Pesantren and Indonesia’s National Movement

It’s never easy to brainstorm about pesantren in the debate of national movement in Indonesia; Since most of the discussions, analyzes, and reports on the two monumental milestones of the national movement, namely the first Boedi Oetomo Congress in 1908 and the second Pemoeda Congress in 1928, did not mention the role of Pesantren in it widely. Especially at the 2nd Pemoeda Congress, Jong Java, Jong Sumatranen Bond, Jong Islamieten Bond, Sekar Roekoen, Jong Batak, Jong Theosofen Bond, Ambonsche Strudeerenden, Minahasa Strudeerenden, Studieclub Indonesia, Boedi Oetomo, and Muhammadiyah were indeed named as official participants. However, pesantren and Nahdlatul Ulama as official institutions are not registered at all. The involvement of the youth of Wahab Hasbullah, Hasyim Asy’ari, and Wahid Hasyim in the event was recognized as Individuals and not to represent Pesantren neither Nahdlatul Ulama.

Two Entry points

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To start a discussion about this, we can use two entry points. First, the exciting debate between Takdir Alisjahbana and Dr Sutomo about the type of society and the desired new Indonesian human character in the future (Achadiat, K. Mihardja, Cultural Polemics). The debate, which is widely known as the cultural polemic that has emerged since the 1930s. Sutomo, during the discussion on the ideological basis of the national movement, is being critical of Islamic ideology, not only shows enthusiasm for pesantren but is also persistent in defending and campaigning for defence during an onslaught of opponents. His polemic opponents like Takdir Alisjahbana. Luckily, because Sutomo received support from Sanusi Pane and Ki Hadjar Dewantara, the latter even tried to adopt the pesantren education system in Taman Siswa. Second, as made by historians, the historical painting of the pesantren for half a century (1900-1950) shows its strongest tendency to engage in a guerrilla war against Dutch colonialism. The description of the pesantren at the time described this educational institution as “ceasing its intellectual activity and moving into the forest to become a guerrilla war troop against the Dutch”.

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