NU, Muhammadiyah have failed to promote pluralism at grassroots

Nurrohman , Bandung | Tue, 12/09/2008 11:43 AM | Opinion

I am rather relieved as I read the results of a survey conducted by the Center for Islamic and Society Studies (PPIM) at the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University.

Since the middle of this year — in June and July to be exact — I helped conduct a similar survey together with friends sponsored by the Malindo Institute (for social research and Islamic development). While the respondents picked by PPIM are Islamic studies teachers, our survey respondents are pesantren (Islamic boarding school) leaders. While the respondents of the first live in all Java provinces, the population of the latter live in West Java.

I am relieved because the conclusions of both surveys were relatively the same. Like Islamic teachers, most pesantren leaders oppose pluralism, demonstrate an intolerant attitude and tend to use religion to justify some violent acts.

For instance, most pesantren leaders, 75 percent, have allowed churches built without official permits to be destroyed or closed. Most agreed (86 percent) that Muslims should reject applications to build church in their areas. Muslims also are not allowed to say “Merry Christmas” or to accept invitations to celebrate that holiday alongside Christians, according to 81 percent.

When asked to give their opinion of the statement, “Non-Muslims are not allowed to become heads of state in Indonesia”, 77 percent agreed. Only 33 percent agreed with the statement, “It is impossible in principle for Muslims to coexist peacefully with non-Muslims or infidels”.

Some 55 percent believe that cutting off the hand of a thief is still a relevant punishment today. Jilid (whipping) and rajam (stoning to death) are still appropriate penalties for adulterers, according to a larger majority, 75 percent. When asked about the statement, “FPI (Islam Defenders Front) attacks on prostitution and gambling sites should be praised and supported”, 56 percent of them agreed.

An overriding majority of pesantren leaders (89 percent) also support the idea of new sharia-inspired bylaws to improve the morality of the nation. When given the statement, “Muslims should always push for the Jakarta Charter to be included as part of the Indonesian Constitution”, 58 percent of them agreed. More than a quarter, 27 percent, still disagree that the values embodied in Pancasila should be considered as the overarching political ideal for Indonesian Muslims.

In the case of Ahmadiyah, when presented with the statement, “The Ahmadiyah sect should be disbanded so it will not develop in Indonesia”, most respondents (85 percent) agreed. This means most pesantren leaders are not ready to live in peace with sects considered deviant or blasphemous according to orthodox tenets. Fully 44 percent agreed with the statement, “The death penalty for apostasy is still applicable now.”

Concerning jihad and terrorism, although most pesantren leaders (92 percent) agreed that self-restraint (jihad al-akbar) is more important, 6 percent still held the opinion jihad al-asghar (the war) is more important. Some of the pesantren leaders (39 percent) still see Osama bin Laden as an Islamic warrior, but only a few still consider the actions of Amrozi, Imam Samudra and Abu Dujana as a form of jihad which present conditions call for (3 percent). The pesantren leaders are exposed to ambivalent attitudes toward Osama bin Laden, but they are firmer in condemning Amrozi and his fellow Bali bombers. The worrying attitude is that a few pesantren leaders still agree (3 percent) that what the Bali bombers did was an act of jihad.

In this survey, 81 percent of respondents said they were members of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU); 1 percent each said they were members of United Islam (Persis), Muhammadiyah and the United Supremacy Party (PUI); the remaining 16 percent classified themselves as independent.

I was hesitant to release this survey publicly because it interviewed only 100 pesantren leaders in five regencies. But PPIM’s latest survey has confirmed the results of Malindo’s survey. Pesantren number 6,930 in West Java, according to 2007 data from Education Management Information Systems. The population of the pesantren in the five locations in which research was conducted totaled 1,459, consisting of: Cirebon 397, Indramayu 56, Majalengka 323, Kuningan 430, and Ciamis (including Pangandaran) 353. The pesantren were randomly selected from three types: traditional, semimodern and modern.

These polls do give a true snapshot of attitudes in time and attitudes can always change. But when the findings of two surveys confirm one another, it should be treated as a temporary truth albeit an inconvenient truth, to borrow Al Gore’s catch phrase.

With 81 percent of the respondents claiming membership in Nahdlatul Ulama, I agree with PPIM director Jajat Burhanudin’s comments on his own survey’s implications that NU, as well as Muhammadiyah, have failed to promote pluralistic values at the grassroots.

There is no need to create a state of denial by saying, for instance, that pesantren are not hives of radicalism or by blaming the survey methodology. Radicalism — meaning religious understanding justifying the use of violence — is still present. Gallup’s worldwide survey also finds that 7 percent of the world’s Muslim population embraces radical politics.

We need to understand that religious intolerance in this country is no longer a myth. The results of these surveys should stand as a warning. Maintaining an environment of religious tolerance is an obligation that should be exercised not only by the government but also by all of us if we are really committed to defending this pluralistic state based on Pancasila.

The writer is a lecturer at Sunan Gunung Djati State Islamic University (UIN), Bandung

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