In Indonesia there have been two big Islamic social organizations; they are Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul ‘Ulama (NU). I have never learned the history of the appearance of these two organizations so that I don’t really know how they were established. (I loved the history lesson when I was at school; however, I didn’t particularly learn about these two Islamic organizations.)
My parents are the followers of Muhammadiyah. Both of them graduated from Muhammadiyah high school. My late father used to be a teacher at one Muhammadiyah high school too when he was young.
However, when I was at elementary school, my parents sent my siblings and me to an Islamic school where most of the teachings followed Muhammadiyah. Well, there are some principle difference between the Islamic teachings of Muhammadiyah and NU. The reason was that was the nearest school to our dwelling place. After graduating from elementary school, my big brother continued to one Muhammadiyah junior high school. One year later, my parents asked me to choose, to continue to the same junior high school as my brother, or to continue to the same elementary school I attended. As a rebel, LOL, I didn’t want to continue to Muhammadiyah junior high school. (I just wanted to be different from my own folk. LOL.) I chose to continue to the same elementary school where I just graduated. However, when a friend offered me to register at one favorite state junior high school, I continued my study there.
Some years later, one pen pal of mine told me that she joined Ahmadiyah, and she said, “You must not like me Nan, coz I join this forbidden Islamic organization.” In fact I myself didn’t know what Ahmadiyah was all about.
Since then on, I have started to read some articles in the newspapers how the government always tries to oppress anybody who is trying to establish a new Islamic organization out of the two big ones—Muhammadiyah and NU. Simply the government considers the others as deviant, the followers are lost people; therefore they are sinful, and will just go to hell. In Indonesia, the government is very powerful to issue ‘fatwa’ (such as religious instructions): to say something is sinful or not; and the people will easily believe in it.
Worse than that, recently the leaders of those new little Islamic organizations have been arrested and put in jail. They are accused as spreading teachings that will mislead society. Apparently, the government considers society as immature and not enough knowledge so that they are not able to decide for their own lives. Therefore the government needs to interfere its people’s personal lives.
It reminds me of what happened in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries of England where the government didn’t give society freedom in choosing what religion to adhere. Those Puritan people then migrated to the new-found-land—America. Ironically, then, those Puritan people also did the same thing to other migrants to America who didn’t adhere the same faith as them.
Coming back to Muhammadiyah and NU as the two big Islamic organizations in Indonesia, do their leaders also feel worried that they will lose some members with the emergence of the little new Islamic organizations? Why don’t they just give society freedom to choose what is best for them? Let society decide. If one new Islamic organization really only gives misleading teachings, I believe it will diminish soon coz no one will adhere it.
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