The Political Decline of Traditional Ulama in Indonesia

The State, Umma and Nahdlatul Ulama

in Asian Journal of Social Science
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Political wisdom in Indonesia has long held that its large mass-based Muslim organizations, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, are politically influential. Within the current democratizing environment ulama have faced many challenges to their social standing and it is our contention in this article that their socio-political role has been diminished in this environment. In order to gauge this situation, the Asia Foundation, working with Indonesian research organizations, conducted a nation-wide survey to explore the changing ways that these Muslim organizations wield political influence, especially at the local level. The survey results confirm that religious figures, or ulama, within NU and Muhammadiyah, do not wield the same kind of direct political influence as they have historically, but this article also highlights how these leaders are still important power brokers at the local level.

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References

1

See, for example, van Dijk (1981) for accounts of the role of ulama in Darul Islam rebellions in West Java, Central Java, Aceh and South Sulawesi of the 1950s and early 1960s.

8

Interview with Q. Salam, 9 December 2010, Surabaya, Indonesia.

11

Interview with A. Hasan, 9 December 2010, Surabaya, Indonesia

12

Interview with Q. Salam, 9 December 2010, Surabaya, Indonesia.

Figures

  • Figure 1

    Affiliation with MBOs, by percentage

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  • Figure 2

    Breakdown of MBO affiliation, by percentage

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  • Figure 3

    Voting preferences in 2009 election, by percentage

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  • Figure 4

    Percentage of MBO members who seek opinion of religious elites on political issues

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  • Figure 5

    Percentage of MBO members who seek opinion of religious elites on socio-religious issues

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  • Figure 6

    Religious affiliation of ulama consulted on socio-religious issues

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