Thursday, January 29, 2009
Abdurrahman Wahid was born on the fourth day of the eight month of the Islamic calendar in 1940 in Jombang, East Java to Wahid Hasyim and Solichah. This led to a belief that he was born on August 4, instead the calendar used to mark his birth date was the Islamic calendar meaning that he was actually born on 4 Sya'ban, equivalent to September 7, 1940.
He was the firstborn out of his five siblings, and Wahid was born into a very prestigious family in the East Java Muslim community. His paternal Grandfather, Hasyim Asyari was the founder of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) while his maternal Grandfather, Bisri Syansuri was the first Muslim educator to introduce classes for women. Wahid's father, Wahid Hasyim, was involved in the Nationalist Movement and would go on to be Indonesia's first Minister of Religious Affairs.
In 1944, Wahid moved from Jombang to Jakarta where his father was involved with the Consultative Council of Indonesian Muslims (Masyumi), an organization established by the Japanese Imperial Army which occupied Indonesia at the time. After the Indonesian Declaration of Independence on 17 August 1945, Wahid moved back to Jombang and remained there during the fight for independence from the Netherlands during the Indonesian National Revolution. At the end of the war in 1949, Wahid moved to Jakarta as his father had received appointment as Minister of Religious Affairs. Wahid went about his education in Jakarta, going to KRIS Primary School before moving to Matraman Perwari Primary School. In addition to education provided at school, Wahid was also encouraged to read non-Muslim books, magazines, and newspapers by his father to further broaden his horizons. Wahid continued to stay in Jakarta with his family even after his father's removal as Minister of Religious Affairs in 1952. In April 1953, Wahid's father died after being involved in a car crash.
Wahid's education continued and in 1954, he began Junior High School. That year, he failed to graduate to the next year and was forced to repeat. His mother then made the decision to send Wahid to Yogyakarta to continue his education. In 1957, after graduating from Junior High School, Wahid moved to Magelang to begin Muslim Education at Pesantren (Muslim School) Tegalrejo. He developed a reputation as a gifted student, completing the pesantren's course in two years instead of four. In 1959, Wahid moved back to Jombang to Pesantren Tambakberas. There, while continuing his own education, Wahid also received his first job as a teacher and later on as headmaster of a madrasah affiliated with the Pesantren. Wahid also found employment as a journalist for magazines such as Horizon and Majalah Budaya Jaya.
In 1963, Wahid received a scholarship from the Ministry of Religious Affairs to study at Al Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt. He left for Egypt in November 1963.Despite his proficiency in speaking Arabic, Wahid was told by University officials when he arrived that he was to take a remedial class before taking on the University's Higher Institute for Islamic and Arabic studies. Unable to provide evidence which certified that he had the skill to speak Arabic, Wahid was forced to take the remedial class.
Instead of attending classes, Wahid spent 1964 enjoying life in Egypt; watching European and American movies as well indulging in his hobby of watching football. Wahid was also involved with the Association of Indonesian Students and became a journalist for the association's magazine. At the end of the year, he successfully passed exams for his remedial Arabic classes. When he finally began studies at the Higher Institute for Islamic and Arabic Studies in 1965, Wahid was disappointed. He had already studied many of the texts offered at the Institute while he was in Java and disapproved of the rote learning method used by the University.
In Egypt, Wahid found employment with the Indonesian Embassy. It was during his stint with the Embassy that G30S PKI happened. With Kostrad Commander, Major General Suharto taking control of the situation in Jakarta, a Communist crackdown was initiated. For its part, the Indonesian Embassy in Egypt was ordered to conduct an investigation on university students and give a report on their political stance. This order was then passed on to Wahid, who was charged with writing the reports.
Wahid's time in Egypt was a failure. His displeasure at the method of education and his work post-G30S distracted him. By 1966, he was told that he had to repeat. Wahid's tertiary education was saved through another scholarship at the University of Baghdad. Wahid moved to Iraq and enjoyed his new environment. Although he was lax in attending classes at first, Wahid quickly took to his studies. Wahid also continued his involvement with the Association of Indonesian Students as well as writing journalistic pieces to be read in Indonesia.
After completing his education at the University of Baghdad in 1970, Wahid went to the Netherlands in the hopes of continuing his education. Wahid wanted to attend Leiden University but was disappointed as there was little recognition for the studies that he had done at the University of Baghdad. From Netherlands, Wahid went to Germany and France before going back to Indonesia in 1971.
Wahid returned to Jakarta expecting that in a year's time, he would be abroad again to study at McGill University in Canada. He kept himself busy by joining the Institute for Economic and Social Research, Education and Information (LP3ES), an organization which consisted of intellectuals with progressive Muslims and social-democratic views. LP3ES established a magazine called Prisma and Wahid became one of the main contributors to the magazine. Whilst working as a contributor for LP3ES, Wahid also conducted tours to pesantrens and madrasahs all around Java. It was a time when pesantren were desperate to gain state funding by adopting state-endorsed curricula and Wahid was concerned that the traditional values of the pesantren were being damaged because of this change. Wahid was also concerned with the poverty of the pesantren which he saw during his tours. At the same time as they were encouraging pesantren to adopt state-endorsed curricula, the Government was also encouraging pesantren as agents for change and to help assist the Government in its economic development of Indonesia. It was at this time that Wahid finally decided to drop plans for overseas studies in favor of developing the pesantren.
Wahid continued his career as a journalist, writing for magazine Tempo and Kompas newspaper. His articles were well-received and he began to develop a reputation as a social commentator. Wahid's popularity was such that at this time, he was invited along to give lectures and seminars, forcing him to travel back and forth between Jakarta and Jombang, where he now lived with his family.
Despite having a successful career up to that point, Wahid still found it hard to make ends meet and he worked to earn extra income by selling peanuts and delivering ice to be used for his wife's Es Lilin business. In 1974, Wahid found extra employment in Jombang as a Muslim Legal Studies teacher at Pesantren Tambakberas and soon developed a good reputation. A year later, Wahid added to his workload as a Teacher of Kitab Al Hikam, a classical text of sufism.
In 1977, Wahid joined the Hasyim Asyari University as Dean of the Faculty of Islamic Beliefs and Practices. Once again, Wahid excelled in his job and the University wanted to Wahid to teach extra subjects such as pedagogy, sharia, and missiology. However, his excellence caused some resentment from within the ranks of university and Wahid was blocked from teaching the subjects. Whilst undertaking all these ventures Wahid also regularly delivered speeches during ramadan to the Muslim community in Jombang.
 Nahdlatul Ulama
Early involvement with NU
Wahid's family background meant that sooner or later, he would be asked to play an active role in the running of NU. This ran contrary to Wahid's aspirations of becoming a public intellectual and he had twice rejected offers to join the NU Religious Advisory Council. Nevertheless, Wahid finally chose to join the Council when his own grandfather, Bisri Syansuri gave him the third offer. In taking this job, Wahid also made the decision to move from Jombang to Jakarta and to permanently reside there. As a member of the Religious Advisory Council, Wahid envisioned himself as a reformer of NU.
At this time, Wahid also had his first political experience. In the lead-up to the 1982 Legislative Elections, Wahid campaigned for the United Development Party (PPP), an Islamist Party which was formed as a result of a merger of 4 Islamist parties including NU. Wahid recalled that the Government actively disrupted PPP's campaigns by arresting people like himself. However, Wahid was always able to secure his release, having developed connections in high places with the likes of General Benny Moerdani.
By this time, many viewed NU as an organization in stagnation. After careful discussion, the Religious Advisory Council finally formed a Team of Seven (which included Wahid) to tackle the issues of reform and to help revitalize NU. For some members of NU, reform in the organization involved a change of leadership. On 2 May 1982, a group of high-ranking NU officials met with NU Chairman Idham Chalid and asked for his resignation. Idham, who had guided NU in the transition from Sukarno to Suharto resisted at first but bowed down to pressure. On 6 May 1982, Wahid heard of Idham's decision to resign and approached him saying that the demands to resign were unconstitutional. With urging from Wahid, Idham withdrew his resignation and Wahid, together with the Team of Seven was able to negotiate a compromise between Idham and those who had asked for his resignation.
In 1983, Suharto was re-elected to a fourth term as President by the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) and began taking steps to establish Pancasila as the State Ideology. From June 1983 to October 1983, Wahid became part of a team which was commissioned to prepare NU's response to this issue. Wahid consulted texts such as the Quran and Sunnah for justification and finally, in October 1983, concluded that NU should accept Pancasila as the State Ideology. To further revitalize NU, Wahid was also successful in securing its withdrawal from PPP and Party politics. This was done so that, NU can focus on social matters instead of hampering itself by being involved in politics.
Election to Chairmanship and first term as Chairman
Wahid's reforms had made him extremely popular within the ranks of NU. By the time of the 1984 National Congress, many began to state their intentions to nominate Wahid as the new Chairman of NU. Wahid accepted the nomination, provided that he had the power to choose who would be on his leadership team. Wahid was elected as the new Chairman of NU during the National Congress. However, his stipulation of choosing his own team was not honored. The last day of the Congress had begun with Wahid's list of team members being approved by high-ranking NU officials including outgoing Chairman Idham. Wahid had gone to the Committee in charge of running the Congress and handed in his list which was to be announced later. However, the Committee in question was against Idham and announced a totally different list of people. Wahid was outraged but was pressured to accept the changes made.
Wahid's ascendancy to the NU Chairmanship was seen positively by Suharto and his New Order regime. Wahid's acceptance of Pancasila along with his moderate image won him favor among Government ranks. In 1985, Suharto made Wahid a Pancasila indoctrinator. In 1987, Wahid showed further support for the regime by criticizing PPP in the lead-up to the 1987 Legislative Elections and further strengthening Suharto's Golkar Party. His reward came in the form of a membership of the MPR. Although he was viewed with favor by the regime, Wahid criticised the Government over the Kedung Ombo Dam project that was funded by the World Bank. Although this somewhat soured the cordial relationships that Wahid had with the Government, Suharto was still keen on getting political support from NU.
During his 1st term as Chairman of NU, Wahid focused on reform of the pesantren education system and was successful in increasing the quality of pesantren education system so that it can match up with secular schools. In 1987, Wahid also set up study groups in Probolinggo, East Java to provide a forum for like-minded individuals within NU to discuss and provide interpretations to Muslim texts. Critics accused Wahid of wishing to replace the Arabic Muslim greeting of "assalamualaikum" with the secular greeting of "selamat pagi", which means good morning in Indonesian.
Second Term as Chairman and opposing the New Order
Wahid was re-elected to a 2nd term as Chairman of NU at the 1989 National Congress. By this time, Suharto, embroiled in a political battle with ABRI began to ingratiate himself with the Muslim constituency so as to win their support. This venture reached a turning point in December 1990 with the formation of the Union of Indonesian Intellectual Muslims (ICMI). This organization was backed by Suharto, Chaired by BJ Habibie and included Muslim intellectuals such as Amien Rais and Nurcholish Madjid as its members. In 1991, various members of ICMI asked Wahid to join. Wahid declined because he thought that ICMI encouraged sectarianism and that it was just a means by Suharto to remain powerful. In 1991, Wahid countered ICMI by forming the Democracy Forum, an organization which contained of 45 intellectuals from various religious and social communities. The organization was treated with credibility by the Government and broke up meetings held by the Democracy Forum as the 1992 Legislative Elections approached.
In March 1992, Wahid planned to have a Great Assembly to celebrate the 66th anniversary of the founding of NU and to reiterate the organization's support for Pancasila. Wahid had planned for the event to be attended by at least one million NU members. However, Suharto moved to block the event, ordering policemen to turn back busloads of NU members as they arrived in Jakarta. Nevertheless, the event managed to attract 200,000 attendants. After the event, Wahid wrote a letter of protest to Suharto saying that NU had not been given a chance to display a brand of Islam that is open, fair, and tolerant. During his second term as Chairman of NU, Wahid's liberal ideas had began to turn many supporters sour. As Chairman, Wahid continued to push for inter-faith dialogue and even accepted an invitation to visit Israel in October 1994.
Third term as Chairman and the lead-up to Reformasi
As the 1994 National Congress approached, Wahid nominated himself for a 3rd term as Chairman. Hearing this, Suharto wanted to make sure that Wahid was not elected. In the weeks leading up to the Congress, Suharto's supporters, such as Habibie and Harmoko campaigned against Wahid's re-election. When it came time for the National Congress, the site for the Congress was tightly guarded by ABRI in act of intimidation. Despite this, and attempts to bribe NU members to vote against him, Wahid came through and was re-elected as NU Chairman for a 3rd term. During this term, Wahid began to move closer towards a political alliance with Megawati Sukarnoputri from the Indonesian Democratic Party (PDI). Megawati, using her father's name had a lot of popularity and planned to keep the pressure up on Suharto's regime. Wahid advised Megawati to be cautious and to reject being nominated as President for the 1998 MPR General Session. Megawati ignored this and paid the price in July 1996 when her PDI headquarters were taken over by supporters of Government-backed PDI Chairman, Suryadi.
Seeing what happened to Megawati, Wahid thought that his best option now was to retreat politically by getting himself back in favor with the Government. In November 1996, Wahid and Suharto met for the first time since Wahid's re-election to the NU Chairmanship and this was followed over the next few months by meetings with various Government people who in 1994 had attempted to block Wahid's re-election. At the same time however, Wahid kept his options for reform open and in December 1996, had a meeting with Amien Rais, an ICMI member who had grown critical of the Regime.
July 1997 saw the beginning of the Asian Financial Crisis. Suharto began to lose control of the situation and just as he was being pushed to step up the reform movement with Megawati and Amien, Wahid came down with a stroke in January 1998. From his bed in the hospital, Wahid continued to see the situation worsen with Suharto's re-election to a 7th term as President and the student protests which would turn into riots in May 1998 after the shooting of six students at Trisakti University. On 19 May 1998, Wahid, together with eight prominent leaders from the Muslim community were summoned to Suharto's residence. Suharto presented the concept of a Reform Committee which he had begun to propose at the time. All nine rejected Suharto's offer to join the Reform Committee. Wahid maintained a more moderate stance with Suharto and called on the protesting to stop to see if Suharto was going to implement his promise. This displeased Amien who was the most vocal out of Suharto's opposition at this time. Nevertheless, there was no stopping Suharto's fall and on 21 May 1998, he announced his resignation. Vice President Habibie now ascended to the Presidency.
Formation of PKB and the Ciganjur statement
One of the immediate effects of Suharto's fall was the formation of new political parties. Under Suharto's regime, political parties had been limited to just three; Golkar, PPP, and PDI. Now with his fall, new political parties were formed, the most prominent of which was Amien's National Mandate Party (PAN) and Megawati's Indonesian Democratic Party-Struggle (PDI-P). In June 1998, many from within the NU community began pressuring Wahid to form a new political party. Wahid did not warm up to the idea immediately, thinking that this will result in a political party which only catered to one religion and not willing to overrule his own decision to take NU out of politics. By July 1998 however, he began to warm up to the idea, thinking that establishing a political party was the only way to challenge the organizationally strong Golkar in an election. With that in mind, Wahid approved of the formation of PKB and became the Chairman of its Advisory Council with Matori Abdul Djalil as Party Chairman. Although it was clearly dominated by NU members, Wahid promoted PKB as a party that is non-sectarian and open to all members of society.
As opposition to the Government, Wahid, together with Megawati and Amien were willing to adopt a moderate stance towards Habibie's Government; preferring instead to wait for the 1999 Legislative Elections. Nevertheless, in November 1998, in a meeting at his residence in the Jakarta suburb of Ciganjur, Wahid, together with Megawati, Amien, and Sultan Hamengkubuwono X reiterated their commitment to Reform. On 7 February 1999, PKB officially declared Wahid as their Presidential candidate.
1999 elections and MPR General Session
In June 1999, Wahid's PKB entered the Legislative Elections. PKB won 12% of the votes with Megawati's PDI-P winning the Legislative Elections with 33% of the votes. With her party decisively winning the Legislative Elections, Megawati expected to win the Presidency against Habibie at the MPR General Session. However, PDI-P did not have complete majority and formed a loose alliance with PKB. In July however, Amien Rais would form the Central Axis, a coalition of Muslim parties. The Central Axis then began to consider nominating Wahid as a third candidate in the Presidential race and PKB's commitment towards PDI-P began to waver.
In October 1999, the MPR convened and Wahid threw his support behind Amien who was elected as the Chairman of MPR. On 7 October 1999, Amien and the Central Axis, who now had PKB on their side, officially nominated Wahid as a Presidential Candidate. On 19 October 1999, the MPR rejected Habibie's accountability speech and Habibie withdrew himself from the Presidential race. In the hours that followed, Akbar Tanjung, Chairman of Golkar and Head of the People's Representative Council (DPR) made it clear that Golkar would support Wahid in his bid for the Presidency. On 20 October 1999, the MPR convened and began electing for a new President. Wahid was then elected as Indonesia's 4th President with 373 votes to Megawati's 313 votes.
Displeased that their candidate had not won the Presidency, Megawati's supporters began to riot and Wahid realized that for this to stop, Megawati had to be elected as Vice President. After convincing General Wiranto not to compete in the Vice Presidential elections and getting the PKB to support Megawati for this election, Wahid was successful in convincing the demoralized Megawati to compete. On the 21 October 1999, Megawati competed in the Vice Presidential election and defeated PPP's Hamzah Haz to become the next Vice President.
Main article: Post-Suharto Era
Wahid's Presidency was noted for his wide ranging travels, including to controversial places. In November 1999, Wahid made his first overseas trip, visiting ASEAN member countries, Japan, United States of America, Qatar, Kuwait, and Jordan. He followed this up in December by a visit to the People's Republic of China.
In January 2000, Wahid made another overseas trip to Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum and visited Saudi Arabia on the way back to Indonesia. In February, Wahid made another trip to Europe visiting the United Kingdom, France, Netherlands, Germany, and Italy. On the way back to Europe, Wahid also visited India, South Korea, Thailand, and Brunei. March saw Wahid visit East Timor. In April, Wahid visited South Africa en route to the G7 summit in Cuba before returning via Mexico City and Hong Kong. In June, Wahid once again visited America, Japan, and France with Iran, Pakistan, and Egypt as the new additions to the list of countries which he had visited.
Controversially, Wahid also visited Irian Jaya and Aceh, Indonesian provinces with much separatist sentiment. Wahid also aroused controversy by visiting Israel, a state unpopular with many Indonesians.
After only a month in the National Unity Cabinet, Coordinating Minister of People's Welfare Hamzah Haz announced his resignation in November. There was suspicion that the resignation was brought about by Wahid's allegation that certain members of his Cabinet were involved in corruption while he was still in America. Others suggested that Hamzah's resignation was because of displeasure towards Wahid's concilliatory stance towards Israel.
While he was travelling to Europe in February, Wahid began asking for the resignation of General Wiranto, who held the position of Coordinating Minister of Politics and Security. Wahid saw Wiranto both as an obstacle to his planned reform of the Military as well as being a liability to his Government with his alleged human rights abuses in East Timor. When Wahid arrived back in Jakarta, Wiranto talked to him and seemed successful in convincing Wahid not to replace him. However, Wahid would change his mind and ask for his resignation. In April 2000, Wahid dismissed Minister of Industry and Trade Jusuf Kalla and Minister of State Owned Enterprises Laksamana Sukardi. The explanation that he gave was that the two were involved in corruption, although he never gave evidence to back it up. This move soured Wahid's relations with Golkar and PDI-P.
As the 2000 MPR Annual Session approached, Wahid's popularity with the people were still at a high and politically, allies such as Megawati, Akbar, and Amien were still willing to support Wahid despite the sacking of the ministers and the scandals which he had been involved in. At the same time however, they were asking questions of Wahid. At the 2000 MPR Annual Session, Wahid delivered a speech which was well received by a majority of the MPR members. During the speech, Wahid recognized his weakness as an administrator and said that he was going to delegate the day-to-day running of the Government to a Senior Minister. The MPR members agreed but proposed that Megawati should be the one to receive the task from the President. At first the MPR planned to have this proposal adopted as a resolution but a Presidential Decision was seen as enough. On the 23 August, Wahid announced a new Cabinet despite Megawati's insistence that the announcement was delayed. Megawati showed her displeasure by not showing up for the Cabinet announcement. The new Cabinet was smaller and consisted of more non-partisans. There were no Golkar members in this Cabinet.
Post Presidency activities
Schism within the PKB
After his impeachment, Wahid turned his eyes to Matori Abdul Djalil, who was the Chairman of PKB. Before the MPR Special Session, it was agreed upon that no PKB members would attend as a sign of solidarity. However, Matori insisted on attending because he was a Vice-Chairman of the MPR and participated in the impeachment process. Using his position as Chairman of the Advisory Council, Wahid sacked Matori as Chairman of PKB on 15 August 2001 and suspended him from Party activities before stripping Matori of Party membership in November . On 14 January 2002, Matori held a Special National Congress attended by his supporters in PKB. The Special National Congress re-elected him to the position of PKB Chairman. Wahid countered this by holding his own PKB National Congress on 17 January, a day after Matori's Congress ended  The National Congress re-elected Wahid to the position of Chairman of the Advisory Council and elected Alwi Shihab as its Chairman. Wahid's PKB would be known as PKB Kuningan whilst Matori's PKB would be known as PKB Batutulis.
2004 Legislative and Presidential elections
In April 2004, PKB participated in the 2004 Legislative Elections, winning 10.6% of the votes. For the 2004 Presidential Elections, in which the people will directly elect the President, PKB nominated Wahid as a Presidential Candidate. As a Presidential Candidate was required Wahid to go on a medical check-up before he is officially enlisted by the General Elections Commission (KPU) as a Presidential candidate. While other candidates such as Yudhoyono and Wiranto passed their respective tests, Wahid failed to do so and KPU refused to enlist him as a Presidential Candidate. Wahid then threw his support behind his brother, Solahuddin, who was the running mate of Wiranto. On 5 July 2004, Wiranto and Solahuddin were knocked out of the race after coming third to the pairs of Yudhoyono-Kalla and Megawati-Muzadi. For the run-off elections, held on 20 September 2004, Wahid declared himself as part of White Group (Golput) which meant that he will not be using his right to vote.
Opposition to Yudhoyono Government
In August 2005, Wahid became one of the leaders of a political coalition called the United Awakened Archipelago (Koalisi Nusantara Bangkit Bersatu). Along with Try Sutrisno, Wiranto, Akbar Tanjung, and Megawati, this coalition criticized the policies of the Yudhoyono Government, specifically about the withdrawal of fuel subsidies which will bring the prices of fuel up.
Gus Dur is the inspiration behind the Wahid Institute, a Jakarta-based nonprofit organization led by his daughter Yenni Wahid. He also serves as patron, member of the board of directors and senior advisor to LibForAll ("Liberty for All") Foundation, whose mission is to reduce religious extremism and discredit terrorism worldwide. Among numerous other writings, he is the author of a seminal article published in the Wall Street Journal on December 30th, 2005 ("Right Islam vs. Wrong Islam")  in which he called on "people of good will of every faith and nation" to unite to defeat the ideology of religious hatred that underlies and animates terrorism. Wahid discussed his suspicions regarding the involvement of the Indonesian government and the TNI (Indonesia's armed forces) in the terrorist bombings on Bali, in an interview in the documentary Inside Indonesia's War on Terrorism which as aired by SBS Dateline on October 12, 2005.
In September 2006, Wahid said that he was ready to contest the 2009 Presidential Election  He confirmed this in March 2008, at a rally of his National Awakening Party (PKB) in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan. Gus Dur and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, former Justice of the US Supreme Court stated their concerns about recent developments in Malaysia that seem aimed at defaming opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and threatening him with imprisonment in a manner which is reminiscent of the campaign to defame him in 1998. They stated there are plausible motives for some to manufacture a false case against him. They also mentioned that Anwar last year brought evidence to a royal commission that enabled it to conclude that there had been improper influence exerted on judicial appointments and more recently he brought forward evidence against the current attorney-general and the current inspector-general of police for the perversion of justice in his own prosecution in 1998-99.
All religions insist on peace. From this we might think that the religious struggle for peace is simple ... but it is not. The deep problem is that people use religion wrongly in pursuit of victory and triumph. This sad fact then leads to conflict with people who have different beliefs.
Wahid is married to Sinta Nuriyah and has four daughters: Alissa Qotrunnada, Zannuba Ariffah Chafsoh (Yenny), Anita Hayatunnufus, and Inayah Wulandari.