Week Eleven & Twelve: A Note from Yogyakarta: “Religiusitas Kebangsaan”

Karim/ September 30, 2018/ Securing The Local Project/ 0 comments

Banser in Sleman Regency

An incident of mid-July in Sleman regency (northern part of Yogyakarta) where the National Police’s counterterrorism squad Densus 88 shot dead three alleged terrorists in Jl. Kaliurang on Saturday evening has led me to explore more about the roles of Banser in this area. Tono (pseudo name), a Banser member in Sleman regency, told me that he knew all the details of the tragedy (the arrestment), not only because he was “on duty” near the shooting site, but also the rumor he believed in, saying that this would happen because it was planned since a couple of months ago. When I asked him, “how could you know this such an intelligent news?’. He smiled at me and asked me back, “Come on, don’t you know that the information provided by Densus 99 (the intelligent squad of Banser) sometimes more valid than the one from Densus 88?” Then, he also confidently revealed to me that “I have been involved in ‘spying’ any kinds of activities by the alleged terrorist to prevent unexpected actions damaging the local inhabitants”.

When I tried to dig more information about Tono, an ordinary Banser guy who is also working as a security guard in one of the national governmental offices in Yogyakarta, I had to say no doubt with his knowledge due to the fact that has a wife named Tini (pseudo name) currently pursuing a PhD program at the Department of Philosophy, Gadjah Mada University Yogyakarta with a research topic about twin aspects of Banser (religiosity and nationality) in Yogyakarta. My interview with this couple was full of a mix of empirical and conceptual endeavors, more specifically about the notion of “religiusitas kebangsaan”. An idiom commonly used by NU leaders and its affiliation in the current Indonesian era has obsessed Tini to find out how the concept is built and why does it offer such a powerful meaning among Banser members.

As NU and its affiliated organizations have been actively campaigning a strong spirit of “ahlusunah wal jamaah an nahdliyah” manifested in the campaign of “Islam Nusantara” (Indonesia or Nusantara version of Sunni Islam) against Wahhabism, ISIS, or any entities promoting Islamic state and any kinds of ideologies “threatening” NKRI (the state of the republic of Indonesia, as it is considered “bequeathed” by Ulamas since the Indonesia independence revolution era), Banser has always been used as the front guard of this regenerational process. All Banser members are also considered as members of NU youth movement GP Ansor (not the other way around).

In this context, they are not clearly differentiating between the nation and the state. They are used interchangeably since they believe that the nation of Indonesia is also the state of Indonesia, and the nation of Nusantara is also similar to the nation of Indonesia. Islam Nusantara, in this case, is a manifestation of Nahdliyah, with a powerful doctrine from the founder of NU KH Hasyim Asy’ari “hubbul wathon minal iman” (love for the land of abode is part of faith). This doctrine is structurally constructed through NU organization and its affiliations and culturally developed through both NU traditional education system (pesantren, where Gus or a young generation of pesantren owners or ulama now has been optimized through specific regeneration system), and NU modern education system (in cooperation with national education system under the ministry of Religious Affairs).

The recognition of “Hari Santri Nasional” (national Santri day) by President Joko Widodo since October 22, 2016 (a day of KH Hasyim Asy’ari proclaimed NU Jihad Resolution in 1945 in Surabaya) is a clear example how the interest of NU is accommodated by the state. This state’s recognition and other pro-NU policies (e.g. a cancellation of a full-day school policy which might ruin the NU pesantren education system, state’s support for the event of GP Ansor-Banser Kirab Satu Negeri, choosing KH. Ma’ruf Amin as a representation of NU for the candidate of Jokowi’s vice president for the coming presidential election, and so on) has offered NU a more “privilege” position that has never been achieved before the reform era.

Exploring the roles of Banser in Sleman regency has also drove me to meet with Pak Joko (pseudo name), a veteran of Banser who involved in the clash between the state (nationalists and majority of Islamist groups) and PKI (communists) in the mid-1960s (especially the main tragedy of communists killing during 1965). The major differences between Banser in that period and the current era are: the identity, recruitment processes, and the roles in the society. Duirng the 60’s, Banser members were not uniformed, and they were only chosen by Pak Kyai, charismatic pesantren leaders with very specific requirements, they must have specific martial art background (immune to any weapons), and they were exactly used for the purpose of security emergency, especially when the life of Ulamas were threatened by PKI followers.

Post the tragedy of ’65, they were returned to the society, some were recruited by the National Armed Force as army martial art or physical trainers), and some established Sufism movement in the local communities. Therefore, it is not surprising when I saw Pak Joko expressed his disappointment seeing the fact that Banser now has been using as a major group for political agenda, and now everybody can be easily recruited as a Banser member without knowing exactly what the main roles and the criteria of those who are eligible to protect Ulamas (those who have religious legitimacy of teaching and spreading Nahdliyin values dan traditions) from dangerous situations. Dated back to the Khitoh (revitalization) of NU 1926, NU has declared to stay away from politics, but it cannot be neglected that many members of NU are currently using NU with their own intention as vehicle of politics. Most of the main reasons, as they have been often argued, “grab your seat, or your political spots will definitely be seized by your “enemies”.

Another fact of the roles of Banser in Sleman regency, compared to other regions in Yogyakarta is that they have more active members in different divisions of Banser, especially Balantas (Banser Lalu Lintas, traffic force) and Bagana (Banser Siaga Bencana, disaster squad) due to the fact that Sleman has the most traffic jam spots and the regular natural disaster of Mount Merapi eruption. Most of the universities di Yogyakarta area are also located in Sleman regency where transfer of knowledge and its related activities, including the spreading of ideology (as an informant from Banser said the ideology of Wahhabism, Khilafahism, Islamic state, Hizbut Tahrir) and “an infiltration” through student organizations in the campus area.

Figure 1. Basic training of Balantas with the trainers from POLRES (Sleman branch of National Police Office) in Sleman regency (Photos: Karim, 2018)

Kirab Satu Negeri

As I was involved in the national coordination meeting of GP Ansor-Banser in early August discussing the preparation of GP Ansor’s Kirab Satu Negeri (One Nation Parade), this fully planned of 41-days event was officially started in September 16th from 5 different spots of outer regions of Indonesia: Sabang (the western edge of Sumatra), Merauke (the most eastern part of Indonesia), Nunukan and Miangas (the northern most area), and Rote (the southern part). This most optimistic event organized by GP Ansor has at least four main goals, as it’s secretary general declared during the meeting, which are: to strengthening the consensus of acknowledging Pancasila as the only national and state ideology (as the final result of the consensus from Ulamas), to reconfirm the function of religion as a source of affection and love (not a source of conflict), to urge the majority of those who love peace to speak out against intolerant minority groups, and to learn from the the long experiences of multiethnic and multireligious Indonesian people who live in peace and harmony for decades (that can be used as a model of world peace order).

Figure 3. Map of Kirab satu Negeri (Photos: GP Ansor official Facebook page and Twitter, 2018)

Even though there have been some rejections from some different groups in local starting points (from Pemuda Melayu in North Sumatera, Pemuda Pasaman in West Sumatera, FPI in Riau, and other regions) due to the potentials of conflict coming from different interpretation of Islam Nusantara from many different Islamic groups in local regions, Kirab Satu Negeri has now continuously running and showing its “power” across the country under the explicit support from the president Jokowi. There will be estimated of 100 thousand personnel of GP Ansor-Banser from all different areas across Indonesia to get together in Yogyakarta on October 26th, and Jokowi has even confirmed to receive the final flag of the parade. This willingness from the president has given a tremendous self-confidence for GP Ansor-Banser to show off their number and their power “securing NKRI”, especially to those they considered “enemies”.

In the social media, especially the official GP Ansor account on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, they use taglines: “Kita ini Sama Indonesia” (We are the Same Indonesia), and “Bela Agama Bangsa Negeri” (Defend the Religion, the Nation, and the State). They also create specific quotes for the official starting day of Kirab Satu Negeri from prominent figures or leaders of NU to provide a stronger moral support and justification to the followers and wider audiences. The local leaders of Banser, GP Ansor, including women’s student organization, and all NU affiliated organizations have also been very active in using their own photo profile merging with logo and the tagline of Kirab Satu Negeri.

Figure 4. The use of quotes from prominent figures of NU Leaders considered Ulamas photo profiles by local Banser leaders for Kirab satu Negeri (Photos: GP Ansor official Facebook page and Twitter, 2018)

Deklarasi Pemilu Damai dan Tolak Politik Uang (Declaration of Peace Election and War Against Money Politics).

There have been serial events organized by both state authorities, political parties, religious and mass organizations (Ormas), and many different non-state actors intended to a campaign of peace election process, especially after the official determination of serial number of presidential and vice-presidential pairs on September 20th, for the 2019 election.

In Yogyakarta, one of the events was organized by Polda DIY (regional office of POLRI National Police). They invited a prominent and charismatic ulama from NU, Habib Syech who is famous with his voice of Sholawat that imparts great passion upon millions of fanatic fans and followers (named Syekhermania). Many of his songs are rooted in NU and Javanese traditional qasida poems, including official songs of NU. In almost all of his performances in Yogyakarta and other regions, at least a thousand of Banser squads deployed for security guard.


Figure 5. A poster of the declaration, the leader of GP Ansor Yogyakarta branch on the stage, and Banser guarding the event (Photos: Karim, 2018).

At the end of September, smaller level of similar event was also held by GP Ansor and Banser Dlingo sub district, Bantul regency located at Alas Literacy (similar avenue used for Aksaranesia). As the nature of activities held in this area based on collaborative action, the event of “Deklarasi Banser Melawan Politic Uang” (Banser’s declaration against money politics) was a collaboration between GP Ansor-Banser, local election commission office, and activists from Alas Literacy (who is also a journalist of the local newspaper). As a result, this event gained wider publicity compared to other similar but bigger events in Yogyakarta areas and beyond (http://jogja.tribunnews.com/2018/09/30/ansor-banser-dlingo-bantul-gelar-deklarasi-lawan-money-politics-pada-pemilu-2019). To note, one of the main facilities (the main building used for meeting room and some facilities for the library) in this site was also provided by a local legislature representing this area. For years, this area has widely been known with a common practice of money politics during the election period (due to the fact that the majority of local people are living in low income situation).

Along with this event, all Banser members from Dlingo region were invited to welcome and celebrate new Banser members (from the last basic training which I involved). I was privileged to be a representation of these new comers to receive an official certificate of Banser membership from the commander. A ritual of ziarah kubur (visiting the ancestors’ grave and making dua for the first deceased local Banser leader) was held as a part of NU tradition for the event. This ritual was also organized by regional branch of GP Ansor-Banser Yogyakarta province marking the beginning process of Kirab Satu Negeri in Yogyakarta located in Imogiri Royal Graveyard complex (old Javanese kings cemetery).


Figure 6. Banser’s Declaration against Money Politics at Alas Literasi, Dlingo, Bantul Regency (Photos: Karim, 2018).

Banser in South Korea

Becoming a participant of Banser’s basic training in Dlingo, Bantul regency was one of the key ways accessing the organizational structures of Banser and its affiliations. Fortunately, the leader of Banser in Bantul regency named Joni (pseudo name, who asked me to join him visiting Banser in South Korea) is also the one who has experienced of becoming migrant workers in South Korea and Japan, and the ex-coordinator of NU international office in South Korea. From these experiences, he has been trusted as a kind of the liaison officer by the head office of NU in Jakarta for any kinds of events inviting Indonesian public figures to come and give talks in South Korea, including several times of Cak Nun Korea visit. The last event was my luck to join Kyai Said Aqil Sirodj (the chairman of the executive council of NU) invited to Seoul and Busan celebrating a week of Indonesian migrant workers’ holiday.

This privilege opportunity gave me wider spectrum of knowledge about the roles of Banser outside the Indonesian state territory. With a total of approximately 47 thousand migrant workers (mostly as factory workers, including 7 thousand workers are considered illegal or have no working permits), majority of them are Muslims from Java areas. Therefore, it is not surprising that NU international office in this country has become a very important organization. With this number, there have been a massive effort of building Indonesian mosques in all big cities where Indonesian workers are concentrated. Competition among mosques with different Islamic ideological groups is often occurred.

Although it has not yet been formally registered within the South Korean rule of law (that is why the official numbers of Banser in now only 80 persons who are formally trained using Banser’s training curricula, with a “camouflage” of military like uniform), it has been known a moderate Muslim organization that can be used by Korean police or security offices dealing with religious extremism and terrorism. The last incident occurred couple years ago was the flag raising of ISIS symbol by an alleged FPI member (as there are many other unregistered religious and ethnic based organizations or communities doing their own agenda) resulting a deportation a stricter rule of laws regarding religious activities. NU, in this case, has been informally asked by the local police to help prevent such a similar incident in the future.

Form the NU agenda, Kyai Said is promoting across Indonesia and across the globe what it is called “Islam Nusantara”. Using his knowledge of what it is known as Wahhabism movement in the Middle East and the fact that he had a long experience of living in Saudi Arabia, he explained to thousands of Indonesian audiences in Seoul and Busan what Wahhabism is and other movements which might endanger NKRI, and the contribution of NU on how to deal with these threats since the beginning era of the Indonesian state building. From a personal interview with Kyai Said, I revealed that NU has a consistent standpoint, and nothing to do with political agenda. However, it gives freedom for all members of NU in all level to engage in political arenas, to spread out the NU values, but not using NU as a political vehicle. Important to note that NU under Kyai Said now has an MoU with POLRI National Police (signed in Surabaya in 2015) to maintain Kamtibmas (keamanan dan ketertiban masyarakat, security and order in the society, a core area of what this research is all about.

One of the main challenges faced by NU is what he calls “internal turbulence”, because up until now, the “ruptures” of the voice of NU (considering the huge in size) for different political representations have often become the main source of internal conflicts within the body of NU. Narto (pseudo name, a personal assistant of Kyai Said, and one of the leaders of autonomous body of NU) revealed a different fact that NU leaders assigned some young potential figures in NU to be fully engaged with a political representation within as many political parties as possible, except the one they considered their “enemies”. The main reason is that, “it is better for us to be in the position of political power rather than they do so, we have to save the nation from their threats”, he said.

Figure 7. Kyai Said’s Speech in front of Indonesian Muslim migrant workers community and the guarding process by Banser in South Korea (Photos: Karim, 2018).

Jamaah Maiyah

Gerbang and Omah Aksara.

Further engagement with Gerbang (“Gerakan Anak Bangsa”), a youth community led by Wawan (pseudo name) who personally calls Cak Nun as his ‘Imam”, has offered me a new insight about Maiyah. In interpreting one of the core values of Maiyah, “sovereignty”, in this case Cak Nun uses a term “Tauhid Penghidupan” (literally monotheism livelihood), Gerbang has been trying so hard to move forward beyond Maiyah regular gatherings. Along with their regular gatherings, getting engaged in solving the actual problems faced by the local communities is one of their main features, more specifically by organizing local champions based on each main problems and potentialities. Interestingly, unlike Simpul Maiyah (now it has more than 60 circles around Indonesia), Gerbang is looking for more practical and tangible ways with specific and simple socio-economic assessments in the society. Regular weekly meetings are designed combining the values of sinau bareng with the needs of developing doable action plans derived from each meeting.

Currently, Gerbang has developed more than 40 branches, optimizing their links and affiliations with Maiyah circles across Java island area. Gerbang members are predominantly from Jamaah Maiyah, but some are not because what is promoted is no longer focused on building values, but rather dealing with more concrete actions and campaigning a spirit of “making a change” in the local community. Challenges often occurs, especially when its activists also have their own regular jobs outside the community, because most of the projects run by this community are voluntary basis. In the social media, they use a name of “Warga Mandoro” as a media for communicating and displaying all of their activities.

Figure 8. Weekly meeting in Gerbang main secretariat in Yogyakarta, a poster of graphic design class, musical class, and English class for kids by Gerbang (Photos: Gerbang Facebook page, 2018).

Another smaller group named themselves Omah Aksara Community working with different dimension of interpretation of Maiyah values. It consists of Jamaah Maiyah activists and followers interested in writing activities, especially a genre of fiction writing. Ani (pseudo name) the leader and Bowo (pseudo name) the redactor in chief are both a college student who won fiction writing competition held by the Faculty of Literature, Gadjah Mada University Yogyakarta, even though they do not have educational background in literature.

They developed a website named http://cuap.in/ as a media of publication and communication to wider audiences. Similar as Gerbang, they organized weekly meetings, but they do not have a permanent office, so they usually get together using Rumah Maiyah facilities in Kadipiro complex). One of their main writing activities is producing “flash short stories” without even one word of Maiyah. They consider Maiyah as a method of working, including in the area of literature. What is important for them is that Maiyah give them “freedom” of expression and unlimited of imagination, so that the media of writing fiction stories have become a major concern.

They clearly differentiate between the nation and the state. The nation of Indonesia, they said, consisting people with multiethnic and multilanguage backgrounds that have been long ignored by the state (the government and its system). Therefore, people tend to find their own way of “sovereignty” neglecting the presence of the state and its officials. Moreover, they think that, in many cases, especially during the era of Old Order Soeharto, the state was the main “enemy” for the creative writers. Cak Nun, in their perspective, is one of the rare icons of creative writers who started his writing activities against the “dictator state” from the street as a homeless (not from the university), engaging in a total immersion to the people from the very bottom of the society, and he has even become one of the most productive street writers in Indonesia since the era of 70s.

They also argued that the quality of life of the society in general and even the quality of a nation, a state, can be seen from the quality of writings made by the citizens. Indonesia, in their perspective is now in a “crisis” of qualified fiction writers who can be used as an inspiration to see the future of the nation. In dealing with this issue, they organized regular trainings of creative writing for Jamaah Maiyah and wider groups. This event is often held in collaboration with the internal agenda of Rumah Maiyah in Kadipiro inviting senior figures of writers in Maiyah circles.

Stories from the Senior Generation of Maiyah.

It was basically started with the process of writing. It is important to note that Maiyah movement has been gradually developed through personal activism of Cak Nun with his diverse interactions. Started with the era of 60s when he began with “a basic training” as a journalist from several famous figures of street artists, thinkers, and writers in Jl. Malioboro Yogyakarta. Dealing with social, religious, and political dialectic through critical writing processes (more specifically poems and essay) and most of them were directed to criticizing unfair government policies during the era of communists killing (an era when people preferred to stay outside rather than stayed at home because there was nothing to eat), and earlier period of Soharto’s New Order regime.

It was continued with the period of “muzicalization of the poems” as a media of protest to the New Order regime using a set of gamelan (Javanese traditional musical instrument) combined with some modern musical instruments. Until the era of 80-90s, the movement began to move beyond the production of writings and poems. A “revolutionization process” can be observed through the new era of stage performance, more specifically dramas and theaters, until the establishment of what it is now known as Kiaikanjeng, intended not only for alternative musical performances, but also to wider social and political criticisms. This critical period has also provided Cak Nun with different opportunities for visiting USA, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and many other countries, including his extended writing activities of being a “homeless” in the Netherlands for a couple of years.

The late 90s was the golden period of Cak Nun and Kiaikanjeng when they were often invited by many different audiences across the globe, mostly with the purpose of introducing “peace Islam”, such as a performance entitled “Indonesian version of Musical Islam” (a period of “spiritual meeting” between Cak Nun and Yusuf Islam in London which led to a shift of perspective about music in Islam by this pop legend who converted as a Muslim). These broader experiences combined with wider connections with many national figures and Muslim scholars, including with president Soeharto and his family (as one reason why his activism was not banned by the New Order regime) gave him a “charismatic” power in engaging the process of early Indonesian reform agenda. Until he found himself lost into the middle of political confrontations among many different actors who claimed to be reformists, but in fact most of them explicitly struggled with their own political agenda, he then moved back through his previous “habitat”, dealing with socio-cultural dimension of religious movement, initiating sholawat movement, which is then known as Maiyah Movement.

Jamaah Maiyah during the early period of Indonesian reform played crucial roles in mediating different interethnic and interreligious conflicts without using the name or identity of Maiyah. The regular meetings in Jombang, East Java has often become a center of “mujahadah bersama” by any people or groups from different religious, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, including many national figures from Jakarta and other regions.

Jamaah Maiyah in South Korea and International Audiences.

Similar to Banser, Jamaah Maiyah has established an organized youth movement in South Korea named Tong il Qoryah (literally a village of togetherness in Korea, qoryah has similar meaning in Arabic) since October 2015. Considering the number of Indonesian migrant workers in this country, this community is considered a very small group consists of only dozens of Maiyah activists. They get together in a regular monthly gathering, do selling Maiyah merchandise, and other socio-religious activities. When Cak Nun were invited to visit Korea several times, it can gather thousands of multi-ethnic and multireligious Indonesian audiences

This group does not engage into the major competition between different Indonesian Islamic groups in South Korea, but rather, most of the new followers coming from personal interaction during specific Indonesian migrant worker events. There is no recruitment process and no invitation for the membership, because anyone who is interested to know about Jamaah Maiyah may come and ask something directly to this group. As a result, they are bonded closely based on solidarity, friendship, and family-like relationship. What is interesting from my personal experience meeting with them in Korea, I did not need to spend any money for almost everything, because they said that “you are our honored guest, it is our privilege to serve you as you are”.

Moreover, I found this similar atmosphere several days before departing Korea, during the regular event of Maiyah Mocopat Syafaat gathering in Bantul, September 17th, when a guest named David (pseudo name) from Sydney, Australia, looking for knowledge and Indonesian version of mixing between arts and religion. As an artist and spiritualist, David found an eye opener of how Cak Nun and Kiaikanjeng served him both physically (with “VIP” chair and reception prior to the event) and spiritually with new experiences. An arrangement of musical instrument that has deep spiritual, arts, and cultural dimensions was played for David, and he spontaneously explained that he has never been in that “trance” for his whole life. He was also personally asked by Cak Nun to perform any arts skills he had.

Figure 10. A corner of Maiyah merchandise in South Korea, and Jamaah Maiyah with their identity of “Peci Maiyah” listening to Kyai Said speech (Photos: Karim, Karim, 2018).

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Figure 11. David’s performance during Mocopat Syafaat September 17th (Photos: caknun.com, 2018).

12th Anniversary Bangbangwetan.

On September 28th, Maiyah gathering in Surabaya has reached its 12th anniversary, and celebrated using a unique theme of “dozens of lucks”, ornamented with a giant size of “Peci Maiyah” representing a unified symbol of Jamaah Maiyah. As Kiaikanjeng was brought to Bangbangwetan for this special anniversary, the whole night event was unexpectedly and extremely full of audiences causing several small incidents of people forcing themselves climbed the rooftop of the buildings (which are prohibited) in Balai Pemuda Surabaya. It was also a full of laughter, especially from the special guest performance of Cak Kartolo, a legend of “Ludruk” show (eastern Java style of traditional stand-up comedy) accompanied with specific Eastern Javanese style of traditional musical instrument. Another unique phenomenon happened during the closing session of the event when Bonex Maiyah (Bonex is a community of Surabayan Persebaya football supporters who are publicly known as “Indonesian Hooligans”) put the Bonex scarf on Cak Nun’s neck symbolizing that this “violent and anarchic group” offered a higher respect of “peace ambassador” to Cak Nun.

Figure 12. Bonex Maiyah scarf on Cak Nun’s body and a giant size of Peci Maiyah (Photos: Karim, 2018).

Coming up with General Differences

It is not an easy task dealing with general differences between these two groups, especially in the case of Yogyakarta. However, several major different features can be derived from three-months period of ethnographic fieldwork in Yogyakarta, which might help provide an initial guideline for further analysis, as follows:



Main Differences



Jamaah Maiyah


The Context

  1. The emergence and the development
  • It can be traced back to the era of early 1960s when massive recruitment of Banser occurred in response to the threats from PKI (communists) during political clash between Muslim groups-natioalists and communists Since the reform era, it has become more visible, bigger, and more active as a front guard of defending NU’s ulamas through structural- organizational process in GP Ansor until current days
  • It was initially started with “pengajian keluarga” (family religious gathering in Jombang) named Padhangmbulan, but then combined with personal activism of Cak Nun, supported by his big families and friends becoming wider and bigger movement of Maiyah
  • Reform era has become a starting point of wider and massive development of Maiyah movement through collegial and friendship relationships
  • Interviews with veteran of Banser and senior member of Jamaah Maiyah
  • This needs further historical investigations
  1. Community engagement for securitization process
  • Dealing with physical security, clearly defining specific groups as security threats
  • Securing local events, ranging from daily security concerns (pengajian/religious events, and socio-cultural activities) to national concerns (religious extremism, terrorism)
  • Acts based on fatwa (order) from ulama (wherever the ulamas, there are Banser squads)
  • Dealing with non-physical security, defining “wrong way” of thinking as the main security threats to the society
  • Securing local situations, creating social balance and order through regular maiyahan, sinau bareng and ngaji bareang (learning together)
  • Acts based on using contextual interpretation of religious values (wherever Cak Nun and Maiyah circles, there are Jamaah Maiyah

Both has an intensive engagement to the society from the very bottom level to international level


The memberships

  1. Motivations
  • Religious doctrine from family members dan local ulama,
  • A sense of “looks cool” wearing military uniform,
  • Own political career purpose,
  • Personal consciousness and awareness identifying security threats
  • Simply getting more close friends
  • pencarian jati diri” (searching for personal identity)
  • Looking for something different with existing religious groups
  • Learning more contextual interpretation of religious text
  • Escaping from political arena and business-oriented life

Religious drivers have become a general answer, but if it is explored in a more detail question, there is another common reason of “nambah sedulur” (adding more brotherhoods)

  1. Expectations
  • Political career (especially for those who are in leadership level)
  • More friends and connections
  • Pahala dan surga (reward from God and heaven)
  • A more peaceful, balance, and happier life
  • A deeper understanding of how to deal with problems of life

Some interviews revealed that they expect to be a member or follower of both the two groups until their death, as they believe that God has shown them that way

  1. Dual membership
  • Some active members of GP Ansor-Banser are also regular visitors of Sinau Bareng, some have also become Maiyah activists
  • Banser squads have almost always appeared voluntarily to provide security for Sinau bareng events in almost all locations (because most of them are also willing to ngaji bareng bersama Cak Nun, getting new knowledge with Cak Nun)
  • Some senior followers and activist of Maiyah are also active members of GP Ansor-Banser, and they even become trainers for Banser’s basic training (inserting Maiyah values)
  • Nahdlatul Muhammadiyin initiated by Cak Nun is a manifestation of dual membership, even tripled (NU-Muhammadiyah-Maiyah)
  • Both are united by the tradition of Sholawat (other Islam groups, like Muhammadiyah, Salafi don’t do Sholwat)
  • NU membership requires training, oath of loyalty, and ID card, while Maiyah only needs commitment and regular meetings and gatherings
  • The case is: Banser is affected by Maiyah (not the other way around)


The State-Society Relationships

  1. Area of involvements
  • Local-national-international
  • High intensity of security
  • High intensity of political arena
  • High intensity of religious concerns
  • Medium intensity social concerns
  • Low intensity of cultural concern
  • Local-national-international
  • low intensity of security
  • low intensity of political arena
  • high intensity of religious concerns
  • high intensity social concerns
  • high intensity of cultural concern

Based on observation, interviews: both groups have several intersections: memberships, agenda, and tradition of Sholawat

  1. Relationship to the State
  • Mitra utama negera” (Partnership)
  • Pelengkap tugas negara di masyarakat” (Complementary)
  • Penjaga NKRI” (Defender)
  • NU has an official MoU with the POLRI National Police office and other state officials (it applies to all level of cooperation for security provision)
  • Penyeimbang negara” (Balancer)
  • Pengasuh negara” (Caregiver)
  • It has no official MoU with the Police office and other state officials, but it has an “informal agreement” between Cak Nun and national Chief of POLRI to work together securing the state and the society
  • The national Chief of POLRI has asked all level of police offices to support with security provision for all Sinau Bareng events

Based on interview and terms used in many different events from both groups

  1. Relationship to other groups
  • Contradictory (implicitly and explicitly) to other groups defined as security threats or potential threats. Cooperative (to other groups that have similar ideology and agenda of defending the state)
  • Merangkul dan melayani” (Embracing and serving)
  • Mengajak sinau bareng” (Inviting them to learn together)
  • Composing and singing other groups’ songs as a greeting

Based on interview and terms used in many different events from both groups

  1. Relationship to the Society
  • Melindungi ulama dan masyarakat” (Protecting ulama and the society)
  • Menyapa” (Greeting)
  • Nggedekke atine rakyat” (Javanese, literally means enlarge people’s heart, encourage, motivate, enlighten)

Based on interview and terms used in many different events from both groups


Additional Features

  1. Leadership
  • Structural and organizational mechanism following NU and GP Ansor
  • Following state structure/leveling (from national, provincial, district, sub district, village, and sub village level)
  • NU has a strong charismatic feature (Gus, based on inheritance from ulama)
  • GP Ansor has weaker charisma (mix but many of the leaderships hold by Gus)
  • Banser has a little charismatic feature (Gus on the top national level and based on leadership skill on the grassroot level)
  • Strong charismatic leadership, still dominated by familial pattern and friendship/collegial in the top level
  • Open and democratic mechanism of leadership in grassroot level (determining the leaders independently)
  • It has a specific “board” called “Marja’ Maiyah” (reference): Cak Nun, Cak Fuad (Cak Nun’s oldest brother, Syeh Kamba)
  • No strict/default organizational structure, but commonly consists of three main function (Reference, coordinator, and pegiat/activists)
  • Based on interview, participant observation
  • Most of the names of Maiyah circles (now more than 60 spots) are given by Cak Nun, or the activists propose some alternatives, then Cak Nun decide one
  1. Generational differences
  • A Clear generational division set by organizational rules, but flexible in practice:
  • Age 13-27: IPNU-student level)
  • Age 27-40: GP Ansor-Banser
  • 40-above: NU
  • A combination between structural-organizational feature and generational pattern applies
  • Massive recruitment process: ranging from teenagers to old generation (breaking the rules)
  • Cak Nun is the first running generation of Maiyah who is now trying to gradually delegate the main leadership figure to Sabrang (Cak Nun’s first son, National coordinator of Maiyah Circles)
  • Kadipiro seems to be the center of “kingdom” of Maiyah and Jombang as an “old kingdom”
  • In Maiyah Circles: Older generations functioning as reference, and young people are the activists

A case of Banser in Dlingo, now is leading by a local inhabitant, previously led by his brother, and his father

  1. Attitude toward religion
  • Strictly following tradition of Ahlussunah Waljamaah Annahdliyah (Sunni Islam using 4 main Mazhab (references) with additional Indonesian context (Annahdliyah, based of agreement from Ulama)
  • using other references outside this tradition is considered a “deviation” which is needed to be returned back
  • Using ideology of “” (Indonesian Sunni Islam)
  • “Just do what Ulama said”
  • Contextualizing Islam with local values, no matter what references are used
  • Directly refers to Quran but first use feelings, heart, emotion, then do Sinau bareng using logic dialectical approach, and local wisdom
  • Using a method calls “Segitiga Cinta Maiyah” (Triangle of Love of Maiyah): Allah-Muhammad-You

Based on interview, participant observation, and literature review

  1. Attitude toward the nation and the state
  • No difference between the nation and the state
  • Indonesia is Nusantara, it is the state, it is the nation inherited by ulama who struggled motivated by Jihad resolution from the founding father of NU during independence revolution against the Dutch Colonial
  • Whoever the regime, as long as they are accommodated, they will support the state (even though, for example, the president is a man with Christian background)
  • Big numbers of NU members working as state officials, lower for GP Ansor, and few numbers for Banser (it seems also parallel with socio-economic status of each)


  • Clearly define differently between the nation and the state, but they use it in a dialectical approach using writings, poems, and theater as a critique
  • The nation is Nusantara, consists of people multiethnic and multilanguage diversity united by long tradition, but that ruined by colonization, wrong interpretation of democracy, and
  • State is an entity based on clear rule of laws separated from government interventions (Indonesia is considered complicated and has a “wrong” system due to unclear differentiation between the state and the government)
  • Sinau bareng is trying to make people aware with this distinction
  • Some Maiyah activists are also working as state officials, including in the two main Miayah Marja’ (reference), and some Kaikanjeng’s members
  • For Banser: “NKRI Harga Mati” is final
  • For Jamaah Maiyah: NKRI should learn more from its “ancestors” (not from Western democratic model): Majapahit Kingdom in Java was a good example of applying what they call “Negeri Maiyah” with a clear division of labor between the king (the nation) and Patih (the governor, the state)
  1. Attitude toward Politics
  • An organizational statement from NU and all its affiliations to be separated structurally from political practices, but encourage its members to engage in politics bringing and struggling for the voices of NU
  • Elite leaders have always been involved in political practices in many different political parties
  • A clear statement from Cak Nun to be neutral in political practices
  • Stay away from political practices for Maiyah Activists, no room in Maiyah for political agenda from specific groups
  • NU, GP Ansor, and Banser have many representations in almost all political parties
  • Jamaah Maiyah has no representation (those who join political parties tend to “escape” from Maiyah circles)
  1. Symbols of (claim of) Sovereignty
  • Ideology: Aswaja (Ahllusunnah waljamaah Annahdliyah)
  • The main nation/state imagination: NKRI and Islam Nusantara
  • Main song: Ya lal Wathon-Hubbul wathon Minal Iman
  • Citizens: Kaum Nahdliyin, Warga Nahdliyin (Nahdliyin society)
  • Strcuture: Organization (one command mechanism)
  • Uniform: Paramilitary apparel
  • Weapons: “ijazah ulama

(pecut, penjalin pethuk, and rajah for old generation)

  • Ideology: “Triangle of love
  • The main nation/state imagination: Negeri Maiyah
  • Main song: Sohibu Baity (the host)
  • Citizens: Orang Maiyah, warga Maiyah, Masyrakat Maiyah (Maiyah Society)
  • Structure: “Organism” (independent management mechanism)
  • Uniform: Peci Maiyah
  • Weapons: pens and musical instruments
  • Old style of Banser’s weapons


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