une 11, 2010
Camelia Pasandaran & Anita Rachman
Bespite recent differences, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, pictured
center, is scheduled to open the Muhammadiyah national congress next month. (SP
Yudhoyono to Open Islamic Conference
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is scheduled to open the Muhammadiyah
national congress next month, in a sign that relations between the country's
second-largest Islamic organization and the government remain strong despite
recent differences, says the group's chairman.
Speaking after a visit on Thursday to the State Palace, Muhammadiyah chairman
Din Syamsuddin confirmed the president would open the event in Yogyakarta via
teleconference from Medina, Saudi Arabia.
"The president has called on us to be on the front line in empowering people
through our activities in education, health care and social services," he said.
"He expects Muhammadiyah to take concrete steps in empowering people
financially, such as through our support for small and medium enterprises."
Din stressed relations between the government and his organization had not
soured following recent differences over government policies, and denied his
visit with Yudhoyono was an attempt to patch things up.
The Muhammadiyah chairman, a cleric and academic, has been one of the most
outspoken critics of government policies, particularly the handling of the
expensive and controversial Bank Century bailout.
During the 2009 presidential election, Din also endorsed the candidacy of then
Vice President Jusuf Kalla, from the Golkar Party, who lost to Yudhoyono in a
"Muhammadiyah has always had good relations with the government," Din said.
"But we maintain what we term 'participative relations,' given that our
contributions to the people predate the founding of the nation.
"Ours is a dakwah [campaign through preaching], and we remain critically loyal
to the government," he added. "We'll support the government when it's on the
right track, and we'll criticize it if it's not."
He said Yudhoyono appreciated Muhammadiyah's active involvement in regional
issues such as conflict resolution efforts in restive southern Thailand and
southern Philippines, and high-level consultations at the UN on the Millennium
Development Goals and the empowerment of the poor.
"The president expects us to intensify our efforts to show that Indonesia's
brand of Islam is progressive and can contribute positively to the world," Din
Muhammadiyah will host its 46th national congress from July 3-8 to discuss the
issues affecting the organization. It will also elect a new chairman.
Yudhoyono is scheduled to be in Medina for the umrah, or minor pilgrimage,
during this time.
Political analyst Kacung Maridjan, from Surabaya's Airlangga University, said
that while Muhammadiyah had proved its commitment to acting as a counterweight
by criticizing government policies deemed unfavorable to the people, it needed
to go a step further.
"It must increase its programs [for the people] by expanding from education and
health care to do more in terms of economic empowerment," he said.
Kacung also said that Yudhoyono's pledge to open the group's congress did not
necessarily signal closer relations, pointing out that this was a routine
presidential task. Yudhoyono also opened the congress of Nahdlatul Ulama, the
country's largest Islamic organization.
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