12/06/2004, 00.00
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Nahdlatul Ulama in danger of splitting

by Mathias Hariyadi

Indonesia's largest Islamic organisation is divided between 'idealists' and 'opportunists'.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – A rift is in danger of splitting Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia's largest Islamic organisation. The threat comes from former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, better known as Gus Dur, after Hasyim Muzadi was re-elected as NU leader.

A former NU leader himself, Gus Dur announced his intention to set up a new organisation. The 'new' NU would be an umbrella association for the current NU's 'cultural' members and would be inspired by the original principles of the organisation founded in 1926.

Gus Dur's proposal stems from his opposition to Muzadi's leadership, which the recent NU muktamar (convention) in Solo (central Java), reconfirmed.

Gus Dur had already threatened to leave the NU to form a separate organisation at the previous muktamar should Muzadi be re-elected.

Other NU spiritual leaders agree with Gus Dur in opposing Muzadi and his supporters, dubbed 'structural' members, for allegedly using the NU as a political tool to pursue personal agendas and their own economic interests. According to the former Indonesian President, Muzadi and his group are not 'morally clean'.

Gus Dur today refused to meet Muzadi in the NU's headquarters in Jakarta to discuss the issue.

For his part, Muzadi decline any comment about the rift between 'structural' and 'cultural' camps in the 40 million-strong NU. "The possibility of setting up a NU along the lines of 1926 is only a political issue," he said. "I doubt that Gus Dur will implement this controversial idea".

Mr Muzadi also refused to comment the possibility that Gus Dur's loyalists might 'seize' the NU's Jakarta office. "Don't ask me!" he said. "Ask Gus Dur!"

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