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Jakarta won't risk ties with Muslims: Lecturer

Straits Times - March 4, 1997

Jakarta – The Indonesian government will not want to risk losing its current close relationship with Muslims by undermining the Muhammadiyah Muslim organisation or its chairman, Mr Amien Rais, an Indonesian political science lecturer has said.

Mr Ramlan Surbakti, a lecturer at Surabaya's Airlangga University, said President Suharto had been enjoying Muslims' support, the Jakarta Post reported yesterday. "He would not want to reduce the solid support of Muhammadiyah," he said of the 28-million-strong organisation's relationship with the President.

He said "leadership of Muhammadiyah is solid and independent, and is loyal to its statutes, so it would be difficult for outside parties to intervene". Mr Ramlan was commenting on Mr Amien's recent resignation as leader of the council of Experts of the Association of Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals (ICMI). He has been transferred as a member of the association's board of advisers under noted ulama Ali Yafie.

Mr Suharto is chief patron of the politically well-connected group.

Following his resignation, speculation abounded that Mr Amien was made to resign because Mr Suharto and the government were displeased with his criticism of some policies. Controversial Muslim scholar Abdurrahman Wahid ridiculed suggestions that Mr Amien's transfer to a lower post was proof of government meddling in Muhammadiyah's affairs. Gus Dur, as Mr Abdurrahman is better known, said last Thursday in Yogyakarta that Mr Amien's resignation from ICMI could not be interpreted as the government undermining Islam or the Muslim organisation. "That is outrageous. Muhammadiyah has other leaders such as Watik Pratiknya," said Mr Abdurrahman, who chairs Indonesia's largest Muslim organisation, the 30-million-strong Nahdlatul Ulama.

"Nahdlatul Ulama should not be seen as represented only by me, and neither should Muhammadiyah be seen as represented only by Mr Amien Rais," he said.

Copyright (c) 1997 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.

[Despite the suggestions in this article that Amien Rais resigned of his own free will, he has been quoted directly in the Indonesian media as saying he was sacked by Habibie - JB]