Sarekat Islam

Fred von der Mehden

in Islamic Studies

ISBN: 9780195390155
Published online December 2009 | | DOI:
Sarekat Islam

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Sarekat Islam (Islamic Union, or SI) was the largest pre-independence Muslim political organization in the Dutch East Indies and the colony’s first mass nationalist movement. It started in 1911 as a small anti-Chinese commercial organization called Sarekat Dagang Islam (Islamic Commercial Union), which was dominated by merchants in the batik industry. By the end of World War I, it had expanded greatly and changed its name to Sarekat Islam. By the early 1920s, total membership was variously reported to be between 350,000 and 800,000 (SI itself claimed two million members). In 1921 it became the Partai Sarekat Islam, symbolizing the organization’s more political agenda. The leadership favored social, economic, and political reform and was influenced by Modernist Islam, which had entered the Indies at the turn of the century. The membership was more attuned to traditional mysticism, local grievances, Islam, and, later, social justice and economic inequalities. Sarekat Islam was loosely organized and its branches had considerable autonomy. This organizational weakness and the adoption of more radical policies allowed the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) to infiltrate local branches and fostered dissension and fragmentation. Disputes within Sarekat Islam and government pressure eroded its base by the mid-1920s, and by the 1930s there were less than 50,000 members. The party lasted into the independence era, but its power and influence were already severely diminished and in the 1955 general elections its successor, the PSII (Party Sarekat Islam Indonesia), gained less than 3 percent of the popular vote. The coming of the military-dominated “New Order” led it to a forced amalgamation with other religious parties in 1973, creating the Partai Persatuan Pembangunan Indonesia (PPP, or United Development Party).

Article.  1658 words. 

Subjects: Islam

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