Moeflich Hasbullah: Antologi Pemikiran

Economic Development, Educational Transformation and Mobilization of the Santri in Indonesia

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Moeflich Hasbullah
(MIMBAR STUDI, Jurnal Ilmu Agama Islam,
No. 1, Th. XXIII, September-Desember 1999)



Inspired by the socio-political chaos of the Old Order that heavily emphasised ideological politics, Soeharto designed the New Order as a wholesale correction with an economic direction of modernisation and industrialisation. Given the fact that modernisation was apparently the only way to rehabilitate the political and economic chaos inherited from the Soekarno years, Soeharto gained both popular support and political legitimacy, and support from foreign investors for the development process. From the perspective of the New Order, the Old Order elite had gone too far in pursuing political ideology,[1] while neglecting the practical problems of people’s basic needs. The main jargon of the Old Order was “politik sebagai panglima” (politics as the Commander). Consequently, “all non-political aspects such as economic development, industrialisation etc., must be drawn into politics and ideology” (Ali and Effendy 1986: 94). According to the New Order protagonists, this line of thinking paid the price with severe political crises during both the Parliamentary and Guided Democracy periods, as well as neglect of the development process. The Indonesian economy collapsed as indicated by the high level of inflation that reached hyperinflation, the great amounts of foreign debt, and the break down of public transportation. The stagnation of industrialisation led to overwhelming economic, social and political crises. In addition to the economy, the emergence of political conflicts and the vast political polarisation led to the September 30 coup d’état movement in 1965 (Ali and Efendy 1986: 95)

In light of this historical experience, the New Order stressed that Indonesian politics must be independent of ideological cleavages and must prioritise “outward oriented” economic development.[2] This economic priority would only be possible if supported by political stability. To do so, in the New Order perspective, the government needed to control and restrain the existing political powers, and eliminate the conflict and differences amid socio-political powers. This outlook was translated into two political strategies: first, the policy of Asas Tunggal in 1985, a major political maneuver where the New Order removed any ‘primordial basis’[3] such as religion from political parties and mass organisations and replaced it with the state ideology, Pancasila. Second, the powerful armed forces was involved in political affairs legitimated through the dual function doctrine of ABRI legitimating their involvement in political affairs.

Since Muslims believe that politics is inseparable from religion, the Asas Tunggal policy attracted their opposition. The first time the Asas Tunggal idea was stated publicly was in President Soeharto’s official speech in front of the House of Representatives on August 16, 1982. Some Muslim segments like PII (Indonesian Muslim Students), HMI (Muslim Association of University Students), and figures like Deliar Noer, perceived Asas Tunggal to be a government secularisation program against the Muslim community and therefore they initially rejected it.[4] Moreover, some also viewed this government action as reminiscent of the 19th century Dutch colonial policy of permitting Islamic religion but relentlessly restraining all forms of political Islam.[5] On the other hand, other groups like PPP (United Development Party), Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), and PTI (Association of Islamic Teaching) accepted it without reservation. Finally, except for PII, through various political improvisations, all parties and organisations accepted Asas Tunggal as their organisational foundation.

There were at least two things that allowed the program of Asas Tunggal to run without any powerful challenge: Firstly, the growing totalitarianism of the New Order state which was founded on its three strong pillars: military, bureaucracy and the Golkar party. Secondly, the Muslim theological point of view that Pancasila was nothing but a reflection of Islamic values, indicating that there was no theological schism between Islam and Pancasila.

For those who still struggle for rehabilitation of Islamic political parties, deideologisation by way of Asas Tunggal has meant a separation of religion from politics that is for them unacceptable. Moreover, removing the Islamic basis has also been very painful because it has meant the total destruction of the centuries-old ideology which was a tremendous mobilising idea in the fight against colonialism. In the struggle for independence, Islam has become one the most important factors in uniting the national independence movements and the idea of nationalism. Given this significant role of Islam in Indonesian history, it is unimaginable for many to dismiss the role of religion in political life, as they suspected Pancasila was allowing. These suspicions led to high tension between Muslims and the state in the 1970s and 1980s.

However, all these worries were eventually answered by Soeharto’s pledge in his speech in Solo in 1985 that, “Pancasila is not religion and religion will not be Pancasila-ised” (Sjamsuddin 1991:249). By this confirmation Soeharto overcame the  conceptual tension between Islam and Pancasila. This statement also reduced the existing political powers that were ideologising and politicising religion as an ‘alternative’ of state ideology. As a result, in the decade of the 1980s, the role of the ‘ideological’ Muslims declined.[6]

The 1980s was a continuation of the previous period as the government continued to put pressure on the Muslim community. The strength of the New Order continued to grow supported by the dual-function of the armed forces, the government-sponsored party, Golkar, and bureaucracy as the powerful and effective machine of control. This period was also marked by the policy of the Minister of Education and Culture, Daoed Yoesoef on NKK (Normalisation of Campus Life). This policy stated that university campuses, which were considered to be too involved in practical politics, should be normalised by restricting them to study activities.

As a result of government political engineering, many Muslim activists of the middle and lower classes were deideologised and depoliticised. In other words, they became, as a result of New Order management, “the floating mass,” notably a mass withdrawn from political concern and alienated from their ideological roots.[7] This was a period when the young generation became indifferent to formal politics.

In this political indifference, the ideas of the Islamic renewal movement pioneered by Nurcholish Madjid in the 1970s about “Islam yes, Islamic party no!” became more popular. The idea of an Islamic state, an obsession of the old Islamic leaders, tended to lose its supporters. This period witnessed a new young Muslim generation involved in broader cultural activities (e.g., education, arts, Islamic predication (dakwah), small private businesses and the like). This shift in orientation from political to cultural activities can be situated in a broader economic context. Since the New Order undertook “the open door policy” in the 1970s, international aid, in the form of capital investment, financial loans and technology flowed into Indonesia as it was integrated into the international capitalist economic system. The process of integration into the world economy had at least three consequences: (1) structural transformation within Indonesian society indicated by the increasing importance of the non-agricultural economic sector, (2) the emergence of new large-scale private enterprises and the phenomena of conglomeration, and (3) the most dramatic one, the ruin of local businesses and indigenous petty trading, traditionally in the hands of the santri group: for example a a Cigarette manufacture in Kudus, East Java; large and long-established garment industries in Majalaya and Majalengka, West Java, and Batik company in Pekalongan and Pekajangan, Central Java. This ruin can not be explained culturally but structurally, that is to say, it was happened when there was a fundamental change of the structure of national political economy (See Burhanuddin 1992: 52-59).

Economic development that relied on foreign investment and stressed the strategy of growth resulted in economic success for the New Order. Notwithstanding there were some problems which were still difficult to solve and needed long periods to overcome such as poverty, inequality, foreign debt and corruption, Indonesia, as pointed out by Hal Hill and Jamie Mackie, “has experienced its first period of sustained economic growth, which, while it may not have matched the very high growth rates of the Asian ‘tigers’, has been one of the best of all third world countries.” This economic success was shown by the following statistical facts:

Rice yields have almost doubled, and Indonesia has been broadly self-sufficient in rice since 1985. Production of most food crops has increased substantially, but structural change in the economy has meant that agriculture’s share of GDP has fallen from 50 percent to 19 percent. By 1991, the value of manufacturing output exceeded that of agriculture for the first time, indicating that Indonesia had crossed a key threshold in the path to industrialisation. Over this period manufactures rose from a negligible proportion of merchandise exports to over 40 percent in 1991, with most of the increase occurring in 1984-91. A ‘transport revolution’ occurred in the 1970s as the ubiquitous ‘colts’ (light commercial vehicles) came into use throughout the country. The number of registered motorcycles, buses and commercial vehicles has risen twentyfold since the 1960s (Hill and Mackie 1994: xxv).

This accomplishment meant that Indonesia had followed the earlier success stories of other countries notably Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Thailand. Apart from that Indonesia had moved from an agricultural to industrial economy, or from a country of ‘low income’ to the ‘middle income’ category, before the coming of monetary crisis, had become one of the so-called NICs (Newly Industrialising Countries).[8]

One of the effects of this economic transformation was the process of upward mobility of the masses into a higher social rank. Many urban people enjoyed high income or salary in the industrial and education sectors. Interestingly, as Anwar (1995 : 115) notes, in spite of several financial problems brought about by the decline of oil prices and the world economic recession that hit the New Order after 1983, the government increased its educational budget year after year since Repelita II (Five Year Plan II). In Repelita II (1974/1975-1978/1979), the education budget accounted for 10.0 percent, in Repelita III (1979/1980-1983/1984) the budget rose to 10.4 percent, and increased again to 14.7 percent in Repelita IV (1984/1985-1988/1989). Quoting from Anne Booth, Anwar remarks that through this policy Indonesia “has successfully undergone a revolution of ‘education’ that makes Indonesia equal with India and the Philippines, whereas in fact their level of education has developed far more since the colonial period.” “The effect of the revolution of education was the increase in educated people seeking work.” (Anwar 1995: 115, 116).

In the 1990s, when this new ‘educated-generation’ entered the work force, the revolution of education was the basis for the emergence of a middle class centred around the large Indonesian cities such as Jabotabek (Jakarta, Bogor, Tanggerang, Bekasi), Bandung, Surabaya, Medan, Ujung Pandang and so forth. They were the middle class who, according to Anthony Giddens, do not own “property in the means of production,” and to earn a living have to work for others. Furthermore, Giddens remarks, this is a single middle class based on the “possession of educational or technical qualifications” (Haralambos and Holborn 1995: 69). In Indonesia,

The most recent census data reveal that the categories ‘professional and technical’ and ‘managers and administrators’ constituted 3.9 percent of the population in 1990, having increased from 2.6 percent in 1971 and 3.0 percent in 1980. This indicates a professional and managerial middle class of around 7.5 million. In Jakarta, the percentages are much higher –from 6.03 percent of the population in 1971 to 8.39 percent in 1990. (BPS 1992)

This transformation of education up until 1985 was reinforced by a rise in religious education (Anwar 1995: 117). The trend of flourishing religious education, facilitated by socio-economic and cultural factors, was also assisted by the fact that the New Order state was neither a religious nor a secular state. The Pancasila state had an obligation to develop the life of existing religions and this was a crucial factor in the rapid development of Islamic education.[9] For example, this state role was manifested in the so-called SKB Tiga Menteri (Decree of Three Ministries). These three ministries (the Ministry of Education and Culture, the Ministry of  Religious Affairs, and the Ministry of Home Affairs) on 5 June 1975 declared that: (1) religious teaching is compulsory in public schools, for at least 2-3 hours per week; (2) the proportion and composition of madrasah[10] curriculum should consist of 70 percent general teaching, and 30 percent religious teaching; (3) the madrasah graduates are eligible to continue to higher levels of public schools. This policy had a direct impact on “the positive interaction between public and religious education,” and underpinned vast growth of religious education in Indonesia. 1980 statistical data shows that,

The number of Madrasah Ibtidaiyah students in Indonesia by 1980, both in the private and the state sectors, reached 2,9421,383 students or 14 percent from the total number of SD students numbering 21,165,724. In the junior level, Madrasah Tsanawiyah students reached the number of 340, 156 or 11 percent of the total 2,894,983 SMP students. In the senior high school level, the number of Madrasah Aliyah students reached 93,840 or 9 percent of the total 1,036,016 SMA students. The number of PGA (religious teacher school) students was 33,178 or 15 per cent of the total 213,155 SPG (public teacher school) students. Meanwhile, the number of IAIN students reached 28,122 or 14.3 percent of the total 195,994 university students [PTN]. (Anwar 1995: 117)

Welcoming this growing number of Muslim students, Feilard (1997: 141) states that “the government provides support for 29 percent of public Islamic junior high schools (madrasah tsanawiyah), 46 percent of public Islamic senior high schools (madrasah aliyah), and 74.6 percent of public Islamic universities (IAIN).”[11] To some extent, this can be read as part of the government’s efforts to preempt the growth of Islamic institutions and, through funding, the government was able to extend its control over Islamic institutions and education. However, the schools themselves often came to be dominated by Islamic teachers and ideas and expanded the support for religion and religious educational institutions. More than that, the support of Islamic education was in part evidence of the government’s commitment to Islam. Islamic teachers and ideas led to the education of large numbers of people in Islamic values, making them more open to Islamic appeals, and Islamic graduates went out to work for Islamic goals.

Bourdieu suggests that the inclination of modern society is to no longer transmit material resources to their children. Instead, it prefers to equip the new generation with knowledge and ‘cultural capital’ by sending them to school and providing a home environment conducive to study, in order to give them access to privileged social positions (Bourdieu and Passeron 1977).

… school, through the mechanism of awarding of certificates and diplomas is a key institution by which the established order is maintained. The language, values, assumptions, and models of success and failure adopted within schools are those of the dominant group. Thus, success in the educational system is largely dictated by the extent to which individuals have absorbed the dominant culture, and by how much cultural capital is shared by the dominant group, thus ideologically legitimating the existing social order (Jary and Jary 1995: 137).

Sending Muslim children to modern schools in the 1950s bore fruit in the decades to come. In the 1960s, a small amount of Muslim students completed a BA (Bachelor of Arts). In the 1970s, the numbers of those completing a Sarjana degree (“Bachelor”) were overwhelming. This boom of graduates was the basis of the emergence of the middle class in the 1980s. According to Oliver Roy, “The mass of revolutionary Islam is a product of modern society . . . the new urban arrivals, the millions of peasants who have tripled the populations of the great Muslim metropolises” (quoted in Huntington 1996: 113). In this decade, as Muslims became increasingly upwardly mobile, Islamic expressions started to be seen in many social and cultural sectors (secular universities, private and government offices, starred-hotels and the like). This period witnessed the trend of increasing Islamic proselytisation and growing symbolic religious devotion such as attending the pengajian and Friday prayer. The head-cover began to be worn by university students and public servants. So extensive was the veil wearing amongst students at IKIP (State Institute of Teaching and Education) in Bandung during the 1980s, that a student I interviewed remarked “the IKIP has now become another IAIN” (at IAIN or the State Institute for Islamic Studies, all female students wear head-scarves). This period was characterised by non-political Islamic expression. However, culturally and symbolically the educated-santri had become the powerful middle class. In the 1990s, just one decade later, the santri group had captured the power centre (the state), through the entry of many santri into the state bureaucracy as civil servants and cabinet ministers, and through the establishment of the ICMI organisation. As Bourdieu would say, the accumulation of Muslim cultural capital through mass education has created the educated middle class and granted them access to the power centre.[]



[1] With regard to the pattern and way of thinking of the Old Order concerning development, see Wijaya (1982).
This orientation gained vast support particularly from those who shared the government’s opinion that the political experience of the Old Order must not be repeated. From intellectual support came mainly from socialist party (P.S.I) activists such as Mohammad Hatta, Sutan Sjahrir, Soedjatmoko and some segments of university students in Jakarta and Bandung. With a background of Western education, these intellectual segments had modern orientation and supported the employment of modern values in Indonesia such as pragmatism, individualism, rationalism, and even secularism. Sjahrir and Soedjatmoko were two of the prominent intellectuals who had criticized the political inclination of the Old Older for overlooking the interests of the people . On some occasions, they were also the advocates of democracy, economic development and industrialisation (see Mas’oed 1986: 132 -34; Soedjatmoko 1988 : 243).

[2] In Indonesia, ‘primordial basis’ is used to call political parties which based their foundation and programs on the so-called SARA (religion, ethnicity, race and intergroup).

[3] For Noer’s point of view on Islam and Asas Tunggal see his book (1984).

[4] Despite the similarity, Dutch tolerance of Islam, admitted by Hefner, was not accompanied by the “massive infrustructural support” of the New Order. “Despite political setback, then, Muslim leaders today look back on the 1980s as a decisive turning point for Islam and at least a partial vindication of the accommodative group’s attitude towards the government” (Hefner 1997a: 89).

[5] It should be added here that making Pancasila as the only one political basis was not the only factor that declined ideological Muslims. Some other factors also contributed like government’s political suppression to Islam, deideologization and political restructurization that resulted in floating mass. Other factor was better Muslim education. Transformation of education has made Muslims more interested in practical things instead of political ideology.

[6] The New Order employed the policy of ‘floating mass’ through the government decree saying that it is not allowed for any political parties to establish their branches at the level of subdistrict areas. From the New Order’s perspective, this was intended to exclude the ordinary people from practical politics, so they could concentrate on supporting the government’s economic development program.

[7] This success has been achieved by Indonesia as well as other Southeast Asian countries. From the 1980s onwards, Southeast Asian countries have developed from pre-industrial countries into Newly Industrialised Countries (NICs) in the 1990s by accomplishing the highest growth record in the world with GDP averages above 7.5 percent annually. In terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the economic growth of Southeast Asian countries since the 1990s has increased dramatically. In 1995, the general GDP growth reached 7.5 percent of GDP, an increase from 4 percent in 1994. In 1995, specifically, Vietnam reached 9.3 percent, Malaysia 9.2 percent and Thailand 8.5 percent. Myanmar and Cambodia, like Indonesia, grew by 7.7 percent of GDP. In 1996, the rate of growth was still stable above 7.5 percent designated by fluctuation. Growth in Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia tended to increase, while growth in Thailand and Malaysia slightly decreased. In 1997, Vietnam’s growth rocketed by reaching a fantastic rate of 9.9 percent of GDP, while other countries were relatively stable at more than 7.5 percent. See Asian Development Outlook 1996 and 1997 (1996).

[8] Compare this to Hefner’s account on Islamic resurgence in the South Asian countries. Hefner views the role of the New Order in the nation-state in the context of religious resurgence. According to Hefner, the main project of a Southeast Asian nation-state is economic development and a state-shaped citizenry. Rapid economic development has resulted in the mobilization of the newly shaped Muslim middle class, while the state-shaped citizenry has drawn upon Muslim community support for state nationalism and has stifled Muslim rebellion against the state. See Hefner (1997a: 5-6)

[9] Indonesia recognizes two systems of education: First, “religious education” institutions affiliated to the Ministry of Religious Affairs. This ministry organizes religious institutions like the schools Madrasah ‘Ibtidaiyah (Islamic primary school), Madrasah Tsanawiyah (Islamic junior high school), PGA (Religious teachers school), Madrasah ‘Aliyah (Islamic senior high school) and IAIN (State Institute of Islamic Studies). In these institutions, religious module is the main part of the curriculum. Second, “non-religious education” institutions affiliated to the Ministry of Education and Culture. These “secular” schools –namely SD, SMP, SMU, and universities– are organized under the authority of the Ministry of Education and “general knowledge” forms the main part of the curriculum.

[10] Apart from its role in the Islamic education sector, the government also has a program of infrastructural development through the Ministry of Religious Affairs, focusing on the construction of mosques, mushalla (prayer halls) as well as churches. Quoting from provincial figures in Java, Hefner (1997a: 88) records that in “East Java, the number of  mosques increased from 15,574 in 1973, to 17,750 in 1979, 20,648 in 984, and 25,655 in 1990. By comparison, over the same seventeen-year period, the number of Catholic churches increased from 206 to 324. Protestant churches (including many small, evangelical meeting halls) increased from 1,330 in 1973 to 2,308 in 1984, but declined again to 1,376 in 1990. There was a similar effective program of mosque construction in Central Java, where, between 1980 and 1992, the number of mosques almost doubled, from 15,685 to 28,748. In addition to ministry programs, there was a smaller but more conspicuous program sponsored by president Soeharto himself, under the auspices of a presidential foundation for the support of Islamic initiatives, the Amal Bakti Muslimin Pancasila. The Amal Bakti program sponsored the construction of four hundreds mosques and provided support to one thousand Muslim proselytizers (dai), posted to areas of Indonesia that were  deemed devotionally weak, including many on the island of Java.”

[11] However, despite its present decline, Ali points out that, the idea and reality of ‘political Islam,’ is historically understandable. The ‘political Islam,’ which centred on Natsir as Masjumi leader, had served an important role whereby the idea of democracy became recognized in Indonesia in the 1950s. In other words, ‘political Islam’ had been the means through which Western institutions like the political party, the state, the general election and democracy were introduced. “Civil society” that had once been the reality of Indonesia in 1950s also makes possible due to the ‘political Islam.’ See Ali (1995).


Written by Moeflich

29/12/2010 at 5:49 pm

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