The 212 Alumni Reunion; A CALL FOR CHANGE

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Independent Observer

IO, Jakarta – The 212 Movement was born as a protest against former Governor of DKI Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who had been charged with blasphemy in a court of law. In its original 2016 run, the 212 Monumen National (Monas) peaceful protest was attended by millions of Muslims from various regions. President Joko Widodo also made time to be present at the primary stage, accompanied by the Coordinating Minister of Police and Security Wiranto and Chief of Police General Tito Karnavian.

A year later, in 2017, the 212 Reunion was held, with the number of participants exceeding 7.5 million people. The latest 212 Reunion was held on Sunday, 2 December 2018. Millions of people from various regions were present in Monas from 03.00 WIB to 12.00 WIB. The Committee organized tahajjud (midnight) prayer, subuh (dawn) prayers, dzikr (repeating praise of Allah with the help of tasbeh prayer beads to keep count), salawah (repeating praise of the Prophet Muhammad), and a sermon from the Chairman of the Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam – “FPI”) Rizieq Shihab broadcast remotely live from Saudi Arabia.

Prabowo, Presidential Candidate Number 02, was present at the event. However, his running mate Sandiaga Uno was absent due to campaigning in rural areas. Also present were Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan, Speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly (Majelis Permusyawaratan Rakyat – “MPR”) Zulkifli Hasan, Deputy Speaker of MPR Hidayat Nur Wahid, and Deputy Speaker of the House (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat – “DPR”) Fadli Zon. There were also the Chairman of the National Mandate Party (Partai Amanat National – “PAN”)’s Honorary Council Amien Rais and General Chairman of FPI Sobri Lubis.

The event, which has been held annually for 3 years in a row, show that a massive, peaceful action can be continuously attended by millions of Muslims from various regions in Indonesia. What important lessons can we gain from this event?

The Meaning behind the 212 Reunion
Human rights activist Natalius Pigai notes three meanings behind the 212 Reunion. First, there is a strong perception in the Western world, both in America and Europe, that Islamic countries are anti-democracy, anti-peace, anti-humanitarianism. The West believes that any country with a majority of Muslim citizens cannot possibly be a modern country based on peace, human rights, and democracy. The 411 event in 2016(4th Nov 2016), the 212 event in 2016 (2nd Dec 2016), and the 212 Alumni Reunions in 2017 and 2018 are high points of Islamic civilization that signal to the West that the world of Islam is not the darkness they think.

From the international perspective, the struggle of Muslims in Indonesia can be seen in the context of world history, as Muslims fought off the Roman Empire. Islam beat Persia, the Ottoman Empire, and Cordoba in Spain. Muslims have always rallied and flourished when cornered in battle. As Indonesian Muslims feel that they are not given sufficient space to devote themselves to the country and the nation, not given the chance to obtain justice, the struggle crystalized into protest events. We see here how the mazhabs of Islam in Indonesia, such as the Shi’a, Sunni, Ahmadiyah, Muhammadiyah, NU, and Masyumi suddenly united despite their initial separation. They united under pressure. This is why the number of 212 participants increased significantly. “President Jokowi has greatly, if indirectly contributed to the increase struggle of Muslim citizens against the State. National militancy and unity grew rapidly as they undergo great pressure from the authorities,” he stated.

From a domestic perspective, Muslims have always understood that most of the heroes that paved the way for our independence, such as Prince Diponegoro, Teuku Umar, and many others are Muslims. In 1945, most of our founding fathers were Muslims who wanted to establish a nation based on the shari’a of Islam as the Indonesian way of life. But they decided to sacrifice this ideal for an integrated, diverse country that supports plurality. Their concession is the biggest contribution they gave as Muslims.

In our 6 changes of presidents – starting from Soekarno, Soeharto, B. J. Habibie, Gus Dur, Megawati, SBY, and Jokowi – most of our leadership has nationalist, instead of santri or Islamic boarding school background except for Gus Dur. Therefore, Muslims feel that they have not become the engine that runs Indonesia’s independence. They do not feel that they are the subject of Indonesian politics and development. They feel alienated and treated unfairly. “This struggle is the peak expression of the struggle against injustice that they perform enthusiastically. They came together, expressing their heart’s wish for the need to distribute justice to the Islamic community in Indonesia,” Pigai said.

In a particular perspective, we must view this event in relation with the current political momentum in Indonesia, i.e. the 2019 Presidential Elections. The people are relying on Presidential Candidate Prabowo, who gives them hope of a more certain living, of returning their identity as Muslims, and hopes on how Muslims can become the engine of change in Indonesia. Therefore, this is also a signal that Indonesian Muslims symbolically express their expectations of Presidential Candidate Prabowo. This is clearly a political signal.

Hendrajit, a Geopolitics Analyst from the Global Future Institute, notes that the people have shown their strength in Monas. All this started from the Ahok issue that accumulated from 411 to 212, ending with his sentencing. Both the ummat (community) and its leaders have discovered a new tradition for people power a la Indonesia. The 212 Reunion had absolutely no criticism or slur against the government. It was focused more towards spiritual exercises like dzikr, pray, and salawah together. This event has successfully collected spiritual force, and the people notes that its message is that fairness and justice must be upheld.

According to Hendrajit, there are many debates about the actual number of people who attended. Some say as high as 7 or 8 million, others go as low as 40,000 participants. “Let’s take a conservative estimate of about 6 to 7 million attendees. But for me, the actual number itself is not important, because the visual images in all locations are actually shocking enough, especially for the surrounding people, and this is truly a people’s power. The issue now is, how come the Western media and democratic countries suddenly had a positive response? If we see it from the perspective of journalistic sensitivity in interpreting events, this is merely people power. It might even surpass the storming of Malacanang when Marcos was dethroned, or even the Arab Spring riots in Egypt. But that’s Indonesian ingenuity for you. The event yesterday was not just doing dzikir together. If we are careful and aware, we’d notice that it’s a new, double-pronged strategy that both bolsters the ukhuwah Islamiyyah (religious brotherhood of Islam) and the rise of Islam in terms of spiritual force. This is something that the masses do not readily perceive. So it’s not a matter of Islamic politics, but it’s about spiritual force and ukhuwah Islamiyyah,” he said.

212 Reunion participants came from NU, Muhammadiyah, Islamic Unity (Persatuan Islam – “Persis”), and many others that become one. This is the spiritual force based on ukhuwah Islamiyyah and the rise of Islam is in the end dedicated to national improvement. This is because Islam and nationalism have been integrated from time to time within the framework of the struggle for independence. We need only recall Prince Diponegoro, Imam Bonjol, and Sultan Baabullah, all of whom rely on Islamic spiritualism. This self-same spiritualism was also seen during the 1945-1949 physical revolution.

Yap Hong Gie, a Christian Chinese descent who routinely observes the 212 action since 2016, is amazed by the 212 Reunion. According to him, there has never been an event organizer in history that could successfully hold an event by bringing in millions of people to participate at their own account, who come in from all corners of Jakarta as well as from various region. The partisans’ active discipline, obedience, tolerance, caring, and mutual assistance added a special aspect to this event. “I think the international world can witness that what is called “radical” and “fundamentalist” Islam is an unproven stigma,” he said.

Iwan Piliang, Social Media Observer, said this event is an expression of the Muslims’ conscience, which has so far been cornered by issues of radical and not Pancasilaist Islam by deviant government officials and authorities. More than 80% of the people who were present at the 212 Reunion honor individual sincerity because they have a clear and holy conscience. “I assume that the participants are maintaining their consciences, that’s why they come at their own cost. People who have food and drink share voluntarily with each other. You can tell a person’s sincerity from their eyes and faces. Even those with medical skills came voluntarily, that’s an example,” he said.

Yap Hong Gie said that the 212 Reunion exceeds 10 million people because not only was Monas Square filled to capacity, but the roads around Monas too, from Kebon Sirih hingga Kwitang. However, he regrets that for an event with a mass of millions of people, only one gate at Monas was open. “This is dangerous because only one gate was open, the one near the horse fountain. All other gates were closed, while it was not so last year,” he said.

According to Pigai, more than 8 million people attend the 212 Reunion this year. “Even though I am a Catholic, I am in the front lines of the circle of change of the ummat Muslim’s struggle,” he said.

Interfaith attendance
The attendance of people of various religions in the 212 Reunion organized by Muslims show how cool and diverse our Indonesia is. “Only Islamic religious figures went on stage. But most of the ones below mixed together, there were many non-Muslims. This proves that it’s not fundamentalism, but tolerance that we have in large amounts,” Yap Hong Gie said.

Interfaith attendance in the 212 Reunion show that the adherents of other religions understand what Indonesian Muslims are strugling for. According to Pigai, other religions in Indonesia, i.e. Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, and Buddhism are all allied to Islam, not to the State. The issue is that so far, these minorities are close to the seat of power. This sets a bad precedent. “Even though in certain moments, the Cathedral in fact provides us with space, food, and support in this event. This is an alliance that minority religions must ally themselves with Islam. The minority should not ally themselves with the State, because power tend to corrupt. What I mean here by “corrupt” is that power tends to be abused,” Pigai said.

Hendrajit stated that interfaith attendance has done much to reduce the stigma that 212 Reunion is political, exclusive, and tendency towards radical Islam. The fact that there were Hindu, Buddhist, Protestant, and Catholic participants, both Malay and Chinese descent participants, show that this is actually far from being exclusive. On the contrary, this describes the fact that when Islamic spirit unites with national spirit, it would automatically attract minority groups. Therefore, it is erroneous if we think that the issue would cause the majority being tyrannical. The current problem is that there is actually a tendency for the minority to become tyrannical.

National Leadership Succession
The attendance of Presidential Candidate Number 02 Prabowo Subianto in the 212 Reunion demontrates that he is welcomed by the people. Therefore, the people who came would most likely vote for Prabowo, and/or has the potential of becoming part of his campaign team. This fact is a strong signal that if information is constantly, significantly, and simultaneously disseminated until the time of the Presidential Election, there would be a high probability of change in leadership. “Therefore, there are signals sent by America and Singapore. They have invited Presidential Candidate Prabowo to come visit them, because they want to know his views on the global scene,” Pigai said.

The fact that the national anthem Indonesia Raya (“Great Indonesia”) was sung en masse in the 212 Reunion shows that it is a meeting of Islam NKRI (Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia). “I see bad tendencies if Jokowi should be re-elected for the upcoming 5 years. This would further thicken and crystallize the struggle. The 212 movement has kept on growing since its first Reunion, because new cells of the struggle against injustice continue to grow in ways that we do not expect. Therefore, let us not allow our national instability to continue for the next 5 years. We need to change Indonesia by changing the national leadership in order to quickly resolve social disharmony and manage national instability. It is not about building bridges, roads, etc. In fact, within the past 4 years we suffer great national instability of relations between the State and the Muslim community,” Pigai said.

Pigai further states that there are three major issues that would become prominent within the next five years. First, there would be a disparity between the State and the Muslim community. Second, there would be a disparity between majority Muslim communities and the religious minority. Third, there would be a disparity between native and non-native communities. The embryo for all three disparities already exist, and we need leaders who can resolve these three issues. There is an urgent need of change in the national leadership to solidify the continuation of NKRI, or to eliminate potential division of the nation in the future, because Jokowi is incompetent in facing it. “We see now that Christian people cannot speak freely anymore other than me. My minority ethnic Chinese friends also want a change in leadership,” Pigai said.

There are three basic reasons why Islamic power can gather so that the participants of 212 Reunion increased in number every year. First, ukhuwah Islamiyyah. It is this value of spiritual unity that integrates every Muslim so that they can set aside whatever individual mazhab (sub-denomination) they adhere to, because there is the basic unity of the ukhuwah Islamiyyah. Second, ukhuwah Insaniyah (unity of humanity), which is what convinces the adherents of other faiths of our sincerity.

There is quite a large migration of Chinese descent people to join forces with Prabowo nowadays. Their orientation is that their economic and family life is safe. Politics and government can be managed by others as they wish; they only care about the economy. Therefore, if there is social disharmony that disturb their peace and economy, they would seek out a better way for the future. For them whoever the leader is, what is most important is that they have ease and safety in doing business. But when a leader cannot provide them with business stability, their daily lives are disturbed, they would seek a new leader because they are pragmatical people. Third, wathoniyah force, solidarity built on common interest as the same citizenship and nation among the rural people, the farmers and workers etc.

Yap Hong Gie said that the fact that Indonesia Raya was sung by the millions of people present at Monas that day shows that the movement is still within the frames of NKRI, Pancasila, and the Constitution of 1945 as the basis of the State. These Muslims who came voluntarily show that the people’s spirit is able to defeat power and money. “Some said that the original 212 movement in 2016 gave us a new governor, so there is hope that this year’s 212 would give us a new president,” Yap Hong Gie said optimistically. Furthermore, Prabowo’s presence show that the Indonesian people want a new president in 2019. “I never expected Pak Prabowo to be present. This is very risky, it might be construed as a campaign move. If anything happens, Pak Prabowo would be a target,” he said.

Yap Hong Gie denied that this event has a political agenda behind it. He proved it himself, because throughout the event, both the participants and the organizers warned against performing any campaigns. “For example, we cannot take photos showing two fingers for our support, so we just make a fist instead. There’s some who got away with it but that’s a minority. In fact, Pak Prabowo said in his speech that no campaigning is allowed, in order to avoid sanctions from the Elections Commission (Komisi Pemilihan Umum – “KPU”),” he said

The event went smoothly, peacefully, and in an orderly manner. Yap Hong Gie especially appreciates the fact that he personally experienced: the security forces placed far outside of the Square, even to as far as Jalan Kebon Sirih, continued to perform their duty in an alert and courteous manner without leaving their post. This discipline was also shown by the health volunteered stationed in posts distributed in roads outside the Monas area, who were busy handling all sick or tired participants. Militancy is also shown by the food and beverage traders who constantly offered free food and drink to all attendees, both within and outside of Monas. “This militant, sincere spirit was also shown by the cleaning service volunteers. They kept on working after we all went home, while they have been standing by on site since night before,” he said proudly.

Iwan Piliang believes that Prabowo’s attendance at the event is beneficial for him. “But if he wanted to get closer to the people and win the voter’s hearts, I’d have suggested that Pak Prabowo should have been present from 2 a.m. for midnight prayers, then after the dawn prayer I’d have him go around and greet the people,” he said.

The Muslims’ voluntary presence shows the power of the people. “I believe that the conscience of Indonesians Muslim is still in the right place. They can differentiate good and bad, right and wrong. Because they can feel where the truth lies, they sincerely and voluntarily came from all regions to Monas,” said Iwan

Iwan further confirmed that this event has absolutely no political agenda. It is only the authorities that turn this into a Presidential Election moment and attempt to corner the supporters. “It’s not that Prabowo’s team was not making use of the momentum, it’s the government’s own fault. The attendance of the 212 Reunion is a reflection of their volunteering from their pure conscience to fight for the truth, to fight against injustice. They feel that they are being cornered and stressed out from being accused as Radical Islam etc.,” he said. “80% of the attendants do not have political thoughts. They rather tend to think that the people must change, more tending to act according to the conscience of a cornered ummat, an ummat that is stigmatized as radical while Islam is actually rahmatan lil alamin (a blessing to the universe).”

We need to appreciate the fact that the event went off peacefully and smoothly, especially since according to Iwan, they continue to participate despite being obstructed from coming. Dissemination of information about the event in mainstream media was blocked off, forcing everyone to rely on social media and apps such as WhatsApp groups.

Hendrajit sees that the 212 Reunion has a political benefit implied for Presidential Candidate Prabowo, even though he came as an individual in the event and did not bring any signs of his party, the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerakan Indonesia Raya – “Gerindra”) Party. His attendance was moral, but it has political implications and exerts a powerful pressure. This event becomes his political investment for the 2019 Presidential Elections.

The 212 Reunion can serve as our foundation for national reconstruction. “Hopefully it really does lead to the arrival of new leader, in this case Pak Prabowo. Yesterday, Pak Prabowo admitted in his very brief speech that he was directed not to talk politics, but people considered that the event yesterday was like a “proposal” to them and they responded. The Presidential Elections can be said to be the “marriage vow”, and the “reception” would only be held in October 2019. That’s not political at all, but creative,” Hendrajit said.

Hendrajit stated that President Jokowi was not present at the event. The organizers said that they cancelled their intention to invite him due to various considerations. This is very interesting. It is no wonder that some would interpret it as a sign that political legitimacy is being drawn away from Pak Jokowi.

The fact that Indonesia Raya was sung loudly together during the event shows the integration between an Islamic spirituality and Indonesian nationalism. This is the context of the 411 and 212 series: there is no separation between the religious groups. That is how Indonesia really is, and the 212 Reunion is a meeting point between groups that previously could not connect before. All mixed into one: Muhammadiyah, NU, Persis, and others. The psychological fences that separate Muslim groups into PKB, PAN, and PKS are now dissolved.

“The 212 Reunion shows the people’s secret power like what Bung Karno said, despite a lack of political jargons and the fact that everyone follows the rules. The political figures like Prabowo or Anies were actually melted into the ambience of the 212 Reunion, which was the ideal setting for such a stage. Prabowo was favored at the event, but he did not become the center of everything there. That is what I call people power,” Hendrajit said.

There is No Radical Islam Here
The 212 Reunion did not show any radicalism in Islam, because there is no visible expression of radicalism. It is true that the mujahid struggle has two modes: the first is violent. It is oriented in the establishment of a khilafah state and the enforcement of shari’a law as in the case of ISIS. The second mode tends towards the strengthening of Islamic communities and syi’ar (dissemination of teachings), which is not violent. “The 212 Reunion is in the second mode, which enforces the sovereignty of Islam in a positive way,” Pigai said.

We need to appreciate the Muslims in Indonesia for the success of this event because it is Muslims who planned and performed it. The second one to appreciate is Habib Rizieq and his entourage, the third is the ulema, and the latest are the Army and the Police. The Army and Police’s approach to security must be appreciated because they did not enforce a security belt. On the contrary, they mixed together and talk and eat with the participants. The Muslims’ ability to control themselves is a great help to the Police and the Army.

Pigai stated that all accusations of a political agenda have no strong rational basis. “What do you mean by “political agenda”? This is a political momentum – the event was simply a political momentum that happens nearing the Presidential Elections,” he stated.

This event shows that there is no Radical Islam here. “I think that “radicalism” is just a catchword used to justify making seminars. Islam is rahmatan lil alamin. The participants who came only want justice and change for the better, because a sense of injustice is a subjective “feeling” issue. However, it becomes objective if it comes from the clean heart of the people. Something that comes out from a clean heart cannot be fought off materially, because people would be more than willing to sacrifice anything when fighting for justice even their lives,” Iwan said.

The international world has witnessed yet again that the 212 “Peaceful Protest” is not a mere “trademark”. It has been proven by millions of Muslims in Indonesia that it is implemented in an organized and disciplined manner – orderly, clean, tolerant, safe, and peaceful. This extends not only within the borders of Monas Square, but throughout DKI Jakarta and Indonesia. “We want the authorities to come to their senses, to not act cruel and arrogant towards the people, because this is an amazing power. This is proof of people power – there was no money involved, just the personal effort of each participant,” Yap Hong Gie said. (Dessy Aipipidely, Ekawati)