Thu, 04 Aug 1994

`New NU' apologizes to `Old NU', promises to change its name

JAKARTA (JP): The founders of Nahdlatul Ummah, a forum in the United Development Party (PPP) dubbed by the press as the New NU, apologized yesterday to the Nahdlatul Ulama faction, or the "old" NU, and agreed to change its name.

Emron Pangkapi, who said he was speaking on behalf of the founders of the New NU, told reporters that the new organization will be called the Communication Forum for Nahdlatul Ummah Nusantara, or Konun Forum for short.

"We apologize deeply to members of NU who may have been offended by the use of the term the New NU," Emron said.

The New NU was formally conceived during a seminar in Jakarta last week organized by a number of senior PPP members.

While its stated goal is to help the party woo first time voters in the 1997 election, the choice of name and the abbreviation used upset a number of NU leaders who are embroiled in a battle for the PPP leadership with the other factions.

The party is scheduled to elect its leaders at a congress in Jakarta beginning on Aug. 28. PPP is a fusion of four former Islamic parties, including NU, Muslimin Indonesia (MI), Sarekat Islam (SI) and Perti.

Other critics of the New NU said that the forum would complicate the power struggle between the party's four factions, particularly between NU and MI, in the run up to the congress.

NU leaders said they are fully convinced that MI is behind the New NU although its founders claim that they are neutral in the factional battle.

In an apparent tit-for-tat retaliation, a senior NU leader on Tuesday announced the formation of the "New MI" which stands for Mukminin Indonesia.

Yusuf Hasyim, a senior NU politician aspiring toward the PPP chairmanship, said a number of NU scholars had come to him with the proposal.

Mukminin denotes a more religious and devout person compared to Muslimin which is usually used to refer to Moslems in general, Yusuf said to explain the choice of the name.

The term the New MI is used so as not to confuse it with the real MI, he added.

In a prepared statement, Emron said it was never the intention of the Nahdlatul Ummah founders to denigrate the NU, especially since the NU is now preparing for its own congress in November.

He also appealed to the press not to use the term the New NU but refer to the organization as the Forum Konun instead.

Not serious

Meanwhile NU Chairman Abdurrahman Wahid yesterday deplored the founders of both the New NU and the New MI, and predicted that their forum would not last long because they could not have been serious in forming the groups.

"I'd give them two months at the most," Abdurrahman was quoted by the Antara news agency as saying.

The New NU must have been founded by "frustrated" people who were at a lost as to how to further their position within the party, he said.

Abdurrahman said the founders were politicians who began their political career at MI but then became frustrated with the faction's leadership and therefore decided to form a new group.

They do not however have a mass of followers, certainly not as large as NU, and hence the choice of name, he said.

He said however that he was not offended at all by the New NU. "We take it as a joke."

He viewed the New MI with equal mockery, saying that whoever was behind the group must have formed it by impulse.

He pointed out that Mukminin is often used to denote the followers of the Shia group while Muslimin is for mainstream Moslems.

Both forums are simply trends, like bad songs that make the charts momentarily only to disappear quickly, he said. "They're nothing." (emb)