Cultural Islam: The Politics of the Indonesian Muslim Middle Class

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

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The rise of the santri middle class in the 1980s has been accompanied by a shift in political orientation within the Muslim community from ‘political Islam’ to so-called ‘cultural Islam.’ ‘Political Islam’ refers to a political orientation that still characterises what Anwar terms the ‘kelas menengah santri lama’ (the old santri middle class), that is the Muslim ‘middle class’ in the period of Soekarno’s regime. In the New Order’s time, this class lost popular support both economically and politically. In the period of politik aliran in the 1950s and 1960s, when political parties were based on ‘primordial foundations,’ the economic bases of the old santri middle class were embedded in local businesses, petty bourgeoisie, and land-owners. However, since the New Order established the free market economy in the 1970s, huge foreign investment had almost totally destroyed the santri-based economic activities as happened to local industries in Solo, Pekalongan, Majalaya, Majalengka, and Kudus which in the 1950s were part of the established network of local santri businesses (Anwar 1995). Meanwhile, the private sector was dominated by a few Chinese groups and client businessmen with connections to the New Order elite. When the old santri businesses went bankrupt, they lost their political patrons and had no more access to the New Order bureaucracy. Eventually, many of them shifted their activities by moving into Islamic proselytisation movements affiliated with organisations such as Muhammadiyah and N.U. This was accompanied by “the explicit recognition that Islamisation was itself a form of politics” (Hefner 1995: 81). Continue reading

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

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

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

Marginalized Community: The Bitterness of Indonesian Muslim in the Early New Order

Moeflich Hasbullah
State Islamic University, Sunan Gunung  Djati Bandung

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When the New Order began its program of modernisation in the 1970s, two main political responses came from different political groups: The first group consisted of those who called for political rehabilitation after the Masjumi, P.S.I and P.N.I parties were banned[1] and the second group consisted of those who were chiefly focused on economic development and social welfare. Due to the Soekarno’s persistent political suppression of Islam, ex-Masjumi activists were in the first group.[2] After the fall of Soekarno and his government, the Islamic leaders welcomed the New Order enthusiastically with the expectation of reviving Masjumi’s triumph of the past. This endeavor gained support from the vast Muslim community. Continue reading