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NU Youth and the Making of Civil Society: Notes from the Field

Farid Wajidi1

This chapter deals with the efforts of young Muslim activists, culturally linked to the Nahdatul Ulama (NU), to develop a new trend in religious thoughts that supports the empowerment of civil society and disseminates democratic values in their ‘traditionalist’ community. It specifically examines initiatives of NGO activists and the networks they have established for this purpose. The last two decades have witnessed a remarkable development of ideas and social activism in NU circles, which is according to observers without comparison among other Muslim groups in Indonesia. There are no accurate data as to how widely spread this movement is, but in each town in Java one may find three or four groups of activists working in this direction. For reasons of space, this chapter will be focused on Yogyakarta, which has played an important role in this development because of the composition of its student population and the dynamism of its groups of activists. This new trend should be seen in the context of developments within NU since the end of 1970s. The most important factor is the initiative of some young intellectuals at that time -- such as Abdurrahman Wahid, Ahmad Siddiq, Sahal Machfudh, Alie Yafie, Tolchah Hasan, Mustafa Bisri, Masdar F. Mas`udi and others -- to rethink the relationship between Islam and actual problems facing Indonesian Muslim society. This endeavor culminated in NU’s decision to return to the ‘khittah 1926’ (‘original ideas of its mission

Farid Wajidi is a PhD candidate at the International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World

(ISIM) (

in 1926’), which amounted to withdrawing from formal political activities and concentrating more on its cultural and educational tasks. The decision to return to the khittah repositioned the organization in two major respects. Firstly it involved a reorientation with regard to the New Order regime, which would match the idea of empowering civil society as a strategy to democratize political life. Secondly, it implied a rethinking of its own history and well-established tradition of Islamic thought, which in turn has provided the religious-cultural basis for the dissemination of the new idea about Islamic support of democratic values. Another historical development that should be mentioned in this context is the encounter of this ‘traditionalist’ community with the world of NGOs. The first encounter was with LP3ES, which was founded by some modernist and secular intellectual-activists in the 1970s. It began with the idea of LP3ES to use the pesantren community as a vehicle for community development programs. Like other NGOs at that time, LP3ES was established when the discourse of developmentalism was highly influential among Indonesian intellectuals and social activists. In contrast to the top-down policy practiced by the government, they advocated a bottom-up approach (Bruinessen 1994; Eldridge 1995). In the course of time, and thanks to the encounter with radical social theories and new developments in NGO ideology, they became more sensitive with regards to structural problems. This paradigmatic shift has been described as a shift from a developmentalist approach to a transformative one (Fakih: 1996). Fakih also notes that this new trend seemed to be stronger among ‘traditionalist Muslim’ NGOs, which have developed a new religious discourse to support social activism. In this context Fakir refers to the efforts of P3M (Perhimpunan Pengkajian dan Pengembangan Pesantren dan Masyarakat, Association for the Study and Development of Pesantren and Society) to introduce halqah (workshops) on Fiqh al-Siyasa and Fiqh al-Nisa’ involving young kiais and nyais. A similar shift has also taken place within NGOs founded by NU in order to implement the idea of a return to the khittah, such as Lakpesdam NU in Jakarta and LKPSM NU di Yogyakarta (See also Bruinessen 1994; Effendi 2000; Kadir 1999; Bush 2002; Ida 2002).

NGO activities. The student journalist movement. The intellectual influence of this group among young followers of NU increased in the 1990s. to the repressive and hegemonic policies of the New Order. Together with students active in the mushrooming study groups. such as theatrical performances. with its broad networks in Yogyakarta. were translated and published and received an enthusiastic response among students. and as a part of the local dynamics of Yogyakarta and the student movement during the 1980s. Jakarta and Bandung. an organization of Muslim students with a ‘traditionalist’ background. state hegemony. As I will indicate here. some Muslim students culturally linked to the NU organized an informal discussion forum. LKiS started as a discussion forum of Muslim students within the Yogyakarta branch of PMII. such as Ali Shariati and Hasan Bani Sadr. this NGO contributed to a massive shift in Islamic and social thinking among young ‘traditionalists’. and gatherings of student journalists. which in turn became an NGO. Among the younger generation this resistance was expressed in various ways. These publications contributed to the rise of a critical attitude among Muslim 2 These gatherings eventually inspired the declaration of Sumpah Mahasiswa Indonesia (the Indonesian Student’s Oath). the journalist activists organized many public discussions disseminating critical opinions on various social and political issues. mostly in a symbolic way. . This had been inspired by the Iranian Revolution.2 In the 1980s Indonesia witnessed also a growing interest in new Islamic discourses among Muslim student activists. was of particular importance during this period. the Institute for the Study of Islam and Social Issues). Initially its members came from various universities in Yogyakarta. but it owed much of its own development to the dynamics of Yogyakarta and the student movement of the 1980s. Yogyakarta in the second half of the 1980s could be defined as ‘a city in motion’. It was a periods when various segments of the society expressed their resistance. public discussions. LKiS (Lembaga Kajian islam dan Sosial. expressing a strong commitment to resist injustice.Lembaga Kajian islam dan Sosial (LKiS) Inspired by these developments. and many books by Iranian intellectuals. although in the course of time membership was exclusively limited to students of the Sunan Kalijaga State Islamic Institute. authoritarianism. poetry readings. which in turn became one of the most important driving forces of the student movement in later periods.

. In other Muslim communities. Students’ study groups were mushrooming. and influenced the LKiS community as well. but the repressive atmosphere caused its expressions to remain restricted to critical discussions in limited circles. There was a tendency towards radicalization. and some of them became involved in protest movements. the most important of them being Father Mangunwijaya and the younger activists of Geni. Initially their discussions were more academic in character. people’s resistance was supported almost exclusively by Protestant and Catholic activists. Some members of these study groups were also involved in NGO activities. like the Masjid Kampus Islam. and its involvement was crucial because the resistance movement had been stigmatized by the government as part of a ‘Christianization agenda’. They were involved in this case even before it became a national issue and this experience transformed their religious views. They also supported people in the Kedung Ombo case who suffered from military pressure to give up their land. Under the repressive New Order. some Muslim students with a ‘traditionalist’ background started to organize regular gatherings in the veranda of their campus mosque to discuss various socio-religious issues. From the beginning. but soon became more and more radical by the involvement of student journalists of the magazine Arena. 4 Aditjondro (1993) notes that this was the first Muslim group involved in this social movement. A case in point was the popularity of the concepts mustadh`afin (the oppressed) and raushanfikr (which was translated in an almost identical way with Gramsci’s concept of the organic intellectual). but they developed more exclusive Islamic views which were expressed by the KAMMI student movement and supporter of the Justice Party (Partai Keadilan) in the post-Suharto era. Arena. which in turn became the seeds of the nationalist movement. Their activities were no longer limited to discussions. this kind of activities was still possible. which had been monopolized by ‘traditionalist’ Muslim students since 1970s.students. an NGO based in Salatiga. was one of the most important elements of the student journalist network at the end of 1980 and during 1990s. hoping to play a more important role as soon as the political situation might change. Many students involved in the study groups compared themselves to the study groups organized by Indonesian intellectual activists during the 1920s under colonial rule. these books were also read and intensively discussed. during which the organization of critical public discussion demanded courage.3 Since the late 1980s.4 3 Miichi (2001) notes that the publications of these books did not lead to a unified attitude among Muslim activists.

These discussions have very much influenced them in formulating their own Islamic theology of liberation. LKiS was the first main Muslim group that supported this initiative. especially when their own Muslim fellows did not give any support to the victims. This stance put him in a conflicting position with other kiais in. the MUI who tried to delegitimate Hamam’s Islamic arguments. Interfidei. Imam Aziz. 6 After the fall of Suharto. In 1987 a book by Father Wahono on the Theology of Liberation was published and banned by the High Court. 5 This kiai had been reknown in the 1980s for his involvement in unconventional efforts to introduce social work as part of the activities in his pesantren. because they respected Machfudh very much. The conflict between personal loyalty and social commitment resulted in a transformation of their Islamic stance on the issues of pluralism and social activism. It was also at this point that they started problematizing Ali Shariati’s revolutionary Islamic views -which were. except for Kiai Hamam Ja`far from the Pesantren Pabelan in Magelang who was soon under pressure of the military as well. Kiai Sahal Mahfudh who was seemingly also under military pressure. of course.6 These encounters also formed a bridge for inter-religious solidarity. a pioneer in LkiS. was founded in Yogyakarta. The situation was really confusing for the LKiS activists involved.5 The chief of the local council of ulama at that time. but with whom they shared common humanitarian concerns. a new version of Wahono’s book was republished by LKiS in 1999. had been a santri of Machfudh for years. but finally he decided to give up due to military pressure (Abbas 1996).The military tried to manipulate the authority of the local council of ulama (MUI) and other ulamas to stigmatize the activists as motivated by a hidden agenda of Christianization. There was actually no real support from Muslim leaders. the activists were also involved in intensive discussions with people around Mangunwijaya at Pondok Rakyat in Yogyakarta about the Theology of Liberation. . When an interfaith institute. did not support the victims and even accused the resistance movement of refusing to support the government’s developmental policies. for instance. LkiS activists supported Hamam in this conflict. Later.which emphasize the urgency of siding with the oppressed but give no clear basis for implementing them in a pluralistic context. He joined Romo Mangunwijaya as advocate of the people of Kedung Ombo. formulated within the Iranian context -. The Kedung Ombo case was their first encounter with non-Muslim groups who had not existed in their classic theological categories. which was pioneering efforts for inter-religious solidarity. The banning was an effective advertisement since it encouraged critical students to read and discuss the book.

which was a controversial theme at that time. . Next to the campus. One of these small efforts involved the revision of the themes of the khutbahs in the mosque of their campus. This trend seemed to have been introduced for the first time the Salman Mosque at the Bandung Institute of Technology.common people). but should also involve a modest experimental translation into practice.In short. and it is this activist nature that differentiates them from other Muslim intellectual groups. This theme shifted the content of khutbah before the Tarawih and after the Subuh prayers7 from topics emphasizing ritual aspects of Islamic teachings and personal piety to discussions about social injustice under the New Order. the LKiS community was unique in its strong tendency to combine Islamic discourses on liberation with social activism. An experiment in the early 1990s was their effort to manage the relationships among the owners of food stores (warung makan) around the campus mosque. which created tension among the owners and threatened the existence of those with a limited capital.oppressed -. The activists tried to approach the owners to discuss the problems and to find a reasonable solution. they also experimented with an alternative way of distributing zakat received from the jamaah with the intention to empower the poor. They then jokingly mentioned themselves the followers of the ‘mosque veranda’s school of Islamic liberation theology’ (Teologi Pembebasan Madzhab Serambi Mesjid). They meant that an effort should not be restricted to theological discussions. 7 Since the 1980s khutbahs before Tarawih and after Subuh prayers have become a new trend among Muslim student activists with the purpose to disseminate religious teachings in campus mosques. this community considered it still too academic in its orientation. When the LKPSM NU of Yogyakarta held a seminar on ‘(Islamic) Teologi Pembangunan’ (an Indonesian euphemism for Latin American Liberation Theology). The activists observed unfair competition. The initiative received a positive response and an informal association of warung makan owners was formed. and was later imitated by many other Muslim student in other cities. the warung makan were a very attractive business venture for the owners. Besides organizing the one-month series of khutbahs. The next Ramadhan (1994) they presented ‘Puasa untuk Pembebasan’ (Fasting for Liberation) as the theme of the khutbahs. During Ramadhan of 1993 they had shocked many jamaah of the mosque by presenting a one-month series of khutbahs with the controversial theme ‘Puasa untuk Rakyat’ (Fasting for the -.

It appeared that many branches were not yet ready for such a . but he realized that the agenda would strengthen the legitimacy of his leadership.8 On the regional level. but according to the new approach they both were in the same position as subjects learning together.which standardized prices and services. It also involved a shift in the training programs towards a liberation-oriented approach. Critical discussions involved the religious heritage (ahlus sunnah wa al-jama`ah) and its lack of relevance with regards to social and actual political problems. This issue became the main topic of the student trainings they held and resulted in the ‘agenda liberasi’ (liberation agenda). Unfortunately. In 1993 they decided to leave this corporatist organization. 9 This was. a youth organization created by the New Order. The association also functions as a co-operative. a strong Freirian aroma in this approach. It was decided to dissolve the female section. Conventional training programs positioned trainers and students as subjects and objects. and the corporatist tendency of the state on the other. It was this program that influenced PMII activists in various cities to search for alternative Islamic ideas. Simililar issues became topics of discussions within the organization at the national level. leading to the 10 dissolution of the national board of KOPRI in the next year. also part of a more general trend in Yogyakarta at the time.9 Since the 1960s female activists in the organization had been united in a female section called KOPRI (Korp PMII Puteri).10 8 The liberation agenda became a national program of the PMII under the leadership of Muhaimin Iskandar. This received broad support and shortly afterwards a female student was elected as the leader of the organization at university level. LKiS was also part of the larger community of PMII activists in Yogyakarta and the activities of this small group also influenced this broader organization. which involved a critical approach to religious traditions on the one hand.who was also a member of LKiS community during its early period when he studied in Yogyakarta – was according to some activists not so radical in his personal stance. however. the Agenda Liberasi influenced the Yogyakarta branch of the organization to redefine its relationship with KNPI. Another aspect of the liberation agenda involved gender relations within the organization itself. which implied that female activists never had a chance to play a prominent role. this decision did not result in the same change as in the Yogyakartan case. in short. adopting the principles from andragogy. There was. Iskandar himself -. One topic of heated discussion was whether this structure would be maintained or reformed into a more egalitarian structure.

Weakened by his conflict with some military leaders. The new policy of Soeharto became manifest in his support for the establishment of ICMI (Association of Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals). Democracy and Social Justice (1993)). Some of the books are results of public discussions. Farid Essack. the position of religions in processes of democratization in various countries was investigated. such the cases of Philippines. Asghar Ali Engineer. whose ideas are relevant with change. such as Hasan Hanafi. Nasr Hamid Abu-Zayd. LkiS organized discussions about critical religious thoughts of some contemporary Muslim thinkers. and this was considered formal date of the organization as an institution. Latin America and Indonesia. Fatima Mernissi. Two main themes were explored. Firstly. Some female activists in Jakarta later even lamented that the decision has marginalized them even further. It was in this context that LKiS started organizing public discussions on democracy in relationship with religion and especially Islam.The critical books that were published since the early 1990s formed the most important contribution of this community. However. The title of the book reflects also the basic idea of LKiS to enhance the role of religion (especially Islam) in the process of democracy for the sake of social justice. Within this theme they discussed. India. President Soeharto tried to approach Muslim groups as his new allies. by inviting experts. the leader of the biggest Muslim organization. Iran. on some cases of democratization processes in which religions have played crucial roles. This was the first book published by LKiS. Mohammad Abed al-Jabiri. . and others. Abdurrahman Wahid. Mohammed Arkoun. During the 1990s there was a limited space for civil society groups to express their aspirations. The result of these discussions was then published as a book entitled Agama. refused to join ICMI and even harshly criticized the idea as a sectarian agenda that would be counter-productive for disseminating democratic values. Muslim leaders who felt that they had been marginalized since the beginning of the New Order welcomed this. Demokrasi dan Keadilan Sosial (Religion. Abdullahi Ahmed An-Naim. Algeria. but the majority consists of translations of works by contemporary Muslim thinkers. Secondly. NU.

and I do believe that that is what Islam should be like. which was the most important social science journal in Indonesia at the time.have been educated within an Islamic traditional institution that considers leftist thought the same as communism and communism the same as atheism. However. As a santri who respected the pesantren tradition. Ideology and Development) was published by P3M in Jakarta. In 1993 they published Kiri Islam: Antara Modernisme dan Postmodernisme (a translation of Kazou Shimogaki’s book Islamic Left: Between Modernity and Postmodernity) which was a thesis on Hasan Hanafi’s Islamic thoughts. Ideologi dan Pembangunan (Religion. For some. LkiS also translated and published books of these personalities. It was Hanafi’s thought that solved this problem for me. Also a collection of articles. including Hanafi’s pamphlet entitled Maza ya`ni al-yasar al-islami (‘What is it the Islamic Left?’). In the 1980s one of his articles on the Theology of Land was published by the journal Prisma of LP3ES. The publication clearly indicated the influence of Latin . Hanafi’s thoughts played an important role in the early years of the organization because they offered new Islamic views regarding liberation. As one of the activists said: I have for a long time been interested in leftist-inspired social thought that take the side of the marginalized lower-class people. a translated version of a book by Asghar Ali Engineer.regard to the development of democracy and social justice. (Interview. entitled Agama. But I -like other our fellows -. 21-9-2002) LKiS was not the first in introducing Hanafi’s thought in Indonesia. I felt this psychological problem is much more serious than if I would have been accused to be a member of PKI (the forbidden Indonesian Communist Party) by the Army. the way LKiS reintroduced Hanafi’s thoughts by putting ‘Kiri Islam’ (Islamic Left) in the title attracted a large audience. In the same year LKiS published ‘Islam dan Pembebasan’ (Islam and Liberation). Engineer has been known as a Muslim thinker-activist from India who has tried to construct an Islamic version of Liberation Theology based on his own radical reinterpretation of the history of the prophet Muhammad. the encounter with Hanafi’s ideas helped to overcome psychological problems with leftist thoughts.

and the books stimulated discussions at various universities and pesantrens. Khalil Abdul Karim. According to An-Naim. Mohammad Mahmud Taha. such Arkoun. was surprised about the reception among Muslim students. were also introduced to an Indonesian audience. and international law. the idea of implementing shari`a could raise serious problems of human rights. Mernissi. human rights. Farid Essack. 12 Banawiratma. since some kiais were really annoyed by it. al-Jabiri. such as Fazlur Rahman who introduced a neo-modernist Islam and Syed Hossein Nasr with his perennialist Islamic views. These activities made LKiS well known as a publisher about alternative views of Islam.11 It is safe to say that they have been successful in their campaign because many Muslim students became interested in the Theology of Liberation. . 1990) is in this respect interesting because it discusses sensitive issues through an evolutionary approach to the Quran -. in which various contemporary thinkers reflect on An-Naim’s book). He based his impression on the frequency by which he has been invited by Muslim students to give lectures on the subject. book publishing has become a cultural movement involving many young Muslims in developing new discourses of Islam. Ali Harb. but they soon abandoned them because they could not find an activist spirit in their work. Abu-Zayd. especially with regard to the rights of women and non-Muslim citizens. a Indonesian Catholic theologian specialized in Liberation Theology.America’s Liberation Theology on the activist-oriented Islamic thoughts they tried to disseminate. who was sentenced to death by a Sudanese ruler for his critical thoughts -. The book Dekonstruksi Syariah by An-Naim (which is a translation of’ Towards Islamic Reformation: Civil liberties.and opens possibilities for pro-democratic and pro-human rights views in Islamic thought. Along similar lines other Muslim thinkers. Syracuse. To stimulate further discussion. LKiS published Dekonstruksi Syariah II: Kritik Konsep dan Penjelajahan Lain (a translation of ‘Islamic Law Reform and Human Rights: Challenges and Rejoinders’.12 Human rights issues are of particular importance and in this context publications by Abdullahi Ahmed An-Naim and Fatima Mernissi were translated.adopted by An-Naim from his teacher. In Indonesia this book has also caused heated debates among Muslims. Working in this way. 11 It is interesting to observe that some of the community members claimed that they also read books of Muslim thinkers who were popular among modernist students.

and Budiwanti on Sasak Islam. ‘the traditionalists’. . Interfaith Dialogue and Reconciliation’ were held. Under the ‘Belajar Bersama’ program. like Sahal Machfudh (on the fiqh and social issues). which have encouraged discussions on multiculturalism and ‘islam pribumi’ (indigenous Islam) among younger ‘traditionalists’. At the last sessions the participants discuss more detailed possibilities of action plans for their own specific local contexts. on ‘Criticism on Religious Discourses’. four workshop. Facilitated by some experienced activists. LkiS activities were not restricted to publishing because the organization became an important NGO in Yogyakarta concentrating on issues like pluralism. Abu-Zayd’s book on Shafi’i. the founder of the school of thoughts who has been highly respected among the ‘traditionalists’ was translated as well as a critical book on the history of the community by Martin van Bruinessen (1994). and ‘Islam. the workshops. however. Woodward on Javanese Islam. ‘Religion and Feminism’. Since 1997 it has. human rights. and some others in the series Fiqih Rakyat (Fiqh and empowering common people). a workshop usually begins with asking the participants to raise experience-based questions they consider relevant to discuss during the week. organized trainings called ‘Belajar Bersama Islam Transformatif dan Toleran’ (Studying together a transformative and tolerant Islam) and Islam wa taqwim al-daruriyat al-hamsa (Islam and human rights issues). and then continues with debates over the issues. but the debates are oriented to finding practical solutions for the problems that were raised. Adopting andragogical approaches. In the course of time. Another interesting category of books that was published concerned books on so-called ‘local beliefs/islams’. have become forums where experiences of NGOs and student activists from various cities are exchanged. Some theoretical discussions are presented to broaden the participants’ perspective. and empowering civil society. ‘Critical Discourse on Political Islam’. which have been held twice a year during a week in Yogyakarta. Authors who wrote on particular aspects of their religious heritage were also published. with a financial support of the Asia Foundation.LKiS also publishes books that criticize the cultural heritages of their own community. Hussein Muhammad (fiqh and gender issues). including Paul Stange’s book on Javanese faith.

they also received the prestigious Prince Claus Award from the Netherlands for their contribution to development and culture. which would narrow the public sphere and violate other citizens’ rights. which cab be solved. LKiS has been considered to be one of the pioneering NGOs promoting pluralist and pro-democratic views. religious tolerance. Unfortunately. The use of the concept of al-daruriyat al-hamsa (an old concept of basic principles of Islamic law by Al-Ghazali that has been reinterpreted in terms of human rights) is a strategy to make the program acceptable in pesantren circles. women rights. to discuss these and to and make a priority of problems. Tasikmalaya and Probolinggo where workshops dealt with local issues. they have initiated pilot projects in two small towns in Java. they have concentrated on the dissemination of a counter-discourse against the tendency to implement a rigid Islamic shari`a. In Probolinggo they have tried to organize tobacco planters in order to strengthen their bargaining position against traders the local government. and solidarity with the marginalized. in Java. Every week 40. Participants in each town are finally endorsed to unite themselves as a group of local human rights advocates.Unlike the ‘Belajar Bersama’ workshops in Yogyakarta. In Tasikmalaya. The project is still in progress.000 flyers are distributed. which discuss issues like pluralism. The purpose of this workshop is to make santris sensitive to all kind of human rights violations in their own environments. As part of their campaign for pluralism the LKiS has published weekly Friday flyers entitled ‘Ikhtilaf’ (Pluralism) distributed among 200 mosques in various cities. The same issues are also the topics of the weekly religious talk show through the radio. workshops on ‘Islam wa taqwim al-daruriyat al-hamsa’ make a tour along various pesantrens. . antiviolence. During the workshops the participants are stimulated to identify human rights problems in their own environment. especially but not exclusively. In the same year. but it has stimulated various Muslim groups to voice their opinions. and that is why the Independent Journalists Association of Indonesia bestowed them the Suadi Tasrif Award in 2002. As an experiment of implementing a ‘transformative and tolerant Islam’. this effort has been successful due to political conflict in which kiais were involved who also participated in the project. democracy.

multiculturalism. It has been established as a network of activists of 18 towns in Java. Today. civil society and women empowerment. they were thinking of developing a network that would facilitate the participants dealing with local human rights issues. which were held at least once a year. which contributed to a more independent stance of young activists within the NU. They were thinking of a network with activities that are not limited to organizing meeting to exchange various ideas and experiences. It is interesting to see that in a time when exclusive fundamentalist Islamic discourses seem to gain ground. served two purposes: (1) to discuss a special topic of their interests. such as the backwardness and marginalization of NU followers. The idea was also the result of a critical reflection on the networks they developed so far. The meetings. Syarikat works on what is called a ‘grass-roots cultural reconciliation’ project. the Muslim Community Advocating the People) is one of the most important networks in this context. which was developed since 1991 through informal meetings of activists across Java. It was the result of a series of human rights trainings.Inter-city activist networks One of the most important contributions of LKiS is the activist network. social reconciliation. is due to the mushrooming initiatives of these young NU networks in various towns that borders between different ethnic and religious groups are transcended. with Yogyakarta as their centre. pluralism. The network has been of particular importance in disseminating alternative Islamic discourses and establishing a common paradigm for the movement. and (2) to evaluate activities of local groups. After a two-years long series. which had been organized by NGO activists in Yogyakarta. Syarikat and its grassroots reconciliation Syarikat (Masyarakat Santri untuk Advokasi Rakyat. but one that would involve all members on a . The meetings were deliberately moving from one town to another to stimulate local activists developing their own networks. the network is one of the many networks that have been developed by various NGOs of NU youth.

see Hermawan Sulistyo 1997. see also Hefner 1990. It was already a topic of discussion in the mid-1990s. Pekalongan and Yogyakarta.13 Yet the killings have been followed by the stigmatization of the victims and their families. In the latter case those who came to power after the apartheid regime were the victims of the system. . which were considered to be a historical burden that should be taken away. It was realized. whereas in the Indonesia the victims still experience severe political and social discrimination. The awareness of the importance of this reconciliation effort is not new. the 1965 conflict and the ensuing killings of thousands of people. Among these especially NU followers have been very active in terminating the PKI while emphasizing the religious legitimation of this elimination. more in particular between NU followers and those who are considered as victims. The idea of initiating cultural reconciliation was inspired by developments in South Africa and the experiences of victims of the former apartheid regime. they decided to take ‘grass-roots cultural reconciliation’ between people involved in the 1965 tragedy. because many civilian societal groups have been involved as well. They realized. however. however. It is generally understood that there had been bloody and violent conflicts between the followers of NU and those of the PKI (Indonesian Communist Party) during the mid-1960s.single issue. Under such a situation. For them.14 According to Syarikat. which involved the elimination of their political. reconciliation is relevant in order to develop a democracy for everybody. a cultural reconciliation at grass-root levels was considered to be more reasonable to achieve than political and legal action at the national level. the importance of the latter. especially in East Java. that the Indonesian case differed from the situation in South Africa. as the common issue. For the activists of Syarikat there is a direct link with the democratization of society. The discrimination is not only practiced by state institutions. because democracy is impossible in a society that excludes certain groups 13 14 For an extensive information on this see Cribb 1990. For an exemplary case study. but many experiences had taught them that new political and legal decisions in favor of the victims would not automatically have solved the problems of the victim in everyday life. but it was only after the fall of Soeharto that it was possible to do. After some meetings in Kediri. economic and cultural rights.

on parties who were involved. mediation. What Syarikat intends to do a praxis-oriented investigation. an Indonesian foundation for the study of the 1965/1966 massacre founded in 1999 by some ex-political prisoners). they try to find possible ways of reconciling perpetrators and victims. This usually begins with an investigation of the tragedy itself. The findings reveal that an overgeneralization on the causes and actors of the conflicts. which is permitted by local conditions. this requires also . whereas in other parts of the kabupaten all the local people supported PKI activists. (1) a struggle over material resources. In this context some influential kiais are invited to explain the idea of reconciliation and to ask them to be involved in the process. to indicate the difference with oral history research conducted by professional researchers working with scientific purposes. they found that there were at least three main factors involved. On the causes of the conflicts. The same is also true of the involvement of kiais in the conflicts.e. and the consequences of the killings. which can be found in official history books.Investigation. While investigating. and (3) conflicting ideologies and value systems. mainly land. The investigations have been done for one year in 18 towns across Java focusing on the causes of the conflicts and their processes. It has been generally accepted that kiais had initiated the mass killings and endorsed their santris to participate. the causes cannot be generalized even for a sub-district. which aims deconstruct a long-standing stigma against the victims and their families through the exchanges of memories and developing humanizing views between both parties. the Syarikat approach is also different from that of the YPKP (Yayasan Penelitian Korban Pembunuhan 1965/1966. In some cases. which concentrated on gathering accurate data on the number of victims. as in the case of Cilacap. and public campaign The basic principle along which they work is starting an action. starting with a healing process by asking both victims and actors to tell their own stories. has no empirical ground. However. where the unilateral action for land reform by PKI activists (aksi sepihak) resulted only in some parts of the sub-district in social conflict. This investigation is called riset pembebasan (liberating research). (2) the influence and intervention of supra-local actors. i.

facilitating parties to meet and talk about their experiences during the conflict. such as Kiai Abdullah Faqih and Chasbullah Badawi. while sufism-oriented pesantren generally provided safe heavens for the communists. The NU was the last party involved after their local secretariat was destroyed. The next step of the reconciliation processes is mediation. some kiais are worried about the political consequences of the reconciliation efforts.further research. Especially in East Java the youth organization of the NU. such as Mbah Lim (Klaten) and Abdullah Faqih (Langitan). in Kediri. killed many communists. Banser. Still. The investigation also reveals that the parties involved in the conflict were different from one place to another. The PKI became involved after one of the PNI factions made up a story that PKI activists had kidnapped the children of the other faction who had disappeared for some days. have already given their supports. In Klaten. For example. in Cilacap the conflict started within two conflicting factions of the PNI (Indonesian Nationalist Party). which has been the core of the New Order’s anti-communist discourse. Their attitude is are generally more open after they know that some respected kiais. while NU was not involved. various kiais had different positions. As a matter of fact. however. Among the victims . a town where the conflict between NU and PKI was very bloody. the conflict was between Masyumi and Kokam Muhammadiyah on the one side and PKI on the other. Again. The investigation reveals further that fiqh-oriented pesantrens tended to become involved in the conflicts. Some kiais who are now among the most respected. The Pesantren of Lirboyo did mobilize its santris in exterminating the communists for the latter were believed to have planned to kill kiais and to rob the lands belonging to rich Muslims. but the Pesantren Kedung Lo under Kiai Ma’ruf had been a safe place for the communists who needed protection. Explaining the idea to kiais is one of most challenging tasks for the activists because of the long-standing stigmatization of PKI followers as atheist and anti-religious groups. although some of them later explained that they had done so under military pressure. Some small steps in this mediating process have been taken by investigating and exchanging different stories. did also protect the communists within their pesantren at that time. it is safe to say that in some places there was indeed a bloody conflict between NU and PKI followers.

what happened afterwards. .there was also doubt because some were worried that it would make their life. Participants in these meetings were not limited to NU followers and the victims. He said he was never invited. exchange some of their memories. 15 For more detailed information on these processes taking a district level mediation in Jepara as a case. The old man related how he got a strange but happy feeling when he received the invitation for the meeting. The following story of an old man during a district level mediation in Cilacap illustrates how these people have been treated during the New Order and what the reconciliation has meant to them.15 At the provincial level mediation processes in respectively Banyuwangi. Mediations were held at the level of the village. not even by his neighbors for more than 30 years. But in general they welcomed the idea in an emotional way because for a very long time they nobody had shown any interest in their fate or treated them as human beings. directly involved in the conflicts. but included also their descendants who have been also suffering of a long-standing stigmatization. some of them show their feelings of guilt and apologize -. At the start. much harder. Mediation meetings usually went as follows. district. how they perceive their experiences now. The feeling of being humanized (Javanese: diwongke) has been a dominant theme among the victims who are willing to participate.although not always explicitly -. Discussions sometimes evolve into detailed conversations on the possibility of implementing the reconciliation into some concrete form of cooperation between the two sides. each of the participants is asked to recount what they have experienced in the past. sub-district. see Wajidi 2003. Then.and discuss how to solve the problems of misperceptions or stigmatization within the broader community. which was already difficult. He said he was so happy to receive the invitation that he could not sleep at all the night before because he was worried of waking up too late and missing the meeting. they respond to each other. and finally the province. Semarang and Bandung were concluded by some recommendations and public statements requesting for nondiscriminative policies against the victims and their descendants. what their opinions are about the idea of reconciliation.

the religion I adhered to (Moestahal 2002: 143) . is deconstructive within a dominant Muslim perception that a communist is nothing less than an atheist. it supports workers. Raid is only one among the thousands of PKI activists who were sent without a trial to an isolated camp on Buru Island. and was close to the NU leader. teaching that were in line with the aims of the PKI. Idham Chalid. Based on his own interpretation of some Quranic verses. and even its title. Just as Raid. the leftist movement has had. Moestahal is a Soekarnoist born in Pati. He claims that he was never involved in the Gerakan 30 September 1965 (30th September Movement). as well as the necessity to realize social justice.Public campaigns through books and bulletins. He was detained for his involvement in a workers’ union and sent without a trial to Buru Island. to eliminate the stigmatization of followers of the PKI and their descendants. many views and opinions which were similar to those of Islam. and traditional art performances were also part of the reconciliation process. The aim of these activities is to re-evaluate historical constructions of the tragedy of 1965 and its ensuing conflicts. in Ponorogo. and lower class people who are treated inhuman … Thus. although he was a member of the PKI. The first book Syarikat published in this respect is an autobiography of Hasan Raid. graduated from the famous pesantren Gontor. Central Java. such as the PKI. Islam highly emphasizes the importance of solidarity with the poor and marginalized. and to build bridges between communities who used to exclude each other. Since the colonial periods till the independence of the country. in my opinion. The book. Since I completed my elementary school I had been interested in (leftist) socialistcommunist movement. He grew up in a religious (santri) Muslim family. The main point he wants to make is that the reason why he decided to join in PKI was his commitment to Islamic social teachings. in Islamic language [the party] supports madhlumiin [sic!] (the oppressed). Pergulatan Seorang Muslim-Komunis (A struggle of a Communist-Muslim). he decided to be a member of a communist organization because of his religious commitment: … the program of this party is populist in character. Another autobiography that follows the same argument is Dari Gontor ke Pulau Buru: Memoar H. Achmadi Moestahal.

but who was then detained on charge of taking part in the coup. Yani’s position after the abortive coup of 1965. The stories presented in RUAS are about religious person who became victims of Indonesia’s dark history. which was banned during the New Order. a Soekarnoist who had been appointed at General A. Ketoprak is a very popular among traditional Javanese. Bondan himself is one of the victims because his mother was jailed for joining Gerwani. It was for the purpose of presenting an alternative history that Syarikat published the memoirs of Pranoto Reksosamudro. the art performance is only a part of the process. Ketoprak. Syarikat has been lucky for having someone like Bondan. Other translations include the Indonesian Killings edited by Robert Cribb. the moral message of these stories is that the long-standing stigmatization of victimized person has no empirical grounds. which allows no space for an alternative interpretation. stigmatized. some of whom were in fact never involved in the communist movement at all. Syarikat also published a translated version of Ben Anderson and Ruth McVey’s Cornell Paper.500 copies). as a medium for public campaigns. Another important part of Syarikat’s public campaign is the publication of a bimonthly Bulletin. the bulletin is distributed among the victims.Publishing biographical works (with its subversive character) could be an effective discursive strategy against the official construction of history. chapters of the NU and pesantrens. In fact. Printed in a limited edition (1. In the afternoon a parade attracts people’s attention to the issue of cultural reconciliation. and jailed without a trial. to participate in its campaign. Many people like this kind of public campaign very much. the women’s organization of the PKI. a Yogyakartan traditional art director. In a lighter touch. it features some human-interest stories of those who have been victimized. as if there are no problematic things inside. The story is an allegorical drama about a ruler who has done wrong. Last but not least. they also use a traditional art performance. but never realized this until the people toppled him. The New Order even had done a ‘naturalization of history’ (Budiawan 2003) by publishing an official book (Buku Putih) on the 1965 Movement without mentioning any author. Again. and especially common people. and some wealthy persons of the victimized people are even willing to support it financially. . RUAS. which has so far seen twelve editions.

A Trisula monument commemorating the success of the total extermination of the PKI has been built in the town of Blitar in 1968. a NU leader who is also a wealthy businessman donated money for a cooperative involving the two communities as its members. the New Order has classified this town as an ‘unclean environment’ (tidak bersih lingkungan) for its massive communist presence in the past. In retrospect. NU leaders were initially not willing to co-operate and the story of Kiai Sulaiman (d. He also offered jobs to ex-PKI members who are interested in working in his company. where a harsh conflict between NU and PKI had taking place. But then they decided to continue their efforts gradually. The tension started when a list mentioning names of kiais who would be killed by the PKI was circulated among NU followers. while they kept trying to find a way to persuade the kiai. Stigmatization of the ex-PKI seems to have been successful here and that made the idea of reconciliation not easy. That is why the indoctrination of the official interpretation of Pancasila has been held twice a month during the New Order (Adam 2003).A case in Blitar Selatan In some towns the cultural reconciliation processes have gone further into concrete mutual help between the communities. 2003) illustrates this. This is important since finding a job is a serious problem for those who are stigmatized as ‘communists’. Finally. In Blora. before he went away without saying a word. As Adam notes. on March 2002. where he stated his support to the idea with a message that this should be done very carefully in order to avoid annoyed feelings among the parties involved. the kiai could only sit for about fifteen minutes on his chair. histories and their meanings. At about the same time PKI followers received a list of PKI members who would be killed . and the memory of ‘the cruel PKI’ has been continually reproduced through various media. it was revealed that there was no serious tension between the two groups before the September 1965 Movement. When Syarikat activists for the first time came to see him and tried to explain their idea of cultural reconciliation. he agreed to attend a mediation meeting. have been continually contested. Blitar Selatan is also a place where memories. after half a year. A more interesting story is the case of Blitar Selatan. Somewhat frustrated the activists went away.

but some cases indicated the endorsement and intervention of the military. Discussing this issue. Although there was no public testimony like in the South Africa. the dialogue has broken down the psychological wall between the two communities. The lists put the two communities in a ‘to kill or to be killed’ situation at that time. For a long time both parties had looked at the monument with a traumatic feeling. What brought all this into a highly symbolic moment was that the ceremony was held in front of the Trisula Monument. both sides claimed that they never had made such a list. They then suspected the military of creating ‘a total extermination scenario’ of PKI followers. That moment a new event has been created to neutralize memories of the bitter past. At the meeting. The peak of this process was a symbolic cultural reconciliation event in the form of the ceremonial celebration of the migration (hijra) of the prophet Muhammad from Mecca to Banser of the NU. the truth has nevertheless been revealed. The monument has become a witness of social reconciliation. Former Bansers also claimed that they were instructed by the military to arrest or kill the communists who would escape from the military siege. Adam describes the process nicely when he writes: In front of the monument. The NU community performed Kentrung. the meaning of the presence of that historical site has changed (Adam 2003: 8). (Adam: 2003) It is also interesting to note that the cultural reconciliation has gone further into concrete action in this town. and this situation lasted in this region till 1968. The two communities decided to cooperate and install pipes to . financed and organized in a participatory way. involving both communities. But now through the common art performances and with a different psychological situation. Each community was required to perform its own traditional arts as part of the ceremony. both parties who are sitting side by side are now being reminded of their confronting positions in 1968: The BTI/PKI as the target of military operations. and more concrete action was designed. the killing seemed to have happened in a spontaneous way. while the ex-PKI performed Campursari. however. the NU backing the soldiers. According to a kiai. but at the same moment the new event has been recorded in their collective memory. The event was designed.

it was clear from the beginning that everything had been designed. Badan Kesejahteraan Masjid. At the same time. There were two different responses. Lakpesdam. ICMI. A local official opened the meeting by describing what he saw as the phenomenon of “the birth of new communists”. who asked the forum not to curse the organizers before requesting any clarification from them first. As Robert Cribb states. 16-10-2003). and asked each participant to bring with him an official stamp their organization. local government officials circulated an already typed statement. They also cursed the organizers of the seminar as a new generation of communists who intended to revive their ideology and movement starting from Blitar. and others) who cursed the communists for “the cruelty they committed in the past” and rejected their “religiously forbidden ideas” as well as the idea of the seminar. Anyway. KAHMI. this is not the end of the story. The first was from ‘modernist’ and ‘revivalist’ groups (like local representatives of PII. in May 2003. Muhammadiyah. Pemuda Muhammadiyah. However. However. and finally persuaded directed the audience to prevent the seminar. Then he continued by describing what he saw as “the evidence of the communists’ cruelty in the past”. The former group agreed to sign. while the latter went out. and GP Anshor). Shortly after the debate. This is exactly what happened later in Blitar Selatan. Ten days before the planned seminar day. a local NGO. through a “discourse of victim-hood” (personal communication. Indonesia is a country without any comparison in its unfinished anti-communist campaign. when other NGOs based in Depok and Malang (which are also culturally linked to NU) worked together to organize a seminar on the ‘Reinterpretation of the history of the Tragedy of 1965’. the local government held a meeting inviting all local Muslim organizations to discuss the seminar. the Center for Indonesian Communication Society (CICS) circulated . while those who disagreed were allowed to leave the meeting room. and the next episode reflects delicate problems that are inherent to the issue. The second type of response came from groups affiliated with NU (PCNU. Those who agreed with the contents were asked to sign it and put the stamps of their organizations on it. due to their careless approach. where most of the ex-PKI members lived. clean water into dry areas in Blitar Selatan. As far as the idea was concerned. this was not different from what Syarikat has been doing. it soon raised political problems.

How can this be explained? Some historical developments during the New Order have already been mentioned but there is another factor that should be emphasized here. in a strategic planning meeting. Concluding remarks In this chapter I have presented two cases that illustrate the efforts of NU youth to develop new religious discourses and concrete activities relevant to the idea of empowering civil society. With this . This meeting was attended by at least 1. This tendency towards autonomy supports efforts to develop new ideas and alternative activities regarding the empowerment of civil invitation to a ‘counter-seminar’ that was planned to be held one day earlier than the seminar under discussion. And instead of supporting the program of Syarikat. not because they are all open-minded or progressive. there is still room for optimism. The ‘discourse of victim hood’ had been used to preserve the stigmatization of the real victims. The seminar itself was finally cancelled. which have hardly any parallels among young people of ‘modernist’ backgrounds. of ulamas or kiais who always maintain their own autonomous position. while the main streets were decorated with anti-communist banners. the ‘counter seminar’ presented Yusuf Hasyim (Jombang) and Maksum Jauhari (Kediri) as key note speakers. both of whom are NU personalities who rejected any reconciliation with the communists. they have included cultural reconciliation as part of their own agenda. The NU could be better defined as a network. A month later. but because they are used to adopt a range of different positions. Fortunately. they decided to continue the cultural reconciliation. As some observers have said. and that is the NU’s inherent tendency to resist all efforts towards unification.000 people. instead of an organization. the audience made a rally in the town in cars already provided by local government. there have been remarkable developments among the NU youth in terms of religious discourses and pioneering related activities. Afterwards. Taking “Revealing political betrayal of the PKI against East Java Society and Government in 1948 and 1965” as its main theme. The bad experience has not weakened the commitment to cultural reconciliation among NU followers in Blitar.

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