Mon, 15 Aug 1994

In new move, NU seeks ban on Al Arqam

JAKARTA (JP): Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) withdrew its support for the controversial Al Arqam movement Saturday, joining hands with the Ulemas Council (MUI) in seeking the ban of the Malaysian- based movement.

K.H. Ilyas Ruchyat, chairman of NU's advisory board, announced that it accepted the argument that Arqam posed a threat to the Moslem brotherhood in Indonesia.

"We still appeal to the government not to outlaw Al Arqam on religious grounds," he said.

However, he reserved the possibility of having to part ways with MUI. "So far, NU does not have any other statement (of its stance on the case), but who knows what will happen later," he said.

NU, the largest Moslem organization in the country, appealed to the government on Friday not to outlaw Al Arqam, at least not on religious grounds. It made the appeal following discussions with members of the sect which failed to find evidence of deviations in the sect's teachings.

On Saturday, however, the government-backed Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI), along with Minister of Religious Affairs Tarmizi Taher and representatives of NU, announced that it was appealing to the government to outlaw Arqam.

Following a five-hour meeting with chairmen of MUI branch offices in Indonesia's 27 provinces, MUI Chairman K.H. Hasan Basri said the religious leaders agreed to ask the Attorney General's office to ban Arqam on whatever grounds it sees fit.

So far, two possible reasons which the government could use to ban the movement are that Arqam's teachings deviate from Islamic principles, as suggested by MUI and that the movement poses a threat to national security. "This Malaysian-based movement, in its strategies, has called Indonesia the second Malaysia," Tarmizi said. "It's insulting."

The ulemas, however, agreed that banning the movement is justified because it threatens the Moslem brotherhood or unity in Indonesia.

Hasan Basri yesterday said the matter is no longer in the ulemas' hands, and that MUI would not be disappointed even if it eventually decided not to ban the movement.

Tarmizi, however, said that both the government and the ulemas found enough reasons to ban the movement.


"There are ulemas who think that Arqam should be outlawed on because it is spreading deviant teachings; others think that it poses a threat to national security," Tarmizi said. "But they all agree that it should be banned."

Criticism of the plan to ban Arqam continued last week. The latest came from Nurcholish Madjid, one of Indonesia's prominent Moslem scholars.

Nurcholish said ulemas who support the ban are authoritarian because it is they, not the government, who oppose the sect. "That's ironic," he said.

He added that the tendency to ban something comes from an authoritarian bent and that nobody can forbid people from believing whatever they want.

"What would have happened if the authoritarian approach was practiced in 1912, when Muhammadiyah was established ?" he asked.

That event was far more controversial than the Al Arqam movement, he said.

Nurcholis added that there is nothing wrong with Al Arqam's teachings. However, he said that the way they dress them up could lead to exclusivity. "Perhaps that's the only negative thing about the sect."

He added that it is unreasonable to ban Al Arqam's teachings based on political judgments since the sect is a minority group. (swe/05)