(Indonesia) Indonesia’s MUI Today: Truly Moderate or Merely Pragmatic? (Syafiq Hasyim, ISEAS)

  • Despite facing various problems since its establishment in 1975, MUI (Majelis Ulama Indonesia or Indonesian Ulama Council) continues to thrive, and has even extended its influence significantly. The National Congress 2020-2025 has refreshed its leadership and portended changes that would help the organisation’s survival.
  • MUI has over time adopted different roles and orientations on the relationship between state and religion.  At various times, it has alternated between alignment with the government and a more critical stance in response to evolving circumstances.
  • At the start of his presidency, Jokowi had a tentative and sometimes uneasy relationship with MUI. However, Jokowi realised the significance of MUI’s influence during the 212 protest movement – Angkatan Bela Islam, Action to Defend Islam, and his subsequent decision to pick then MUI Chairman Ma’ruf Amin as VP running-mate helped to cement a new alliance with MUI.
  • It remains to be seen whether the removal of conservative critics of Jokowi’s government and the induction of moderate new faces during MUI’s 2020 Congress will consolidate the recent shifts in MUI’s traditional conservatism towards a more moderate outlook. The decisive factor for such a transformation would be ideological and theological conviction, rather than political pragmatism.