Sat, 13 Aug 1994

NU opposes move to ban Al Arqam

JAKARTA (JP): Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia's largest Moslem organization, appealed to the government yesterday not to outlaw the Malaysian-based Al Arqam movement, at least not on religious grounds.

NU's position was publicly announced yesterday after the Fatwa Council, which issues the group's policy recommendations, deliberated. The council members met with representatives from the Al Arqam earlier in the morning.

"We didn't find any deviation in Al Arqam's teachings as suggested by the Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI)," Ma'ruf Amin, secretary of the NU's Fatwa Council, said. "We appeal to the government not to ban the movement on the basis of their Islamic faith."

There has been increasing pressure on the government to ban Darul Arqam, as the movement is better known in Indonesia, after it was outlawed in its home country of Malaysia last week.

Arqam leaders in Indonesia have since offered to hold dialogs with its critics and other Moslem organizations to give them a chance to defend their existence in Indonesia.

The MUI, which has been campaigning for a government ban, flatly rejected the offer. An umbrella organization for all Moslem groups, MUI said Arqam's teachings deviate from Islamic principles.

NU accepted the offer for dialog as did Pemuda Muhammadiyah, the youth wing of the Muhammadiyah Islamic movement. Although the dialog with Pemuda Muhammadiyah was adjourned, the group issued a statement yesterday, stating that it is toeing the line taken by its parent organization, Muhammadiyah, which supports the plan to ban Al Arqam.

Ma'ruf, who sits on the MUI's Fatwa Council, personally questioned the legality of MUI's decision to declare that Al Arqam's faith was illegitimate.

He recalled that the Council decided on the issue through a vote. "How could you decide such thing by voting," he remarked.

When asked about the possibility of the government banning Al Arqam for reasons other than religious ones, Ma'ruf said, "That is up to them. If the government bans it for political or national stability considerations, for instance, it's up to them. We give our recommendation based only on religious considerations."


The dialog between Pemuda Muhammadiyah and Al Arqam was disrupted by the presence of a mob of journalists. Both sides decided to adjourn the meeting.

Ahmad Rafei, who heads the Al Arqam movement in Jakarta, told journalists that Pemuda Muhammadiyah was ready for another dialog.

"We have not yet reached any results as we were just making contact when it was adjourned. Pemuda Muhammadiyah promised to resume the dialog sometimes in the future," Ahmadi said.

Pemuda Muhammadiyah, however, issued a statement stressing that it is consistent with the position of its parent organization which suggests that there are points of disagreements between Al Arqam and Muhammadiyah.

Muhammadiyah has been calling for a ban as far back as 1990 because it too believed that Arqam's teachings deviated from Islamic principles

Muhammadiyah pointed out that these deviations become apparent when reading the Arqam's mystical Sufi guide book Aurad Muhammadiyah by Sayid Muhammad bin Abdullah As-Suhaimi, a Sufi idol from Wonosobo, Central Java. The book has long been banned here.

Muhammadiyah said it cannot accept Arqam's belief that Suhaimi met with Prophet Muhammad in front of the Kaba in Mecca and received Messages from the Prophet which he wrote in the Aurad Muhammadiyah.

Meanwhile, NU Chairman Abdurrahman Wahid said yesterday that Al Arqam's mystical practices could be approached with fiqh (Islamic rules) which are based on logical analysis of the Holy Koran and the sayings of Prophet Muhammad.

Abdurrahman said he did not believe that As-Suhaimi met with Prophet Muhammad. However, he said this should not be used as a reason to ban the movement.

Commenting on the statement made by MUI Chairman Hasan Basri, that he did not want to have a dialog with Al Arqam, Gus Dur said, "If that's the way it is, then MUI cannot claim to represent Indonesian Ulemas." (rid)