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Insight: Muhammadiyah and Indonesia international identity



Jakarta /
Tue, August 4, 2015
/ 04:17 pm

Rizal Sukma
The Jakarta Post
This week, Muhammadiyah, the oldest and second-largest Muslim
organization in Indonesia, will hold its 47th congress in Makassar,
South Sulawesi. The congress is significant for at least two reasons.

This will be the first congress it has held since it turned 100 years old.
For Muhammadiyah, it also means it needs to discuss the key challenges
it is likely to face and what sort of institution-building steps it
needs to take in order to overcome these challenges. In other words,
during the congress, Muhammadiyah will have to decide what direction it
will take over the next 100 years.

During the congress
Muhammadiyah will elect new 13 leaders, of which the position of
chairman always attracts the most attention. The current chairman, Din
Syamsuddin, cannot run again as he has served for two consecutive
periods. Finding someone with the same qualifications as Din to lead
Muhammadiyah will be a huge challenge. Din has indeed had a huge impact
on the organization.

In fact, under Din, Muhammadiyah has played a
role beyond its traditional domain of education, health, social welfare
and da'€™wah (preaching of Islam). It has expanded its role from a
national player to an international actor. That international role has
served as an important aspect that has not only shaped Indonesia's
international identity but has also defined the country's
international standing within the community of nations over the last 10
years.

Indeed, the last decade was a difficult period for
Indonesia. In the post-9/11 world, many in the West increasingly saw
Islam as the source of the problem. Mutual suspicion ensued. As the
country with the largest Muslim population in the world, Indonesia was
faced with a set of complex challenges. The key challenge at that time
was how to prevent a 'clash of civilizations' and present Indonesian
Islam as a moderate voice seeking to bridge the perception gap between
the West and the Muslim world.

The Indonesian government embarked
on a foreign policy that sought to project the image of a moderate,
tolerant and progressive Muslim country. Together with democracy, then
foreign minister Hassan Wirajuda presented moderate Islam as a key asset
in Indonesia's foreign policy. The use of public diplomacy has been
instrumental in projecting Indonesia as a moderating voice within the
Muslim world and between the Muslim world and the West.

Without
the support of Muhammadiyah leaders, it would not have been possible for
the Indonesian government to achieve such public diplomacy objectives.
It was Muhammadiyah leaders, together with other moderate Muslim leaders
in other organizations such Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) who played an
instrumental role in presenting the moderate face of Indonesian Islam in
the international arena. It was Muhammadiyah leaders who traveled
around the world, engaged in many interfaith dialogues with various
religious communities abroad and explained about Islam.

Muhammadiyah's
role in shaping Indonesia's international identity, however, went
well beyond active participation in government-sponsored interfaith
dialogues. There are two other areas where Muhammadiyah's
international engagement has been visible.

First, on its own
initiative, Muhammadiyah played an active role in peace-building
initiatives in the region. For example, Muhammadiyah is active in
contributing to the peace process in Mindanao in the Philippines and in
southern Thailand. These sort of activities and involvement abroad have
clearly strengthened the image of Indonesian Islam as rahmatan lil
alamin (blessing to the world).

Second, since 2005, Muhammadiyah
has started to strengthen its capacity in disaster relief and
management. Its expertise in this area has improved tremendously since
then. Muhammadiyah has been involved in disaster relief efforts outside
the country, most recently in Nepal. For Muhammadiyah, helping those in
need in a post-disaster environment is a duty. Again, from this kind of
work, Muhammadiyah is seen as an embodiment of Indonesia's Islam
strongly anchored in the tradition of respecting universal humanitarian
values.

Din has been the key mover in these three areas of
international engagement. Without his personal interest and engagement
' with the support of growing numbers of young Muhammadiyah leaders
such Hajriyanto Y. Thohari, Abdul Mu'ti, Rahma Hussein, Hilman Latief,
and Fajar Ul-Haq it would be difficult to imagine how interfaith
dialogue, peace-building and disaster relief could have become a new
core of Muhammadiyah's contribution to Indonesia and the world.

Chairman
Din will soon hand over the leadership of Muhammadiyah to a new leader.
We hope the next leader will demonstrate the same passion and vigor to
preserve Muhammadiyah's role as the bastion of moderation in Indonesia
and the world.

We salute chairman Din and welcome the next new chairman.
______________________

The
author is executive director of the Centre for Strategic and
International Studies and head of the international cooperation division
of Muhammadiyah's central executive board 2005-2010 and 2010-2015.


https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2015/08/04/insight-muhammadiyah-and-indonesia-s-international-identity.html
Insight: Muhammadiyah and Indonesia international identity