July 01, 2010 
Anita Rachman

Hajriyanto Tohari told the Globe that Muhammadiyah needed to lend its authority 
to the debate on hardliners using violent tactics to represent Islam. (Antara 
Photo/Ismar Patrizki) 

Muhammadiyah Won't Be Drawn Into Debate Over Radical Groups

Muhammadiyah, the country's second-largest Muslim organization, has stopped 
short of denouncing hard-line groups committing acts of violence in the name of 
Islam, and instead called for introspection on why the phenomenon was on the 

Yunahar Ilyas, head of the organization's fatwa body, told the Jakarta Globe on 
Thursday that there had been calls from both radical and moderate Islamic 
groups for it to weigh in on the debate, but said Muhammadiyah would stick to 
its mission to propagate a peaceful interpretation of Islam. 

"I won't mention the groups trying to pull us to their side," he said. 
"Muhammadiyah will be consistent in spreading Islamic teaching through peaceful 
means and education, not through violence." 

Muhammadiyah, which has an estimated 28 million members, opens its 46th 
national caucus on Saturday in Yogyakarta, in which it will discuss pressing 
issues facing the organization as well as elect a new chairman. 

Yunahar said the organization "shared a different opinion" to the recent 
vigilantism perpetrated by a hard-line group, adding "the use of violence is 
not right." 

In recent months, the radical Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) has led a crusade 
against the supposed Christianization of Bekasi, and last week it was accused 
of inciting another group to breaking up a meeting between lawmakers and 
constituents in East Java, claiming the gathering was a reunion of the banned 
Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). 

Muhammadiyah's alms manager, Hajriyanto Tohari, who is also deputy speaker at 
the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR), told the Globe that while the 
official agenda for the caucus would not include the hard-liner question, 
Muhammadiyah needed to lend its authority to the debate. 

"We first need to discuss whether such vigilantism is theologically justified," 
he said. "My guess is no." 

Hajriyanto also called for a sociological and political approach to evaluate 
the government's response to the recent rise in radicalism. Only then could 
concrete action be taken against hard-line groups, he added. 

"Back in the '60s and '70s, these things didn't happen," he said. "So why now? 
What is the government doing wrong?" 

Hajriyanto said the radicalism stemmed from the demise of long-held values at 
the advent of the Reform Era, in particular the teaching of Pancasila, which 
espouses unity and religious tolerance. 

Muhammadiyah has since its inception in 1912 strived for tolerance and 
pluralism, values that it instills in students at its schools and universities 
across the country, Hajriyanto said. 

He cited the group's university in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, where 68 percent 
of the staff and 78 percent of the students were non-Muslim. 

"This is the true essence of tolerance among people, and it is this value that 
we will keep teaching to our followers," he said. 

Muhammadiyah's future leaders, Hajriyanto went on, would have their work cut 
out in promoting tolerance, including engaging with hard-liners rather than 
keeping them at bay, in an effort to draw such groups "back to the right path." 

"Organizations like ours and Nahdlatul Ulama need to introspect and ask why 
such radicalism has been allowed to flourish," he said, referring to the 
country's largest Muslim organization. 

"Is it because we don't acknowledge these groups, or perhaps because we 
perceive them as being so different from us?" 

Zamroni, chairman of the organizing committee for the Yogyakarta caucus, said 
Muhammadiyah believed tolerance was the key to bridging communities. 

"The use of violence to propagate Islam is not right," he said. "Our principle 
is that of amar ma'ruf nahi mungkar [encouraging virtue and forbidding vice]."

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