Viewing cable 06JAKARTA12778
Title: EAST JAVA'S MUSLIM LEADERS, OBSERVERS COMMENT ON

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
06JAKARTA127782006-10-20 10:28:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Jakarta
VZCZCXRO5544
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHJA #2778/01 2931028
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 201028Z OCT 06
FM AMEMBASSY JAKARTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1521
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHJA/ISLAMIC CONFERENCE COLLECTIVE
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0040
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 1094
ZEN/AMCONSUL SURABAYA
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 JAKARTA 012778 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
FROM AMCONSUL SURABAYA #2622 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/16/2011 
TAGS: PGOV SOCI PHUM KISL ID
SUBJECT: EAST JAVA'S MUSLIM LEADERS, OBSERVERS COMMENT ON 
NU-MUHAMMADIYAH RELATIONS 
 
REF: A. 04 JAKARTA 902 (NU -- BIG LOOSE AND BOTTOM-UP) 
     ¶B. 05 JAKARTA 10917 (PKB VERDICT UPS THE ANTE IN 
        EAST JAVA) 
     ¶C. 04 JAKARTA 911 (PIOUS TECHNOCRATS: A PROFILE OF 
        MUHAMMADIYAH) 
     ¶D. 01 JAKARTA 1349 (NU BLOOD LUST) 
 
Classified By: Political Officer Catherine E. Sweet, Reason 1.4(d) 
 
¶1. (C) Summary.  On October 10, we met with the East Java 
provincial leadership of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and 
Muhammadiyah to discuss their organizations' activities in 
East Java.  We also called on political scientist Aribowo 
from Surabaya's Airlangga University, who shared his 
observations (based in part on USAID-funded research) on the 
state of East Javanese political Islam.  From these 
discussions, it was clear that NU is still the dominant 
player in the province of its birth, and former Indonesian 
president and NU leader Abdurrahman Wahid (aka Gus Dur) 
remains iconic.  At the same time, although less popular in 
East Java than NU, Muhammadiyah is playing an increasingly 
active role in civil society.  And while relations between 
the two groups have improved significantly since NU 
supporters attacked Muhammadiyah schools and buildings in 
2001, some tensions persist. End summary. 
 
East Java: Cradle of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) 
------------------------------------------ 
 
¶2. (SBU) On October 10, we met with the East Java provincial 
leadership of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah to 
discuss their organizations' activities in East Java.  We 
also called on political scientist Aribowo from Surabaya's 
Airlangga University, who shared his observations (based in 
part on USAID-funded research) on the state of East Javanese 
political Islam.   The most important civil society 
organization in East Java is Nadhlatul Ulama, a mass Muslim 
movement that claims a nationwide membership of 40-45 
million.  Founded 80 years ago in East Java, NU is primarily 
populated by rural Javanese (although it has a strong 
presence in Java's large cities as well).  NU's East Java 
Deputy Chairman Sholeh Hayat and other local officials 
explained that throughout Indonesia, NU focuses on four main 
areas:  proselytizing (dakwah); education; delivery of social 
services; and economic development.  To this end, NU clerics 
(kiai) run the vast majority of Java's pesantrens (Islamic 
boarding schools), as well as a significant number of higher 
education institutions and hospitals.  In East Java alone, NU 
administers 42 hospitals and some 5000 pesantrens. 
 
¶3.  (U) A variety of committees, social institutes and 
semi-autonomous organizations fall under the NU tent.  The 
institutes work on NU's priority issues in conjunction with 
the autonomous bodies, which are organized primarily by age 
and sex (women's and student groups, a labor organization, 
and a martial arts self-defense group).  For instance, NU's 
young women's organization, Fatayat, works mainly on 
education, anti-trafficking, reproductive health and HIV-AIDS 
issues through its approximately 9000 chapters. 
 
The Centrality of the Kiais 
--------------------------- 
 
¶4.  (U) NU followers tend to practice a syncretic form of 
Islam that blends Indonesians' traditional religious 
practices (themselves heavily influenced by Hinduism, which 
predates Islam on the archipelago) with Islamic mysticism 
(Sufism) and the relatively moderate Shafa'i branch of Islam 
jurisprudence (ref A).  Perhaps the most significant factor 
differentiating NU followers from their coreligionists in 
organizations like Muhammadiyah is the role of the kiai (also 
sometimes referred to as ulama), or local religious leader. 
The kiai, a man educated in Islamic teachings and law (ilmu 
fiqh), holds tremendous authority within his community, with 
his followers looking to him for spiritual and other 
guidance. 
 
¶5.  (SBU) Political scientist Aribowo described three primary 
routes to becoming a kiai.  First, and most traditionally, is 
blood descent from a kiai family (former President 
Abdurrahman Wahid, also known as Gus Dur, became a kiai via 
this method of transmission).  Second, a kiai may identify a 
particularly clever student (santri) studying at his 
pesantren as a kiai candidate.  That student would then be 
expected to become proficient in Islamic teachings and found 
his own pesantren.  Once established, the community would 
 
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deem him a kiai.  A related method for non-genetic kiais to 
attain the title is to marry into a kiai family.  These 
latter two methods are becoming increasingly common, Aribowo 
said; indeed, current NU chairman and Gus Dur rival Hasyim 
Muzadi became a kiai in this way.  According to Aribowo, Gus 
Dur's supporters use this to discredit Muzadi, claiming that 
he is not a "real" kiai like Gus Dur, who is of "royal" 
kiai/NU blood (Gus Dur's grandfather was NU founder Hasyim 
Asy'ari, and his father a former minister of religion). 
 
¶6.  (SBU) While they all fall under the same NU rubric, 
Aribowo noted that the kiai are factionalized both 
politically and socially.  He said that although the kiai 
were united in supporting Gus Dur while he was president, the 
internal conflicts that have developed within NU and its 
affiliated political party, the National Awakening Party 
(PKB), since Wahid's impeachment are mirrored within the kiai 
community (ref B and previous).  Aribowo lamented the 
negative effect that this politicization has had on the 
"dignity" of the kiai, who he contended previously preferred 
to not involve themselves in politics.  This conflict 
notwithstanding, Aribowo's research has determined that NU 
voters will continue to support PKB and will choose 
candidates based in part on their kiai's instructions. 
 
The Cult of Gus Dur 
------------------- 
 
¶7.  (SBU) Aribowo believes that until Gus Dur dies, there 
will be no reconciliation among the various PKB and NU 
factions.  Indeed, a Gus Dur cult of personality persists, 
fueled in part by his miraculous survival of a series of 
strokes that Aribowo claimed should have killed him three 
times over (although he did acknowledge that Gus Dur has been 
"slipping" lately).  And while NU is Muzadi's organization 
structurally, it is Gus Dur's culturally.  Aribowo repeatedly 
referred to Gus Dur as an "extraordinary" politician, one who 
can talk with ease about everything from classical music to 
soccer.  As a key reformer within NU, Gus Dur promoted 
democracy and modernism, and remains a symbol of pluralism, 
he said.  Moreover, Wahid has opposed the "Arabization" of 
Indonesian Islam and culture, even urging Indonesian Muslims 
to use the Indonesian language when greeting one another, 
rather than the Arabic expression "assalama alaykum." 
 
¶8.  (SBU) Aribowo also praised Gus Dur's audacity and 
willingness to capitalize on his stature to take 
controversial positions.  Aribowo referred to an incident 
this past April when Gus Dur fielded a question on a radio 
program about Indonesia's draft anti-pornography/ 
pornographic action law, which he openly opposes (although NU 
as an organization supports it).  Trying to emphasize that 
the definition of pornography is relative, Wahid remarked 
that even the Qur'an could be considered pornographic since 
it talks about breastfeeding (Al-Baqara 233) and illicit 
sexual relations (Surat Yusuf). (Note. Despite his venerable 
reputation, Wahid seems to have overreached with those 
remarks.  Following his comments, more than 500 outraged 
Javanese ulama issued a statement condemning Gus Dur's 
remarks, and in May, while Wahid was speaking at an 
interfaith seminar in West Java, radicals from the extremist 
Islamic Defenders Front, Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, Forum Umat 
Islam, and Abu Bakar Ba'asyir's Islamic Mujaheddin Council 
forcibly chased Wahid from the stage.  End Note.) 
 
Muhammadiyah: Relations on the Mend, but Tensions Remain 
--------------------------------------------- ------------ 
 
¶9.  (SBU) For their part, East Java's Muhammadiyah membership 
is somewhat less enamored of Gus Dur and NU.  Structurally 
and doctrinally and, the organizations are quite different, 
with Muhammadiyah's command structure much more rigid and 
hierarchical than NU's (ref C).  Where NU draws its support 
primarily from rural and poorer Indonesians, Muhammadiyah has 
traditionally been strongest among the urban elite and within 
the business community (East Java Muhammadiyah Chairman 
Shafiq Mughni called it a "university-based organization"). 
 
¶10. (U) Doctrinally, Muhammadiyah tends to be more 
conservative, rejecting NU's syncretism in favor of Islamic 
modernism, a school of thought pioneered by Arab 
intellectuals like Muhammad 'Abduh and Rashid Rida in the 
late 19th and early 20th centuries.  (Note.  Modernism 
advocates the application of "Western" science, technology, 
and intellectual methods -- notably reason -- to bring Islam 
to a purer and more advanced state.  End Note.)  As a 
 
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modernist movement, Muhammadiyah, which was founded in 
Yogyakarta in 1912 and claims a national membership of 
roughly 30 million, rejects strict adherence to any one 
school of Islamic jurisprudence and, by extension, the 
intercession of intermediaries like kiais.  (Indonesians 
often comment that Muhammadiyah is more of a "protestant" 
organization and NU a "Catholic" one, given the latter's 
reliance on religious intermediaries to interpret God's 
will.)  Muhammadiyah advocates returning to the original 
Islamic texts (Qur'an and hadith) and reinterpreting them 
afresh with a modern perspective. 
 
¶11. (U) Consequently, Muhammadiyah stresses the importance of 
education; this is reflected in the strength of 
Muhammadiyah's school system, which brings together a 
state-sanctioned secular curriculum with a religious one. 
There are more than 10,000 Muhammadiyah primary and secondary 
schools nationwide and 164 universities; students do not need 
to be affiliated with Muhammadiyah to attend (in fact, Mughni 
pointedly noted, about 30-40 percent of their East Java 
students are affiliated with NU, adding that current NU head 
Hasyim Muzadi's children are graduates of Muhammadiyah's 
university in Malang). 
 
¶12. (U) In East Java, according to Mughni, Muhammadiyah 
membership runs in the 7-9 million range.  This figure 
includes members of its autonomous youth, student, women's 
and martial arts organizations, but excludes students 
enrolled at Muhammadiyah schools who are not formally 
affiliated with Muhammadiyah.  In NU's heartland, 
Muhammadiyah operates far fewer schools (approximately 1400 
schools and 14 institutions of higher learning) than its 
rival, although Mughni asserted that Muhammadiyah is 
expanding its facilities in the region.  Its membership and 
leadership are also diversifying, he said:  of the 13-member 
provincial board, five are professors, one is a kiai, and one 
(Mughni) has a Ph.D. (Mughni received his Ph.D. in Islamic 
Studies from UCLA; he will be leaving Indonesia shortly to 
begin a Fulbright teaching fellowship in Buffalo, New York.) 
 
¶13. (C) Mughni said that relations in East Java between 
Muhammadiyah and NU, which were heavily damaged by NU 
supporters' attacks on Muhammadiyah facilities in 2001 (NU 
adherents blamed former Muhammadiyah chairman and then-head 
of the People's Consultative Assembly, Amien Rais, for 
orchestrating Gus Dur's impeachment; ref D and previous), are 
getting better.  Still, bitterness was not far from the 
surface when Mughni spoke about NU.  For example, he made a 
disparaging remark about Gus Dur traveling abroad while he 
was president, allegedly trying to drum up funding for NU 
rather than for Indonesia.  He also criticized NU's lack of 
transparency and accountability, which he said stems from NU 
members being "under the control of the kiais," men who "are 
like kings and control all." 
PASCOE