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


Pan-Islamism and non-cooperation

The 1930 party congress in Yogyakarta held in late January marked the height of the friction between PSII and the PPPKI federation. Despite Tjokroaminoto’s conciliatory tone and his efforts to revoke past criticisms, Kartosuwiryo’s position was gaining stronger support, as his new role as commissar for West Java and member of the executive committee gave him increased space to influence the membership. What was at stake in these debates was Sarekat Islam’s integrity as an Islamic party, as the condition for affiliation with PPPKI was that members must be ‘Indonesian’ and thus affirm the group’s identity as an ‘Indonesian’ party, while PSII (despite having recently added the second ‘I’ to its name) was open to Muslims from all over the world.[1]

This conflict was more than a mere matter of principle or theology; it sheds light on the implications of being an Islamic party that could not limit itself to a geographically defined area. This position would be formalized on 28 December 1930 with Sangadji’s statement that PSII, as an Islamic party, could no longer be part of the Indonesian federation PPPKI, nor could it cooperate with a despotic foreign ruler. A few months later, at the party congress, Soekiman, who had initially co-founded the PPPKI with Soekarno, concluded that ‘without any doubts, the PPPKI is imperialistic!’,[2] a claim that marked the final rupture.

The new party statute, as published in Fadjar Asia in mid January 1930, shows a change in priorities and a complete shift from being an Islamo-socialist organization to becoming an Islamic party committed to pan-Islamism. The PSII executive committee now added a new first article titled ‘unity in the Islamic community’ (persatoean dalam oemmat Islam), which stated that the unity of Indonesian Muslims was ‘a step towards the unity of the Islamic community across the world’. This goal was more important - at least as a matter of principle - than ‘national freedom’, which became the second article of the party’s ‘foundation statement’ (keterangan asas). This concept, that Indonesian Muslims’ unity was a stage in the development of a worldwide unity of the ummah, was then repeated in the first and second articles of the constitution, titled persatoean perger- akan dan organisatie (‘unity of the movement and organization’) and toedjoean (‘aims’), respectively.[3]

In harmony with such a redefinition of aims and strategies, in March 1931 Tjokroaminoto opened the party’s 17th congress with a quote from the leading member of the British Indies’ Khila- fat movement, Maulana Muhammad Ali: ‘It is a wrong conception of religion that you have, if you exclude politics from it; it is not [just] dogma, it is not [just] ritual.’ While this congress was strongly oriented towards the state of Muslims abroad, particularly the Berbers of Morocco and the Palestinians, it also sought and received affirmation of the Indies’ position on the global map of Islam, as Tjokroaminoto received a telegram from the Mufti of Jerusalem, Sayed Amin al-Husayni, that discussed the situation in Palestine and, more significantly, condemned Soekarno’s PNI for its secularism.[4]

A couple of months later, Tjokroaminoto began to promote the creation of a permanent al-Islam Committee, to be based in Surabaya under the leadership of Wondoamiseno. The committee’s broader aim was to advocate and promote pan-Islamism via local publications, like the new magazine al-Djihad, and building an Islamic Union (Islam-bond) together with foreign organizations, such as the British-Indian Muslim Association. This committee was also charged with tackling the anti-Islamic feelings that had surfaced in secular circles.[5]

The first al-Islam meeting gathered in Batavia in October 1931, and the second in Malang in April 1932. Neither of these meetings made any progress in connecting Muslims in the Indies with the rest of the ummah. However, the committee succeeded in pulling together political and non-political Islamic groups under the banner of the Pergerakan al-Islam Indonesia (Indonesian al- Islam Movement), which reached a total membership of around 4,000 individuals in 1931-32. [6]

First established in the 1920s in the aftermath of Mustafa Kemal’s abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate, the al-Islam committees were tasked with suggesting ways to bring about a new worldwide Islamic order. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to see the significance of these committees in the 1930s in this same light. Attempts to recreate a global caliphate had long since been abandoned, and even in the British Indies, where the Khilafat movement was more persistent and dedicated, the focus and priorities of the movement had shifted away from the caliphate and towards nationalism. The caliphate as the basis of a political platform reappears only in more recent times, with Kartosuwiryo’s call for a federation of Muslim nation-states in 1950, and later with Jemaah Islamiyah’s propaganda for a transnational Islamic state in the 2000s.[7]

The 1930 Yogyakarta congress and the discomfort that emerged from participation in the PPPKI are representative of the issues at the core of the party and, more generally, of the debates dominating this decade. On the one hand, there was opposition to secular nationalism and commitment to religiously informed politics; on the other hand, there was the issue of (non-)cooperation. Both had been central concerns for Kartosuwiryo since his early days as a journalist, and his growing influence on the executive committee resulted in Partai Sarekat Islam’s policies being increasingly determined by his views. Partai Sarekat Islam Indonesia had thus begun shaping itself along these two projects of Islamic politics and noncooperation. However, as political winds in the Indies changed, this redefinition had to be halted.

Within two years of his appointment as Governor General in 1931, the conservative Bonifacius Cornelis de Jonge had dramatically reduced the political space in the Indies, and by 1933 only openly cooperative organizations and parties were allowed to operate freely in the political sphere. Sarekat Islam’s 18th congress, held in Bandung at the end of 1931, was mostly concerned with local economic and social issues. Salim focused on new press limitations, Soekiman invoked social legislation, Sangadji complained about agrarian reforms, and Tjokroaminoto attacked the cultuurstelsel as a manifestation of ‘capitalism’s baneful influence’.[8] This ‘cultivation system’ had been in place for a century, with the Dutch government determining what crops Javanese peasants had to produce in order to ensure the steady supply of tropical products in which the trading company was interested.[9]

  • [1] PPO, January 1930, pp. 291, 293. The PSII Congress was held in Yogyakarta from 24 to27 January 1930; ‘Verslag van het 16de congres der PSII, gehouden op Jogjakarta op den 24stentot den 27sten Januari 1930’ [1930], AMK GMr, no. 230x, NA, suggests that Kartosuwiryo was theexecutive committee’s member for agriculture. The party board was represented by Tjokroami-noto, Salim, Soerjopranoto, K.H. Anwaroedin, Wondosoedirdjo, Pardikin and Kadar, whilst theother members of the executive committee were Soekiman and Kiyai Taoefiqoerachman, commissars for finance and for sharia and ‘ibada, respectively; Kiyai Taoefiqoerachman later, in 1945,signed Masyumi’s call for jihad against the Dutch. Major points of discussion at this congresswere hereditary property, the pomale sanctie and guru ordonnantie, as well as opium consumption,prostitution and gambling; these issues were specifically mentioned in an action programmereleased on this occasion and named programma van actie (jihad). The 1945 call for jihad is furtherinvestigated in Chapter 3.
  • [2] ‘Verslag van de op 28 December 1930 te Batavia delegde [sic.] vergadering der PSII’ [1931],AMK GMr, no. 327x, NA; ‘Verslag van het 17de Congres der Partai Sarekat Islam Indonesia’[1931], AMK: Kabinet Verbaal Geheim [hereafter KVG] no. 5, NA. The congress was heldbetween 16 and 22 March 1931.
  • [3] ‘Persatoean oemmat Islam se-doenia’, Fadjar Asia, 21 January 1930. The statute was editedbetween October 1929 and January 1930.
  • [4] ‘Verslag van het 17de Congres der Partai Sarekat Islam Indonesia’ [1931], AMK: KVGno. 5, NA.
  • [5] Soetomo’s Persatoean Bangsa Indonesia (Association of the Indonesian Nation) had beengeneric in its anti-Islamic propaganda, but the Surabaya Studieclub, for example, had attackedthe pilgrimage to Mecca (belittled vis-a-vis banishment to the Dutch penal colony in BovenDigul, Papua), and nationalist women groups condemned polygamy. ‘Oprichting “CentraalComite al-Islam”’ [1931], AMK GMr, no. 716x, NA.
  • [6] ‘Vergadering van het al-Islam-comite te Batavia op den 11den October 1931’ [1931], AMKGMr, no. 939x, NA; and ‘Verslag van het 2e al-Islam congres in de maand April 1931 te Kalanggehouden’ [1932], AMK GMr, no. 472x, NA. The latter congress was held between 16 and
  • [7] April 1932. 18 Jacob M. Landau, The politics of pan-Islam: Ideology and organisation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994); Formichi, ‘Pan-Islam and religious nationalism’. On the impact of the abolitionof the Ottoman Caliphate in 1924, see Chiara Formichi, ‘Mustafa Kemal’s abrogation of theOttoman Caliphate and its impact on the Indonesian nationalist movement’, in al-Rasheed,Kersten and Shterin (eds), Demystifying the caliphate: Historical memory and contemporary contexts(London: Hurst Publishers; New York: Columbia University Press, 2012a), pp. 95-115.
  • [8] ‘Verslag van het 18de PSII congres te Bandoeng gehouden sinds December 1931’ [1932]AMK GMr, no. 518x, NA. The congress was held between 25 and 27 December 1931.
  • [9] For more on the cultuurstelsel, see Cornelis Fasseur, The politics of colonial exploitation: Java,the Dutch, and the cultivation system (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Southeast Asia Program,1992).
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