Posts made in September, 2016

Abdurrahman Wahid, the Blind Cleric

Posted by on Sep 20, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Abdurrahman Wahid, the Blind Cleric

Beneath the surface of Indonesia’s shadowplay politics, [Abdurrahman Wahid] perceived battles of spiritual forces whose support was enlisted by the key players – or who moved them about like puppets. He had become a serious visitor of graves, attempting to communicate with the spiritual forces they represent. … His quest brought him into contact with the whole range of Java’s spiritual universe and strengthened his conviction that he was destined to play a major role in holding the nation together. [1]   Abdurrahman Wahid was installed as Indonesia’s fourth president on October 26, 1999. Descended from Nahdlatul Ulama royalty, he was the grandson of Nahdlatul Ulama founder Hasyim Ashari and son of Nahdlatul Ulama Chairman and Sukarno-era Religious Affairs Minister Wahid Hasyim. During the 1960s, the young Wahid pursued a Muslim education in Egypt and pre-Saddam Hussein Iraq. Despite his Islamic upbringing, he developed a healthy respect for Indonesia’s religious pluralism. Like Sukarno before him, Wahid was convinced social and religious tolerance was essential for national unity. After a visit to Israel in 1994, he created a furor by recommending Jakarta establish diplomatic ties with the Jewish state. With its roots in rural Java, the Nahdlatul Ulama claimed forty million members, nearly 20 percent of the population, making it Indonesia’s largest Islamic organization and possibly largest in the world. After elected Nahdlatul Ulama Chairman in 1984 at age forty-four, Wahid worked industriously to expand membership beyond the traditional Javanese abangan base. Despite those efforts, the rival modernist santri-based Muhammadiyah continued its traditional dominance in the urban centers and among outer island Muslims. Wahid believed it was his destiny to lead Indonesia. Soeharto reputedly claimed he had passed his pulung (divine mandate) to Abdurrahman Wahid in May 1998 in the form of a sapphire ring and Javanese kris (ceremonial dagger), while noting he had not conveyed such mandate to either B.J. Habibie or General Wiranto, who had refused his offer of martial law authority. [2] Wahid was nearly blind and confined to a wheelchair after strokes in 1997 and 1998. He was popular as the head of Indonesia’s largest grassroots Muslim organization and leader of the Democracy Forum (Fordem), a nongovernmental organization. His rainbow National Unity Cabinet included representatives from the major parties, ethnic groups, regions and religions, but resulted largely from the back-room political deals. Five cabinet members came from his own National Awakening Party (PKB); four each from Golkar and the National Mandate Party (PAN) under Amien Rais; three each from the Armed Forces and Megawati Sukarnoputri’s Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P); two from the United Development Party (PPP), and one each from the smaller Muslim parties, the Crescent and Star (PBB) and Justice Party (PK). Pundits called it the “National Disunity Cabinet.” Indonesians had hopes that Wahid’s partnership with Vice President Megawati would control corruption, advance democratic reforms and restore social stability in the chaotic post-New Order period. The international community and many Indonesians expected the new President to prosecute the still-recent excesses in East Timor, along with some effort to reconcile the long list of New Order transgressions – perhaps through a South Africa-style Truth and Reconciliation...

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