02/01/2021, 13.18
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Nahdlatul Ulama marks 95 years of tolerance and pluralism

by Mathias Hariyadi

Founded on 31 January 1926, Indonesia’s most important moderate Muslim movement is approaching a hundred years of existence. Its principles are also inspired by opposition to the Wahhabi ideology that was emerging in Saudi Arabia at the same time. It has historically supported initiatives in favour of dialogue and tolerance, and its schools, the pesantren, have played a role in spreading its values.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the “revival of the ulema”, is the most important moderate Muslim organisation in Indonesia. This year, it is celebrating the 95th anniversary since its foundation in 1926.

Everything started two years earlier, in 1924, when two leaders of the time, Kiai Hajj Hasyim Asy'ari and Kai Hajj Wahab Hasbullah, proposed the creation of a body to supervise boarding schools (pesantren) in East Java, the religion’s cradle in the archipelago.

The idea that led to the birth of the NU movement was to protect the “true nature of Islam in Indonesia”, better known as “Islam Nusantara”, according to the principle of a Sunni doctrine derived from the Shafiʽi doctrine and school of Islamic law.

The current of thought developed in opposition, among others, to the Wahhabi doctrine that was becoming increasingly popular in Saudi Arabia, and then spreading to the rest of the Islamic world.

It was also a response to the growing modernism and secularism that was asserting itself in Indonesia.

In short, NU was a current marked by a balance between two opposites, that of unfettered secularism and the radical (and violent) extremism that still dominates in Arabia and the places where the Islamic faith is funded by petrodollars.

In the 1920s, Indonesian Muslim scholars sought instead to create an “Indonesian Islamic” doctrine to contrast Saudi radicalism and encourage school life and teaching in the Pesantren.

Hence, on 31 January 1926, the Nahdlatul Ulama was born, reaching the milestone of 95 years of activity with countless initiatives in the religious, social and political fields.

In all these years the Nahdlatul Ulama played a leading role in the life of the country, guaranteeing pluralism and respect for civil liberties and in matters of faith, embodied in the doctrine of Pancasila, the political and institutional reference and inspiring principle of the state.

Through GP Ansor, its youth wing, and Banser, its paramilitary wing, NU contributed to stability and the development of pluralism and tolerance.

Speaking on the side-lines of the celebrations dedicated to the 95th anniversary, Indonesian President Joko Widodo expressed hope that NU would continue to play a leading role in the defence of nationalism and religious tolerance in the future.

In the modern history of Indonesia, the head of state added, members of the organisation have fought against terrorism and extremism.

Former President Megawati Sukarnoputri also praised the organisation’s decades of work, expressing hope that its leaders would continue to work closely with Indonesian political leaders in coming years.

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