Public and Private Perception : The PKS Dilemma After 2014

A conclusion drawn from Burhanuddin Muhtadi’s Dilema PKS: Suara dan Syariah (The PKS Dilemma: Between Elections and Sharia) is that the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) community is a highly organized Islamic urban middle class.

But, and this is very important, it emerges without having a clear thesis on Indonesia.

A deep-seated perception of the Western threat to Islam has been the raison d’étre of this well organized effort. And this is related to Jamal al-Din al-Afghani’s (d. 1897) Pan-Islamism.

Al-Afghani 1870s’ intellectual dilemma was how to revive the previous Islamic glorious era, while the real political, economic and military power over the Muslim world was already fully under the West control.

It was this dilemma that intellectually drove al-Afghani to call for the Islamic revivalist movement to stem the expansive power of the West. A totally borderless Muslim unity had therefore become the primary goal.

For, according to him, the concept of a nation-state weakened the spirit of struggle. According to al-Afghani, as quoted by Daniel Pipes, the idea of a nation-state “narrowly based on race, language or culture, and consequently was transformed into secular state.” To compete the West, he appealed the ummah (the world Islamic community) to return to the sciences the Islamic political authorities had developed in the Middle Ages.

This idea was institutionalized in the form of the Egyptian al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin. It is through this organization’s global network the al-Afghani’s ideas linked to the PKS. Muhtadi’s Dilema PKS shows the development of usrah (literary: family) as the original social structure of the PKS, which emulates the al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin movement.

The usrah thus functions as the training ground where the works of al-Ikhwan al-Muslimin prominent figures are studied. It is al-Afghani’s Pan-Islamism that pushed the PKS toward an international orientation.

This lens offers not only a historical explanation of the PKS’ political thought that scraps the thesis on Indonesia, but also, thanks to its supporters’ typical social character, the absence of its populist ideas. Finally, the very lens provides us a model of PKS’ political behavior.

The socio-political situation that existed when al-Afghani’s influence penetrated the minds of the PKS’s Muslim urban middle class was a period of alienation for political Islam under the New Order (1967-1998). Muhtadi’s Dilema PKS says that the end of 1970s and the early 1980s was a decisive moment for the rising political consciousness among this community.

This was related to the effort of Mohammad Natsir, a former Masyumi leader, to establish Dewan Dakwah Islam (Islamic Preaching Assembly: DDI). Having no single strong partner domestically, the DDI linked itself to the Rabithah Alam Islami, an international Islamic organization based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

This step was followed by Immaduddin Abdurachim of the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), who tried to revise the all-encompassing Islamic teachings as a form of total Muslim guidance.

Both Natsir and Immaduddin, however, perceived this New Order’s policy of alienation toward political Islam as the domestic history.

Established on Nov. 7, 1945, Masyumi later evolved into the second-largest political party after the nationalist-based PNI, and was led by the country’s founding fathers.

The New Order’s move to prevent the Masyumi’s comeback after being dissolved by Sukarno in the 1960s was therefore a bitter experience.

For the PKS, however, this political alienation was treated in the frame of al-Afghani’s idea: further evidence of a Western threat.

It was in this period the PKS community began to organize and prepare themselves as a real political force.

The emergence of the PKS thus goes without having a special thesis on Indonesia.

Being prompted by the perceived threat of the West, the PKS developed a discourse more as a metanarrative: a structure of a story that moves further from the real events in order to be able to accommodate the ideological elements within it. The real history within the nation-state thus simply serves as the appendix of the global history
of Islam.

This metanarrative-based political consciousness explains the social-cultural characteristics of PKS supporters. Given that the notion of the West’s dominance is understood limitedly by highly educated people, it could be assumed that the majority of its supporters come from well-to-do families who are able to finance their children’s education in universities.

But, as it can be traced in history, the “urban Muslim middle class”, what WF Wertheim (1956) called the urban bourgeoisie, naturally allied themselves to the “Right Wing” ideology.

Al-Afghani’s intellectual struggle was indeed totally preoccupied with the theme of the West’s dominance over Islam. This explains the absence of the populist ideas within the PKS.

If it suddenly speaks about rakyat (people), the explanation must be sought from another perspective — its distinctive political behavior is driven by the uncompromised effort of maintaining an image as a “clean” party. This distinctive political behavior derives from a question: “How to maintain its ‘cleanliness’, while structurally, for its own survival, the PKS should join the ‘unclean’ political parties in the ruling coalition?

It is in this context the PKS runs its own way by entering into unpublished political compromises with its fellow political parties. In a “secret meeting” at the coalition’s joint secretariat office, for example, the PKS delegation displayed no objection to this government’s plan on reducing fuel subsidies. In public, however, the PKS, in the name of people’s interest, boldly rejected the plan (Tempo, April 8, 2012).

This case reminds me to the story of Musfihin Dahlan, a former member of the House of Representatives (2004-2009) from the Golkar Party. In 2005, Musfihin was named the chairman of the House’s team for a recess budget increase. But when the hike was agreed upon unanimously, the PKS suddenly rejected it in front of the media, despite the fact that the decision was made in a meeting led by a PKS lawmaker who acted as the team secretary. As a result, Musfihin and other team members came under public criticism.

I tend to feel that PKS’ political behavior is a “new political model” to solve the political dilemma — as a coalition pattern it is a sine qua non, meanwhile maintaining its clean image is an absolute necessity.

Given the fact that the coalition is definitely unavoidable, by sticking to this kind of political behavior, the PKS will face problems in the post-2014 era. Why? Provided the PKS wants to join the ruling coalition after the 2014 general elections, it may face a sharp question raised by other parties: “Peue dron keuebit jeuet keuengon” (Could I rely on you as a friend both in the closed and public sphere)?

The writer is the Jakarta-based director of the Institute for the Study and Advancement of Business Ethics (LSPEU Indonesia)

Sumber : Jakarta Post

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