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The Political Decline of Traditional Ulama in Indonesia

The State, Umma and Nahdlatul Ulama

In: Asian Journal of Social Science
Authors: Greg Fealy1 and Robin Bush2
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  • 1 Australian National University
  • | 2 RTI International, Jakarta
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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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