Political defeat

The campaign and election process have been thoroughly discussed by Herbert Feith, and this is not the place to repeat that endeavour.[1] It is sufficient to note that the results of both parliamentary and constitutional deliberations played key roles in shaping the future of political Islam in Indonesia in theory and in practice. Nation?alists and communists fared better than expected, whilst Masyumi entered the parliamentary arena as the defeated contestant. In 1950 Masyumi had been the largest party in parliament, but the Nahdatul Ulama’s secession had taken away most of its support in East Java and had generally fragmented the ‘Muslim vote’.

Masyumi won the greatest number of votes in almost all the provinces, but, as about half of the total votes were cast in Java, losing the east and central regions transformed Masyumi into the party of the ‘non-Javanese’ and left this Islamic party in second place.[2]

As Soekarno openly placed his bet on the Pancasila, political alliances and power relations were reshaped. NU changed its initial anti-Pancasila stand, and Masyumi was left to pursue the struggle for an Islamized Republic alone.

The efforts of the Islamic intellectuals took several forms: between 1949 and 1956 some of them published structured proposals for an Islamic state of Indonesia, while others were engaged in more subtle attempts to show how Islamic societies across the world had incorporated religious principles into their constitutions. In 1951 the Bandung publisher Al Ma’arif printed the first volume of a compilation of constitutions from Muslim states, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Turkey. A second volume was released in 1955 by the bigger, Jakarta-based (and Masyumi-connected) publisher Bulan Bintang, with the addition of the constitutions of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Transjordan and Pakistan. The new introduction to the second volume bears witness to how greatly the political context had changed between 1951 and 1955. After opening with a criticism of the fact that the ‘temporary’ constitution had yet to be validated by the Indonesian people, Zainal Abidin Ahmad, a Sumatran modernist, goes on to introduce the book as a reference for members of the future constitutional assembly, Indonesia’s Islamic leaders, ‘as well as all those who follow Islamic ideology’.[3]

Masyumi was fighting the battle for political Islam on two levels. First, it was still lobbying for a political accommodation of the Darul Islam, refusing to label the movement an enemy of the Republic. And second, it held its ground in the constitutional assembly, supporting the formation of a state based on Islam.

In late 1955 the Republican government was still undecided on how to bring the Darul Islam to an end. The new Prime Minister, Burhanuddin Harahap, rejected Ali Sastroamidjojo’s approach and called instead for the second general amnesty in five years.[4] Similarly, Kasman Singodimedjo argued that this rebellious movement should not be labelled an ‘enemy’, but rather should be considered to be the ‘naughty son’ who would make no progress if he were beaten to death; the state should, then, ‘hit’ this son with one blow ‘drenched in affection’. The news was quickly disseminated, meeting with much discontent in army circles, especially in West Java where the Siliwangi soldiers often clashed with Islamic troops.[5]

Singodimedjo was not the only politician who believed that the Darul Islam was not a rebellion. At the 1955 Masyumi congress, Mohammad Roem argued that the DI, TII and Daud Beureueh were the party’s allies in the fight for an Islamic state in Indonesia.[6] In the mid 1950s Isa Anshary declared that the ‘Ummat Islam should not support a government which is not the NII’, and K.H. Chalid Hasjim of the Nahdatul Ulama proclaimed that Muslims who did not strive for the NII were hypocrites who lived in ignorance (jahiliah).[7]

The interventions of the Islamic parties were not enough, though, and without the collaboration of the army and the other parties, the amnesty failed to solve the problem. When Ali Sas- troamidjojo was called to form his second cabinet in March 1956, he once again proclaimed that he would end the Darul Islam with force, and this time Masyumi did not oppose the decision.[8]

The results of the constitutional elections mirrored the parliamentary vote, making Masyumi’s loss even more decisive, as the party registered a further decline of more than 100,000 votes. And in turn, the success of PNI, PKI and NU was all the more resounding, eventually leading to a highly fragmented assembly.

Until the early 1950s Islamic intellectuals had put considerable effort into combining the principles of the Pancasila with Islam, but following Soekarno’s speeches in Amuntai and Makassar, many of these same intellectuals began to feel the Pancasila could be understood in too many ways. The debates in 1957 and in 1959 focused on the necessity to choose whether Islam or the Pancasila would be the foundational state ideology. The latter was seen as acceptable by the nationalists, communists, socialists and Christians, but the former was considered compulsory by most politically minded Muslims, with some also arguing that it would be ‘undemocratic’ not to choose Islam because of the nation’s Muslim majority.

Natsir, in his Islam sebagai dasar negara, affirmed the superiority of Islam as foundation of the state, capitalizing on the risks of secularism (as it lacked a higher, otherworldly authority) and on the vagueness of Pancasila (which could be rooted in any ideology, including communism). He insisted that Islam was an overarching system that would guide Muslims in their worldly lives and into the afterlife. In making such an argument, as Michael Feener has aptly pointed out, Natsir ‘counter[ed] what he perceived to be tendencies within contemporary Indonesia to limit discussions of Islam strictly to religious and ritual matters’.[9]

The two years of the constitutional assembly provided a stage for numerous ideological debates. On the one hand, the Islamists feared that the position of the ‘belief in the One and Only God’ in the Pancasila was theologically weak, and they generally looked down on the Pancasila for being an empty concept that could be moulded into anything; they considered both of these points proven by the PKI’s acceptance of the Pancasila. On the other hand, the secularists brought to the fore examples of oppressive and violent Islamic governments in Indonesia, in both former and present days, including the Darul Islam of West Java.[10]

In February 1957 Soekarno began to develop his konsepsi - a political system ‘closer to Indonesian traditions’, which was soon to become the demokrasi terpimpin, or ‘Guided Democracy’. Seeking to return to the 1945 Constitution, which also guaranteed stronger powers to the president, Soekarno proposed to the assembly that the Jakarta Charter be accepted as a ‘historical document’. Masyumi and NU opposed this solution, unless the charter were to be included in the constitutional text. The debate was thus frozen for decades to come.[11]

The political developments of the following months marked the end of both the constitutional democracy experiment and the Islamic state ideal in Indonesia, neither of which would be resumed until some forty years later, after the fall of the Suharto regime in 1998. Until then, Islamic groups would play a role primarily limited to the social life of Indonesians whilst lobbying from the sidelines for change in legislation, thus attempting an only gradual Islamiza- tion of the country.

In his konsepsi, Soekarno proposed a four-party coalition cabinet inclusive also of the communist PKI, which had been excluded from mainstream politics since the Madiun Affair. As power became increasingly polarized between Soekarno and the army (especially after Hatta’s resignation), the Communist Party was to be a buffer, supported by one and repressed by the other.[12] The konsepsi’s second point was the creation of a national council composed of functional groups that proportionally represented all ethnic groups and thus sanctioned Javanese predominance. Such a national council would implicitly counter the divisiveness of the parties’ ideologies.

  • [1] Herbert Feith, The Indonesian elections of 1955 (Ithaca: Modern Indonesia Project, CornellUniversity, 1957).
  • [2] In the parliamentary elections PNI obtained 22.3% of the votes, Masyumi 20.9%, NU 18.4%,PKI 16.4% and PSII 2.9%, and the same breakdown was maintained in the Constituent Assembly.As per the regional differences, NU was by far the leading party in East Java with 34.1% (Masyumi11.2%, PNI 22.8% and PKI 23.2%) and South Kalimantan with 48.6% (Masyumi 31.9% and PNI5.9%). PNI won the majority in Central Java (33.5%, PKI 25.8%, NU 19.6%, and Masyumi 10%)and West Nusatenggara (37.1%, Masyumi 21.1%, NU 8.3% and PKI 5.3%). But Masyumi obtainedthe most votes in all other constituencies: West Java (26.4%), Greater Jakarta (26%), South Sumatra (43.1%), Central Sumatra (50.7%), North Sumatra (36.4%), East Kalimantan (25.7%, closelyfollowed by PNI with 25%), West Kalimantan (33.2%), North and Central Sulawesi (25.1%, closelyfollowed by PSII with 22.9%), South and Southeast Sulawesi (40%), Maluku (35.4%, closely followed by Parkindo with 32.8%). The other exception was East Nusatenggara, where the CatholicParty won 40% of the votes. Feith, The Indonesian elections, pp. 66-72, 78-9. Nasution has noted thatIslam and communism were both victorious when their numbers are compared with the situationin the provisional parliament, as they had gained fifty-seven and twenty-two seats, respectively. Onthe other hand, nationalists and socialists suffered a heavy blow, with their presence falling byeleven and nine seats, respectively. Nasution, The Islamic state in Indonesia, p. 107.
  • [3] L.E. Hakim, Korntitrni negara2 Islam (Bandung: Al Ma’arif, 1951), pp. 5-6, and Hakim, Kon-stitusi negara-negaraIslam (Jakarta: Bulan Bintang, 1955), pp. 4-5. Zainal Abidin Ahmad is furtherdiscussed in Chapter 6.
  • [4] Harian Rajat, 13 August 1955, in Muhammad Isa Ansyori, ‘Respons Masyumi terhadap ger-akan Darul Islam di Jawa Barat (1949-1960)’ (thesis, Universitas Pajadjaran, Jatinangor, 2007, p. 86).
  • [5] ‘DI anaknja, Masjumi ajahnja’, Harlan Ra’jat, 20 September 1955.
  • [6] Harian Rajat, 26 September 1955, in Ansyori, Respons Masyumi, p. 87.
  • [7] ‘Berkas mengenai Negara Islam Indonesia, Mazuki Arifin no. 366’, in Gerakan separatismeIndonesia tahun 1945-1965 (Jakarta: Arsip Nasional Republik Indonesia, 2003), pp. 36-7.
  • [8] Harian Rajat, 12 March 1956, in Ansyori, Respons Masyumi, p. 88. It ought to be noted that regardless of these statements, this cabinet was particularly inconsequential on several fronts, including finding a solution to the Darul Islam problem.
  • [9] Muhammad Natsir, Islam sebagai dasar negara (Jakarta: Pimpinan Fraksi Masjumi dalamKonstituante, 1957); R. Michael Feener, Muslim legal thought in modern Indonesia (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 2007), p. 87.
  • [10] Nasution, The Islamic state in Indonesia, p. 110.
  • [11] Feith, The decline, pp. 578-97.
  • [12] This was especially the case as the United States of America was pressuring Soekarno to puta lid on the Communist Party in mid 1958. With the implementation of press control, journalists’ arrests and restrictions on May Day celebrations, the army became the main arm of anticommunist policies, transforming the previous triumvirate into a de facto duumvirate.
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