Gus Dur's Legacy

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  • TEMPO.CO, JakartaMany people are continuing Abdurrahman Wahid’s teachings in relation to tolerance and pluralism. His life is the embodiment of Indonesia’s values and principles.

    IN his obituary, people called him the father of pluralism for his courage and consistency in defending minorities, including people of Chinese descent and Ahmadiyah Muslims. This is the invaluable legacy of Abdurrahman Wahid – better known as Gus Dur – to this country.

    This legacy is being safeguarded by his four daughters: Alissa Qotrunnada, Zannuba Ariffah Chafsoh, Anita Hayatunnufus, and Inayah Wulandari. Through The Wahid Foundation and the Gusdurian Network, a wide public network of supporters of Gus Dur’s teachings, they are actively spreading the ideas of tolerance, pluralism, and peaceful Islam; holding interfaith dialog, and promoting current issues such as corruption eradication.

    In his lifetime, Gus Dur not only espoused democracy and tolerance. This grandson of the founder of the Nahdlatul Ulama, Hasyim Asy’ari, made it a real practice in his daily actions. Not long after being sworn in as president in 1999, Gus Dur attended the Jakarta Christmas Celebrations and made a speech on the importance of brother- and sisterhood amongst peoples of different faiths. This happened as the issue of making it haram (forbidden in Islam) for Muslims to say merry Christmas to their Christian friends and colleagues was being bandied about.

    When he was Chair of the General Management of the NU, Gus Dur was the first person to order the Multipurpose Ansor Youth Organization Movement (Banser) to guard every single church on Christmas Eve. Looking back on Gus Dur’s actions that cooled down potentially heated situations, we should enquire why there still exist NU religious elders who instead ask public officials not to use religious greetings from different faiths to begin their official speeches.

    Under Gus Dur’s presidency, Confucianism was recognized as a religion and Imlek Chinese New Year was declared a national holiday. He was the first-ever president and ulama to seek an apology for the anticommunist genocide that occurred in 1965. He also reinstated the name of Papua, which throughout the New Order was named Irian Jaya, and did not forbid flying the Morning Star flag of the Papuan people.

    In the current crisis of leadership and good political example, a personage like Gus Dur is a beacon of hope for many. His worldview and attitude have become relevant in the face of escalating rampant intolerance and discrimination. The Central Board of Statistics noted that in 2019, a total of 20 out of 34 provinces have suffered a decline in freedom of faith. Research by The Wahid Foundation also shows an increase in violations of freedoms of belief and religious practice, from 265 cases in 2017 to 276 in 2018.

    We also feel restive that religious elders often wish to trigger intolerance. Led by Ma’ruf Amin, the Indonesian Ulema Council once issued various calls, such as the fatwa on the misguidance of the Ahmadiyah in 2008 and the fatwa concerning blasphemy against the Qur’an and against ulama in a speech by Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a.k.a. Ahok in 2016. Some MUI fatwa also promotes discrimination against vulnerable groups, including women, and lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders.

    Gus Dur obviously was not perfect. His name was dragged through the ‘Buloggate’ scandal: his masseur, Soewondo, was proven to be involved in a Bina Sejahtera Foundation corruption scandal under the Logistics Body amounting to Rp 35 billion. In the ‘Bruneigate’ scandal, Gus Dur was accused of misappropriating funds donated by the Sultan of Brunei. Gus Dur’s involvement was never proven legally, but the two issues were made good use of by his political rivals that ended in his impeachment.

    A great leader will always be measured by the public’s assessment after they have gone, not by the praises of their supporters while they are in power. Gus Dur is a clear example of a presidential figure who has continued to be loved and revered by the people long after he passed.

    Read the Complete Story in this Week's Edition of Tempo English Magazine