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Muhammadiyah in the United States

Muhammadiyah in the United States

The criticism that is often leveled by foreign observers, such as Martin van Bruinessen, against Islam in Indonesia is the lack of self-confidence and the weak expansive power abroad. Muhammadiyah and NU (Nahdlatul Ulama), for example, even though they were born in the early 20th century, are still limited in their scope of activities and membership in Indonesia, almost without foreign followers abroad. 

This is different, for example, from Islamic organizations born in other Islamic countries such as the Muslim Brotherhood (Egypt), Tablighi Jamaat (Pakistan), Ghulen movement (Turkey), and Hizb ut-Tahrir (Palestine). Although these organizations are younger than Muhammadiyah and NU, they have grown rapidly in various countries. They have been able to export their religious ideas and understandings to almost every corner of the world without government assistance.

One of the reasons why Indonesian Islam is less expansive is a lack of self-confidence. If you look at the list of Islamic figures from post-independence Indonesia, only a few have had a major influence at the international level. Perhaps what is quite striking is only Mohamad Natsir with his important role, among which, can be seen in Rabitah 'Alam Islami. Apart from Natsir, if there was one, it would be rather difficult to find an Islamic figure from Indonesia of his caliber in the world.

The absence of Islamic figures from Indonesia at the international level and the lack of influence of Indonesian Islam in global relations are among the reasons why Muslims from Indonesia are often underestimated, or at least considered younger brothers, by Muslims from other countries. 

When we meet Muslims from other countries in a mosque in England or the United States, for example, they often look down on us for their Islamic beliefs. Sometimes they even think that our knowledge of Islam is lower than that of ordinary people who come from an Arab country or from Pakistan. Indonesia is only proud of being the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, nothing more.

The phenomenon above is what causes foreign scientists to often call Indonesian Muslims experiencing a minority complex in front of Muslims from other countries. Or, we are the majority in numbers, but our mentality is the mental minority. 

Whereas in the 1970s Fazlur Rahman, a Muslim neo-modernist figure from Pakistan/USA, often referred to Indonesia, along with Turkey, as the future place of Islamic civilization. Looking at current developments, it seems that hope is still far from being realized.

The current condition of Indonesian Muslims at the global level is certainly somewhat surprising considering the achievements of the 1950s and 1960s. Apart from the figure of Mohamad Natsir, in the past, Islamic countries were proud of Sukarno's role. 

Sukarno was praised not only in the Islamic world, but also in the world in general, especially for his role in the non-aligned movement. Proudly people from other countries use the name Sukarno for the names of streets and mosques. Do we have another name from Indonesia that was so influential in the world like Sukarno and Natsir after 1945? There doesn't seem to be any.

The weak self-confidence of Indonesian Muslims and the lack of enthusiasm for overseas expansion are among the reasons behind the establishment of several PCIMs (Pimpinan Muhammadiyah Special Branch) since 2005. Currently there are several PCIMs that are quite active, including the Egyptian PCIM, Malaysian PCIM, Russian PCIM , and Japanese PCIM. 

The author was directly involved in the formation and initial management of two PCIMs, namely the UK PCIM and the US PCIM. However, to the best of the author's knowledge, until now there have not been many activities carried out by the two PCIMs. Among other things, to revive the United States PCIM, at the beginning of the month of Ramadan, such as a small conference via teleconference was held to form a new management and discuss the United States PCIM program.

The “online congress” was attended by Ahmad Syamil, professor at Arkansas State University; Muhamad Ali, professor at the University of California, Riverside; and Halbana Tarmizi, professor at Bemidji State University. This online meeting finally chose Muhammad Ali as the head of the formation team, which at the end of this Ramadan must finish forming the new United States PCIM management.

The United States PCIM is somewhat unique compared to PCIM from other countries. If in other countries the majority of the members are students, in the United States, as can be seen from the online conference participants above, many of its members are professors at various universities in America. 

Many are also senior figures and residents of the United States such as Imam Shamsi Ali, imam of the Jamaica mosque in New York; Abdul Nur Adnan, 40 years working at VOA (Voice of America); Dutamardin Umar, Indonesian community leader in Virginia; Firdaus Kadir, Indonesian community leader in Maryland; and others. While the students include Rahmawi Husen (Texas/Yogyakarta), Dani

 Muhtada (Illinois), Tuti Alawiyah (Texas), Sri Rejeki Murtiningsing (Oklahoma), and Ahmad Najib Burhani (California). In short, the members of the United States PCIM consist of three main components: professors, students, and American permanent residents from Indonesia.

Departing from the diverse backgrounds of PCIM members in the United States, several agendas that have been designed also reflect that background. Among the programs designed are introducing Indonesian Islam, especially Muhammadiyah, to academics in the United States, such as through AAR (American Academy of Religion) and MESA (Middle East Studies Association). Another activity designed is to help Muhammadiyah people who visit or study in America. And the last is the transfer of science and technology from America to Indonesia.

Suara Muhammadiyah, 01/99/ 1-15 Januari 2014, hal. 36-37.

 Oleh Ahmad Najib Burhani*