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Masjumi

By:
Harold Crouch
Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

Masjumi

One of Indonesia's main political parties during the period of parliamentary democracy in the 1950s, the Masjumi (also spelled Masyumi under the new system of spelling introduced in 1972) can trace its origins to a body also called Masjumi, the Majlis Sjuro Muslimin Indonesia (Consultative Council of Indonesian Muslims), which was established in 1943 by the Japanese military administration that ruled the former Dutch East Indies during World War II. The Japanese-sponsored Masjumi included all the major Indonesian Muslim organizations and was intended to mobilize support for the Japanese occupation. Although it disintegrated with the Japanese surrender, a new Muslim political party named Masjumi was established in November 1945, three months after the Indonesian nationalists had proclaimed Indonesian independence. As with the original council, all the major Indonesian Muslim organizations joined the new Masjumi, including the modernist Muḥammadiyah and the traditionalist Nahdatul Ulama (NU).

The Masjumi constituted a major, but by no means dominant, political force in the new republic. Although about 85 percent of Indonesians described themselves as Muslim, many among them, especially in Java, followed a syncretic combination of Islamic and traditional Javanese beliefs and practices. Orthodox Muslims usually identified with Muslim parties, but the Javanese syncretists, often referred to as Abangan, tended to support the nonreligious parties. As a Muslim party, the Masjumi called for the establishment of an Islamic state, particularly the adoption of the so-called Jakarta Charter, which included “the obligation for Muslims to observe the sharīʿah,” a provision strongly opposed by the Abangan Javanese as well as the Christian minority.

The Masjumi played a prominent role in the politics of parliamentary democracy between 1950 and 1957. Despite their advocacy of an Islamic state, most of the party's leaders were pragmatic in outlook and formed coalition governments with secular and Christian parties. The Masjumi's economic policies were generally conservative, perhaps reflecting the support it received from Muslim businessmen and landowners. Parliamentary democracy, however, was unable to produce strong and stable governments. Regular realignments among parties resulted in coalition governments rising and falling in quick succession. In the six coalition governments before the collapse of the system in 1957, the Masjumi held the prime ministership in three, a deputy prime ministership in two, and failed to be represented in only one.

Initially composed of virtually all the significant Muslim organizations, the Masjumi suffered from sharp internecine rivalries. Its top leaders were drawn largely from the Dutch-speaking, Western-educated intelligentsia, many of whom were affiliated with the Muḥammadiyah and therefore sympathetic toward a modernist perspective on religious questions. A substantial part of the party's grassroots support, however, was mobilized by the traditionalist religious teachers of the NU, whose influence was strong in the rural areas of East and Central Java. The rivalry between the Masjumi leaders and the NU culminated in 1952 when the NU withdrew and constituted itself as a distinct party. This withdrawal reduced the Masjumi's popular support considerably. Subsequently, in Indonesia's first national election in 1955, the nonreligious Indonesian National Party, with 22.3 percent, was able to win the largest share of votes; the Masjumi came in second with 20.9 percent, closely followed by the NU with 18.4 percent. The 1955 election, however, showed the Masjumi to be by far the strongest party outside Java and in the ethnically Sundanese province of West Java. It polled poorly in East and Central Java, the home provinces of the ethnic Javanese who made up about 45 percent of the Indonesian population. After 1952, therefore, the Masjumi represented regional as well as religious aspirations.

During the 1950s discontent had been growing against what many non-Javanese claimed was “Javanese domination,” and several rebellions had broken out. Former Masjumi activists were among the leaders of the Darul Islam Rebellion in West Java and similar movements in Atjeh (northern Sumatra) and elsewhere. Regional dissent culminated in the mid-1950s when coordinated revolts took place in several provinces in Sumatra and Sulawesi. Although dissident military officers played leading roles in this rebellion, they were supported by local branches of the Masjumi, and three top Masjumi leaders, including two former prime ministers, fled from Jakarta to participate in the formation of the Revolutionary Government of the Republic of Indonesia (PRRI) in early 1958. The inability of the central government—a coalition that included the Masjumi—to deal with the rebellion led to the government's collapse, the introduction by President Sukarno of martial law, and the replacement of parliamentary democracy with a form of authoritarian rule known as “Guided Democracy” in 1959. The regional revolt was eventually put down by central government troops, but the involvement of sections of the Masjumi earned it the enmity of both President Sukarno and the military leadership—the twin pillars of the “Guided Democracy” system. The Masjumi further alienated the president by continuing to defend parliamentary democracy, and when it joined other parties in threatening to reject the government's budget in 1960, Sukarno dissolved the parliament and established a new, appointed body without Masjumi representation. A few months later the Masjumi was banned, and in later years several of its prominent leaders were detained.

After President Sukarno had been deposed in a gradual process between 1965 and 1967, former Masjumi leaders hoped that the military-dominated regime of President Suharto would agree to the revival of the party. However, the military had been alienated by the involvement of Masjumi elements in the regional revolt, which had cost the lives of several thousand soldiers. The new government did not allow the revival of the Masjumi but permitted instead the formation of a new party, Partai Muslimin Indonesia (Indonesian Muslims’ Party), which was intended to represent the old Masjumi constituency but without its old leaders.

See also INDONESIA; MUḥAMMADIYAH; and NAHDATUL ULAMA.

Bibliography

  • Feith, Herbert. The Decline of Constitutional Democracy in Indonesia. Updated ed. Ithaca, N.Y., 2006. Standard work on the period of parliamentary democracy in Indonesia.
  • Haidar, M. Ali. Nahdatul Ulama Dan Islam Di Indonesia: Pendekatan Fikih Dalam Politik. Jakarta, 1994.
  • Kahin, George McTurnan. Nationalism and Revolution in Indonesia. 8th ed.Ithaca, N.Y., 2003. Classic study of Indonesian nationalism and the revolution against Dutch rule.
  • Lev, Daniel S.The Transition to Guided Democracy: Indonesian Politics, 1957–1959. Ithaca, N.Y., 1966. Detailed study of the politics of the late 1950s, with much information about the Masjumi's role.
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