Indonesia's largest Islamic bodies to promote moderate view of Islam

Indonesia's largest Islamic bodies to promote moderate view of Islam
PHOTO: AFP

Indonesia's two largest Islamic organisations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, are preparing to become beacons of moderate Islam as they discuss their programs for the next five years.

With their respective national congresses (muktamar) coming up in early August, both groups are bracing for a change of leadership that will mark a new era in their history as the country's mainstream Muslim groups for the past century.

The larger of the two, with around 90 million members across the country, NU, will hold its 33rd national congress on Aug. 1 to 5 in Jombang, East Java, with the theme "Reinforcing Islam Nusantara for Indonesia and for international civilisation".

"The real spirit of this 'Islam Nusantara' [Islam of the Archipelago] is to reinforce an Islam which is adaptable to cultures and tolerant to differences in this archipelago," Nahdlatul Ulama executive Mohammad Imam Aziz, told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

The concept of Islam Nusantara, according to Imam, refers to the empirical, historical reality that Islam has been embedded in the culture, economy, politics and technology of the archipelago for a long time.

The idea is to bring forward tolerance among Muslims amid the strong influence of conservative and radical groups from Middle Eastern countries.

"We will develop programs [...] in line with Islam Nusantara at the upcoming muktamar. We want to strengthen the spirit of Islam Nusantara to protect minority groups that are often subject to violent attacks," Imam said.

Imam said the congress in Jombang is seeking to step up efforts to protect Ahmadiyah and Shia groups "politically, culturally, and religiously".

Muhammadiyah, which has 35 million members across the country, will hold its 47th muktamar from Aug. 3 to 8 in Makassar, South Sulawesi, with the theme "Enlightenment for a Progressive Indonesia."

The term "Progressive Indonesia" is taken from Muhammadiyah's long-standing concept of a "Progressive Islam", or "Islam Berkemajuan".

"You could say that 'Islam Berkemajuan' is a vision of a modern and moderate Islam. The concept was initiated by Muhammadiyah's founder KH Ahmad Dahlan," retiring Muhammadiyah chairman Din Syamsuddin told the Post.

"[Progressive Islam] is not specifically made by Muhammadiyah for Muslims in Indonesia, but for all people in the world, across all walks of life. This concept also deepens our tolerance for others by putting emphasis on Islam as a moderate religion," Din added.

Islamic political analyst Ahmad Fuad Fanani from the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University (UINS) said the moves taken by the two Islamic organisations showed that Islamic discourse in the country was going in the right direction, supporting the country's democracy.

"[Indonesia] can be a model for other countries with a majority Muslim population," Fuad said on Thursday.

Fuad added that NU and Muhammadiyah should work together to promote Indonesia's tolerant Islam around the world.

"Domestically, both can campaign with their respective slogans," said Fuad. "But when it comes to the global campaign it would be better if they used the term 'Islam Indonesia' [...] because both [their slogans] represent moderate Islam in Indonesia."

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