Moeflich Hasbullah: Antologi Pemikiran

Cultural Presentation of the Muslim Middle Class in Contemporary Indonesia

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Moeflich Hasbullah
(STUDIA ISLAMIKA, Indonesian Journal for Islamic Studies,
UIN Jakarta, Volume 7, Number 2, 2000)


“It is as if the masses have kept a secret to themselves
while the intellectuals keep running around in circles
trying to make out what it is, what is going on.”

Stuart Hall


One approach to understanding the platform of New Order politics is to view it as a contest amongst Indonesian political groups for access to power. Throughout the New Order period, economic capital was largely in the hands of a Chinese minority, while political capital was in the hands of the abangan Javanese priyayi. At the same time, the santri (the ‘true Muslims’), have been economically and politically marginalized. They have been, as Wertheim (1975) puts it, “the outsiders”. Since the 1980s, thanks to the success of the development, Indonesia has been going through rapid economic development and massive educational transformation. These economic and education transformations have increased the people’s income and standard of living mostly in urban areas and transformed them into the ‘middle class.’ For the urban Muslim community — the bulk of those transformed and the most affected by development — the economic and educational transformations have not only resulted in class transformation into the ‘middle rank’ but also caused the mobilization of the decades-marginalized santri (with the project of cultural Islam). At the same time as it is mobilizing, the Muslim group –represented by its urban middle class– is becoming a growing power relying on its “cultural capital” (Bourdieu 1984) in order to challenge the hegemony of the Javanese priyayi.

The most dramatic symbolic expression of the educated middle class was the establishment of ICMI (Muslim Association of Indonesian Intellectuals) in 1990 which brought Muslims to the power center. Due to the modern nature of ICMI, it became the symbol of modernity of the new class in which educated urban Muslims collectively placed their identities. Since the sources of identity take many forms like religion, class, language, and gender (Rao 1999: 56), from the 1980s onward, the Muslim middle class began reinforcing their collective identity by way of other codes of class such as religious dress (the veil, head cover), music taste (e.g. Bimbo’s modern kasidah, or religious song, and Kiayi Kanjeng), language (modernist Islamic media) and fashion (the trend of the elite’s prestigious religious teaching). This study shows that these features have become apparent in the period of the New Order particularly since the 1980s. These are cultural presentations through which the making of the so-called santri middle class can be identified. Since the Muslim middle class is culturally growing, the presentations then go through, what Bourdieu calls, a “cultural reproduction”; that is, “the perpetuation of existing cultural forms, values and ideas.” Bourdieu argues that this perpetuation “means the reproduction and perpetuation of the culture of the dominant classes to ensure their continued dominance.” (Jary and Jary 1995: 138)

Muslim Middle Class: Politico-cultural Setting

Since the Indonesian independence, in political contest, the santri have been the marginalized group. They have never been a significant power. The Muslim community attitudes are typically those of a minority group (Wertheim 1975; Schwarz 1997). This is generally because politically and economically they were always on the periphery and were onlookers of the power circle, or borrowing Wertheim’s words, “the representatives of the Moslem community have rather consistently been assigned an outsider’s role” (1975 : 75). Therefore, far from establishing an Islamic state, or at least holding a political hegemony, over the past decades they were a marginalized group and their political terrain was peripheral. Regarded as being under long political coercion from various Javanese kingdoms, then the European colonial regime and, after the 1945 independence, from Soekarno’s and Soeharto’s authoritarian regimes, the Muslim community has long been the ‘outsiders.’

The discord between Islam and “the state” has been a characteristic of Indonesian history as seen in the rivalry of social political leadership. Historically speaking, in the hands of the kiyai, Islam has been, as called by Kahin (1952), “the ideological weapon” or the symbolic unifier of Indonesian society in resisting the existing rulers. Since the thirteenth century, Islam has been the pembangkang birokrasi (bureaucratic opponent) that challenged the mystical aspects and absolute power of the Javanese kings (Samson 1968; Kuntowijoyo 1990). The Javanese rulers themselves saw Muslims as a civil power that threatened their own power and interests. In that contest for authority, the secular power was represented by the priyayi (of the kingship bureaucracy), and the religious power was represented by the kiyai. The two powers competed against each other in establishing social leadership within Javanese society (Moertono 1985; Anderson 1972).

During the New Order, as one who personalized himself as a Javanese king and internalized the Javanese values and history inherited from his predecessors, Soeharto saw that Islam remained more or less the same. He was “essentially hostile to Islam” (Hefner 1997a: 78). Prior to the 1980s, many Indonesianists believed that the Soeharto government was “a resolute defender of abangan Javanese values, deeply opposed to anything that might expand Muslim influence in Indonesian politics and society” (Hefner 1997a: 78).

The authority‘s hostility to Islam can be traced from the early times of Indonesian independence when the government refused the Djakarta Charter of 22 June 1945 that contained the clause “Ketuhanan dengan kewajiban menjalankan syari’at Islam bagi pemeluk-pemeluknya,” or “Divinity with obligation to apply Islamic law among the Muslim portion of the populace” (Samson 1971-1972: Feillard 1997). In this refusal, “President Soekarno’s concept of Pantjasila, though recognizing religion as an important pillar of society, yet denied Islam a prominent position within the state structure, as the Moslem members of the preparatory committee had urged” (Wertheim 1975: 80). Pantjasila has been the ideological basis of the Indonesian state ever since. In another case, after its frequent political clashes with Soekarno and the PKI (Indonesian Communist Party) and also accusations of having been involved in the PRRI/Permesta revolt, on 13 September 1960 Soekarno dissolved the most important Islamic party, Masjumi, and also PSI (Indonesian Socialist Party) which was considered its close ally. Not only did the Government ban Masjumi and eliminate Islamic political power, but in the 1960s it also began to restrict the political activities of Muslim politicians. Many activists were put in jail whether they had been involved in the PRRI/Permesta rebellions or not. These jailings had a big impact. Noer said that “on the one hand, people had become aware that the Soekarno government during Guided Democracy was tyrannical, and therefore had to be overthrown. On the other hand, people had become afraid; they had to think carefully before opposing the government” (1987: 415). So great was the Muslim hatred of Soekarno and his chief supporters, the PKI and the left-wing PNI at that time, “perhaps this was why Moslems were active in helping the New Order smash the Old Order” (1990 : 10).

Entering the New Order period, Muslims banded together with university students who actively made stormy protests against Soekarno, were jubilant over the ruin of the Old Order and welcomed the new political system with great expectancy. Contrary to their expectations, however, the Soeharto government continued to frustrate Muslim hopes with continued incidents of political suppression such as refusing the re-establishment of Masjumi in 1968. After repeated calls for re-establishment, the Soeharto regime, backed by the military, stuck to their decision. This banning was followed up by the barring of Masjumi leaders from participation in the newly formed Partai Muslimin Indonesia (Parmusi). Several years later, the government also aroused Muslim anger by legalizing secular marriage in 1975. The Muslims responded with stormy protests and demonstrations, even inside the Parliament House until eventually the law was modified to meet some of the objections put forward by the Islamic party, PPP (United Development Party). A decade later, under the military Commander General Benny Moerdani, the regime executed a massacre upon hundreds of Muslims in the 1984 Tanjung Priok ‘closed-case.’ Finally, in 1985, the government removed Islamic bases from all political parties and mass organisations by insisting on an Asas Tunggal (Pancasila, the state ideology).

In the New Order, Soeharto’s regime went on to be authoritarian, perhaps even more so than during Soekarno’s time. Soeharto himself was very powerful and his government was the machine that underpinned his power. For more than thirty years, state politics dominated people’s political power. So great was the state’s role and domination, that its power reached into every corner of public life. Soeharto established his power by means of three pillars (“tiga jalur”): the military, the bureaucracy, and the Golkar party. Through the military he maintained the doctrine of dwi fungsi ABRI (the dual function of the military) whereby ABRI had a valid role in politics as well as the armed forces. The militarization of the bureaucracy was an embodiment of the dual function doctrine. In the 1985 cabinet, out of a total of thirty seven ministers, fourteen had military backgrounds (Liddle 1996a: 19). According to a study conducted in 1982, 52 of 106 subcabinet positions such as secretaries-general, directors-general, and inspectors-general, were held by seconded officers (MacDougall 1982: 89-121). Until 1985, in regional development, about three-quarters of the twenty seven governorships and a small majority of district headships were occupied by the armed forces.

Golkar was the strong state party and became the only ruling majority for nearly three decades and won election after election as a result of Soeharto’s power. Consequently, the two other parties, PPP and PDI, were very weak and played a supplementary role having no influence on the process of national decision making. These other parties existed merely intended to prove that Indonesia had a multi-party system, indicative of a democratic state. In addition, Soeharto mobilized the bureaucracy as an effective political machine to support the government. In Indonesia, the bureaucracy was powerful and dominated the government. According to Liddle (1996b:18), there were reasons for this: First, “The bureaucracy pervades society.” Besides being the largest employer in every city, town, and village, almost every aspect of social affairs such as health, banking, marketing agencies, and even religious affairs are linked to government control via the bureaucracy. Second, “Bureaucrats are the most powerful actors in most policy conflicts.” The military, Golkar and bureaucracy were the main support for the government. This political structure of the New Order is described by Liddle as “a steeply ascending pyramid”: “The heights are thoroughly dominated by a single office, the presidency, and the president commands the military which is primus inter pares within the bureaucracy, which in turn holds sway over the society” (Liddle 1996b: 18).

With such strong state politics, the relation between the state and society was hegemonic. Nothing challenged the state. In the West the press is recognised as “the fourth estate” after the legislative, executive and judiciary. In Indonesia all these roles were occupied by the state. In 1994, three national news magazines Tempo, Editor and Detik were banned. The New Order also successfully stifled the freedom of people’s expression. Any social, political, cultural or religious activity aimed at criticising the government was banned. In 1965, within the Department of Defense and Security the Kopkamtib (Operational Command for the Restoration of Security and Order) was formed. This was a very powerful institution that “enables the authorities to arrest and hold indefinitely anyone whom they suspect of subversive activity” (Liddle 1996b: 19). In instances where the umat Islam were suspected as being a threat to Pancasila, the santri suffered from the actions of the kopkamtib. Any religious speech, meeting, even discussion or seminar at that time needed the government’s permission. The kopkamtib was headed by Lt. Gen. Benny Moedarni. After that, prohibition after prohibition was declared by the Indonesian government. Arts performances, book publishing, student discussions, and anything that criticised the authorities was banned. Notwithstanding that the New Order state had modern political institutions such as parliament (DPR), the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR) and a judicial council, Soeharto, for more than three decades, was personally the real power in Indonesian politics (Neher 1994; Fealy 1996; Liddle 1996b).

Faced with this unchanging policy and seeing that some non-Muslim political actors were holding important positions within the New Order elite circle, many in Muslim circles came to the conclusion that “the New Order government has been hijacked by an anti-Muslim alliance of Chinese Catholics, former PSI socialists, and armed officers. Most fingers pointed to Major General Ali Murtopo as the mastermind behind these policies” (Hefner 1997a : 78).

Surveying Soeharto’s authoritarian government, Wertheim (1975: 88) concludes:

No doubt, the ummat Islam in Indonesia feels seriously frustrated. Not only has Islam not been able to increase its political position since Soekarno’s fall; in fact Islam has been relegated to a position rather similar to the one it occupied during the colonial period. In this sense, too, the Soeharto regime could be called “neo-colonialist”. As during colonial times, the regime wants Islamic organizations to refrain from any political activity and to stick to innocuous, purely religious pursuits.”

All these political constraints have repressed Muslims and given them the impression that they are in fact weak in power. This finally created the psychological condition where they felt that they were only a majority in numbers but a minority in quality. In turn, the Muslim majority turned out to be a minority in mentality, and this is clearly, as implied by Schwarz (1997: 129), “an anomaly.” Schwarz concludes that the anomaly of a majority group that feels it is treated like a minority is often found in the relationship between and within Indonesia’s religious communities. Schwarz feels that, “Muslim leaders often sound and act like members of a persecuted minority” (1997: 129-30). When Muslims were enduring the most extreme political suppression at the beginning of the New Order, Mohammad Natsir, a Masjumi leader, expressed his anger by accurately and sorrowfully describing this condition: “They have treated us like cats with ring worm”. (McVey 1983 : 199)

Not only in a political sense have Muslims been treated “like cats with ring worm,” there were also social reasons for Muslims to believe that they were a majority in numbers but a “minority” in human resources. This was felt strongly in the first years of the New Order period when the government undertook a policy of modernization. It was apparent that the political arena was dominated by activists who came from secular nationalist, Christian, and socialist backgrounds. In addition, the prominent figures of Masjumi were being treated badly and their political attitudes were restricted. Furthermore, the majority of people (many of whom were Muslims) were uneducated, poor and lacking skill. Since the early periods of the New Order up to the 1970s, the Muslim community was unable to offer the qualified human resources required by the new independent state. This was because they were still in the phase of, in Ali’s (1989) words, a “sawah” society, a term that associates them with an unskilled traditional agricultural society. Thus, political Islam was in decline and the New Order government was dominated by abangan figures, to the exclusion of Islamic-oriented figures. For several decades, Muslim figures who represented the political aspirations of the majority remained marginalized.

The Shaping of Muslim Middle Class

However, since the 1980s, the landscape of Indonesian Muslim society has changed completely. A dramatic change in economic, political and religious life occurred within Muslim society thanks to the massive development process pursued by the New Order. In the political sphere, the New Order applied Asas Tunggal in 1985. This was a government program of dismissing ‘primordial ideology’ from political parties and mass organizations. The policy resulted in a process of “deideologization” and “depoliticization” within society. Many Muslim leaders left formal politics (e.g., political parties) and moved into broader cultural activities (e.g., education and religious proselytizing –few were involved in the field of business). The cultural orientation program showed Muslims in a benign light, and resulted in a new government attitude towards the Muslim community, no longer considering them as ‘radical’ and ‘ideological’.
In the economic sector, the success of the New Order economy (with a GDP growth rate of more than 7.5 per cent per annum) increased people’s income per capita from below US $420 to US $4500. A “revolution of education” also took place, thanks to the annual increase of the government education budget. In addition, industrialization resulted in huge urbanization, underpinning the coming of new wealth. All these factors, shaped a new middle class of Muslims. They are well-educated, professional, modernist, active in the cultural sphere, and have discarded the old political orientation and consequently have better relations with the government.

Although still at a symbolic level, this new Muslim middle class has become the drawing force for process of Islamization which has occurred at almost all social and political levels in contemporary Indonesia. At the same time that Islamization was taking place, the middle class was becoming an increasingly significant force, and as Muslims became increasingly upwardly mobile, the government opened itself to accommodate them. The Muslim middle class in this period started to enter the power centre. Governmental officials and bureaucrats experienced what was then called “santrinisation” (from santri, pious Muslim) and there was a “greening” process (green being the colour of Islam) in the House of Representatives. While the santri tended to become more numerous, the abangan became more and more Islamic and less numerous. This was the period when the political capital of the abangan declined and that of the santri increased. The death knell of abangan domination was sounded when Soeharto himself, who was claimed as abangan and far from Islamic concerns, on 6 December 1990, supported and authorized the formation of Indonesia’s newest and most controversial Muslim Intellectual Association (ICMI). A great socio-political change was occurring. According to Budiman, ICMI “has grown rapidly and has become very influential.”

Many of its members became members of parliament and some became cabinet ministers. A daily newspaper, Republika, was founded, an Islamic bank, Bank Muamalat, was established, and CIDES, a Muslim body for intellectuals and academicians, started to operate. Very quickly, this middle class Muslim organisation has taken over the dynamic of the Islamic movement in Indonesia (1994: 232).

Not only was the ICMI very influential, the organisation also developed and expanded very quickly. At only its second national congress held in Jakarta, twelve hundred delegates, representing 42,000 members from all Indonesian provinces and from many Indonesian Islamic communities abroad, participated. Minister of Research and Technology B.J. Habibie, generally considered President Suharto’s favourite cabinet member, was chosen for a second five-year term as national chair. Sixteen ministers, nearly half the cabinet, were elected to leadership positions, and the president himself was designated ICMI’s ‘Protector’ (Pelindung) (Liddle 1996a: 613).

For the urban Muslim middle class, ICMI has become the symbol of awakening Muslim political capital. More importantly, however, ICMI has become the symbol of modern identity whereby Muslims are no longer seen as “backward” or “marginal.” Dewi Fortuna Anwar, a Muslim intellectual, pointed out that, “Formerly Islam was associated with backwardness and poverty and modern Muslims tended to be a bit ashamed of their Islam identity… [but today] Islam is no longer seen as the religion of the losers.” (Vatikiotis 1996: 153). In other words, by way of ICMI, Islam represents itself as modern. In the 1990s, the strength of ICMI has made it valid and legal for a member of the elite to show off their religious identity; an unprecedented psychological phenomenon has arisen where government officials and bureaucrats “contest to show off” their Islamic identities. At the time of Javanese abangan supremacy, this would have been impossible. Santrinisasi birokrasi (“santrinisation” of bureaucracy) or birokratisasi santri (bureaucratisation of santri) have become popular jargon to describe the new Islam-State relationship. So remarkable was the shifting of hegemonic symbols at this time, that there was a social trend among the Indonesian elite, scholars and urban Muslim middle class to feel “out of date” if they did not become ICMI members. Liddle (1996a: 613) expresses great surprise that men from various non-Islamic backgrounds who were opposed to Islamic movements, like Vice-President General (ret.) Try Sutrisno, the 1988-1993 armed forces commander, former Vice-President Lieutenant General (ret.) Sudharmono, who during the 1945-49 independence revolution was regarded as having links to the leftist wing, and many others like Sumitro Djojohadikusumo (former leader of PSI), a PNI (Indonesian National Party) background Ginanjar Kartasasmita, and General (ret.) Rudini, a former Army Chief of Staff and Minister of Home Affairs took part in the establishment of ICMI. Having said that, Liddle (1996a: 614) also states, that “many prominent Islamic intellectuals and activists outside the state were also listed among the organisation’s 148 officers.” These included K.H Ali Yafie, Sri Bintang Pamungkas, Imaduddin Abdulrahim and several other leaders of Nahdlatul Ulama (an Islamic organisation with more or less 30 million members), and Amien Rais, the head of Muhammadiyah at that time (the second largest Islamic social and educational organisation), who “played a key role at the congress and was elected chair of ICMI’s Council of Experts”.

The growing Muslim political capital is best understood as evidence of the emergence of the Muslim middle class (Kuntowijoyo 1991; Hefner 1993; Nakamura 1993; Budiman 1994; Ramage 1995; Anwar 1995). How was the Muslim middle class shaped? Vatikiotis argues that there “has been [a] social dislocation which plagues any fast-growing urban society. Many people have strengthened their faith as a reaction to the flagrant disregard for traditional moral values they see around them” (1996: 153). Other scholars reach the same conclusion. The recent Islamization process that facilitated the establishment of ICMI is a manifestation of the rising and widening of the Muslim middle class that has taken place over the last two decades and can not be ignored by the government.

Apart from the mobilization of the santri, there is also an interplay of factors between the government and the umat Islam. Nurcholish Madjid (1998) describes this interplay as, “a meeting of objective and subjective conditions.” The objective condition is government acceptance of Islam and the subjective condition is Muslim hope to dominate the government. These two conditions, according to Nurcholish, are seen in the “penghijauan” (“greenisation”) process of the People’s Consultative Council (MPR) and overwhelming Islamization in the 1990s:

It is very natural as a result of the meeting of objective conditions and subjective desires. There is clearly the Soeharto factor apart from the people’s aspiration itself. That is the result of a lengthy process as an effect of the agreement of the Minister of Religious Affairs and the Minister of Education in 1950. It was agreed at that time that religious schools would have general education and conversely, general schools would have religious education. Accordingly, many santri parents sent their children to general schools because they no longer had a psychological burden. As a result, in the 1960s, the number of Bachelor of Art (BA) degree holders was overwhelming, and in the 1970s, the numbers of Sarjana overflowed. However, they were still motivated by individual affairs in this period. Some tried to look for a job and others got married. In the 1980s, they began to expand themselves beyond their communities so there were Islamic appearances seen everywhere in offices, hotels, and the like. However, this was still a social phenomenon. Only in the 1990s, the political nuance was felt. And this is an understandable development. If this is stemmed it will be dangerous because such an act will be against the stream. Soeharto who has been deeply involved in the process of development was quite wise to grasp it so he could support the establishment of ICMI, besides he feels it would be safe to be in the Islamic community. For that reason, the so-called “penghijauan” is something natural and it will persistently develop until the new equilibrium is shaped. The situation today still lacks balance.

In supporting this conclusion, Mahasin (1984) argues that the Muslim middle class is evidence of two phenomena: First, what Mahasin (1984) called “the embourgeoisement of Muslim sons and daughters, or the priyayisasi of santri”. Mahasin disagrees with Geertz’s bazaar economy approach, and argues that the sending of Muslim sons and daughters to modern schools is responsible for the rise of this new generation because by way of this education route the Muslim sons and daughters are propelled into new middle class membership. Through this explanation, Mahasin confirms Bourdieu’s ideas concerning “cultural capital.” Bourdieu argues that in order to reach or to maintain class position in society, modern society no longer transmits material property to its children, but uses ‘cultural capital’ –the provision of a home environment of study, general inculcation of the values of the educational system or sending children to school to gain a better position in society. By doing so, children will have social privileges and can enter the elite circle despite the absence of private property (Bourdieu and Passeron, 1977). Second, the quest for religious expression by the urban middle class –due to rapid secularisation, they can not find a peaceful life in modern civilisation and eventually return to the Islamic faith:

Submission to faith in Islamic societies can offer relief from the symptoms of social and economic malaise […] because it allows escape into a well-defined moral realm, and an abandonment of worldly concerns. This need for a moral refuge could help explain why, despite the assumption that religion has been eroded as a force in mainstream politics in the post-independence era, the role of religion as a social force may be growing (Vatikiotis,1996 : 154).

With the rise of this class, the Muslim position in the 1990s has changed drastically. “From the lower class based movement, it has been transformed into [a] middle class one. From a movement based outside the State, the Muslim struggle has become a struggle from within the State” (Budiman, 1994: 233). In other words, the previously marginalized Muslims have today capitalised on their power by moving into the power center and created a new equilibrium within Indonesia’s plural society. “After nearly three decades the New Order has come into power,” Ma’arif (1994) writes, “just in this the sixth cabinet (Kabinet Pembangunan VI) of 1993, the quantity of ministers properly reflects the balance of the Indonesian population where Muslims are a majority. Around 90% of all ministers are santri both in qualitative and quantitative meanings.” This has been the period of, as Liddle (1996a: 913) puts it, “the Islamic turn in Indonesia.”

Cultural Presentations

A class as well as a collective identity in society is formed by many social codes depending on the kind of allegiance, ascription and affiliation it draws on: language, religion, ideology (Rao 1999: 56). Besides that, it might also be dress, fashion, taste, etc. These codes bind class members with a collective identity, or in other words, the collective identity is formed by many class codes. It is in this sense, a broader outlet of the Muslim middle class expression that exceeds politics and economy can be identified. Contemporary phenomena within the Indonesian Muslim community during the period of the 1980s and 1990s such as the wearing of the veil, Bimbo’s modern religious songs and Kiayi Kanjeng music, modern Islamic media such as the journal of Ulumul Qur’an, Ummat magazine, and the daily Republika, and finally the elite’s prestigious pengajian (Islamic learning) which emerged in the same period can be best understood as cultural codes of expression which constitute Muslim middle class identity. In the follows, these five cultural traits will be discussed more deeply.

Head Cover: Affirmation of Identity

Beginning at the Salman mosque in Bandung, West Java, the popularity of Islamic dress spread initially to other universities throughout Indonesia, and in a further development, reached senior high school students before finally being accepted by middle class people. Urbanised Muslims were faced with the interplay between how to be modern at the price of dislocation and alienation, and how to maintain their cultural roots at the expense of the loss of modernity. In other words, for the urbanised Muslims, it was painful to be fully modern and also painful to leave their traditionality. “Islamist symbols, commitment, and beliefs,” Huntington argues, then “meet these psychological needs.” (1996: 116) Crowded into decaying and often primitive slum areas, the urban migrants were separated from their roots. In this context, Ernest Gellner implies, Islam provides “a dignified identity” to these “newly uprooted masses.” (Huntington 1996: 113) Muslims felt the need to return to Islamic ideas, practices, and institutions to provide the direction and the motor of modernisation. The Islamic symbols and commitment that provided a new identity were effective because they functioned as what Bourdieu called ‘habitus.’ Habitus consists of “systems of durable dispositions, structured structures predisposed to function as structuring structures, that is, as the principle of generation and structuration of practices and representations which can be objectively ‘regulated’ and regular …” (Bourdieu 1977: 73). The dispositions are acquired through a gradual process of inculcation or are inculcated in a durable way: “the body is literally moulded into certain forms, so that the habitus is reflected in the whole way that one carries oneself in the world, the way that one walks, speaks, acts, eats” (Thompson, 1995: 102). As durable generative principles, habitus produces and reproduces the ‘practices’ of a class. The socialisation and transmission of the veil through student networks have acted to create the ‘habitus’ for it was practised persistently, adjusted durably and finally after a very long period, produced a new class, that is the Muslim middle class. The individuals who wore the veil “do not know what they are doing that what they do has more meaning than they know” (Bourdieu, 1977: 79). By spreading the veil-wearing practice to others within the student world, head-scarved women “continually construct their social worlds through their everyday practices and endow their existences with meaning” (Keaton 1999: 49). Wearing the veil is more than just obeying religious rules and conforming to identity, it is the formation of a new class.

In the gradual process of inculcation, the popularisation of veil wearing gained its reinforcement from the Iranian revolution that erupted in 1979. With Indonesian Muslims aware that Islam had been eliminated culturally and politically in many countries, the revolution provided a new self-esteem, new identity and pride. In the years after the Iranian revolution, the author often witnessed head-scarved students proudly bearing the Koran in their hands in public places such as city buses, department stores and the streets of Bandung, West Java. In terms of Islamic dress, many of them imitated the style of the Iranians: women in totally black uniform and men in Iranian clergy head covers.

The return to religious consciousness is a phenomenon of urbanised Muslim students as well as the urbanised middle class. Mariana Ramelan, a popular Indonesian television presenter, feels more secure and safe with her head-scarf that she began to wear after returning from the hajj in 1989. For many years after obtaining success in her career as a music show presenter, Ramelan found her life meaningless. She says “this is a religious obligation. The veil I put on makes me feel more secure and safe” (Ummat, 5 February 1996). Since deciding to wear the veil in 1978, Ida Royani, a top Indonesian actress of the 1970s, felt proud when she was able to refuse film and commercial offers that came to her, associating film with secular world, glamour and the like (Ummat, 30 October 1995). Ida Leman, a prominent television star, feeling that it was impossible to take off her head-scarf, proudly rejected an offer to market a product simply because she was asked to wear the kebaya (Javanese traditional dress) on her show. “While it’s an honour… wow … it’s great, however, I should reject it.” After praying and asking for God’s blessing to maintain the veil wearing, Leman said: “You see, since then, I’ve got a greater business of joining the Islamic dress exhibition conducted in several countries” (Ummat, 30 October 1995). Apart from providing a feeling of safety and security, the Islamic dress also offers identity confirmation and freedom of self-expression. By covering their head with the veil, Muslim women confirm their religious commitment and identity. Expressing their commitment leads to a freedom from psychological burdens that arise from believing in religion on one hand and ignoring or breaking its doctrines on the other.

The widespread return to religious symbols of confirmation of identity can also be seen from the mushrooming business of selling Islamic dress (busana Muslimah) to middle class people. As the crisis of identity tends to most notably affect urbanised people suffering from disorientation and dislocation, religious symbols like the veil have offered an effective alternative. Since the 1980s, veil wearing has become widespread. Under the trademark of “Khoirunisa,” the head-scarved Sitoresmi Prabuningrat, a former wife of the well-known Indonesian poet, has expanded her Islamic dress business to Medan, Batam and Kalimantan. She said, “its market is full of potential, particularly among students” (Ummat, 25 December 1996). Also meeting this demand is Fenny Mustafa, an Islamic dress businesswoman from Bandung, West Java, who has established two labels: Shafira, a product and trademark aimed at the upper middle class, and Syahida, targeting university students. Syafira is well known in Bandung. The middle class have been the main subscribers contributing to its total asset of more than Rp. 2.5 billion. An exclusive Islamic dress boutique also exists in Surabaya, East Java. This boutique is organised and owned by Nadhifah Jufri, a deputy head of IWAPI. Apart from being a regular supplier for department stores, Jufri also exports products to Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, the Middle East and Japan (Ummat, 30 September 1996). The Karima, a business run by the “three Srikandi” (Srikandi being the symbol of Indonesian heroic women), Ida Royani, Anne Rufaidah and Ida Leman, produces luxury products with high prices that are specifically targeted at middle class consumers.

Since a religion consists of beliefs, values and a relationship to God, religious action is driven by a sacred sense of satisfaction (Robertson 1970; Durkheim 1954; Nelson 1987). In the case of the Islamic dress business in contemporary Indonesia, apart from its economic ends, it has also been powered by religious motivations: First, those who were involved in the veil business were middle class women who themselves wore head scarves, and second, the veil business was a totally new phenomenon traced to the Islamic resurgence that occurred from the 1980s. Sitoresmi Prabuningrat says that the business and the existence of Islamic dress designers apparently only exists in Indonesia. It can not be found in Malaysia or Brunei (Ummat, 25 December 1996). Veil wearing is most prominent amongst the Muslim middle class and their numbers are still increasing. The phenomenon can thus be considered as one of the cultural expressions that confirm their formation.

Bimbo’s Kasidah Music

With the popularity of the head-covering, a type of music introduced by the santri group called Bimbo has emerged. This music consist of modern kasidah (Islamic religious songs) performed by Bimbo since the 1980s. Through these kasidah songs, Bimbo introduced another Islamic symbol and reinforced the religious identity of the middle class which previously crystallised around the veil. Acil, one of the four Bimbo members, states that the modern kasidah songs are intended to cater to the music taste of the urban people who live in big cities (Tatang Sumarsono, 1998: 179). The religious revival amongst the urban middle class in the 1980s seems to “find their religious-aesthetic mode in Bimbo’s religious music which is serene, quite and peaceful.” (Ummat, 19 Februari 1996; Sumarsono 1998) As an alternative to the old style which tended to be dominated by traditional Arabic instruments, tunes and lyrics, Bimbo plays modern music instruments which, a music observer Franky Raden believes, beautifully transforms religious values by way of pop music (Ummat, 19 Februari 1996).

The first religious song was written in 1973 entitled “Tuhan” (God). The inspiration came to Sam in contemplation while he was listening to a delivery of the Jum’at Prayer at the Salman mosque located in the Bandung Technological Institute (ITB). Containing simple words and sung tenderly, it sounds like a universal elegy:

Tuhan . . .
tempat aku berteduh
dimana aku mengeluh
dengan segala peluh
Tuhan . . .
Tuhan Yang Maha Esa
tempat aku memuja
dengan segala do’a
Aku jauh Engkau jauh
Aku dekat Engkau dekat
hati adalah cermin
tempat pahala dan dosa bertarung uh . . . uh . . .

(Oh God . . .
in you I take shelter
when I complain about
with all my sighs
Oh God . . .
the One and only God
You I worship
with all my prayers
When I am distant You are distant
when I come near You come near
the heart is a mirror
a place where reward and sin are contested uh … uh … )

Inspired by the warm response “Tuhan” obtained, Bimbo decided to release special religious songs in collaboration with Taufiq Ismail, a prominent literary writers who played a key role in the success of Bimbo’s kasidah. This collaboration between musicians and literary writer resulted in more than a hundred songs, with 90 of them written by Taufik Ismail. 25 of those 90 are special songs focusing on the 25 messengers of God from Adam to Jesus Christ and concluding with the Prophet Muhammad. Some of the most popular songs are “Umat Manusia Kini Bergembira” (Human Kind Are Now Happy), “Rindu Rasul” (Missing the Messenger), “Kasidah Matahari dan Rembulan” (The Sun and Moon Kasidah), “Kasidah Anak Bertanya Pada Bapaknya” (The Child Questions His Father Kasidah), “Dikaulah Tuhan Terindah” (You are the Most Beautiful God), “Ada Sajadah Panjang” (There is a Long Prayer Rug), “Setiap Habis Ramadhan” (Every End of Ramadhan), “Rasul Menyuruh Kita Mencintai Anak Yatim” (The Prophet Ordered Us to Love the Orphans), “Fajar 1 Syawal” (The First Dawn of Syawal), “Jabal Rahmah” (The Hill of Rahmah). One of the enchanting things about these songs is “the depth of religiosity” (Kompas, 14 December 1997), and this depth is attained by the use of a slow pop rhythm. This was another factor which made Bimbo’s kasidah special –they “transformed religious values into pop songs.” (Ummat, 19 February1996) Through this pop medium where words rather than music dominate, the new kasidah was able to connect with the listeners’ deepest feelings. The quality of lyrics certainly plays a crucial role. Amid the hustle and bustle of modern life, moral degradation, social uncertainty and everyday crime, urban society craves a moral figure who can transform such social problems. In the absence of this moral leadership, Muslims have bestowed their greatest love on the figure of the Prophet Muhammad. Bimbo reflects this phenomonen in “Rindu Rasul” (Missing the Messenger). Iin Parlina admitted that performing this song often drained her and the audience.

Rindu kamu padamu ya Rasul
rindu tiada terkira
berabad jarak darimu ya Rasul
terasa dikau disini

Cinta ikhlasmu pada manusia
bagai cahaya suarga
dapatkah kami membalas cintamu
secara bersahaja . . .

(We miss you … oh … the Messenger
a longing that is unmeasurable
centuries of distance from you
as if you are here

Your great love for human kind
is like the light of heaven
can we return your love
with true intention . . .)

Bimbo might be the only group of singers who are often unable to continue performing their songs and turn their backs on the audience and stop singing (Kompas, 14 December 1997). Kompas refers to the case in Kemajoran Jakarta in 1993. Bimbo was solemnly singing the song The Messenger Ordered Us to Love the Orphans in front of 5,000 orphans and elderly.

Rasul menyuruh kita mencintai anak yatim
Rasul menyuruh kita mengasihi orang miskin
Dunia penuh dengan orang yang malang
Mari dengan rata kita bagi cahaya matahari
Mari dengan rata kita bagi cahaya bulan
The Messenger ordered us, the Messenger ordered us . . .

(The messenger ordered us to love the orphans
The messenger ordered us to love the poor
the world is full of unfortunate people
Let us share the sunlight
Let us share the moonlight
The messenger ordered us . . .
The messenger ordered us . . .)

Bimbo’s kasidah received a huge response. It is as if they provided a peaceful space and offered the beauty of religiosity and the serenity of religious devotion to those urban people buffeted by rapid social change and experiencing dislocation and disorientation amid the hustle and bustle of modern culture. During every Ramadhan and Ied Fitr celebration, these new kasidah are broadcast on Indonesian television. Many prominent singers take part in these performance. According to Acil, kasidah are sung by members of the Darmawanita (An Association for the Wives of Civil Servants), student musical groups, and government ministers, as well as being performed in religious music festivals.

However, the question is, having gained popularity, why did Bimbo suddenly turn its focus on religious themes? What does this indicate? And what kind of socio-cultural circumstances caused the four siblings to focus their concerns into kasidah which, at that time a marginalized and unpromising type of music? It is interesting to examine this shift in orientation. The first explanation is that Bimbo’s religious concerns were based on a growing religious consciousness coupled with the process of Islamization occurring amongst middle class people. Through kasidah, Sam hoped to make a kind of submission to God. “There was self-satisfaction when we created the religious songs. It was a religious call. We produced it intensively and hopefully this was our submission . . . By producing the kasidah songs we’ve obtained valuable things that can not be measured in material terms” he stated. (Sumarsono 1998: 173-174) Bimbo felt that producing and singing religious songs which entail prayers of adoration to God, the Prophet Muhammad and religion, was the highest form of art and the greatest accomplishment for a composer. “In this way,” Sam points out, “Bimbo finds happiness, pride and amenity as Muslims.” (Sumarsono 1998: 182).

How were Bimbo kasidah absorbed by the middle class? There were at least four conditions that I will examine which facilitated the widespread acceptance of Bimbo’s kasidah into the new middle class: the hegemony of modern western music, the dislocation and spiritual malaise created by rapid social change, the special character of the new kasidah, and the confirmation of a new identity of ‘the Muslim middle class.’

Music is a bare expression of humans. Through music, an individual, a group or a society expresses their feeling, ideas, and culture. Since music is related to the culture of a society, different societies will produce different music. The Blues are a genuine musical expression of oppressed black Americans (the negro) who came to the new world as slaves in the 1600s. Jazz also has black American origins. It was spiritual music of black people that developed from 1890. Reggae is a popular music that was invented among poor blacks in Kingston, Jamaica in the 1960s. Rap is a kind of modern western music where the words are not sung but are spoken in a rapid and rhythmic way. And Disco is a kind of music that has a very strong beat and is commonly used as the accompaniment for dynamic dance. All these kinds of music have American origins and have rapidly developed in the West in modern times with many new improvisations.

The clatter of modern secular music included rock’n roll, hard rock, country or pop represented by the Beatles, the Rolling Stone, the Scorpion, Deep Purple, Metallica, Sepultura, Michael Jackson, Madonna and so on (to mention a few of the most popular in Indonesia) have dominated and been integrated into the musical culture of the modernised urban people of Indonesia. As a result, musical groups that existed in the 1960s and 1970s in Indonesia such as Koes Plus, The Lloyd, Panbers, Lex’s Trio, Patty Sisters, Abadi Soesman, The Mercy’s, The Crabs and so forth, and more recently in the 1980s, Elfa’s singers, God Bless, Kla Project, Trio Libels, Slank, Dewa 19, Boomerang, Gigi, and hundreds of solo singers were only the “imitators” or “channels” of the empire of western modern music. This kind of modern music has hegemonically developed almost without alternative and there is no indication that the influence of western music will decline in the future.

In this hegemony of secular modern music, the urbanised santri middle class imagine a space of private self-expression that reminds them of the religious messages, values and peace that they were exposed to in the village. Ramadhan K.H., a well-known literary writers, is one of those who feels strongly about this missing spiritual nuance and finds it in Bimbo:

During my later years, every lead up to the fasting month and Ied Fitr, we met with Bimbo, feeling the same serenity that I enjoyed as a child in Cianjur, a town renowned for its religiosity. The musical depths that were reached through the Cianjuran songs and the intimacy obtained from the barjanzi [a religious tradition of reciting stories about the greatness of the Prophet Muhammad aimed at memorisation and praise for his great moral attitude] sounded from many mosques and mushalla, and now in my old age that atmosphere is again transmitted by Bimbo (Sumarsono 1998: 5).

Once the santri identified as middle class rank, their musical tastes, language, dress, and lifestyle also changed. A different class tends to have different musical tastes. As described by Simon Frith, Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of taste clearly explains this relation between class and musical taste:

People produce and consume the music they are capable of producing and consuming; different social groups possess different sorts of knowledge and skill, share different cultural histories, and so make music differently. Musical tastes do correlate with class cultures and subcultures; musical styles are linked to specific age groups; we can take for granted the connections of ethnicity and sound (Frith 1996: 120).

Therefore, traditional kasidah songs as offered by music groups like orkes gambus or rebana in which the lyrics are Arabic do not match the aesthetic taste of the educated middle class. Music like orkes gambus and rebana, for several decades, has remained marginalized and is viewed as a musical expression of the traditional Islamic experience which includes pesantren and madrasah. In the absence of a middle class religious aesthetic expression, the popularity of Bimbo’s kasidah in the 1980s and 1990s can be sociogically understood.

If mosques have provided the only refuge for the dislocated Muslim middle class, Bimbo’s serene kasidah music provides something else: “a sort of religious music which is lonely and peaceful, a purity which is solemn and composed. And for the people, it is as if they find themselves in a space of peaceful consciousness.” (Ummat, 19 February1996) The middle class, according to Afrizal Malna, a literary writer, is a class of people with a split social base. Therefore, they need a sense of individual space, a place to find themselves as individuals and that very space is what Bimbo provided. A musician, Harry Roesly, says that Bimbo’s kasidah is contemplative music, especially for those middle class people who seek a value system. (Ummat, 19 February1996) In other words, Bimbo’s kasidah accommodates the psychological needs of both the santri for symbols of urban identity, and the urban middle class for symbols of religious identity.

The success of Bimbo is inseparable from the special musical character it has created. This character is apparently the key to why the group is widely welcomed and can be absorbed by a middle class audience.

Firstly, there are the Indonesian lyrics. Unlike the traditional kasidah that always had Arabic lyrics and was dominated by rebana, Bimbo has totally changed this image. All of Bimbo’s lyrics are in Indonesian so their songs can be truly absorbed because the listeners are able to understand the messages. More than that, not only have Indonesian lyrics made the messages easier to communicate, but the band’s emphasis on words rather than music has been the power of the kasidah itself. Bimbo “has replicated” the successes of the 1960s western pop and country singers. As is widely known, many of the 1960s and 1970s songs have become classics. If people today still enjoy the songs of the Bee Gees, Abba, the Four Brothers, Everly Brothers, the Carpenters and the like as well as songs from solo singers like Elvis Presley, Andy William, Nat King Cole, Matt Monroe, Louis Amstrong, Jim Reeves, Engelbert Humperdinck, John Denver, Tom Jones, Frank Sinatra, Connie Francis, Patty Page and so on, it is largely because those 1960s songs had dominant lyrics and clear-cut voices. Certain songs like The Rolling Stones’ “Honkytonk Women,” or The Beatles’ “Please Please Me,” Scorpion’s “Always Somewhere” have also been well remembered for their beat, rhythm, and danceability, not just for their lyrics. However, for music that has a message, clear lyrics and voices are important. Messages will be more easily memorised and internalised if the articulation is clear and easy to understand.

Secondly, instead of the rebana dominating, Bimbo uses acoustic guitars, flutes and other innovative instruments that can recreate sounds of Arabic desert rhythms. In the song entitled “Kasidah Matahari dan Rembulan” (The Sun and Moon Kasidah), the guitar has nicely reproduced the typical sound of an Arabic desert melody. The kasidah is thus inseparable from Arabic desert music. Maintaining nuances of desert rhythm in the kasidah is important in order not to lose its historical context. For Muslims the desert has spiritual meaning, it is the place where Islam (as well as the other two eastern religions: Christianity and Judaism) originated and where the messengers of God were born.

Thirdly, while the old kasidah is always performed with a special Arabic rhythm, Bimbo sing theirs in a style indicative of pop music. Pop music is always the musical mainstay among other genres in many societies. In the United States in the 1960s, popular music was the outlet of social movement and helped establish collective identity. “The movement was articulated,” Eyerman and Jamison (1998: 108) remark, “not merely through organisations and even mass demonstrations, although there were plenty of both, but perhaps even more significantly through popular music … Movement ideas, images, and feelings were disseminated in and through popular music and, at the same time, the movements of the times influenced developments, in both form and content, in popular music.” Bimbo has transformed religious values into pop music. This is what has helped Bimbo’s style of kasidah gain its vast popularity. The fans of Bimbo, said Acil, “were initially among the middle class and then spread to all levels of society.”

Lastly, the lyrics are not always expressed in a normative religious fashion. This is very important indeed. Like religious sermons that are often delivered in normative religious language, the traditional kasidah does not impact a peaceful feeling to its listeners. On the other hand, almost none of Bimbo’s kasidah songs were written in normative language. In this way, not only were the religious messages made pleasant to listen to, but they also appeared benign rather than radical. This is obviously very significant, especially when religious songs are intended to call people to return to their religion. Normative and strictly doctrinal languages, apart from causing people to fear religion, also possibly cause people to keep away from it. Performing shalat (the five daily prayers) for instance is obligatory for all adult Muslims, non performance, doctrinally speaking, is a sin. In addition, among believers, the Prophet’s saying is well-known that commitment to prayer is a watershed to distinguish whether one should be called a Muslim or not. However, in the song “Jangan Tolak Kenikmatan” (Don’t Refuse Bliss) Bimbo did not sing it in doctrinal perspective:

Ada orang yang berkata
Ibadah itu nanti kalau tua saja
Ada kenalan yang bilang
kalau sudah tua saya kan sembahyang

Ternyata shalat itu nikmat
terasa teduh serta damai
dan tenang . . .

(There are some people who say
I’ll worship when I get older
there is a friend who says
when I am old I’ll perform the prayers

in fact performing prayers is enjoyable
it is calm and peaceful
and full of content. . .)

In the mid 1980s, the wearing of the veil that had become a social movement among Muslim schoolgirls and university students, turned out to be a hot topic of national political debate between government officials who were worried about growing fundamentalism and the number of veil wearing participants. From a Muslim perspective, the veil was an expression of religious belief. The participants believed it was obligatory for Muslim women and had nothing to do with politics. Bimbo supported the movement by releasing a song about the veil which, again, employed informal rather than overtly religious language. It was entitled “Aisyah Adinda Kita” (Aisyah Our Sister):

Aisyah Adinda kita yang sopan dan jelita
angka SMP dan SMA sembilan rata-rata
pandai mengarang dan organisasi
mulai Muharam satu empat nol satu
memakai jilbab menutup rambutnya
busana muslimah amat pantasnya

Aisyah adinda kita yang sopan dan jelita
indeks prestasi tertinggi tiga tahun lamanya
calon insinyur dan bintang di kampus
bulan Muharam satu empat nol empat
tetap berjilbab menutup rambutnya
busana Muslimah amat pantasnya

Aisyah adinda kita
tidak banyak berkata
Aisyah adinda kita
hanya memberi contoh saja

Ada sepuluh Aisyah berbusana muslimah
Ada seratus Aisyah berbusana muslimah
Ada sejuta Aisyah berbusana muslimah
Ada sejuta Aisyah, Aisyah adinda kita . . .

(Aisyah, our sister who is polite and beautiful
averaging nine in her SMP and SMA grades
competent in composition and organisation
since Muharram [a name of Islamic month] one four zero one
wore the jilbab coveringپ
her hair
how appropriate the Muslim dress is

Aisyah, our sister who is polite and pretty
has been top of her class for three years
a future engineer and a star on campus
on Muharram month one four zero four
she still wears the head-scarved
how appropriate the Muslim dress is

Aisyah, our sister
doesn’t say much
Aisyah, our sister
she just leads by example

there are ten Aisyahs wearing head-scarves
there are a hundred Aisyahs wearing head-scarves
there are a million Aisyahs wearing head-scarves
there are a million Aisyahs, Aisyah our sister)

Obviously, this song has reinforced schoolgirls’ struggles for their beliefs and new identity. Linked to a social movement, music, according to Gilroy, is no longer just music but it provides “a great deal of the courage”:

The power of music in developing our struggles by communicating information, organising consciousness and testing out, deploying, or amplifying the forms of subjectivity which are required by political agency, individual and collective, defensive and transformational, demands attention to both the formal attributes of this tradition of expression and its distinctive moral basis . . . In the simplest terms, by posing the world as it is against the world as the racially subordinated went it to be, this musical culture supplies a great deal of the courage required to go on living in the present. (Frith 1996: 118)

A similar tendency is seen in the songs “Wudhu” (Ablusion), “Sajadah Panjang” (A Long Prayer Rug) and “Jangan di Tunda-tunda” (Don’t Procrastinate) which encourage Muslims to perform the five daily prayers; while “Kasidah Anak Bertanya pada Bapaknya” (The Child Questions his Father Kasidah) and “Setiap Habis Ramadhan” (Every End of Ramadhan) encourages them to fast during Ramadhan; “Jabal Rahmah” (The Hill of Rahmah) encourages them to make a pilgrimage to the holy city, Mecca; and “Rasul Menyuruh Kita Mencintai Anak Yatim” (The Messenger Ordered Us to Love the Orphans) encourage people to give alms. In this context, Taufiq Ismail, according to Bimbo’s fans, is admirable and deserves high praise for writing the kasidah lyrics. Through this scholar, Bimbo have released 90 songs with religious messages. Incidentally, an unpredictable outcome, as reported by Acil, was that many fans of Bimbo’s kasidah are Christians.

Before Bimbo turned its focus on kasidah, the umat Islam was still predominantly a sawah society and was not yet urbanised. In other words, the umat Islam was a social stratum based in rural areas. The religious musical expression of the rural people was associated with the sort of music that existed amidst the rural community of santri, notably orkes gambus and rebana. Viewed as an inextricable part of religious expression, orkes gambus and rebana were always had pride of place on Islamic celebration days such as Maulid Nabi (Muhammad’s birth day) and Isra Mi’raj (a great historical event in Islamic history when the Prophet Muhammad was taken up by God to “the seventh sky” and brought to the Sidratul Muntaha, a “place” in which Muhammad allegedly “saw God’s Face” and received the command of five daily prayers). This kind of marginalized Arabic music has for a long time expressed the identity of the santri almost without innovation.

Under the New Order urbanisation expanded the santri new urban areas causing them to be separated from their traditional roots. In new urban areas, they were separated from the sources of religious symbols that united them as santri in the village. As the new middle class, they needed new symbols of religiosity that would reinforce their identity as the new urban santri. When Bimbo expressed themselves through popular music with religious lyrics, without anger and passion, this newly urbanised middle class santri found their symbols of religious expression in this pop kasidah. The religious spirit that was revived through kasidah text and rhythm provided a sense of identification and of belonging to a group and the text reflected a range of diverse yet shared experiences of the Muslim middle class. Bimbo established its musical genre as their religio-cultural identity. This genre strengthened identity coding in this class which was also through veil wearing. If the veil symbolised, especially amongst women, a middle class return to religion, the kasidah provided aesthetic taste for this class.

ICMI: A Modern Symbol of Muslim Identity

Muslims believe that Islam can not be separated from politics (Eickelman and Piscatori 1996). For Muslims, politics is the most effective vehicle with which to manifest the ideal of Islam: the establishment of an Islamic society which is ruled under the guidance of Islamic norms for the sake of salvation in the world and the hereafter. Muslims believe that Islam is a way of life that embraces affairs of religion and politics, individuals and society, economy and culture, family and state, peace and war. Given these facts, Ernest Gellner (1969:127) concludes that, “Islam is, more perhaps than other religions, a blueprint of a social order.” According to Gellner, this can be seen from the characteristics encompassed by this religion:

One might say that Islam is more total, in a number of dimensions: it does not restrict its appeal territorially; it does not restrict its application to some institutions only; and it does yet have a kind of independent existence in scriptural and normative record, and cannot simply be equated with the practices of a society in which it occurs. The first of these characteristics differentiate it from Judaism and much of Christianity. The third differentiates it from tribal religions, which might otherwise, in some cases, be held to be total in the second sense. (Gellner 1969: 127)

The establishment of ICMI (Indonesian Association of Muslim Intellectuals) on December 6-8 1990, can be regarded as “the highest achievement” Indonesian Muslim politics has ever achieved. Unlike other organizations, the ICMI meeting was inaugurated by a President (Soeharto) and closed by a Vice-President (Soedharmono), attended by 500 Muslim intellectuals, scholars and many high-ranking government officials, and headed by the Minister of Research and Technology, B.J Habibie.

Throughout the history of Indonesia, almost all Islamic movements from the colonial period up to the New Order had a political goal. In the pre-colonial period, Islam, under the leadership of ulama, was the symbol of the people’s challenge towards the absolutist power of the Hindu Javanese kingdoms (Moertono 1985; Anderson 1972). During colonial times, Islam became the symbol of rebellion movements against the Portuguese, Dutch, English, and Japanese colonisers. Muslim local leaders like Prince Diponegoro in Central Java, Imam Bonjol in West Sumatra and Pattimura in the Moluccas “weakened the Dutch and tied up the colonial military forces. In the late 1800s, the Dutch waged a bloody, thirty-year war with the fiercely Muslim sultanate of Aceh on the Western tip of Sumatra” (Schwarz 1994: 4). Several years after independence, the Masjumi political party constitutionally struggled for an Islamic state. The Darul Islam (DI) also struggled for an Islamic state by means of rebellion in the 1950s. Finally, under the New Order, the strategy of “political Islam,” that marginalized the Muslims and made them “a majority with a minority mentality”, was changed to “cultural Islam,” another face of political Islam, that led to rapprochement with the state. In short, all Islamic movements basically have a political power orientation. ICMI is a form of Muslim co-optation of the state.

ICMI is seen here as a result of the Islamization process that has taken place since the 1970s. ICMI emerged, as Azra noted, as “the concrete embodiment of what has so far been called an ‘organic Islamization’ that overwhelmed all levels of Muslim communities” (Panji Masyarakat, 21 December 1990). From campuses this Islamization then spread wider, beyond the university; to political parties (Golkar and PDI), government and private offices, groups of artists, professionals, businessmen, and state bureaucracy. Islam experienced a vertical mobilization process. According to Dawam, this massive Islamization produced an unavoidable political impact because Islam in Indonesia is an important source of political legitimacy (1995: 345). The upward mobility of the santri facilitated Islamization in the state bureaucracy. Since the mid-1980s, many government officials —albeit in a symbolic way— are no longer reluctant to show their Islamic identities. President Soeharto himself performed the pilgrimage and adopted many Muslim aspirations. All these developments finally culminated in the ICMI establishment as the highest ranking government officials, from cabinet ministers to President Soeharto took part, and supported the establishment of this new Muslim organisation.

The emergence of ICMI stimulated a broad controversy due to the fact that there was a strong political sense in its establishment. This study suggests, however, that for Muslims, ICMI is about more than political action, it represents the modern cultural identity of the Muslim middle class. Most analyses of ICMI have concentrated on the perspective of political conflict and interests, and fail to understand the spirit or motivation behind the ICMI establishment and the meaning of ICMI for the Muslim community. Instead of the issue of political rivalry, this study emphasizes how ICMI has been internalized by the Muslim middle class.

Because Muslims have for so long been politically suppressed and marginalized, and because Islam has been thought of as culturally “backward” and “left behind,” the emergence of ICMI has meant more than a political achievement. The umat Islam have seen ICMI as the symbol of Islamic revival in Indonesia. Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana, an Indonesian philosopher, saw the birth of ICMI as very important. (Pelita, 24 April 1991) For hundreds of years, he noted, Indonesian Muslims, as well as Muslims in other countries like Morocco, Turkey, Irak, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, Algeria and so on did not take part in scientific, technological and or economic developments. The development of modern thought, Sutan Takdir remarked, is led by and centred in the West. Compared to other Muslim countries, Indonesia is the largest, with 160 million Muslims. However, Muslim Indonesia was for many centuries underdeveloped and under colonial power. Sutan Takdir expected that ICMI would provide a new situation, new spirit and vitality, creative thinking. Dawam Rahardjo (1995: 338) noted, “one thing that is often ignored by many in analysing ICMI is that there was an ‘Islamization’ process occurring long before ICMI existed”. ICMI is only possible, according to Nurcholish Madjid (Tempo, 8 December 1990), because of the development of Islam in Indonesia.

Formerly, he noted, there was a gap between Muslim hopes and reality. Through the establishment of ICMI, the gap has now closed. From now on, he says, the umat Islam can make a valuable contribution to Indonesian development.
This expectation was seemingly matched by the quality of human resources represented by ICMI activists. The ICMI activists came from the educated middle class produced in the Islamic education boom in the 1970s and 1980s. Mohammad and Sophian wrote:

In the 1970s, Indonesia was flooded by university graduates. Those who studied for Masters degrees and Ph.Ds overseas had gone home, they were active in mosque-based religious activities. State university lecturers –many of whom had Ph.Ds– became Islamic preachers like, for instance, Fuad Amsyari at Unair, A.M. Saefuddin at IPB, Djalaluddin Rakhmat at Unpad, and Amien Rais at UGM (Prospek, 15 December 1990).

Therefore, it was not surprising that ICMI was a Muslim organisation with the best human resources in Indonesia. The proposal to establish it was supported by around 460 Muslim intellectuals whose signatures were collected by Dawam Rahardjo (Editor, 2 February 1991). The symposium of Indonesian Muslim intellectuals, held in Malang, East Java, on December 6-8, 1990, at which ICMI was established, was attended by more than 500 Muslim intellectuals. The Minister of Research and Technology, B.J Habibie was elected to be the leader for the first five-year term.

This Islamic resurgence was grounded in the huge educated Muslim middle class. Habibie as head was assisted by a Dewan Penasehat (Advisory Board of which seven members were New Order ministers), Dewan Pakar (Board of Experts), assistants, secretary, treasury, and 6 departments with 30 divisions. The highest level of the organisation, consisted of 120 intellectuals from various groups. The total numbers of ICMI intellectuals in administration were 137: 17 were core activists, 45 were in the advisory board, 28 were on the board of experts, 30 heads of divisions, and 17 provincial coordinators (Warta Ekonomi, 18 February1991). The intellectuals, scholars, scientists, ministers, high-ranking officials, bureaucrats, businessmen, writers, ulema etc. who took part in ICMI were well-known figures. According to Farid and Luthfie, ICMI tried to accommodate intellectuals from diverse backgrounds (Prospek, 23 February1991).

ICMI has paved the way for the identity of the Muslim middle class to change from one of ‘backwardness’ to ‘modernity’ by providing hope for Muslims to expand their role in the modern global world. According to Marwah Daud, an American university graduate and an official of the BPPT (Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology), the image of Islam in Indonesia is changing from ‘traditional’ to ‘modern’. Many Muslim graduates who have come back from studies overseas, have reinforced the new image. Formerly, Islam was viewed as “sarungan” (“conservative”) and Muslims were ‘fanatic.’ Now they view Islam as universal, open, and cosmopolitan. There are many popular figures who unreservedly admit their Muslim identities. Marwah observes that people are now talking about global things, she would not be interested if ICMI was established only for political interests. Marwah concludes, “it is the time for us to be proud as Muslims without feeling superior to others” (Tempo, 8 December 1990). If Islam was formerly linked with backwardness and poverty, Dewi Fortuna Anwar, a political analyst and graduate of Monash University, states that today, “Islam is no longer seen as the religion of losers” (Vatikiotis 1996: 153). As quoted by Schwarz (1994:174-175), Umar Juoro, from the Centre for Information and Development Studies (a think-tank associated with modernist Muslim leaders) points out “there is a new sense of pride in being a Muslim. To be a good Muslim is very mainstream. It is now very acceptable within the elite to study the Koran and Islamic theology. Islam is no longer seen as a backward religion.”

These perceptions were typical views amongst the urbanized Muslim middle class. There was a tendency to associate ICMI with modernity, and for that reason, the middle class membership of ICMI was overwhelming. In August 1992, ICMI members numbered 11,000, and in March 1993 reached 40,000 members (Liddle 1995: 209), with 75 per cent of them being sarjana (university graduates). Hefner concludes that the emergence of ICMI was a significant indication of the shaping of the Muslim middle class in Indonesia (1993:2).

That the Muslim middle class equated ICMI with modernity can also be seen from their feelings about ICMI leader, Habibie. Habibie, for urbanized Muslims, was an important symbol in the shifting process from traditional to modern Indonesia. To discover why was he elected and what Habibie meant to the Muslim middle class, it is worth discussing the man himself. Habibie completed his Ph.D studying Aeronautical Construction at Rhenisch-Westfaelische Technische Hochschule, Aachen, West Germany, with summa cum laude. After completing his study, he was appointed to be a research assistant in the same university. After he moved to Talbot in 1965, he held many important positions such as a head of Research and Development of Structure Analysis at Aircraft Industry of MBB (Messerschemitt Boelkow Blohm) in Hamburg. His career rocketed. He became a head of division and finally, in 1974, became vice-director of technology.

Having heard of Habibie’s success in Germany, Soeharto called him home. Soeharto appointed him to be the presidential advisor on advanced technology of Pertamina, a national oil company led by Ibnu Soetowo. In 1976, Habibie was appointed to be the director of aeronautical industry of Nurtanio (later on called IPTN). He established the BPPT (Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology). In 1978, he became the Minister of Research and Technology, replacing Sumitro Djojohadikusumo. In 1983, he was elected to be the head of the Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Also in this year, he became the Director of PT Pindad (the Centre of Armed Forces Industry), and in accordance with the Presidential Decree No. 44 1989, he was appointed to be the head of BPIS, a council that manages ten state-owned ‘strategic industries.’ In 1989, he was also appointed to be the Director of Otorita Project on Batam island, and PT PAL (a Surabaya-based ship-building firm). Altogether, Habibie allegedly leads 23 national companies in strategic industries. His position as the Minister of Research and Technology during the New Order was unchallenged. Habibie was recognised as ‘the man with the hi-tech vision for the future’ (Tempo, 8 December 1990; Kompas, 16 December 1990).

Internationally, especially in Aeronautical field, Habibie was well-recognised. He was a member of the prestigious National Academy of Engineering (US), The Royal Aeronautical Society (England), and Gessellschaft fuer Luft und Raumfahrt (Germany). In 1983, Aviation Week & Space Technology, the journal of aeronaut and space, made Habibie “the man of the year.” In 1986, similar praise was paid to him by Aviation International News, based on the opinion that Habibie had made IPTN a worldclass aircraft company (Kompas, 16 December 1990). Having said all that, Habibie was also recognised as a devout Muslim.

It should be emphasised that Habibie accomplished all his achievements while the Indonesian Muslim community was still a “sawah” society, —a term that associates them with an unskilled traditional agricultural society— and when the Muslim middle class and ICMI were only just emerging. In this situation, Habibie became symbol of the modern identity of the urban Muslim middle class. Habibie’s achievement of producing aircraft and his concern for developing high technology in Indonesia, has made him an ideal representative of future Islam as he combined the mastering of hi-tech and religiosity. Pratiknya, a Muslim intellectual and one of the ICMI founders, declared that Habibie was a pious man who had “never neglected” the monday-thursday fasting, and, as an intellectual, he was a man without equal in Indonesia. Entering the 21th century, technology will dominate. Habibie is the right person to face the future and, for that reason, we chose him to lead ICMI, says Pratiknya (Tempo, 8 December 1990). Habibie, for Utomo Danandjaja, a former leader of PII, was the man of the moment at a time when there was a trend towards technology, efficiency, and openness (Tempo, 8 December 1990). Emil Salim supported Habibie’s becoming the head of ICMI because Habibie complemented the zeitgeist surrounding science and technology. He states that,

…we have to ask: why is Islam today associated with economic backwardness? The reason, I think, is that since colonial times Islam has become too dependent on fiqih, its legalistic traditions. This has trivialised the energy of Islamic intellectuals. It is not Islam that is wrong but the teaching of Islam. Instead of emphasising religious rules and rituals, we need to give more emphasis to science and technology in our teaching. Only in that way can Islam become the religion of progress. That’s what ICMI is all about and that’s why we picked up Habibie to lead it (Schwarz, 1994: 179).

Discussing Habibie’s leadership of ICMI, Azyumardi Azra, a Muslim intellectual graduate of Columbia University, suggests that there must be a redefinition of ‘Muslim leader’ within the Muslim community. Traditionally, he argued, the Muslim leaders were those who came from an Islamic organisation within the Muslim community itself. Popular figures who have no such background, though they have a big concern for the fate of the umat (Muslim community), are almost never claimed as Muslim leaders. The emergence of ICMI appears to be evidence of this changing definition (Panji Masyarakat, 21 December 1990).

Apart from providing an expression of new identity, ICMI was also viewed by the middle class people as an organization which would fight for Muslim causes, increase the role of Muslims in the development process, and, more broadly, work on nation building. Zubaidi, an Indonesian Muslim writer, hoped that ICMI could take a role in forming an intellectual tradition among Indonesian people (Zubaidi 1991). Utami, a German university graduate, hoped it would transform the umat Islam through a new ‘scientific consciousness’ by establsihing more science-oriented programs (Media Indonesia, 3 April 1991). According to Lukman Harun, a head of Muhammadiyah and ICMI activist, regardless of the controversy, the birth of ICMI has brought ‘a fresh wind’ into national life. Considering the many respected intellectuals who participated in the organisation, Harun hoped that, ICMI would become the ‘storage of thinkers.’ The umat Islam, according to him, are still not contributing ideas to the development process. ICMI can become the centre of Muslim thinking (Pelita, 27 March 1991). Meanwhile, Soetjipto Wirosardjono, the vice-director of the government-run Central Bureau of Statistics, implied that ICMI was developed so that Muslims could communicate with each other. The Indonesian Muslim plurality is evidence of the need for such dialogue. Through ICMI, Muslim intellectuals now have a legitimate forum for the exchanges of ideas.

To sum up, for the urban Muslim middle class, ICMI represents more than just political action. ICMI, in which a great many Muslim intellectuals participate, is evidence of Islamic resurgence in Indonesia. Moreover, it has been the symbol of a changing Muslim identity where the Muslim middle class identifies not with modern world.

Islamic Print Media: The Language of Middle Class Discourse

The development of Islam in Indonesia in the 1980s and 1990s has been indicated by the publishing of several Islamic print media. Some of the most popular are: the journal of Ulumul Qur’an (UQ), daily Republika, and weekly magazine Ummat. Ulumul Qur’an was first launched in 1989. Its editor-in-chief was Dawam Rahardjo, a NGO activist and one of the ICMI founders. The editorial board were Muslim modernists such as Adi Sasono, Quraish Shihab, Sutjipto Wirosardjono, Marwah Daud Ibrahim, Haidar Bagir, Azyumardi Azra, Kuntowijoyo and Imaduddin Abdulrahim. These people were all linked to the ICMI organization. Republika and Ummat similarly involve Nurcholish Madjid, Quraish Syihab, Amien Rais, Adi Sasono, Din Syamsuddin, Haidar Bagir and Dawam Rahardjo. The editor-in-chief of Republika said that it was intended to publish qualified articles with an Islamic colour, professionally organized and to place Islam in a broad context (Tempo, 8 January 1993). What is interesting to note is that these media, having emerged in the period of Islamic resurgence during the New Order, have similar characteristics: Islamic-oriented, modern and professionally organized, and advocating a ‘liberal’ understanding of Islam. Their styles of journalism have been clear evidence of the shaping of the educated Muslim middle class in Indonesia. It is from these publications that the ‘language of discourse’ of middle class people can be identified. As well as the phenomena of the veil-wearing, Bimbo’s kasidah, and ICMI, the establishment of new Muslim media was inseparable from the development of Islam over the last two decades, especially the ‘expansion of mass education.’ Robert W. Hefner (1997b: 80) stated,

In Indonesia and other majority-Muslim societies, the expansion of mass education in the aftermath of the Second World War played an important role in facilitating the establishment of new Muslim print media. Mass education created a public eager to consume Islamic works and open to new perspectives on politics and society. These developments also created conditions for the ascent of a new category of religious leader, different in worldview and political commitment from the carefully trained scholars (ulama) of traditional Islam.

Ulumul Qur’an (UQ) was a journal of ilmu dan kebudayaan (science and culture) published by LSAF (Institution for Religious and Philosophical Studies). UQ was long a waited by the Indonesian Muslim society. Dawam Rahardjo reported that hundreds of Muslims paid in advance when the journal was still in preparation. In his introduction to the first edition, Dawam (1989:1) explained that the establishment of UQ had been inspired by four modern trends occurring in the Muslim world: The first was ‘back to the Qur’an.’ Muslim scholars needed to understand the Qur’an ‘with a new light’ (dengan cahaya baru). Muslims required a new method to comprehend the changing world. To capture the zeitgeist, Muslims should have a new paradigm to understand Qur’anic sciences. This has been initiated by Muslim thinkers such as Fazlur Rahman, Thabathabai’i, Yusuf Ali and Muhammad Assad. The second was ‘Islamization of science and technology.’

The pioneer of this effort was Ismail Al-Faruqi. The notion has most affected economy, politics, anthropology, and medicine. The third was actualization of traditional Islamic sciences, both classic and modern, which had evolved from Muslim scholars in the past. Muslim intellectual heritage needed to be reactualized, reappreciated, discovered for its modern relevance, and complemented with the latest development of knowledge. Through these methods, modern Islamic civilization will not lose its traditional and historical roots. The last one was futuristic issues. It was aimed to develop ideas on the need to socialize prophetic religious teachings to save human civilization from global crises. UQ was intended to support these trends of global issues through an artistic, popular and communicative journal. To make a popular journal, UQ was embellished by poetry, poems, vignettes, calligraphy, short-stories, and essays of culture. Although creative and critical thinking was the main concern, spiritual depth was emphasized.

Compared to other existing Muslim media, Hefner (1997b: 90) pointed out, Ulumul Qur’an was “Indonesia’s most respected liberal journal (of a loosely neomodernist persuasion).” This liberality, at least, can be seen from the following traits: first, UQ challenged the establishment of understanding of Islam in Indonesia. This was seen from UQ’s support on the movement of Islamic renewal pioneered by Nurcholish Madjid. Second, UQ initiated the religious dialogue among different believers. This was done by exposing religious plurality issues and publishing non-Muslim articles even though at the expense of criticism from some segments of its readers. Third, UQ changed the image of conventional Islamic media that dakwah should be performed by normative religious language. By emphasizing objectivity, UQ declared that Islam is open to criticism. These UQ’s traits were not found in the previous conventional Islamic media of the 1980s.

Apart from that, Ulumul Qur’an exposed wide-ranging themes such as science and technology, Islamization of science, futuristic Islam, orientalism, religious literary, mosaic of traditional Islam, sufism or Islamic mysticism, Islam and postmodernism, Islamic renewal, religiosity, Islamic development in the West, Islamic philosophy, human rights, feminism etc. These rich topics “have earned Ulumul Qur’an a reputation as one of the most courageously experimental journals in the Muslim world.” (Hefner 1997b: 90). In the time where Muslim media were defined as media for Muslim writers and readers, UQ changed this image by publishing non-Muslim writers like Christian thinkers, Franz Magnis Suseno and Victor Tanja. The journal received much strident criticism when it published an article written by an American political scientist, R. William Liddle, who was labelled as “yahudi” (Jews), “orientalis”(orientalist) and “hostile” to Islam.

In this regard, editor-in-chief, Dawam explained that UQ was an academic journal. Thus, UQ was open to everybody included non-Muslim writers. Articles of non-Islamic religion published by UQ were aimed at religious comparison. We, Dawam stated, even accept articles of non-Muslim who criticize the thought of Muslim writers as done by Frans Magnis Suseno. Suseno’s criticism on Muslims was worthwhile as an introspection. The journal supported harmony amongst religions (Rahardjo 1993: 1).

Like Ulumul Qur’an, daily Republika (launched in 1993) and popular Muslim weekly Ummat (released in 1995) were the long a waited Islamic modern media. After the Muslim community experienced the boom in education, their tastes changed. They imagined media which could cater to their changing tastes. It was in this context, that UQ,, Republika and Ummat were born. In the eight months after it was launched in 4 January 1993, Republika succeeded in selling 1.3 million shares to its readers at Rp. 5,000 per share. (Detik, 1-7 September 1993) This share sale to the public was obviously a new phenomenon in the history of press in Indonesia because so far, the share ownership was monopolized by capital investors and the press staff themselves.

These three media also had a number of similar traits. They attempted to represent a wide range of opinion within the Muslim community. Unlike Media Dakwah, Risalah, Hidayatullah, Suara Masjid, Al-Muslimun and other conventional Muslim media, Republika and Ummat made reports on film stars and media celebrities. Celebrity-reporting is extremely unusual for Muslim media. Criticizing Republika and Ummat, Media Dakwah wrote that celebrity-reporting contributing to the moral perplexity rampant in Indonesian society. However, as described by Hefner,

Editors at Republika and Ummat counter these criticisms by emphasizing that their publications are intended not just for political stalwarts or the deeply pious, but for individuals who are still uncertain in their faith and uncomfortable with moral stridency. These editors see their missions in Indonesian society in terms quite different from those of Media Dakwah. In a country still haunted by memories of religious trauma, they say, their charge is to reassure citizens that Islam is modern, tolerant, and in tune with modern concerns. As one of the Republika’s editors observed in January 1997, “The people at Media Dakwah believe that if something is not approved in the Qur’an or Sunnah it is forbidden. But why should this be so? God made us with minds to inquire and explore. We feel that if something is not explicitly forbidden then it is acceptable to explore it.” Thus Republika and Ummat feature regular stories on the arts, television, literature, and fashion trends of interest to middle- and upper-middle class Muslims who comprise their readership. (1997b: 90)

On April 17, 1995 and on December 30, 1996 Republika was demonstrated against by its own public. Many Muslims gathered in front of Republika’s office in Jakarta to protest the newspaper (Sinar, 22 April 1995). Republika has supplementary pages known as the “Friday Dialogue,” devoted to “exploration of new, alternative, or special-interest issues in Islam.” (Hefner 1997b: 98) On March 31, 1995, this supplement included a two-page reflection of the life and thought of Ahmad Wahib. Ahmad Wahib was a young independent-minded activist who lived in the 1960s. His book entitled Revolusi Pemikiran Islam (Revolution of Islamic Thought), published in 1982 was taken from his diary. This book contained critical reflections of his frustrations with religious life of his time. Though he came from a Madurese santri family, “Wahib’s diary abounds with expressions of doubt about the mission of the Prophet, the proper meaning of the Qur’an, and the intellectual integrity of ulama … after every one of his introspective crises of faith, Wahib always returns to decisive affirmations of Islam … his statement of angst are so severe that they shocked some of Indonesian’s leading ulama, several of whom publicly expressed their ‘regret’ that the book has been published.” (Hefner 1997b: 98)
Muslims who protested at the demonstration against Republika on April 17, 1995 asserted that Wahib ‘had insulted Islam, the Qur’an, the Prophet, and God.’ In some pages of Wahib’s book he concluded that “there is no Islamic law, there is only the history of Muhammad” (p. 60); “the Qur’an contains many passages that are no longer used” (p. 38); and “the Qur’an is not identical with Islam.” For the protesters, “Wahib, who had lived for a while in a Christian boarding house when a student in Yogyakarta, had been influenced by ideas from ‘Jews, Christians, philosophers and [Javanist] mysticism,” (Hefner 1997b: 98) and the reporters should be dismissed and fired. Conversely the Republika staffs and reporters supported Wahib for his independent and liberal ideas of Islam.

The Muslim protest on December 30, 1996 was condemnation for Republika’s wishing “Selamat Hari Natal” (A Blessed Christmas) to the Christian community of Indonesia. For the demonstrators, to wish Christians Holy Christmas would meant justifying Christian belief and was thus prohibited. (Hefner 1997b: 99) In short, in many cases, for the demonstrators, Republika was “too cosmopolitan, prone to celebrity-mongering, and insensitive of Islamic morality” (Hefner 1997b: 99).

What can be seen from these new Muslim media with their liberal characteristics is that mass education in Indonesian during the New Order has facilitated the rise of the need of new intellectual discourse. Mass education has caused the emergence of a new educated generation who are critical and support modern values like plurality, openness, democracy, and moderation. William Liddle (1995: 210) pointed out that theological and political points of view of the Muslim middle class were commonly moderate. Sermon deliveries both in urban and village mosques emphasized harmony amongst religious followers. Liddle instanced what had been done by an Islamic magazine, Amanah. This popular monthly family magazine instructed the readers how to be good Muslims while enjoying a modern lifestyle. The system of training for Islamic schools’ teachers resulted in thousands of graduates who were able to distinguish between individual piety and “illegal” religio-political activities.

As the santri, the Muslim middle class attempted to transform Islam into the modern world. The creation of Ulumul Qur’an, Ummat and Republika has exposed the new intellectual discourse of Islam publicly. The new educated generation, critical and independent-minded but moderate in understanding and internalizing religion, were no longer satisfied by conservative Muslim media which through normative language only instructed people on what is halal (allowed) and what is haram (forbidden) in religion. In other words, they needed critical, open and informative media that could increase the quality of the Muslim community. Republika staff believed that “their newspaper has to demonstrate that it is tolerant, plural, and modern, as well as pious and critical. In other words, the ‘cosmopolitan’ for which Media Dakwah faults Republika is just that: an effort to show that Islam is not just a matter for villagers and ulama, but a religion that can inspire a social conscience consonant with popular aspirations for openness, pluralism, and informed sophistication.” (Hefner 1997b: 97) The creation of Ulumul Qur’an, Ummat and Republika indicate the changing tastes of the new Muslim middle class in terms of knowledge. To meet their concerns of pluralism, openness and democracy, these new Muslim media have tried “to demonstrate their independence, reach across religious lines, and the fashions, controversies.” (Hefner 1997b: 96)

In conclusion, again, as well as other class codes discussed earlier, the emergence of Ulumul Qur’an, Ummat and Republika have been clear evidence of where the formation of Muslim middle class could be identified through the Islamic media during the New Order period. The media expression of the Muslim middle class has reinforced the previous codes shown by the veil wearing, Bimbo’s kasidah, and ICMI establishment. As symbols confirming a class formation, codes of class such as dress, language, taste, ideology etc., can be changed, discarded, or added to.

Meeting God in Hotels: The Elite’s Prestigious Pengajian

From the 1980s, Indonesia’s big cities like Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta and Surabaya, have been overwhelmed by a new wave of religious revival. This can be seen from the increasing numbers of groups of Islamic learning (kelompok pengajian). The participants come from the middle and even elite classes. The religious instruction is conducted not only in the mosques but in prestigious hotels, and in government and private business offices.

Several successful businessmen such as Abdul Latief, the owner of Pasaraya Mall and director of Sarinah Jaya, and Ahmad Ganis, the director of PT Radiant Utama, cooperated with Nurcholish Madjid, Dawam Rahardjo and Fahmi Idris to establish a religious study group called Paramadina in 1986. At the inaugural meting of this group held on the 6th floor of the Sarinah Jaya Building, it was announced that the activities would consisted of “enjoying the Jakarta’s night-scene, enjoying cuisine, listening to piano music and then listening to a religious talk” (Tempo, 3 January 1987). Since then, Paramadina, headed by Nurcholish Madjid, has been joined by hundreds of middle class people, high-ranking government officials, businessmen and other of the elite class. Although Paramadina provides courses in Islamic thought and Islamic philosophy, the most popular have been the tasawuf (Islamic mysticism) programs. According to Buddy Munawar Rahman, the director of the educational division of Paramadina, “it was because the participants need not only religious knowledge, but also need to know how to apply it in their daily life.”

On September 15, 1997, at News Cafe in the Setiabudi Building, Kuningan Jakarta, 400 people attended a seminar on “Kebangkitan Spiritualitas Baru” (The Rise of the New Spirituality) which discussed James Redfield’s popular novel, The Celestine Prophecy. The speakers were astronomist Karlina Leksono, sociologist Ignas Kleden, and popular artist Oppie Andarista. At the same time, at Plaza Bapindo in Jalan Sudirman, there was also a seminar on “Relevansi Kehidupan Tasawuf dalam Kehidupan Modern” (The Relevance of Islamic Mysticism in Modern Life). The seminar was conducted by Keluarga Pengajian Sehati (The Family of One Vision Religious Learning) led by Sri Adyanti B.N. Rachmadi, a daughter of the former Indonesian vice president, Soedharmono. Around 500 people participated. The speakers were various prominent figures like Emha Ainun Nadjib, a Muslim intellectual Djalaluddin Rahmat and Dr. Said Agil Siraj, a NU leader. At that meeting, Soedharmono inaugurated “Pusat Kajian Tasawuf” or The Centre for Islamic Mysticism Studies. Both seminars were held in “kawasan elit segitiga emas” (the golden triangle elite area). (Ummat, 15 September 1997)

In January 1999, 50 executives from various companies participated in the program called “Pesantren Eksekutif” (Religious Training for Executives) held at Bandung Giri Gahana Golf & Resor in Jatinangor, Bandung, West Java. For three days they purified their hearts and meditated for a better future. This program was conducted by PT Bimantara Citra, a big company owned by Bambang Triatmodjo, the son of former president, Soeharto. This program has been held every Ramadhan for three years. Every participant pays Rp. 350.000 for three days accommodation. In 1999, out of 110 executives who applied for the program, only 50 were accepted. According to Restyarto, the head of this Pesantren Eksekutif program, the number of participants was limited by the hotel accommodation. Similar programs were held in several hotels in Jakarta such as the Hotel Hilton, Senayan from 8 to 10 January 1999. Here, each executive paid Rp. 950.000 for three days accommodation (Gatra, 23 January 1999) Since the programs were especially for executives, the fees were very expensive.

There are also the permanent groups like Paramadina, Kelompok Pengajian Sehati, Pusat Kajian Tasawuf and special wives groups called Majelis Taklim (Regular Meeting for Religious Deepening). There are hundreds of majelis taklim in Jakarta. The majelis taklim of Asy-Syafiiyah is led by Tuty Alawiyah, the Minister for Women’s Affairs. In every meeting, hundreds of people from different professions and backgrounds take part. The majelis taklim of Attahiriyah led by Suryani Thahir, an Egyptian university graduate, has organised 60 groups of majelis taklim, one of them has ben held every Friday since 1971 at her home in Cakung, Jakarta (Ummat, 21 December 1998).
According to Djono Draptono, an executive who works in the budgeting division of PT Indosat, participating in the Pesantren Eksekutif provides interesting experiences. This kind of program, he points out, “is able to inspire anyone to remember Allah, regardless of their work demands. The intensity of religious commitment is sometimes up and sometimes down, but after joining the religious program, hopefully, this intensity remains stable” (Gatra, 23 January 1999).

According to Randi Pangkahila, a head of the division of health and accidents in PT Asuransi Cigna, religion is very important, especially for the professional decision makers. “Religion,” says Pangkahila, “provides a perfect surveillance system so businessmen do not break business ethics . . . The opportunity to break the law is open to everybody. The best control is one’s conscience, and that is where religion is important” (Ummat, 4 January 1999). Ahmad Fuad Afdhal, a director of PT Awal Fajar Adicita, said that although he thought it was still formalistic, “I have become accustomed to opening the office meeting with prayer such as reciting surah al-Fatihah of the Qur’an” (Ummat, 4 January 1999). Describing her experience in tasawuf, Sri Adyanti pointed out that in Indonesia, religion was studied ritualistically without emphasising the meaning behind it. Our children often refuse to perform shalat (five time daily prayers) because they do not understand its real meaning. Shalat is actually our need and joy. To change the view of shalat from one of obligation to one of the need and joy is very hard, and we, in fact, found it in tasawuf. In tasawuf our soul is cleansed and reawakened in order to come near to God.

After being cleansed, we realise that God is in fact very close (Tiras, 26 January 1998). Dana Iswara, a popular news presenter of RCTI (Rajawali Citra Televisi Indonesia) now studying Southeast Asian politics at the Australian National University Canberra, carried out weekly pengajian keluarga (family religious learning) and attended monthly pengajian lectured by Quraish Shihab, a prominent Muslim scholar and a former rector of State Institute of Islamic Studies (IAIN), Jakarta. She has visited Mecca for pilgrimage three times in 1993, 1994 and 1995 respectedly. For Iswara, religion is self-control, therefore it is very important. Through deepening religion, she felt that at work she always endeavored to be honest, positive and not involved in unfair competition. “I am always aware,” she concludes, “that everything I have got principally because of God’s blessing. You see . . . eveything in life comes from God, so there is no reason for us to be arrogant to other people.”

This phenomenon of religious revival among the middle class in Indonesia which began in the 1980s, has clearly proved the weakness of the secularisation thesis espoused by many social scientists with regard to modern societies. Secularisation theory spokesmen like Harvey Cox who wrote The Secular City (1965) and Bryan Wilson with his work Secularization: the Inherited Model (1985) both describe the end of religion in modern times, whereby a religionless society or secular world emerge as religion collapses. When modern science and high technology “can handle everything” of human problems and can achieve things that were formerly unimaginable, modern society thinks that religion is only a matter of illusion. Concomitant with the dominance of technology, modern society becomes the master of its world and environment. “If the Greeks perceived the cosmos as an immensely expanded polis, and the medieval man saw it as the feudal manor enlarged to infinity, we,” Harvey Cox (1965: 1) states, ”experience the universe as the city of man.” Because the world has become man’s task, man’s responsibility, almost everything of nature can be explored by man, therefore, God’s or gods’ role is gradually replaced by man. In a secularised world, there is no longer an ontological way of thinking about higher . . . metaphysical beings . . . Now we are liberated from all these unreal supernatural entities . . . Only that which is directly related to us is real. Things do not exist in themselves; they are no longer substances, but they exist in and for the sake of what they do with us and what we do with them. (Peursen 1963: 16)

In accordance with such growing secularisation, “the collapse of traditional religion or religious values is then the hallmark of modern era” (Cox 1965:1). Bryan Wilson (1985: 19) noted that secularisation is the process whereby domains of social activity and human experience previously organised around religious norms are “desacralised” by their interpretation in terms of ideals and practices of a less directly sacral nature. He added, the secularization thesis implies the privatization of religion; its continuing operation in the public domain becomes confined to a lingering rhetorical invocation in support of conventional morality and human decency and dignity –as a cry of despair in the face of moral panic. (Wilson 1985: 19)

However, in the age that people call ‘postmodern,’ social scientists are also shocked by the fact that, in some places, modern people are in fact renewing their religious consciousness. At the dawn of the third millennium there are unmistakable signs of a worldwide religious revival. The process of secularisation, according to Robert N. Bellah (1958: 1-5), “does not mean that religion disappears. The function of religion in a principal society is different from that in prescriptive but it is not necessary less important.” Revising his previous theory and viewing religious revival in the postmodern era, Cox (1984: 20) noted, “The problem is that the world of declining religion to which my earlier book was adressed has begun to change in ways that few people anticipated. A new age that some call the ‘postmodern’ has begun to appear. No one is quite sure just what the postmodern era will be like, but one thing seems clear. Rather than an age of rampant secularization and religious decline, it appears to be more of an era of religious revival and the return of the sacral.”

Secularisation actually only occurs in a society dominated by modern scientific values. In this kind of society, a terra incognita provides challenges to observe and discover its secrets and mysteries. Modern societies have answered this challenge by way of observation and research. The results have been science and technology that, as can be seen in western civilization, made western people ignored religious teaching. In some societies, industrialisation leads to secularisation, but in other societies, generally in Muslim countries, this does not happen but religious awareness grows. It might be for this reason, that Gellner (1992: 18) concluded that Islam is the “great exception” to secularisation. Among the world’s core civilisations, Islam “totally and effectively defies the secularization thesis.”
It is possible to disagree about the extent, homogeneity, or irreversibility of this trend [i.e., secularization] … but, by and large, it would seem reasonable to say that it is real. But there is one very real, dramatic and conspicuous exception to all this: Islam. To say that secularization prevails in Islam is not contentious. It is simply false. Islam is as strong now as it was a century ago. In some ways, it is probably much stronger (Gellner 1992: 5).

In this case, religiosity has not been threatened by the process of modernisation and industrialisation, and has even strengthened. This process of strengthening has been experienced by the Muslim middle class in contemporary Indonesia. Instead of secularising society, the process of modernisation in Indonesia has in fact strengthened religious orientation. This phenomenon is characterised by the emergence of many religious movements in the Indonesian cities which are experience modernisation and development.

However, those religious activities of the wealthy and educated in Indonesia’s big cities are not merely evidence of a religious resurgence that proves the failure of the secularisation thesis, but more importantly provide identity reinforcement for the growing Muslim middle class, which is underpinned by class codes such as the veil, the music of Bimbo and so forth. The kelompok pengajian has been further evidence of class codes. Because all these class codes reinforce each other, unwittingly, all these urban religious activities became the cultural representation of the Muslim middle class in Indonesia in the period of the New Order.[]



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(Notes:  The complete version of this essay can be accessed to the original journal).


Written by Moeflich

30/12/2010 at 1:37 pm

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