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Home arrow Religion arrow Islam and the making of the nation: Kartosuwiryo and Political Islam in 20th Century Indonesia

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What Kartosuwiryo did in the aftermath of his expulsion from medical school in 1927 has not been recorded. However, by March 1928 he was in Batavia, dedicating much of his time to Sarekat Islam activities. It is possible that he served as General Secretary at the 12th PSI Congress held in Pekalongan between 28 September and 2 October 1927, as a Dutch account reports a ‘Kartodiwigo’ fulfilling this position, a name that does not appear before or after this congress and could have been a misspelling of ‘Kartosuwigo’ by the Dutch administrator.[1]

This congress highlighted Tjokroaminoto and Salim’s differences over what to prioritize within the wider context of the anti-colonial struggle. Salim’s speech focused on Islam, Islamism and nationalism, as well as on the party’s organization and its connection with the international anti-imperialism league, while Tjokroaminoto highlighted the relevance of the unfair economic conditions of the Indonesian people in the fight for political free?dom, stating that ‘the intellectuals should not be oriented towards capitalism’.[2] It seems that Kartosuwiryo did not participate in two events on the Sarekat Islam agenda in January 1928. These were the Cianjur open meeting and the al-Islam Congress. While the former was a local event,[3] the latter involved 150 delegates representing more than forty branches across Java. As Salim had requested at the 1927 congress in Pekalongan,[4] Salim and Tjokroaminoto established the Majelis Oelama (Assembly of Islamic Scholars) as an institution representing the ulil amri as a form of Islamic consultative and judicial authority.[5]

Documentary evidence marks Kartosuwiryo’s first unequivocal participation in the party’s activities in March 1928, when his name appears in Fadjar Asia as a donor to the ‘Indonesian Students’ Mutual-Help Committee’, and then again on 2 April when his first article was published. From then on, he would be a regular contributor to the party’s daily newspaper.[6] In his early articles, Karto- suwiryo reported news of socio-political relevance and wrote about religious-political issues, but his focus gradually shifted towards Islam, Islamic nationalism and Islamic law.

Kartosuwiryo’s interest in Islam as a political instrument soon attracted the Dutch authorities’ attention. They started reporting news about this young journalist’s ‘religious fanaticism’ and commenting on his articles in the pages of their press overviews.[7] This attention began in August 1928 and continued for several months, with the authors of the Overzicht van de Inlandsche (Maleisisch-Chinee- sche en Arabische) Pers even suggesting that publishing Kartosuwiryo’s opinions and giving him too much space was compromising Sarekat Islam Party’s leadership.[8] Kartosuwiryo was described as a young anti-European journalist who was fanatical in his religious views and behaviour.[9]

Kartosuwiryo made his first official appearance at the second Youth Congress, held in Weltevreden on 27-28 October 1928. On this occasion, representatives from several youth organizations and newspapers - including Jong Java, Jong Batak Bond, Jong Islami- eten Bond, and the Chinese daily Keng Po - issued a pledge, the Sumpah Pemuda, affirming their commitment to the establishment of an Indonesian nation in which the unity of the homeland would prevail over different ethnic and linguistic communities. The Sumpah Pemuda was a milestone on the road towards the formation of a politically conscious youth and future political elite who were attempting to articulate an anti-colonial discourse in terms broader than ethnicity or religion. The conclusion of the pledge, signed by Kartosuwiryo and others, stated: ‘We, young men and women of Indonesia, accept to belong to one motherland, Indonesia; we, young men and women of Indonesia, accept to belong to one nation, Indonesia; we, young men and women of Indonesia, hold high one language, Indonesian.’[10]

Kartosuwiryo, however, could not refrain from pointing to Islam as a necessary element of the anti-colonial discourse in Indonesia. He later reported on Fadjar Asia that

this writer, as a child of Indonesia, and especially as a child of Indonesia who embraces Islam, meaning the religion of the Indonesian nation (kebangsaan Indonesia), [reminds you] that because this is the religion embraced by a large part of the Indonesian people in general, and also the religion that functions as a bond between several groups and peoples that have settled in our homeland Indonesia, it is because of that that it is appropriate and not far from the truth to say that if in this meeting [the Youth Congress] we want to talk, our opinions should be exclusively based on Islam and Islamization.

His speech was interrupted soon after he started it, as the chair of the congress argued that, ‘Certainly unity does not demand religion, especially not Islam’. To this statement, Kartosuwiryo answered: ‘Even foreigners see the truth of this, that Islam is an important and big issue - if not the biggest - in our motherland, especially in relation to colonization politics [...] Why, then, do those youth still not see it?’41

Two months later, Kartosuwiryo represented the party at the Jong Islamieten Bond Congress in Bandung (22-26 December 1928).42 The Islamic Youth League had been established in 1925 as an off-shoot of Jong Java, with the explicit mission to ‘Islamize educated people’ and breed future cadres for the religious nationalist movement.43 According to a Dutch press report, on this occasion Kartosuwiryo called for ‘peace through religion’.44 However, his speech seemed far from peaceful, as the only available excerpt quotes him accusing the colonial government of implementing policies of Christianization with the specific intent of weakening the Islamic political movement.45

Throughout 1929, Kartosuwiryo was extremely active in Fad- jar Asia as well as in the Jakarta branch of PSI. On 1 March, the party announced the creation, under Kartosuwiryo’s initiative, of a Komite Zakat-Fitrah,46 a committee for the collection of Islamic tax, which can be considered a prototype for the Japanese-era bait al- mal (Islamic treasury). More than a decade later, during the occupation, Kartosuwiryo would create this treasury within the structure of the Majelis Islam A’la Indonesia (MIAI, Islamic Superior Council of Indonesia).47 As Agoes Salim organized his journey to Geneva to attend the International Labour Conference, which was hosted by the League of Nations in July 1929, the editorial team of Fadjar Asia was restructured, and on the eve of Salim’s departure aboard the Prins der Nederlanden, Kartosuwiryo became editor.48 [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18]

From then on, Kartosuwiryo’s contributions appeared in the newspaper almost every day, providing a clear picture of his activities and the development and reception of his ideas in 1929 and 1930. As Kartosuwiryo was gaining attention on the political scene, his statements became part of journalistic debates, as Darmokondo, Bintang Timoer and Oetoesan Hindia often reacted to his writings.[19] back to the desa: building local networks

  • [1] ‘Programma van het XIVe Congres der Partij Sarekat Islam Oost-Indie to Pekalongan vanaf28 September tot 2 October 1927’ [1927], Archief van het Ministerie van Kolonien, 1900-1963[hereafter AMK]: Geheime Mailrapporten [hereafter GMr], no. 52, Het Nationaal Archief[hereafter NA], The Hague.
  • [2] ‘Het congres der Partij Sarekat Islam te Pekalongan van 28 September - 2 October 1927’[1927], pp. 23, 26-7, AMK GMr, no. 53, NA.
  • [3] ‘Verslag der openbare PS.I. Vergadering te Tjandjoer op 22 Januari 1928’ [1928], AMKGMr, no. 57, NA.
  • [4] Amelz, H.O.S. Tjokroaminoto, p. 175.
  • [5] ‘Islam Congres’ [1928], AMK GMr, no. 57, NA.
  • [6] Fadjar Asia is stored at the Perpustakaan Nasional Republik Indonesia (PNRI) in Jakarta,where continuous issues are available from 8 November 1927 until 31 July 1930 with a gapbetween 15 November 1929 and 1 January 1930. For a list of Kartosuwiryo’s contributions, seethe Appendix.
  • [7] See the General Overview of the Indigenous (Malay-Chinese and Arab) Press, AlgemeenOverzicht van de Inlandsche (Maldsisch-Chineesche en Arabische) Pers, and the weekly Overview ofthe Indigenous and Malay-Chinese Press, Overzicht van der Inlandsche en Maleisisch-Chineesche Pers.
  • [8] Algemeen overzicht, August 1928.
  • [9] Algemeen overzicht, August 1928 and October 1929.
  • [10] Suswadi, and Endang Pristiwaningsih (eds), Sumpah Pemuda: Latar sejarah dan pengaruh-nya bagi pergerakan nasional (Jakarta: Kementerian Kebudayaan dan Pariwisata Indonesia,2003), pp. 87, 100. For a discussion of the significance of this pledge and the congress in thepre- and post-independence periods, see Keith Foulcher, ‘Sumpah Pemuda: The making andmeaning of a symbol on Indonesian nationhood’, Asian Studies Review 24-3 (2000): pp. 377410.
  • [11] Kartosuwiryo, ‘Lahir dan bathin’, Fadjar Asia, 29 October 1928. On the second day of thecongress, he was also reported as replying to Anta Permana’s speech on the need to abolishpolygamy so hastily that the congress chairman felt it necessary to ask participants not to discuss issues linked to religion; see Kholid Santosa, Jejak-jejak sangpejuangpemberontak: Pemikiran,gerakan & ekspresi politik S.M. Kartosuwirjo dan Daud Beureueh, 2nd ed. (Bandung: Sega Arsy,2006), p. 64.
  • [12] ‘Adviseur voor Inlandsche Zaken Verslag van het 4e congres den JIB gehouden te Bandung’ [1929], AMK GMr, no. 384x/29, in Abdurrahman, ‘Jong Islamieten Bond, 1925-1942 (seja-rah, pemikiran, dan gerakan)’ (thesis, IAIN Sunan Kalijaga, 1999, p. 139). I have not seen theoriginal document.
  • [13] For more details on JIB, see Deliar Noer, The modernist Muslim movement in Indonesia, 19001942 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1973) and Yudi Latif, Indonesian Muslim intelligentsiaand power (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2008), pp. 203-11 (quote on p. 204).
  • [14] ‘Vrede door religie’, in Algemeen overzicht, 22 December 1928.
  • [15] Abdurrahman, ‘Jong Islamieten Bond’, pp. 139-40.
  • [16] Kartosuwiryo, ‘Seroean oemoem komite zakat fitrah’, Fadjar Asia, 1 March 1929.
  • [17] See Chapter 2.
  • [18] Algemem overzicht, July 1929 and Fadjar Asia, 30 April 1929. Salim’s journey was announcedby Tjokroaminoto and Kartosuwiryo, ‘Ma’loemat Loedjnah Tanfidhijah P.S.I. Indonesia’, FadjarAsia, 20 April 1929 and Kartosuwiryo, ‘Selamat djalan’, Fadjar Asia, 2 May 1929.
  • [19] It is on one of such occasions that Kartosuwiryo’s disgruntled comments on Dutch attemptsto establish a National Bank of Indonesia (Bank Kebangsaan Indonesia) were picked up andused as an example of his unwillingness to cooperate, and his ‘fixation’ with linking nationalism to Islam. Bintang Timoer excerpt republished in Kartosuwiryo’s ‘Lagi tentang persatoean I’,Fadjar Asia, 12 March 1929; Kartosuwiryo, ‘Naik tiang pengantungan’, Fadjar Asia, 25 July 1929;‘Oentoek collega S.M.K. I’, Darmokondo, 9 July 1929 and ‘Oentoek collega S.M.K. II’, Darmo-kondo, 10 July 1929. The content of the articles and the nature of the dispute are analysed in thelast section of this chapter.
 
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