Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Repositioning the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI)

Al Makin , Montreal | Tue, 02/03/2009 3:38 PM | Opinion, The Jakarta Post

In the past few years, the authority of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) in the eyes of Indonesian Muslims has been steadily tarnished by at least two causes: The outdated language used by the MUI in pronouncing edicts, and the apparently awkward position of the MUI in modern democratic Indonesian society.

Before dealing with these two causes, it is worth recalling here how the MUI took part in the New Order government's game.

During the New Order, the MUI served as a bridge in connecting the secular government and the Indonesian Muslim community (ummah). In this way, the MUI played a critical role as a translator of the government's intentions, by explaining certain secular agenda in plain religious terms to the people.

Thus the government's propaganda enjoyed at least two privileges: additional religious legitimacy from the MUI's religious authority, and the government's messages were easily understood by the ummah owing to the MUI's simple justifications.

Take the family planning program as an illustration. For the most modest Muslims who lived in many rural villages in Java, reducing the number of children in their families, as requested by the program, meant distrusting God's mighty ability to feed them (risqi).

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