countering the rising threat of radical Islam in the country.

This must be one of the top priorities of the new leadership. Given its reach and the scope of its social activities, Muhammadiyah is well placed to help guide its members in the right direction.

Groups such as Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama, the nation’s largest Muslim organization, have a critical role to play in denouncing violence, even if committed by Muslims.

Both NU and Muhammadiyah have also warned against the imposition of Shariah-based laws, noting that these could lead to the disintegration of Indonesia as a pluralistic society.

Such statements are critical if we are to avoid the kinds of religious and ethnic conflict that seem to affect various parts of the country.

Muhammadiyah has been instrumental in promoting inter-faith tolerance and understanding in the country. It must continue to play this crucial role to ensure that the country’s social fabric remains strong and intact.

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