Ramos Horta’s nomination of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah to be awarded with Nobel Peace Prize in 2022 should be worthy of support because of what the two organizations have done for Indonesia and the region, with their proud histories becoming the source of inspiration of moderation not only for Muslims in Southeast Asian countries but also for the world.
Horta, himself a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, has argued that both organizations have done tremendous services in education, healthcare, protection of minority while help maintaining peace in Indonesia and the world.
We fully agree with Horta’s assesment as both organizations have defined Islam and Muslims in Indonesia and Southeast Asia as we know it. Indonesian Muslims are moderate and peaceful exactly because both of the organizations are tolerant, inclusive and anti-violent. Saying that they have influenced millions of people in this part of the world will be an understatement. The fact is they have directly shaped the life of around 200 million Muslims in Indonesia, and influenced on millions of other Muslims in Southeast Asia
Their roles in shaping Indonesia have been undeniably huge. They play a significant role in not only getting rid of the colonial powers and creating Indonesia but also in nation building throughout Indonesia’s history from the time of Soekarno’s leadership to the current presidency of Joko Widodo. They have united in fighting terrorism and rooting out radicalism, allowing Indonesia to enjoy a generally peaceful environment. In fact, it is not an exaggeration that they have been the ones that stand between Indonesia becoming peaceful and tolerant nation, and Indonesia turning into radical and chaotic country.
Considering their nature, and the scope of their role and influence, Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s two biggest Islamic organizations with combined members of nearly 100 million, are as worthy as any Nobel Peace laureates in the history of the prize.
While NU and Muhammadiyah both well deserve the Nobel, it is, however, still far from a given. There are, a number of issues that could be used against handing them the prize.
First, the continued suppression and attacks of Ahmadis and Shiites in Indonesia will become the main stumbling block for the world to acknowledge the values of NU and Muhammadiyah to get the Nobel.
While leaders of each NU and Muhammadiyah will quickly condemn any attacks against Ahmadiyah or Shia, both organizations have been seen as half-hearted in supporting and including Ahmadis and Shiites. Both NU, and especially Muhammadiyah, still officially condemned both Ahmadiyah and Shia as heretic groups and diverging from the true Islamic teachings. This condemnation is often used as a basis by fundamental groups to launch attack against Ahmadiyah and Shia.
Unless they take firmer and consistent policies and action to help protecting the two minority groups, their credential will continually be questioned.
The second is the apparent rise of fundamentalism in Indonesia, which some scholars having called it as the fundamentalism turn in Indonesia, referring to a situation where the country’s Muslims in general is becoming more intolerant and exclusive, raising condition to more suppression and prosecution against minority groups, or simply against those who are different from the mainstream organizations.
Directly and indirectly NU and Muhammadiyah have been seen as responsible for this development because leaders of both organizations have allowed a number of vocal members to take over the stage. The leaders of both organizations must quickly distance themselves from these fhndamentalist sections, and reconfirm the organizations’ moderate stance.
The third stumbling block will be the more apparent trend in which elites from both NU and Muhammadiyah have played real politics in an attempt to secure position within the government, sparking accusation that leaders of both organizations have been focusing more on power than on the interests of the grassroots in general. The play where Ma’ruf Amin could become President Joko Widodo’s running mate in 2019 elections, and then get the position of vice presidency will always be pointed to the politicization of NU, and explain the emergence of the accusation that event of electing NU chairman was overshadowed by money politics.
The last concern will be what NU and Muhammadiyah should have done in Papua to help ease the tension and suppression in the province. As majority of Papuans are non-Muslims, it is urgent that they speak up against any discrimination and suppression in the country’s eastern most province. Failing to do so will result in accusation that both organizations have not made enough efforts to help protect minority in Indonesia, or worse condoned the violence there.
Unless NU and Muhammadiyah work harder to address these concerns, it is still difficult to see Indonesia get the Nobel.
This is a critical juncture for Indonesia, especially if we see it from the fact that authorities in Indonesia are trending toward more suppressive regime while fundamentalism is getting stronger within society. If NU and Muhammadiyah are getting Nobel now or one or two years down the road, it will energize both organization to prove they are worthy of the award, revamping their effort to be seen as tolerant and inclusive groups as much as possible. In turn it will help Indonesia address the issues mentioned above.
Such a global recognition could also influence the Indonesian authorities to return to the path of democracy, lessening suppression and violence in the process.
But the window will close fast, and the momentum can suddenly be gone. Indonesia’s condition can worsen in the next two years as electoral politics will take over, and minority voices will not be heard. Many will then see that there is no reason to award Indonesia’s two biggest Islamic organizations with the Nobel Prize.
NU and Muhammadiyah are the representatives of Indonesian people, the actual hero of turning and keeping Indonesia as a democratic, inclusive and tolerant nation. Presenting the award to NU and Muhammadiyah is actually giving recognition to nearly 300 million Indonesian people. It’s a real sad such a golden opportunity is allowed to just pass by.