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West Java

In mid August 1929, Kartosuwiryo was in Garut at the West Java Provincial Congress acting as Secretary of the party’s executive committee (a position he had held since March).[1] On this occasion Tjokroaminoto changed the party’s name to Partai Sarekat Islam Indonesia (PSII, Party of the Islamic Association of Indonesia) to further stress the party’s nationalist stance and its vision of a future Indonesian nation.

The August provincial congress, which marked Kartosuwiryo’s entry to the WestJava branch of the party, was attended by 800-1,200 representatives of Islamic as well as secular organizations, including some who in later years would become prominent figures in local Islamic politics. In the absence of the West Java chairman, Abdoel- moetallib Sangadji, the congress was opened by Tjokroaminoto and Kadar, who was president of the Jakarta branch, and was chaired by Aroedji Kartawinata, the director of the PSII school in Garut who in the 1940s would become a military commander in the Tasikma- laya area. Among those who participated were Kiyai Ardiwisastra (president of PSII-Malangbong), Kiyai Joesoef Taoeziri (chairman of the Garut branch of the Majelis Oemmat Islam [MOI, Council of the Islamic Ummah]), Kiyai Hadji Moestafa Kamil (national MOI leader) and the PSII-Garut women’s organization, along with vari?ous members of Persis (Bandung), the Majelis Ahli’s-Soennah and Persatoean Oelama (Madjalengka). In addition to these Islamic nationalists, also in attendance were Soekarno and Gatot Mangko- epradja from the Bandung branch of PNI, Mirza Wali Ahmad Bey of the Yogyakarta-based Lahori Ahmadiyah, and the Perserikatan Chauffeurs (Drivers’ Union).

It is interesting to note that despite the conflict between Sarekat Islam and PNI leadership on the establishment of PPPKI (discussed below), Soekarno participated at this congress. The most notable absentee was, in fact, Muhammadiyah.[2] In 1925 Tjokroaminoto had begun translating into Malay the English version and commentary of the Qur’an made by the Ahmadi scholar Maulvi Muhammad Ali. The project - and the Ahmadi group of Yogyakarta in general - had been initially supported by Muhammadiyah’s Kiyai Haji Mas Mansur. However, as this particular instance of the Qur’an’s trans- latability was brought to the attention of Rashid Rida in Cairo, Muhammadiyah felt compelled to withdraw its support and comply with its own alignment to Cairene modernism. Rashid Rida’s legal opinion against this translation was published in al-Manar in July 1928, yet in September the Sarekat Islam council allowed Tjokroaminoto to continue his work, which was published later the same year.[3]

Sarekat Islam, then, reaffirmed its character as a modernist, yet Indonesia-centred, Islamic organization, of which Kartosuwiryo was an exemplary representative. In April 1928, in his effort to deconstruct the misperception of Islam as an element foreign to the Indies’ culture, Kartosuwiryo argued that the Qur’an speaks to all peoples, at all times and in all languages, and that a Malay translation would have been a step in the direction of the consolidation of nationalism, while at the same time strengthening individual piety.[4]

At the 1929 provincial congress, speeches addressing socioeconomic issues related to rural life went hand-in-hand with pow?erful speeches on the Islamic basis of nationalism and recitations of Qur’anic verses accompanied by takbir. Notably, Kartosuwiryo’s contribution stands out for its lack of references to nationalism and Islam, focusing instead on problems of irrigation and land ownership. Beginning with a complaint about the contamination of waterways, which had caused the death by malaria of about 90 people in the Cianjur area, Kartosuwiryo then swiftly moved to criticize the granting of agricultural land to Indo-Europeans at advantageous premiums. Kartosuwiryo pointed to local and national implications of these policies: on the one hand villagers from Lampung, afraid of government authorities and the police, had fled their villages, burning houses and trees, and on the other hand he was concerned that once independence was achieved, this land still would not belong to the Indonesian people.[5] Kartosuwiryo’s words suggest that he saw Indo-Europeans as more European than Indonesian. The issue of the relationship between ethnicity and citizenry would become an important aspect of the nationalist debate, as Indonesian Chinese and Arabs were gradually pushed out of the picture as ‘foreigners’.

Gatot Mangkoepradja and Soekarno delivered their speeches in Malay rather than Sundanese, and the content - as well as the medium - shows how PNI gatherings would usually address an urban audience. They focused on the Russo-Japanese war, labour workers, and the necessity of overcoming differences in the name of cooperation. It is only in looking at the political milieu of these congresses that we can understand the balancing act attempted by Tjokroaminoto, who in his concluding speech mentioned the evils of imperialism and capitalism, comparing them to Gog and Magog, at the same time invoking the blessing of the One and Only God.

At the aftermath of this congress, Kartosuwiryo spent some time in West Java, and between August and October 1929, he often visited the Priangan region to represent the central executive committee.[6] Nonetheless, it is evident that he was still based in Jakarta, where he was active in the youth group. In August he established the Taman Marsoedi Kasoesastran, an educational institution that held classes on subjects ranging from science and English to Dutch and Arabic, and which also had a bookshop.[7] During these months Kartosuwiryo regularly lectured members of the Sarekat Islam Angkatan Pemoeda (SIAP, SI Youth Group) in Jakarta, cultivating these youngsters’ morals and strengthening their debating skills.[8] Every Thursday night, his house would host educational tabligh sessions, during which he focused on the fundamental principles of Islam, the sciences, and the youth movement in general.[9]

We can see the importance Kartosuwiryo placed on the youth branch through his own eyes: when introducing the new Solo- Surabaya PMI (Pemoeda Moeslimin Indonesia, or Indonesian Muslim Youth) branch, which was another local youth wing of Sarekat Islam not appreciably different from SIAP,[10] Kartosuwiryo explained that Islamic youth groups had great potential to combine strong religious dedication, a deep desire to act for the benefit of the people, the nation and religion, and a thirst for knowledge of Islam, general sciences and speech-giving. All this, he argued, would eventually create a group of ‘perfect Muslims’, whose minds would be filled with faith and knowledge and whose actions would be fully dedicated to the implementation of Islam.[11]

  • [1] ‘Klachten gehuit [sic] tydens de provinciale congressen van de PSII’ [1929], AMK GMr,no. 70, NA. The congress was held on 16-19 August 1929.
  • [2] Muhammadiyah was established by Ahmad Dahlan upon his return from Mecca, in 1912;this organization had the stated goal of ‘purifying’ Indonesian Islam from innovation and localtraditions.
  • [3] Nur Ichwan has looked at this instance of Qur’an translation to conclude that RashidRida’s objection to a Malay (English, Dutch or Turkish) Qur’anic text was a marker of ‘theattitudes of Arabic-speaking Muslims towards non-Arabic-speaking Muslims’. The absenceof such debates in Indonesia, Nur Ichwan continues, should then not be seen as a deviationfrom Islamic modernist thought, but rather as a practical implication of the fact that mostMuslims did not speak Arabic. See Moch Nur Ichwan, ‘Differing responses to an Ahmaditranslation and exegesis: The Holy Qur’an in Egypt and Indonesia’, Archipel 62 (2001):pp. 143-61.
  • [4] Kartosuwiryo, ‘Bertoekar fikiran: Agama dan politiek II’, Fadjar Asia, 4 April 1928.
  • [5] ‘Aanbieding van verslagen van Provinciale PSII congressen in Midden-Java van 2 tot 5Augustus en in West-Java van 16 tot 1[9] Augustus’ [1929], AMK GMr, no. 69, NA. This issueis also discussed in Kartosuwiryo, ‘Perkara tanah: Bangsa mendjadi oekoeran hak’, Fadjar Asia,16 August 1929. Another aspect of Dutch policies mentioned in his speech is colonial expansion through religion, land and trade. The adviser for internal affairs, Gobee, commented onKartosuwiryo’s speech, saying that ‘even though this case might be important, the speech wasuseless because of the unbelievably incorrect one-sided view of affairs’. See also Politiek-politioneeleoverzichtm van Nederlandsch-Indi'e [hereafter PPO], August 1929, pp. 184-5.
  • [6] Fadjar Asia, 13 August 1929. Kartosuwiryo is sent to Cianjur together with other party officers to solve unspecified ‘party problems’; in Fadjar Asia, 5 October 1929 and 8 October 1929,Kartosuwiryo is representing the Ladjnah Tanfidziyah (executive committee) of PSII at a propaganda meeting in Nagrek (Cicalengka).
  • [7] Fadjar Asia, 15 August 1929, 16 September 1929 and 26 September 1929.
  • [8] Fadjar Asia, 18 September 1929: untuk mendidik budi pekerti, the same expression later usedto describe the Soeffah Institute.
  • [9] Fadjar Asia, 22 October 1929.
  • [10] Kartosuwiryo, ‘Pergerakan pemoeda dan politiek’, Fadjar Asia, 19 April 1929.
  • [11] Kartosuwiryo, ‘Halangan PMI Solo’, Fadjar Asia, 28 June 1929.
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