Hardline Islamic groups plan for ulama meeting an attempt to stay relevant

CNN Indonesia – July 18, 2019
3rd Ijtima Ulama at the Lorin Hotel in Bogor – May 1, 2019 (Tempo)
3rd Ijtima Ulama at the Lorin Hotel in Bogor – May 1, 2019 (Tempo)

Jakarta – National Movement to Safeguard the Ulama Fatwa (GNPF) leader Yusuf Muhammad Martak has said that they plan to hold the 4th Ijtimak Ulama meeting of ulama (Islamic clerics) and national figures soon.

The meeting was planned not long after President elect Joko “Jokowi” Widodo met with losing presidential hopeful Prabowo Subianto.

Populi Center researcher Rafif Pamenang Imawan believes that the planned Ijtimak Ulama will be loaded with politics and the meeting is being held to safeguard the solidarity of the 411 and 212 movements in maintaining pressure on issues.

“Basically the planned Ijtimak Ulama will be used as an effort to maintain the pressure and consolidate the forces derived from the 411 as well as 212 movements”, Imawan told CNN Indonesia on Wednesday July 17.

He said that the GNPF will continue to campaign on issues and try to maintain its existence in the interest of electoral politics. He added however that the movement will not be significant and will be abandoned by its supporters.

Imawan does not see the Ijtimak Ulama as being based on disappointment over the Widodo-Prabowo meeting. What is more apparent however is safeguarding the existence of the movement to press a number of issues.

“It’s related to an effort to send a message that this group is still relevant and an alternative force outside of the political parties”, he said.

Imawan doubts if the Islamic based Justice and Prosperity Party (PKS) is playing a role behind the 4th Ijtimak Ulama. Not everyone who agrees with the idea of fighting for Islam wants to do so through democratic channels, let alone through the political parties.

On the other hand, Imawan predicts that the political influence of this group will not be very strong as they are seen as having failed to boost the vote for the loosing Prabowo Subianto and Sandiaga Uno ticket in the 2019 presidential elections (pilpres).

“Basically the Ijtimak Ulama only reinforced the beliefs of Prabowo voters who from the start had indeed already decided on their choice”, said Imawan.

In addition to this, political issues based on religion were not effective in the presidential election. According to Imawan, these issues are only effecting at the level of regional elections.

“So, its strength depends on how this group attempts to remain relevant with the issues that have already been developed. If not, it will collapse of its own accord”, said Imawan.

Political communications expert Lely Arrianie meanwhile says that in general terms the previous three Ijtimak Ulama were only held to determine and support a presidential candidate for the 2019 presidential elections.

“The ones that actually have in interest in its continuance are the [non-political party] backers of [Prabowo’s electoral] coalition. But Pak [Mr] Prabowo has already said that the [electoral] coalition [supporting his presidential bid] has been dissolved following the completion of the pilpres”, Arrianie told CNN Indonesia.

Arrianie suspects that there is a possibility that Ijtimak Ulama will be used as a momentum for the GNPF-Ulama to form a new political party, although this will not be easy because it will have to fulfill the requirements of the law on political parties.

In addition to this, Arrianie believes that it is inappropriate if the Ijtimak Ulama is held as an expression of disappointment with the recent reconciliation meeting between Prabowo and Widodo. Prabowo has conceeded defeat and his meeting with Widodo, said Arrianie, should be welcomed.

Arrianie believes that the Ijtimak Ulama only has an influence on groups which operate outside of the administration. Following the presidential election and the reconciliation between Prabowo and Widodo, there are no more political figures that they can come behind. (jps/pmg)


Along with the 212 Alumni Brotherhood (PA 212), the National Movement to Safeguard the Fatwa of Ulama (GNPF-U) was born out of the 2016-17 demonstrations against former Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama. Since then it has struggled to maintain its relevance and while insisting that it is a purely religious movement to “defend Islam”, in 2018 it openly aligned itself with the political coalition supporting Prabowo Subianto’s presidential election bid. In September for example, the GNPF-U held an Ulama Conference (Ijtimak Ulama) where Prabowo signed an integrity pact containing promises he would fulfill should he win the election.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Ijtimak Ulama, Sisaan Kecewa Kubu Penekan Rezim Jokowi”.]

Source: https://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20190717133757-32-412909/ijtimak-ulama-sisaan-kecewa-kubu-penekan-rezim-jokowi