Martin van Bruinessen, "Post-Suharto Muslim engagements with civil society and democracy”, paper presented at the Third International Conference and Workshop “Indonesia in Transition”, organised by the KNAW and Labsosio, Universitas Indonesia, August 24-28, 2003. Universitas Indonesia, Depok.



Post-Suharto Muslim engagements
with civil society and democratisation


Martin van Bruinessen
ISIM / Utrecht University



Does Islam as a system of beliefs or as a political force have something positive to contribute to the hoped-for democratisation of Indonesia, or will it largely be an impediment and a threat to the emergence of an open society? Many participants in the political process have strong opinions on these questions. There are those who argue — and not without some justification — that reformist political Islam represents the only significant alternative to the patrimonial, authoritarian and corrupt political culture pervading almost all parties and thereby is the country’s only hope for democracy. Others — and these include many committed Muslims besides secular nationalists and non-Muslims — fear that the Muslim ambition of turning Indonesia into an Islamic state is perhaps the most serious threat the country is presently facing, the more so since radical Muslim groups appear to be courted by power-greedy military and civilian elite factions. There is a widespread and understandable fear of resurgent political Islam — but this resurgent political Islam is itself in large measure a response to another perceived threat, the fear that Islam’s very presence in Indonesia is being threatened. 


Islam under threat?

Many Muslims, and not just the radical, believe in the existence of an international conspiracy, involving the assorted enemies of Islam — Zionists, Christian missionaries, imperialist politicians, and their various local allies — aiming to destroy or weaken Islam in Indonesia. Considering Islam as harmful to their interests, these conspirators not only fight it by force of arms where this is possible, but they also try to subvert it from within through sex, drugs and rock-and-roll or, more dangerously, through spreading deviant teachings of various kinds ranging from Shi`ism and heterodox mysticism to what is broadly subsumed under the label of “liberal Islam”.[1]

Many of the Muslim NGO-type activities about which I shall speak shortly are perceived by some of the radicals to be part of a concerted assault on real Islam, with the intent of either turning Muslims into Christians or defenders of Christian interests, or of spreading heresies that will tap the strength of the umma. If Islam is to survive in Indonesia, in this view, the true Muslims will need to get their act together and mobilise themselves against the new Jewish-Christian Crusade. Besides the Christian militias in the Moluccas and the Christian missionaries who are attempting to effect mass conversions, some of the most visible actors in this Crusade are institutions like USAID, The Asia Foundation, and The Ford Foundation, which between them are sponsoring most of the Muslim NGO activities and do so quite explicitly in order to combat the spread of fundamentalist and anti-Western Islamic trends.

The obsession with anti-Islamic conspiracies has deep historical roots, in part going back to apprehensions about missionary intentions in colonial times and much strengthened by the perception of mass conversions to Christianity in the aftermath of the violent events of 1965-66. Many Muslim leaders feared that, parallel to the Western efforts of those years to “roll back” communism (in which the overthrow of Sukarno was one of the more successful episodes), there was a similar drive to destroy the political strength of Islam in Indonesia. Kristenisasi, “Christianisation”, through the spread of Christian institutions and proselytisation among Muslims, was a key element in this perceived strategy.[2] Another aspect was the forced depoliticisation of Islam and de-Islamisation of the state apparatus in the early New Order, a policy widely attributed to Ali Murtopo and the Chinese Catholic intellectuals manning the influential think tank CSIS.[3] Some believed the controversial ideas of Nurcholish Madjid and his circle, which received much press coverage in the 1970s, to be deliberately sponsored by the regime in order to subvert “real” Islam.[4]

Apprehensions about Kristenisasi were strongest among the activists of the Indonesian Council for Islamic Predication (Dewan Dakwah Islamiyah Indonesia, or DDII), a body that had been established in 1967 by Muhammad Natsir and other former leaders of the Masyumi party. The party had been a principled opponent of Sukarno’s Guided Democracy and had been obliged to dissolve itself in 1960; its leaders had been jailed by Sukarno. Although released from jail after Suharto’s takeover, they were not allowed to establish a new party, which no doubt contributed to their devoting themselves entirely to dakwah. The DDII established close contacts with the Saudi-sponsored and financed Islamic World League (Rabitat al-`Alam al-Islami or briefly Rabita) and through its Rabita connections increasingly came under the influence of Middle Eastern currents of Islamic thought, of both the Muslim Brotherhood and the “Wahhabi” (Saudi-Salafi) varieties.[5] Due to these contacts, DDII activists began to perceive the issue of Kristenisasi in global terms, as part of a wider Jewish-Christian conspiracy against Islam.[6] They became increasingly interested in the confrontations between Muslims and superior enemies that appeared to be taking place across the globe: in Afghanistan, Palestine, Kashmir, the southern Philippines, and later Bosnia and Chechnya. Assertive demonstrations by the Indonesian Committee for Solidarity with the Islamic World (KISDI), which was established towards 1990 by DDII activists, became a prominent presence in the streets of Jakarta during the 1990s. By the end of the decade, KISDI and various other, ideologically similar groups were speaking of world-wide Jewish-Christian conspiracies involving Indonesian Chinese businessmen, liberal Muslim thinkers and the left-leaning student opposition. This sort of discourse was strongly supported by certain elements of the regime, most notably generals Prabowo Subianto and Z.A. Maulani. In spite of their strong support of Suharto until the very end, these groups survived quite successfully into the “Reformasi” period.[7]

Some of the developments following the fall of Suharto appeared to confirm the predictions of the various peddlers of conspiracy theories. East Timor gained independence, which was seen as a victory for Catholicism. Indonesian Muslim settlers, mostly traders, poor workers and civil servants from Sulawesi and Java, had to leave. Clashes between (Christian) locals and (Muslim) immigrants in other parts of East Indonesia could easily be interpreted as evidence of a concerted effort to purge East Indonesia of Muslims and, perhaps, to ‘roll back’ Islam throughout Indonesia. In fact, the fall of Suharto also appeared to corroborate the conspiracy theories: hadn't the West always supported him as long as his policies were anti-Islamic? Could it be a coincidence that he was brought down after he had been drawing ever closer to Islam and no longer privileged the Christian minority? Similarly, the ‘war on terror’ that was unleashed worldwide after September 11, 2001 could only too easily be interpreted as a war of the West against Islam, confirming the pattern predicted by the conspiracy theories and contributing to a siege mentality among many of Indonesia’s Muslims. The obsession with anti-Muslim conspiracies until recently was a relatively marginal phenomenon, more at home on the disaffected fringes of Indonesia’s Muslim community than in the mainstream. One of the most disquieting developments is that is has gradually been taking hold of sections of the moderate centre as well, and that ambitious young politicians find it expedient to stake their careers on appealing to these fears.[8]


The threat of the Islamic state

The paranoia on the Muslim side is mirrored by similar anxieties among the non-Muslim minorities concerning Muslim intentions: is Indonesia gradually being turned into an Islamic state, with shari`a regulations replacing secular legislation? What will this mean for the position of Christian, Hindu and Buddhist citizens, or for secular-minded Muslims? A selective perception of recent developments can make for a very worrisome perspective. The anxieties are as old as the Republic and go back to the debates on the Jakarta Charter.[9] The physical destruction of the Communist Party in 1965-66 left political Islam (well, in fact only the NU) in the position of the only significant surviving grassroots movement, making it potentially more threatening. Political Islam was forced onto the defensive during the first two decades of the New Order, but a string of violent incidents — associated with Komando Jihad in the late 1970s, the Imran group in the early 1980s, and the underground ‘Islamic State and Army of Indonesia’ (NII/TII) — kept minority fears alive.

Those fears were seriously exacerbated during Suharto’s last decade, when reformist Islam appeared significantly empowered through an alliance of convenience with Suharto. The status of Islamic courts was elevated to the same level as that of ordinary state courts, and the government had a ‘compilation’ of Islamic law made that was in fact a codification — which was seen by many Muslims as well as non-Muslims as a step towards the integration of the shari`a in Indonesia’s legal system. The establishment of ICMI and its successful campaign for ‘proporsionalitas’, which amounted to replacing many Christians in leading positions by Muslims, the intimidating demonstrations by KISDI and others against Christian media struck fear into many Christian hearts. Suharto’s final years saw a dramatic increase in anti-Christian and anti-Chinese violence.[10]

In the post-Suharto years, the emergence of Muslim militias, with their apparent military and other elite support and more than adequate funding, further added to Christian fears, especially when these began participating in local and regional inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts. Jihad and shari`a became prominent terms in Muslim public discourse. In several provinces and kabupaten vocal movements calling for enactment of the shari`a emerged. Some of the militant movements, such as the Majelis Mujahidin (established in 2000) openly advocated jihad in the Moluccas and the struggle, if necessary violent, for the establishment of an Islamic state.[11] Several of the Muslim parties in the freely elected parliament advocated the adoption of the Jakarta Charter; many of the younger radicals believed that not only Muslims but also non-Muslims should be subjected to the shari`a.

The Jakarta Charter was discussed extensively in the 2001 and 2002 MPR sessions, and the matter was resolved once again by shelving the famous seven words, for there was no majority supporting it. The two largest Muslim organisations, NU and Muhammadiyah, had resolutely made a clear stand against this attempt to enshrine the shari`a in the Constitution. This is not the end of efforts to give the shari`a force of law in Indonesia, however. Attempts have been made to use the enhanced authority of regional parliaments under the regional autonomy law to get elements of the shari`a adopted into regional regulation. Islamist bureaucrats in the Ministry of Justice are reportedly preparing a large number of legal changes that will amount to a significant degree of Islamisation. Non-Muslims also perceive a deliberate effort at sneaking Islamisation in other new legislation, such as the new bill on national education, which obliges schools to provide pupils with education in their own religion — so that all Christian schools will become centres of Muslim education. (Many Muslims, on the other hand, perceived the better quality of Christian schools to constitute danger to their religion and feared Muslim children would be drawn away from their native religion towards Christianity.)

It is not only the radical militias and the politicians agitating for Islamisation of the legal system, incidentally, who are causes of Christian anxieties. There is also a widespread suspicion of the intentions of more moderate Muslims. Some believe that Muhammadiyah and /or the alumni of the Muslim student organisation HMI are carrying out a well-planned strategy for getting control of key institutions and decision-making positions. Whatever Muslim politicians and activists are doing, and whatever their real intentions, it can only too easily be perceived as part of a wider anti-Christian conspiracy. Conspiratorial worldviews are widespread among Christians as well as Muslims in Indonesia. Both sides find apparent confirmation of conspiracy theories in many recent developments, which can only have a negative impact on the already low levels of social trust.


Who wants the shari`a and why?

The perception that not just radical Islamists but perhaps a majority of mainstream Muslims want the state to be more Islamic appeared to receive confirmation in an opinion survey carried out in 2002 by the research institute PPIM.  The most surprising finding of this survey, which was widely reported in the press, was that no less than two thirds of Indonesian Muslims all over the country stated that they believed Islamic governance to be best for the nation; an even slightly higher percentage answered that the state should enforce the obligation for all Muslims to live by the shari`a.[12] This is a finding that calls for some comments.

The first question that imposes itself is, what happened to the abangan and the secular Muslims who do not desire an Islamic state? Have their numbers really been reduced to less than a third now? Or does the stated preference for Islamic governance and the shari`a perhaps reflect other concerns? An even higher percentage of Muslim respondents, 88%, claimed that they ‘very frequently’ or ‘quite frequently’ performed the daily prayers and no less than 94% claimed to regularly fast in Ramadan. Both strike me as very high percentages, which may reflect a wish to please the interviewer rather than an effort to be perfectly candid. As long as the shari`a remains an abstract term, it may be difficult for a Muslim to say she or he does not support it. Once concrete implications are mentioned, the degree of commitment to the shari`a may prove to be considerably less. This is borne out by the response to the question whether one would vote for representatives who vow to struggle for implementation of the shari`a. Not more than 46% of the respondents said yes, and we know that those who actually voted for Islamist parties in the 1999 elections constitute a mere 16% of the Muslims (14% of all Indonesians). However, an amazing 53% voiced support for the various radical Islamic groups and militias.

Support for various practices associated with the shari`a differed considerably. Almost a quarter of the Muslim respondents spoke out in favour of Islamic punishments such as cutting off the hands of thieves, and 36% agree that the state should oblige women to wear a veil. Women’s participation in social and political life is, however, endorsed by a large majority; 7% think a woman should not be a member of parliament, 26% that she cannot be the president of the country. On inheritance, long an issue on which Indonesian tradition (adat) and the shari`a were at odds, about half said to favour the shari`a’s unequal division between sons and daughters.

There are no comparable quantitative data for the 1950s or the 1970s, but most observers would agree that these figures appear to represent a considerable change and would be inclined to attribute this change primarily to the rise of Middle Eastern-style Islamic activism. However, detailed analysis of the survey data shows that strong pro-shari`a attitudes (as measured by the above questions) correlate with rural background, low education and low socio-economic status.[13] This seems to point to a rather different social category than that commonly associated with Islamic radicalism. Radical Islamists everywhere tend to be relatively well-educated, lower middle class and socially climbing. Indonesia too has such Islamists, most typically represented by the Partai Keadilan (Sejahtera), but their numbers are too small to make a noticeable mark in a nation-wide survey. The high percentage of pro-shari`a responses appears to reflect a general rural conservatism rather than support for an Islamic revolution. This conservative attitude is perhaps most prominently embodied in the vice-president, Hamzah Haz. Mujani found no correlation (neither positive nor negative) between this pro-shari`a attitude and membership of NU or Muhammadiyah, but a negative correlation with participation in social activities outside one’s own narrow group. The conservative Islamists, he concludes, tend to isolate themselves from the larger society. They remain a minority everywhere in the country but are significantly more numerous in Banten, West Java, South Sulawesi and West Sumatra than in Yogyakarta or Jakarta.[14]

Not surprisingly, the four mentioned provinces are, besides Aceh, exactly those where there has been a strong demand to implement the shari`a at the local level. Apart from West Sumatra, these are the provinces where the Darul Islam movement has its strongest historical roots and is still very active underground. In none of these regions does the demand for the shari`a appear to be associated with a clear conceptual model of the Islamic state, such as have been developed in the Middle East and South Asia and widely discussed in Indonesian student circles since the 1980s. To the best of my knowledge, the only practical measures proposed (and partly and irregularly put into practice) concern veiling in public and other restrictions of women’s freedom of movement.[15]


NU and Muhammadiyah as pillars of civil society

Another surprising finding of the PPIM survey mentioned above is the high percentage of respondents who identify themselves to some extent with NU or Muhammadiyah, 42 and 12 percent respectively. Those who strongly identify themselves with these associations constitute 17 and 4 percent. This confirms the position of these organisations as the stable and moderate centre of the Indonesian ummah and makes especially NU appear as even more formidable than its claims of representing thirty million followers. Even more significant is the finding that strong identification with NU or Muhammadiyah correlates with active involvement in various other, non-religious civil society activities (such as arisan, voluntary activities in village or ward, sports, cultural clubs, co-operatives, labour unions and professional organisations). In Mujani and Liddle’s words, these respondents “tend to be attracted to, and involved in, matters connected to the public interest. (…) they are politically active, they discuss political problems with friends and neighbours, read political news in newspapers, follow political news on television, and support political parties.[16]

This sounds almost too good to be true, like a textbook illustration of the belief (inspired by Putnam’s influential study on Italy) that social trust generated in one sphere of life is almost automatically transferred other spheres and ultimately society in general. If Mujani and Liddle are correct in drawing their conclusion (which seems however more clear-cut than the data warrant[17]), this would make these two Muslim mass organisations essential vehicles of a democratic climate, the pillars of civil society and, as they say, ‘bulwarks against Islamism.’ More cautious analysts, and those more suspicious of the validity of the data compiled by such questionnaires, will have to concede that the authors do point to an important and rather neglected aspect of the political process, the role of NU and Muhammadiyah in inculcating civic values in their members. And, as observed above, these associations did take a clear stand against the recent attempts to reinstate the Jakarta Charter (even though parts of their constituencies are strongly in favour of enacting the shari`a).

In discussions on and studies of civil society in Indonesia, during the 1990s and early 2000s, relatively little attention has been shown to these large associations. In the growing volume of studies on Islam and civil society, they may be mentioned in passing but seldom appear to be thought of as part of civil society themselves, unlike say students’ associations, ICMI and issue-oriented NGOs. Although there are quite a few recent studies of Muhammadiyah and especially of NU, most of these focus on their religious discourse and system of religious education or on their role in national politics. There has hardly been any sociological research on the role these associations play in the daily lives of their members and followers.[18] The PPIM survey constitutes a useful reminder that these unspectacular mainstream associations deserve more appreciation and attention than they have been receiving.


NGO-type activities in Muslim circles

Since Suharto’s fall, numerous international agencies have attempted to stimulate the democratic process by supporting a wide range of NGOs. Great hopes for the democratic potential of NGOs of course predates Indonesia’s Reformasi period (Eldridge 1995; Uhlins 1997; cf. Setiawan 2000), and internationally supported NGO work in fact goes back to the early years of the New Order period.

LP3ES, a national-level NGO established by activists of the ‘generation of 1966’ with Masyumi or PSI backgrounds, was the first to attempt to reach out to Muslim rural communities. Supported by the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung (a foundation allied with the German Liberal Party), it initiated in the early 1970s a program of studies and pilot projects that intended to raise the potential of the pesantren as a medium and motor of rural and human resource development. LP3ES teamed up with Abdurrahman Wahid, who had recently returned from studies in the Middle East and who could provide easy access to pesantren as well as advise on the selection of pesantren to work with, and around 1980 with a community of former student activists from ITB, who were interested in the concept of appropriate technology (AT) and carried out a number of AT projects in selected pesantren and surrounding communities. Various other types of grassroots activities took place, prominent among them training of pesantren youth and discussions on societal and religious topics. A second generation of NGO activists was trained, who in the 1980s and 1990s spawned a new wave of NGOs. By the mid-1980s pesantren-based development efforts shifted to a new NGO named P3M (Centre for the Study and Developent of Pesantren and Society). The most significant contribution of P3M was however in challenging and developing traditionalist Muslim discourse. Over the past 17 years, P3M initiated important debates on religion and societal affairs including land conflicts, gender relations, parliamentary democracy, and corruption.

In urban environments another early NGO, LSP, carried out numerous projects (with a variety of international sponsors), concentrating on the informal sector and co-operatives. Like LP3ES and its pesantren program, LSP was a breeding ground for the next generation of activists. LSP’s leading activist, Adi Sasono, had a strong Masyumi background and was much concerned with the relative backwardness and weak representation of Muslims in the country’s economy and political life. He was also more of a political strategist than most NGO activists. Not surprisingly he came to play an important role in ICMI in the 1990s and became minister of co-operatives under Habibie (presently he is the general chairman of ICMI). He has remained a pivotal figure in civil society-type activities of Indonesia’s ‘modernist’ Muslims.

In the 1990s, various new NGOs emerged, many of them established by persons who had previous experience in programs set up by LP3ES or LSP. Most of these new NGOs emerged in response to the programs of foreign sponsors, who were in need of Indonesian counterparts. The Ford Foundation and The Asia Foundation (and less visibly USAID and a range of other foreign agencies) between them are responsible for most of Indonesia’s booming NGO industry, including the Muslim NGOs, and for to a considerable extent setting their agendas. Most of the Muslim NGOs working at the grassroots have some personal or ideological affiliation with NU (see also Wajidi in this volume). Activists of Muhammadiyah and similar reformist backgrounds tend to get involved in a different type of efforts than the typical NGO: discussion groups and other forms of adult education, some charitable work, and co-operatives. They tend to be less dependent on sponsoring by foreign agencies (although there may be some Middle Eastern money around).

Some influential Muslim NGOs take pains not to appear too closely associated with either NU or Muhammadiyah, such as Rahima, which is specifically taking on gender issues, organises training for girls and young women mostly but not exclusively of pesantren background, and attempts to develop an Islamic feminist discourse, critically engaging with established views and current teachings that place women in a subservient position. A more recent phenomenon, but not an NGO proper, is the Liberal Islam Network (JIL), which is trying to win back the initiative in setting the terms of debates on Islam and society from the Islamists. The network started out as with a mailing list and website, soon adding a radio program, relayed by local stations in many Indonesian cities, and a syndicated newspaper column. Its core members have deliberately sought a high profile in the media because they feel that Muslim intellectuals have too long been involved in arcane discussions and left the production of simple and accessible texts on Islam for large audiences to the Islamists. More than any other group, the Liberal Islam Network sees the struggle against narrow and intolerant interpretations of Islam as its chief mission. Unsurprisingly, Islamists of various stripes soon identified JIL as one of their own chief enemies.[19]

Most of the Muslim NGOs that flourished since the 1990s have shown themselves very open-minded towards non-Muslims and eager to engage in inter-religious dialogue and joint activities. Most Muslim NGO activists feel more at ease with their counterparts of Christian background than with fellow Muslims active in Islamist associations. The relaxed relations with non-Muslims distinguish the NGOs sharply from the Islamist groups, whether conservative or reform-minded. Fostering or avoiding inter-religious relations have become matters of principle for both.


Another type of civil society organisation: usrah and jama`ah

It is common to consider the various types of NGOs in Indonesia as constituent elements of civil society. Mass organisations such as NU and Muhammadiyah constitute a distinct types of voluntary association but it will be obvious to most observers that they play an important role in fostering a vibrant civic life and constitute perhaps the very core of Muslim civil society. There is a third type of association, however, that is rarely if ever mentioned in overviews of civil society, except perhaps as a threat to it. I shall call these associations jama`ah, a term that many of them use to describe their own distinct form of organisation and solidarity.

The term jama`ah became a household word in 2001 with the arrest of a group that had planned terrorist attacks against American targets in Singapore and that allegedly was part of a transnational terrorist network named Jama`ah Islamiyah.[20] The latter is a special case, and its very existence has been doubted by many Indonesians precisely because they understand a jama`ah to be something different. The term literally means congregation; each mosque has its jama`ah, both in the concrete sense of the people actually present at any particular prayer and in the more general sense of those regularly praying there. More recently, by those who wish to find in Islam authentically Islamic concepts of social, economic and political thought, the term has also come to be used to designate a specifically Islamic form of organisation. This usage of the term is associated with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun) and South Asia’s Jama`at-i Islami, and it was adopted by their Indonesian emulators.

The ideas of the Brotherhood and the Jama`at-i Islami were in Indonesia mediated by the DDII and spread to various mosque-based networks. Somewhat simplifying, we may distinguish university-based networks and networks connecting non-campus mosques, which developed independently although they were aware of one another. The major non-campus network was the semi-official Badan Kontak Pemuda dan Remaja Masjid Indonesia (Contact Organ of Indonesian Mosque Youth, BKPRMI or shorter BKPM). Apparently unknown to the authorities, the most radical ideas and plans were communicated in this network, and several of the most radical jama`ah emerged here, such as the jama`ah of the radical preacher Imran in Bandung, whose followers assaulted a police station to acquire firearms and later hijacked a Garuda airplane.[21] The radical teachers Abdullah Sungkar and Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, of Jama`ah Islamiyah fame, recruited their followers in this same network. They had linked up with the underground Darul Islam but set about organising and training their following in a more systematic way, in small, closely-knit groups known as usrah (‘family’) that were connected in a hierarchical structure in which most members knew no other members apart from those in their own usrah. This pattern of organisation, copied from the Muslim Brotherhood, was called an Islamic jama`ah or jama`ah islamiyah; in reports from the early 1980s it is not entirely clear whether the name only refers to this type of organisation or is also refers specifically to Sungkar and Ba’asyir’s network of usrah.

The emergence of similar groups and networks around the campus mosques was to some extent also a response to the suppression of student political activism and the legal ban of activities by ‘extraneous’ student movements such as HMI on the campus from the early 1980s on (the so-called ‘Normalisasi Kampus’). Most student dissent became interiorised; many students turned to religion and appeared preoccupied with efforts to be good Muslims. Two DDII-affiliated activists with international contacts (with Malaysia’s Islamic youth movement ABIM and the Saudi-sponsored World Association of Muslim Youth, WAMY), Imaduddin Abdurrahman and Endang Saifuddin Anshari, organised a new type of training courses for students in Bandung, based on the training, tarbiyah, developed by the Muslim Brotherhood. This was a very different type of course from the ‘basic training’ that HMI members received in their organisation, which consisted mostly of debating, public speaking and simple management tasks. The new tarbiyah was more systematic, a proper disciplining and indoctrination, and many students felt strongly attracted by it. The most highly motivated participants in these tarbiyah sessions organised themselves into usrah, which were really a sort of study groups. Members of an usrah, who might number five to ten, met a few times a week, one of them acting as a trainer (murabbi), occasionally meeting with a more senior member of the movement.

Like Sungkar and Ba’asyir’s usrah movement, the groups on the campus were underground and even today not much is known about their internal structure, recruitment and initiation, nor about the exact relations between the usrah and the more public study circles, halqah, on the campuses, which appeared to be more loosely connected to each other.[22] The former movement was more overtly political, and was especially fiercely opposed to the regime’s curtailment of political Islam and its imposition of Pancasila as the sole accepted ideology. This group saw the objective could not be attained without armed struggle. Establishing a jama`ah islamiyah, a disciplined hierarchical organisation, was a first step in preparing for the necessary social, political and military struggle. From the 1980s until today, members of this network have been involved in numerous violent incidents. The campus-based network, also known as the Tarbiyah movement, was less directly political and did not prepare for armed struggle. Disciplining the self, developing an Islamic personality (syakhsiyah islamiyah), took priority over the more distant aims of an Islamic society and an Islamic state.

Sungkar and Ba’asyir fled Indonesia and settled in Malaysia in 1985. Dozens, altogether perhaps a few hundred, of their followers travelled to Afghanistan to take part in the jihad against the Russians and to get training in guerrilla tactics and the use of firearms and explosives. After the Russian retreat from Afghanistan, the southern Philippines became the favourite training ground. By the late 1990s, there was a network of local groups covering Malaysia, Singapore, parts of Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi and the southern Philippines. The network had, at least on paper, a tight hierarchical structure resembling a military organisation, with a commander (amir) and a governing council at the top and four regional commands (mantiqi) each consisting of smaller units called, by decreasing level, wakalah, khatibah, qirdas and fi’ah.[23] In practice, the organisation may well be less rigid than this formal structure suggests. In 2000, members of the network founded a legal front organisation, the Majelis Mujahidin, of which Ba’asyir — Sungkar had died in 1999 — became the amir.

The Tarbiyah movement, which considered itself as the Indonesian sister organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood, was strongest in the secular universities, especially in the science and technology faculties. Members remained active in the movement after their graduation. Many of the alumni made careers in the bureaucracy, in education or in business, and collectively they experienced a similar vertical mobility as a quarter century earlier HMI alumni of the generation of 1966. Towards the end of the Suharto regime, student groups of the Tarbiyah background established the Islamic student movement KAMMI (which took active part in anti-Suharto demonstrations but supported Habibie). Soon after Suharto’s demise, in August 1998, their elders established the Partai Keadilan (Justice Party, PK), arguably the only political party with a clear program and transparent structure.

The Jama`ah Islamiyah and the Tarbiyah movement are not the only bodies with a jama`ah structure in Indonesia. A third one that has recently been quite visible is the Hizb ut-Tahrir, a transnational movement that strives for the establishment of a world caliphate, an Islamic state encompassing all Muslim-majority regions. The Hizb ut-Tahrir rejects democratic politics and the nation state as incompatible with divine sovereignty and therefore does not take part in Indonesian politics and boycotts elections — but it did take part in demonstrations at the People’s Consultative Assembly in favour of the Jakarta Charter.

These three jama`ah share a number of characteristics:

    they are highly critical of the secular state and believe only a state based on the shari`a can be just;

    they consist of relatively closed groups that avoid contact with outsiders;

    they assert that Islam is a ‘total’ way of life and demand their members to conform to Islamic norms in all aspects of life;

    they exercise a strict social control of their members and demand high standards of Islamic morality.

Typical of their structure is their hierarchical organisation, the cell structure (the usrah being the smallest unit) and the absence of transparancy: the information flows within the organisation are vertical, not horizontal.

One of the texts used as training material in the Tarbiyah movement (and also known by members of the other jama`ah) is the book Towards the Congregation of Muslims, which purports to derive principles for Islamic organisation from the life and deeds of the Prophet and describes a number of contemporary jama`ah.[24] This text emphasises that the jama`ah is a means of disciplining individual and society, to shape the Islamic personality, the Islamic family (usra), an Islamic society and ultimately to unite the entire Muslim ummah. The book also details the characteristics of the jama`ah, among them secretiveness (sirriyah), which is an essential aspect of the cell structure.[25]

Not all jama`ah are equally closed groups. All insist that it is better to associate with good Muslims than with non-Muslims or not-so-good Muslims, but Sungkar and Ba’asyir made this distinction into a principal element of their teaching. The book that was obligatory reading for their better students, Al-walâ’ wa’l-barâ’ by the Saudi author al-Qahtani, focuses entirely on the obligation of loyalty towards fellow Muslims and of avoiding relations with non-Muslims.[26] The Partai Keadilan is much less radical in this respect and is willing to work together with all segments of the Indonesian population in the political arena, although its members in their personal lives tend to avoid non-Muslims and other outsiders, and to subscribe to theories of Christian-Jewish conspiracies against Islam.


‘Bonding’ and ‘bridging’ social capital

Such jama`ah-type organisations constitute a form of social capital, providing the individual with a secure environment, social and psychological support, useful contacts, a sense of purpose and a sense of dignity. To some extent they thereby empower the individual but they also encapsulate and isolate their members from the world outside. This is a fortiori the case for their female members, though there is a great difference in the degree of isolation between the Jama`ah Islamiyah and the Tarbiyah networks: the latter explicitly endorses women’s playing a public role and the former insists on their remaining secluded. Does it make sense to consider these organisations as part of civil society? They are to the extent that they are voluntary associations and that their members join in activities for societal ends and — in their own view — for the purpose of creating a better society. The activities of the Jama`ah Islamiyah are not exactly characterised by ‘democratic civility,’ but such civility does not always accompany the activities of all organisations that are more widely accepted as part of civil society either. It is inherent in the nature of civil society that the common good may have to give way to group interests.

A distinction that Putnam makes in his more recent book, Bowling alone (2000), between two types of social capital will be very useful to our analysis. Whereas his earlier work has contributed much to the belief that all forms of social capital are basically good because they create social trust in some spheres, that will ultimately raise the level of social trust in society as a whole, his more recent work is sensitive to the disruptive potential of certain forms of social capital. He contrasts ‘bridging’ and ‘bonding’ forms of social capital. The former, ‘bonding’ social capital, consists of social ties between members of the same segment of society, for example ethnic, class, religious or ideological subgroups. It makes for greater internal cohesion and solidarity of the subgroup and may be of very great value to the individual members. However, strong ‘bonding’ social capital generates trust in one’s own group but may at the same time increase distrust of the rest of the world (although it does not necessarily do so). ‘Bridging’ social capital, on the other hand, consists of social ties between members of different subgroups in society; it is the cement that keeps society as a whole together. It is probably the case that sustained ethnic and inter-religious conflict will only occur where there is a sufficient amount of ‘bonding’ social capital. The absence of social capital may in fact be less threatening to society than strong ‘bonding’ social capital that is not balanced by ‘bridging’ social capital. Conflict resolution will in most cases require an investment in ‘bridging’ capital, quite apart from the material concessions to be made by the conflicting parties.

All of this appears quite self-evident, and it yields a useful yardstick for measuring the performance of civil society organisations. At one extreme we find those exclusivist groups that, like the Jama`ah Islamiyah, consider all ‘bridging’ ties with groups and ideas outside their own circle as sinful. Who joins such a jama`ah may even have to break off old ties with friends and relatives; bonding creates a sense of belonging but also dependence on the group.[27] The thrust of the key text Al-walâ’ wa’l-barâ’ may be adequately summarised in the slogan ‘bonding yes, bridging no!

Muslim mass organisations such as NU and Muhammadiyah also constitute a significant ‘bonding’ capital; participation in them is a major aspect of the members’ identity and considerably colours their worldview. One remarkable finding of the PPIM survey that was highlighted above was, however, that this ‘bonding’ capital is in the case of active members balanced by their also stronger than average ‘bridging’ capital.

Muslim NGOs too engage in bonding as well as bridging, and it is significant that there continues to exist some uneasiness if not distrust between NGO activists of NU and Muhammadiyah backgrounds. Many young NGO activists of NU background find it easier to work together with their Catholic or secular peers than with those of Muhammadiyah background — clearly not all cultural divides are equally easily bridged.

The deepest cultural and political divide in Indonesian society, and the one invested with most emotion and mistrust, is that between Islam and Communism.[28] The most challenging task in civil society building in Indonesia is no doubt that of bringing these two extremes together and having them embark on a process of dialogue, healing traumas, and where possible undoing past injustice. The most valiant effort at creating bridging social capital that I am aware of is that of a small Muslim NGO, Syarikat, that has taken on this challenge and has been organising meetings of perpetrators and victims of the 1965-66 massacres, in a modest emulation of the work of South Africa’s truth and reconciliation commission. Syarikat activists have furthermore been doing oral history investigations into the events of 1965-66 and have engaged in advocacy on behalf of (relatives of) the victims.[29] With these actions, Syarikat activists do not necessarily endear themselves to their own communities of origin (which are all strictly NU). Although they have persuaded senior kiai to give them their moral support, they are aware that their activities may easily be seen as weakening the cohesion of their own group, building ‘bridging’ social capital at the expense of ‘bonding’ capital.

The most significant difference between an NGO such as Syarikat and an usrah-based movement is, from a civil society point of view, not the degree of civility or the usefulness to the individuals concerned but the nature of the social bonds that are fostered.


The rise of bonding social capital: a Christian usrah movement?

It was suggested above that usrah and jama`ah-type organisations among Indonesian Muslims have developed since the early 1980s. This may be related to the global rise of Islamist movements, but there probably were also factors specific to the Indonesian situation. Two factors already mentioned were the suppression of political dissent and the ban of student movements that had until 1978 contributed to vibrant public debate in the universities. Rapid economic growth without real development and a widespread sense of alienation among (lower) middle class groups may also have been contributing factors. One reason to seek an explanation for the emergence of these movements in Indonesian society rather than in global processes alone is the little-remarked fact that among Indonesia’s Christians one finds a somewhat similar development to that of the usrah movements, beginning at more or less the same time.

At least since the early 1980s, and perhaps earlier, small Bible study and prayer groups called persekutuan do’a became increasingly popular among Protestant Christians. Catholics later (towards the end of the 1980s) followed suit with similar small groups, the [kelompok] do’a karismatik. The persekutuan do’a consists of perhaps 10 to 25 people, mostly husband-and-wife couples, belonging to the same church, who meet regularly (typically once a week) in members’ homes to read the Bible and pray together. The group members usually live in the same neighbourhood and have more or less equal socio-economic status. This facilitates the development of closer and more intimate and emotional ties among the members. Members’ personal or family problems are often discussed in the group; the members help each other where they can and pray together for divine intervention to solve problems. For some people, the persekutuan do’a is one among several networks linking them to others; to many, it is the most important network and the only one that is invested with emotionality (it may become more important than one’s family). Members also tend to be in contact outside the weekly meetings.

The Catholic kelompok do’a karismatik is not much different. Prayers for intercession by Mary are more prominent and, in a departure from Catholic practice, the Bible is read in each session; there is the same combination of study, prayer and interpersonal involvement as in the Protestant prayer meeting.[30] There is a conviction that joint prayer is more effective than individual prayer in invoking divine blessing and support (hence the name of these groups, karismatik). Support of the group (and a degree of social control) is also believed to contribute to strengthening the members’ faith. Recently, even smaller prayer groups have begun to be formed within the charismatic prayer group, the kelompok inti (core group) or sel (cell) with only five or six members. This core group meets even more frequently among itself than the prayer group as a whole. The members of the cell come together once a week too, and in addition each member has daily telephone contact with every single other member; and they pray for one another every day. The degree of intimacy between the members is much greater than in the larger karismatik group; there is a deeper involvement in each other’s problems and commitment to strengthen each other’s faith; members claim they feel that the joint prayers are even ‘stronger.’[31]

It is especially these cells that are reminiscent of the usrah among radical Muslims, although the political dimension appears to be entirely lacking and there is no secretiveness. Strong social trust is generated in these small groups, but this appears to be combined with a high level of distrust towards the world outside; the strengthening of ties within the group goes hand in hand with a corresponding weakening of other ties. It is unlikely therefore that this social trust will ever be transferred to society as a whole; it would rather appear that the reverse is true and that these groups are a response to insecurity and widespread lack of trust of the wider society. The PPIM survey that was referred to repeatedly above indicates a very low level of interpersonal trust in Indonesia compared to other developing countries.[32] No doubt the economic hardship and political insecurities of the post-Suharto years are partly to blame for the lack of trust, but even before the East Asian crisis the level of trust in Indonesia was low. The popularity of conspiracy theories — of conspiracies against Islam or against the position of Christians in society and the state but also of conspiracies against individuals — and the low level of trust are two sides of the same coin. In this context, many people will prefer to invest in bonding rather than in bridging social capital.


The paradox of the Partai Keadilan:

 imperfect democrats but perhaps Indonesia’s strongest force for democratisation

To make a bold leap from small-scale prayer meetings to the political arena, a look at the phenomenon of the Partai Keadilan is perhaps an appropriate occasion to bring together the various threads of the preceding argument. This party — since 2002, after a split and a reunion renamed Partai Keadilan Sejahtera — came out of the Tarbiyah movement; its founders and present leaders are former campus activists. The Tarbiyah movement had the usrahjama`ah structure discussed above, probably including the aspect of sirriyah, secretiveness, but the party has a transparent structure and an explicit ideology, party program and by-laws.[33] In the run-up to the 1999 elections, many observers were struck by the fact that this was in fact the only party with a clear program. Its performance in the following years has only strengthened this perception: the party was not plagued by the internal difficulties, infighting and corruption that most other parties experienced; it remains a small party but showed itself a reliable and predictable actor.

The PK(S) shares with other Islamists the objective of turning Indonesia into an Islamic state based on the shari`a. Unlike some other Islamist movements, however, the Tarbiyah movement does not believe there is a shortcut to that distant objective. It has to be reached through disciplining of the individual and gradually transforming society, not through violent rebellion. Essentially, the movement accepts the path of democracy. The party makes no effort to gain numerous adherents but is selective in admitting members and subjects them, and especially its cadres, to a thorough training. In that sense it sees itself as a vanguard rather than a mass party — much as the Muslim Brotherhood and the Jama`at- Islami do.

The PK(S), or at least some of its leaders, also subscribes to the belief in anti-Islamic conspiracies and is hostile to Muslims of more secular or liberal persuasions. The first two slim volumes in a political education series written by the party’s chief ideologist Abu Ridha — practically the official training manuals of the PK(S) — are quite explicit in both respects.[34] And again like most other Islamists, PK(S) spokesmen are not just anti-Zionist and anti-Western but anti-Semitic. This is clearly not a liberal party (it certainly does not claim to be one either), and its vision of society clashes at some points with liberal democratic values. Beneath its transparent formal structure, one suspects there are less visible lines of command following the structure of the usrah network.

And yet… In spite of all this, the Partai Keadilan (Sejahtera) is one of the very few forces in the political arena that may seriously contribute to a gradual democratisation of the country. One reason for believing this is that, unlike other jama`ah-based movements, it believes in participation in the existing political system and in changing society through persuasion of individuals rather than through grabbing power. In its practice if not in its discourse it is moderate and patient, and it accepts pluralism as a given. Unlike most other parties, the PK(S) is not eager for a share of power. The party refused to join Abdurrahman Wahid’s cabinet, and when party chairman Nur Mahmudi Ismail accepted the position of Minister of Forestry and Plantations (for which he was, significantly, qualified!), he had to resign his position in the party. This indicates, incidentally, that positions of power in the party are not personalised; and in fact promotion in the party ranks appears largely based on merit. The party’s leaders are refreshingly uncharismatic. It is definitely one of the most rationalised parties (in the Weberian sense) in the Indonesian political system.

The party’s basic documents — its political manifesto, by-laws, and programme — candidly address issues where the shari`a and democracy may be at odds, and it resolves the matter in a way that raises confidence in its embrace of procedural democracy. Islamists will always place the divine will above the will of the people, and some (especially Saudi-style puritans) consider democracy as sinful hubris. The PK’s political manifesto however endorses democracy based on popular sovereignty on principle, except where this explicitly is in conflict with divine command. This reminds one of the slogan that was popular in Islamic student groups in the 1980s: “in Islam everything is allowed, except that which God has explicitly forbidden.”

The party’s emphasis on justice and equality is not surprising in an Islamist party, but the manifesto explicitly includes women among those who should be equal: all human beings are God’s vicegerents on earth, and women have the same rights and obligations as men, “except where the Qur’an makes explicit exceptions.” Women therefore can take part in public life and in politics; they are in fact represented in the party’s board, though not strongly: four out of fifty board members are women. Accepting a woman as the president of the country, however, has been a problem for the party. In 1999, it rejected the idea of a female President as long as capable men were available. In 2001 however, when Abdurrahman Wahid was brought down, the PK pragmatically recognised Megawati as the President because she had reached the position by legally correct procedure.

The Partai Keadilan Sejahtera is not in all respects a democratic party — but that is also true of many Christian political parties in the world.[35] Doubts may also linger as to its real views on the position of non-Muslim minorities: will these always be accepted as fully equal citizens, as the party’s public view has it? Or does the party hold on to a distant ideal of an Islamic state in which non-Muslims will be protected but essentially unequal subjects? What are the party’s views on the hudud punishments? Does it aspire to have these enacted, once, in a distant future? Or is it (as I suspect) content not to have to think much about these questions because in the present situation they are irrelevant?

It is the comparison with other political parties that brings out most clearly the positive side of the PK(S). It does not suffer from the depressing patrimonialism and corruption of most other parties (especially the large ones); it does not depend on primordial loyalties but on merit and political ideas. It is the only party that is consistently against all forms of corruption (and not only against corruption among its political foes). In its allegiance to existing procedure it probably is a more consistent supporter of procedural democracy than most rival parties. In its insistence on the quality rather than the quantity of its members, it is unlikely ever to become a big party. It may come to play a role not dissimilar to that of the Indonesian Socialist Party in the 1950s: never part of the establishment (although individual members became influential policy advisers), always a critical voice in the margin, and influential because of the strength of its ideas and its moral consistency.



Since the fall of Suharto, Indonesia's NGOs, including the Muslim NGOs, have flourished to an unprecedented degree. The Asian crisis, krismon (the monetary crisis), kristal (the total crisis), the krisis multidimensi or whatever the crisis was called brought nothing but prosperity to the NGO world, as the major international agencies sought out NGOs as counterparts for their crisis-alleviating and democracy-fostering programs. September 11 imposed new priorities on the international agencies, which is reflected in increasing support for Muslim activities that represent an alternative to fundamentalist Islam (such as those of the Liberal Islam Network). Some of these activities might have been initiated anyway, but in the post 9/11 world more funding has been available for them. Muslim NGOs are more vibrant than ever and engage in a wide range of activities. They appear to be re-conquering parts of the public sphere that had in the 1990s come under almost hegemonic control of Islamist discourses.

Islamist groups, many of them organised as jama`ah, have been discussed above as another type of civil society organisations. I have tried to bring out some significant parallels and differences between these groups and the NGOs. The transnational linkages of both types of organisation — the movement of people (e.g. for study), ideas and money — have been extremely important in shaping both. Presently, flows of money and people from the Middle East have been brought under control of the state, which may in the long run be favourable to the 'liberal' currents in Indonesian Islam. However, much of the violent Islamist activism of the past years appears to have been bankrolled by indigenous elite groups, not from abroad. (I postpone judgment on the degree to which Jama`ah Islamiyah terrorism has been steered and financed from the Middle East.) The Middle Eastern influence has been strongest on the level of ideas and public discourse. The present confrontation between the West and Islam will do little to decrease the hold of conspiratorial and fundamentalist worldviews over large segments of the Muslim population and may in fact strengthen it.

The large mass organisations Muhammadiyah and NU constitute, it has been my claim, the stable centre of Indonesia's Muslim community and important props of civil society. Many members of these associations are also active in other, non-religious networks and organisations, investing in what I have termed (following Putnam) 'bridging' social capital. Moderation and tolerance have long been characteristic of the mainstream members of these associations. Both have resolutely opposed issues that could lead to the further polarisation of society (such as the Jakarta Charter). They may not always remain so moderate, however. In both organisations there are second-echelon leaders who attempt to build their careers on appealing to primordial sentiments and playing the 'fundamentalist' card.

The Partai Keadilan Sejahtera is even more 'fundamentalist' in inspiration, but for a number of reasons explained above I believe it may in fact contribute to democratisation (or come to the defence of a fragile democracy against new authoritarian tendencies) rather than being a threat to it. It is not the party's theoretical ideas about divine versus human sovereignty that will determine its democratic performance but its acceptance of the rules of the game and the fact that it is a rational and rationalised organisation.



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[1] Shi`ism came to be singled out as a major threat from the 1980s on, when the effects of the Iranian revolution made themselves felt in Indonesia. Dozens of anti-Shi`a books and pamphlets, in which Shi`ism is frequently depicted as a Jewish invention, were printed and widely distributed. The term “Liberal Islam”, originally the title of a book of readings edited by Charles Kurzman, has been adopted by a group of young Muslim intellectuals who wish to counter ‘literalist’ Islam by more sophisticated and liberal interpretations.  The group has, unsurprisingly, been the target of various counter-offensives from the ‘literalist’ side. A recent book-length attack by Fauzan Al-Anshori, the Jakarta spokesman for the Majelis Mujahidin, explicitly declares the liberal Islam network to be part of an international anti-Islamic conspiracy and points to its “unlimited funding” by The Asia Foundation as evidence (Al-Anshori 2003: 10, 17).

[2] For some contemporary Muslim views, see: Natsir 1967; Pusat Jajasan Pendidikan Tinggi Da'wah Islam 1967; Al-Andunisi 1984.

[3] “Revelations” on the anti-Islamic policies of CSIS, based on alleged leaked documents, appeared repeatedly in the Muslim press during the 1970s. For one such document see Oey Hong Lee 1979, pp. 216-7. Even after the CSIS lost its influence on New Order policies, it remained the object of intense dislike and suspicion in reformist Muslim circles. At the time of Suharto’s fall, PPP politician Hartono Mardjono presented it again as an actor in his theory of global conspiracy (Mardjono 1998).

[4] Polemics about Nurcholish’ ideas, often based on a misunderstanding of what he attempted to say, have been numerous. For an example of reformist anger see Rasjidi 1972; for an early study of the polemics, Hassan 1980 (originally a 1975 Ph.D. thesis).

[5] On the DDII, see Husin 1998; Hakiem and Linrung 1997. The latter book (a self-representation) is especially informative on the international connections.

[6] In the 1980s and 1990s, much anti-Semitic literature (including several versions of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion) was translated into Indonesian, strengthening the tendency to analyse the world in terms of conspiracy theories. See Bruinessen 1994a; Siegel 2000.

[7] Two books written by KISDI chairman Sumargono (1999) and sympathiser Mardjono (1998) illustrate the mindset in cautious terms. Material of a much more inflammatory nature, strongly anti-Chinese and anti-Christian, was allegedly written for agitation purposes by prominent young Muslim intellectuals working for Prabowo Subianto in 1997 (cf. Hefner 2000: 202-3). After his retirement as head of the National Intelligence Agency (BAKIN) in 2000, Z.A. Maulani wrote a whole series of books on American and Zionist conspiracies against the Muslim world. Maulani 2002 is a typical though hardly original example of how anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have penetrated radical Muslim anti-imperialist discourse.

[8] Most conspicuously Din Syamsuddin, holder of a Ph.D. degree from UCLA and one of the alleged authors of the anti-Christian and anti-Chinese pamphlet mentioned in note 7. He presently is the secretary general of the Indonesian Council of Ulama (MUI) and a chairman of Muhammadiyah, and is perhaps the strongest candidate for succession to the leadership of this major organisation.

[9] The most useful overviews of these debates are still Boland 1971 (writing from a Christian perspective) and Anshari 1981 (from a modernist Muslim perspective).

[10] Church burnings are documented in Tahalele and Santoso 1997. Cf Sidel 2001 and Santoso’s 2002 dissertation.

[11] On the Majelis Mujahidin, see Bruinessen 2002.

[12] PPIM (Centre for Research on Islam and Society) is a research institute of the State Islamic University (UIN, formerly IAIN) in Ciputat, Jakarta. An earlier, more modest survey had been carried out in 2001. The 2002 survey covered all of Indonesia and was based on interviews with 2500 respondents in 312 villages or urban wards chosen randomly with a stratified sampling technique. Muslims constituted 89% of the respondents, which is close to the 88% figure of the population census. A full report and analysis of the findings is given in Mujani 2003; a useful English summary (Mujani and Liddle forthcoming) circulated on the Internet in early 2003.

[13] Mujani and Liddle, art.cit.; Mujani 2003: 127. Mujani constructed an ‘index of Islamism’ based on the responses to 14 questions like the ones quoted and calculated the correlations between this and other components and variables. 

[14] Mujani and Liddle, art.cit. In the former four provinces, around 45% scored 50 points or more on Mujani’s ‘index of Islamism’ (a scale of 0 to 100 points, national average 39); in Yogya this was 28% and in Jakarta 33%.

[15] It should be added, however, that the social, economic and political backgrounds of these regional shari`a movements have not been properly studied. It is not unlikely that these movements also represent certain specific political and economic interests that are in themselves not at all religious. Islamic law may be more favourable to certain interests than adat or state civil and criminal law. A call for Islamic law may also reflect a wish to reduce competition from non-Muslims.

[16] Mujani and Liddle, art.cit.

[17] The tables of correlations in Mujani’s thesis (2003: 224, 230-1) show that NU and Muhammadiyah identities correlate positively with some but not at all or negatively with other forms of civic engagement. Some of the correlations may simply be artefacts of the way the questionnaire was framed and delivered. Mujani and Liddle are somewhat selective in highlighting these correlations and appear overly optimistic in their conclusion, but at least some of the correlations are significant. It should be noted that civic participation is much more strongly correlated with the degree of education and that some of the apparent positive impact of involvement in NU or Muhammadiyah on civic attitudes may be due to the slightly higher degree of education of those actively involved in these associations as compared to others. (A multivariate analysis shows, however, that there still is a correlation between Islamic and non-religious civic engagement when the factor education is controlled; ibid., 158-9.)

[18] A major exception is Nakamura’s study of Muhammadiyah in Kota Gede (1983). On NU, there are some relevant observations in Bruinessen 1994b and Umam 2002.

[19] Cf. note 1. See also JIL’s website at Book-length denunciations of JIL include Husaini and Hidayat 2002, Al-Anshori 2003, and Armas 2003. Relations with the West, with Christianity and with Orientalist constructions of Islam figure prominently among the accusations.

[20] Much ink has been spilt over the Jama`ah Islamiyah, and most reports attribute more centralised structure and internal cohesion to it than I believe is warranted. Much crucial information depends on intelligence sources and cannot be checked independently. The best and most judicious reports available are those written by Sidney Jones for the International Crisis Group (2002a, 2002b, 2003), which do not rely on intelligence sources but on public trial depositions and confidential interviews (that cannot be checked independently either). Even Jones, however, who is an experienced observer of Indonesian Islamic radicalism, is inclined to view the Jama`ah Islamiyah as a centralised and well-co-ordinated network, with the pesantren of Ngruki as its centre. I believe a modest infusion of chaos theory will make for a more realistic representation of this shadowy network.

[21] On Imran and his jama`ah, see Any 1982.

[22] See however Kraince 2000 and Damanik 2002, two studies on the public student movement and the political party of the late 1990s that emerged from this underground movement. On the various radical movements and their interconnections see also Bruinessen 2002.

[23] E.g., Jones 2003: 11, based on an interrogation deposition of a detained member describing the formal organisation of the Jama`ah Islamiyah as laid down in a handbook written by Abdullah Sungkar in 1996. Police and intelligence services have been concentrating their investigations on terrorist acts carried out by segments this network and given much less attention to other activities. The ultimate objective is the establishment of an Islamic state; it is not clear, at least not to me, whether it is the entire network that has adopted anti-Christian and anti-Western terrorism as its current chief occupation or just several disparate parts of the network. The spokesmen of the Jama`ah’s front, the Majelis Mujahidin, have prided themselves in their members participation in the (defensive) jihad in the Moluccas but strongly denied the involvement of Ba’asyir and his direct circle in such terrorist acts as the Christmas 2000 church bombings and later the Bali and Marriott bombings. See e.g. Al-Anshori 2002, Soepriyadi 2003.

[24] Jabir 2001 (1987). The Indonesian translation has a preface by a prominent member of the Tarbiyah movement, Salim Segaf Al Jufri, who studied together with the author in Medina. The book describes the Muslim Brotherhood, the Jama`at-i Islami and the Hizb at-Tahrir as proper examples.

[25] Jabir 2001: 205-214.

[26] The original Arabic version of this text, Al-walâ’ wa’l-barâ’ fî’l-islâm, has long been used in the pesantren Al-Mukmin in Ngruki (Solo), that was established by Sungkar and Ba’asyir in 1972 and that was the first breeding ground for the usrah movement. Ngruki still constitutes a major node in the Jama`ah Islamiyah network. An Indonesian translation of the book circulated in stenciled form; it could only be legally published in the Reformasi period (Qahthani 2000).

[27] In this respect, at least some jama`ah are not unlike radical sects and cult groups. I have heard several accounts of young people who, once they joined a jama`ah, were not allowed to regularly visit their parents and when they did visit had to be accompanied by other members of the jama`ah so as to prevent intimate personal contact. Marriages within the jama`ah are strongly encouraged, and the women are expected to contribute to the jama`ah by bearing many children.

[28] The measure of Muslim mistrust of Communism and Communists was brought out clearly in the PPIM survey. Over 80% of the respondents objected to having Communists as neighbours, as against 16% rejecting Christians. When asked which group they disliked most in society, 58% said Communists, 7% Christians and 8% Jews (Mujani 2003: 168-179).

[29] Syarikat is one of the NGOs on which Farid Wajidi’s Ph.D. research focuses. See Wajidi, forthcoming, and also Wajidi’s contribution in this volume.

[30] Because of their apparent deviance from established practice, many ordinary Catholics initially considered these charismatic prayer groups as ‘eccentric’ (nyeleneh) and almost Protestant, but meanwhile they have become quite respectable.

[31] These paragraphs on prayer meetings are based on observations by me and especially my wife, Listiyorini Goenoprasodjo, in Protestant and Catholic circles in Surabaya over the past years. I thank Rini’s friends for reporting their experiences.

[32] Only around 10% of the respondents agreed with the statement “most people can be trusted,” which is way below the Asian average. Lower levels of trust were only reported (in earlier surveys in the 1990s) for the Philippines (5.5%) and Turkey (7%) (Mujani 2003: 137-142).

[33] The party’s excellent website,, has all relevant party documents and reflects the party’s sophistication. A glance at the website of the branch in the Netherlands (unsurprisingly based at Delft Technical University),, with its details on cadre training and on what is expected from junior and senior members, confirms that this is a very well organized party.

[34] A major global challenge for the da`wah movement is, Abu Ridha writes, “that the Islamic world is encircled by the Crusader-Zionist alliance under American command” and is subject to “a wave of conspiracies causing […] political, economic, social, cultural security and other problems that are difficult to resolve.” Usama bin Laden and the Taliban government in Afghanistan were “only short-term targets; in the medium and long term the conspiracy aims at the subjection of the Islamic world and the complete destruction of its powers.” (Abu Ridha 2002: 13-14). In Indonesia itself, “it is not the unbelievers (kafir) but people who claim to be Muslims, such as the Liberal Islam Network […] and the renewal movement of Nurcholish [Madjid] and friends […] who oppose the application of the shari`a” (Abu Ridha 2003: 30).

[35] In a recent article comparing the 'third wave of democratisation', which took largely place in Catholic countries (in Latin America, the Philippines and Poland) with the situation in Muslim countries, José Casanova (2001) parts company with Samuel Huntington and denies the overriding importance of civilisational factors. The political traditions of these Catholic countries were not less authoritarian and anti-democratic than those in Muslim countries. For those who wish to find them, Islam offers as many arguments in favour of human agency, individual responsibility and accountability, and respect of others as the Christian traditions do.