NU staying neutral in Indonesian presidential race

"Our neutrality will keep our country secure during the election," a Nahdlatul Ulama leader says.

By Aditya Surya for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta

May 09, 2014
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Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), one of Indonesia's most influential and oldest Muslim organisations, is reaffirming its neutrality in the 2014 national election.

  • Nahdlatul Ulama supporters use umbrellas to form the red and white Indonesian flag during NU's 85th anniversary celebration in Jakarta in July 2011. The organisation is staying politically neutral during the 2014 presidential election. [Adek Berry/AFP]

    Nahdlatul Ulama supporters use umbrellas to form the red and white Indonesian flag during NU's 85th anniversary celebration in Jakarta in July 2011. The organisation is staying politically neutral during the 2014 presidential election. [Adek Berry/AFP]

After the April 9th legislative elections and amid uncertainty over how Islamic parties will influence the July 9th presidential election, NU officials went on record saying their organisation wouldn't back a particular candidate or ticket for the presidency.

"NU followers are spread throughout Indonesia. We will not oppose nor endorse any presidential candidate," Slamet Effendi Yusuf, NU's leader, told Khabar Southeast Asia on April 29th.

This followed a statement made by Nahdlatul Ulama Executive Board (PBNU) Chairman Said Aqil Siradj in Purwokerto two days earlier.

"We learned that our neutrality will keep our country secure during the election, and it maintains a peaceful Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia," Said told reporters.

Later, Said told Khabar that NU could not endorse an Islamic coalition because that could pave the way for Wahhabism in Indonesia. A movement to establish an Islamic state would go against NU's founding principles, which promote tolerance and democracy, he said.

"That kind of enforcement will only lead Indonesia to conflict and intolerance, and that is not what NU wants to see in Islam," Said added.

Coalition: not in the cards?

On April 9th, the five Islamic parties – the National Awakening Party (PKB), United Development Party (PPP), National Mandate Party (PAN), Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and Crescent Star Party (PBB) – combined to capture 33% of the vote in legislative polls.

Since then, there has been talk that these parties could form a coalition that would field a presidential candidate. The Islamic People's Forum (FUI), an umbrella group of 67 Muslim organisations, urged the five parties to take advantage of their collective win and unite as a bloc for the presidential contest.

On April 17th, representatives of the five Muslim parties met at the house of a businessman prepared to help finance an Islamic coalition effort, The Jakarta Globe reported.

But some expressed doubt the parties could set aside their differences and establish a united front.

"In today's politics, it is no longer relevant to separate Islamic parties from nationalist parties," the Globe quoted PKB Central Leadership Board Chairman Marwan Jafar as saying after the meeting. "There is not a single Muslim figure with enough electability and popularity to compete with [presidential candidates] from nationalist parties."

Reader Comments
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    • asamson
      May 20, 2014 @ 09:05:16AM
    • The obligation of Muslims is to find the bloodline of the Prophet in this country according to history. The bloodline possesses the characteristics ordained by Allah: Shidiq (jujur), Amanah (dapat dipercaya), Tabligh (mengajarkan) and Fathonah (cerdas). This is the bloodline of the sultanates and the 9 guardians. Don't just embark on pilgrimages but also seek out the Prophet's bloodline and make them your leaders on this Earth. Seek those with strong faith. Remember that true nobles have certain characteristics: they are patient, calm with characteristic eyes and nails, etc. They also bear markings on their brow. The analogy is as follows: the tips of the ace tree leaves are dry whereas those of the rambutan trees are not. A tiger or a cat also possess traits and temperaments. A turtle dove from Katuranggan, Kediri, Tuban, Majapahit, Pajajaran, Demak, etc. will have different colored circular markings around their eyes and have different ways of perching. This demonstrates different traits and behavior. The vetiver that grows in Garut will not be as fragrant when planted elsewhere. Silk from Bantul is the best in the world and has its own characteristics. Do not democratize holy earth with state earth, we are not even supposed to mix them because holy ground is the gift from the prophets and guardians. The proof is that worship in Mecca and Medina will be rewarded many times over. The point is that, unlike the devils, we should not interfere with what has been determined by Allah. Doing nothing means allowing your true leaders to be cast aside and you are allowing your country to suffer widespread destruction. It is true that all humans are equal depending on their faith but remember and read the signs/truth, whether explicit or implicit, that the highest faith is the faith of the prophets or the bloodlines of the prophets/waliyullah. Act intelligently like Lukmanul Hakim and the clerics who were able to move the palace of Ratu Bilqis.
    • Budiyanto
      May 20, 2014 @ 09:05:46AM
    • PKB is not actually an Islamic party, it is more suitable to call it a party of JIL (Liberal Islam Network) because many of its members support secularism, capitalism and liberalism.
    • arif
      May 19, 2014 @ 12:05:41PM
    • Who wants conflict to happen? In truth, if Islam were upheld in Indonesia there would be peace. Look at history, Mr. Sirad, who fought to defend our homeland from occupation? Who invaded us? The Unitary States of the Republic of Indonesia was born from the struggle of Muslims. Within the framework of Islam all religions are protected. Look at RMS, look at the rebellion in Papua, look at who is scraping away our natural riches. Who betrayed the 1945 Constitution? None of those were Muslims. Sharia must be fought for.
    • tablighsuffi
      May 13, 2014 @ 04:05:33PM
    • As a Muslim I would like to ask Mr. Marwan: what is the punishment for NU Muslims, including the clerics and scholars, for supporting a presidential candidate who is not trustworthy, doing so with the excuse that there are no Muslim figures with sufficient electability and popularity to compete with presidential candidates from nationalist parties. What about their oath (office) to Allah SWT and Al Qurannul Karim? Nu audzubillah mindzalik, Mr. Marwan and Cak Imijn are hypocrites who have sold out for power alone! Please sir, stop with the lecture, the people already know that you are rotten, repent sir!
    • kebangkitan umat
      May 12, 2014 @ 01:05:09AM
    • Is it neutral or lacking the courage to take a stand upholding Islam on Indonesian soil. Show us that the clerics have awoken from a long sleep. Leaders in Indonesia have always had secular leanings, don't follow others on the grounds of neutrality. I long for formidable and courageous clerics.

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