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Jakarta Post

Muhammadiyah plays down report of its alleged complicity in 1965 massacre

  • Marguerite Afra Sapiie
    Marguerite Afra Sapiie

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, October 18, 2017   /   05:57 pm
Muhammadiyah plays down report of its alleged complicity in 1965 massacre On the rise: A communist symbol dominates Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, Senayan, in 1965 at a massive Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) rally. (Frank Palmos/File)

Muhammadiyah, the second largest Muslim organization in the country, has played down newly declassified US diplomatic cables that indicate the organization's involvement in the mass killing of members and alleged sympathizers of the now-defunct Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) in 1965.  

Among some 30,000 pages of files from the US embassy in Jakarta — declassified on Tuesday — it was revealed that Nahdlatul Ulama, its youth wing Ansor and Muhammadiyah organized the executions under the direction of the Army.

According to the documents, the Muslim organizations assisted in the killings that occurred in many parts of the country, including in East Java, Medan, South Sumatra and Makassar. The Army was also said to have recruited Catholics to help with its mass killing campaign in Central Java.

A Dec. 6, 1965 cable from the US Consulate in Medan to the US Embassy in Jakarta reported that preachers in Muhammadiyah mosques were telling congregations that all who consciously joined the PKI must be killed, saying they “are classified as the lowest order of infidel, the shedding of whose blood is comparable to killing chicken.”

“This appears to give Muhammadiah Muslims wide license for killing. Policy of reformist Muhammadiah very similar to ‘Final Interpretation” issues by conservative NU, suggesting Muslim opinion here practically unanimous on disposal of PKI members,” the cable said.

Muhammadiyah secretary-general Abdul Mu'ti said the US files should be further verified to ensure their reliability. He added that even if it was true that Muhammadiyah preachers called for the killing of PKI members, "personal statements could not be considered as the stance of the organization." 

A Dec. 21, 1965 cable from the embassy’s first secretary Mary Vance Trent to the US state department noted that at least 100,000 people had been killed as a result of anti-PKI violence, with some 10,000 killings in Bali by mid-December. The killings continued for several more months, resulting in an estimated 80,000 dead there. (ahw)