Islamic Civilisation — 14 December 2011
The Caliphate in the Dutch media: The resistance against Dutch colonialism in Indonesia – Part 2

The Dutch insight in the Indonesian resistance: “Khilafah is the cause”

Over the period 1850 – 1930 most analysts in the Dutch newspapers were of the opinion that the problems of the Dutch in Indonesia all begin with the Hajj by the Indonesian Muslims to Mekkah. For instance in 1859 an analyst in the newspaper Algemeen Handelsblad wrote: “Public opinion is that the causes for the unrests are predominantly to be found in: (…) secondly, in the increase of the number pilgrims to Mekkah, and the resulting increase in fanaticism this causes, because of which the natives are motivated to revolt against Christianity and European dominance.” And in 1866 the newspaper De Locomotief wrote: “The danger to the safety of the average Java man in an increase in the number of pilgrims is grossly underestimated. This danger is a fact, without a shadow of a doubt.”

 “Hajj” is a newsheadline in the newspaper Het Nieuws van den Dag voor Nederlandsch-Indië, July 12th, 1911. Most of the pilgrims arriving in Jeddah were Indonesians (“Javanen”).

Other analysts then explained why exactly the fingers were pointed to the Hajj as the beginning of all the problems of the Dutch in Indonesia. Again the newspaper De Locomotief wrote in 1877: “The more pilgrims leave for Mekkah, the more fanaticism will increase.” In other words, the Dutch saw a relationship between the Hajj and the strength of the Islamic conviction amongst Indonesians. This was because the Hajj for Indonesian pilgrims was also an opportunity to learn more about Islam. In the period 1850 – 1930 the Islamic State Al Khilafah, or Caliphate in English, was still in existence. The Hejaaz, the area surrounding Mekkah and Madinah that the pilgrims visit, was still part of the Caliphate. So when an Indonesian went for Hajj, he travelled to a nation that was founded on Islam, where the study of Islam had a great prominence in society and where people were motivated by the state to study and learn about Islam. The Indonesians took what they learned there back to Indonesia, and shared this with their fellow Muslims.

But what did the Dutch fear so much about knowledge regarding Islam amongst the Indonesians?

The answer to this question is what the Dutch called “pan-Islamism”. For instance an analysis in the newspaper Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant from 1915 says: “In the past it was possible to regret the exaggerated desire amongst our Mohammedans in Indonesia to go for Hajj, for various reasons.(…) Some of them came under the influence of pan-Islamism over there, and later when they returned, had a less then desired influence over their countrymen.” An analyst writing for the newspaper Het Nieuws van den Dag in 1911 said: “There is no need for us to talk about the fanaticism amongst a large section of the returning pilgrims. This is well known en even more dangerous in our day and age, now pan-Islamism (…) is trying to make inroads everywhere”.

“The administration for Indonesia and Islam” is a newsheadline in the newspaper Algemeen Handelsblad, July 9th, 1889

In other words, lectures in pan-Islamism were the problem with the Islamic education in Mekkah and Madinah. What exactly was meant with this term pan-Islamism is explained by the newspaper Nieuw Tilburgsche Courant in 1900: “The term pan-Islamism is understood by Europeans as meaning the aspiration amongst Muslims to be united in one state. (…) In what finds this pan-Islamism its origin? In orthodox Mohammedan law, (that says) all Mohammedans, irrespective of nation, and irrespective of language spoken, must be one ideal community; and that all Mohammedan rulers must acknowledge one supreme ruler. (…) What is the consequence of this? That a disbelieving ruler, as a matter of principle, will never be accepted by orthodox Mohammedans as their lawful ruler. (…) An undeniable danger, in other words, for any Christian nation whose subjects are Muslim, to a greater or lesser extent.” Or as the newspaper Algemeen Handelsblad said in 1910:”The lecturer explained that for Mohammedans only the rule of the Caliph – the Sultan of Turkey – represent lawful rule, en that they see every other rule as illegitimate, including therefore ours (over Indonesia, translators note). In the teachings of the Caliphate there is for us a very dangerous element, in other words.”

“For Mohammedans only the rule of the Caliph – the Sultan of Turkey – represent lawful rule” in the newspaper Algemeen Handelsblad, February 2nd, 1910

In other words, the Dutch realized that the Islamic State Al Khilafah is a pillar of Islam. And the Dutch realized that this pillar of Islam motivated the Muslims of Indonesia continuously to resist the Dutch colonial rule. This exactly is what the newspaper Het Nieuws van den Dag said in 1897: “Our government could get a lot of trouble from this, because for us as well pan-Islamism is the biggest and greatest enemy for peace in our colonies, just as for all other European nations that count many Mohammedans amongst their subjects or the peoples they subjugated.

The Dutch government realized this, as is shown by a report in the newspaper Nieuw Tilburgsche Courant of 1898: “During the discussions over the budget for colonial rule in Indonesia for 1899, Mr. De Waal Malefijt expressed his concern over the increase in Mohammedanism in Indonesia, which is causing the influence of pan-Islamism to increase.”

The relationship between the resistance in Indonesia and Al Khilafah

For instance, it was common knowledge amongst the Dutch that many of the Indonesian Sultans had given bay’a – the oath of allegiance and obedience – to the Khalifah in Istanbul. Effectively making the Muslim subjects of these Sultans citizens of the Islamic state.

The Muslims in Aceh were most aware of this status of theirs[1]. The newspaper Sumatra Post wrote about this in 1922: “Indeed the Aceh Mohammedan acknowledges the Caliph in Istanbul”. But not only that, they also recognized the fact that their lands were part of the Islamic State. This was one of the reasons for their fierce resistance against the Dutch, as again the newspaper Sumatra Post acknowledged in 1922: “Today, the attacks that can be given any significance result from a mentality influenced by the idea of Holy War”.

 “Pan-islamism: The Dutch consul in Constantinople has warned his government that secret Mohammedan messengers have been sent from Turkey to Dutch Indonesia, with the task of motivating the Mohammedan people (to revolt).” Article in the newspaper Het Nieuws van den Dag voor Nederlandsch-Indië, November 11th, 1912

There was regular contact between the Muslims of Aceh and the Khalifah in Istanbul. For instance, the Muslim of Aceh sent delegations to the Khalifah to inform him of their situation and to request his aid and support. In 1915 again the Sumatra Post made mention of one such delegation, sent to Istanbul in 1868: “More important were the direct contacts between the natives of Aceh and the Turkish government. (…) No less than 68 nobels (…) begged (…) the Caliph during the course of 1868 to ‘liberate them from the foreign subjucation, that of the Dutch’. Because, they said, ‘this is getting bigger and more dangerous by the day, and there will come a time when they control all of Aceh’. They, the Acenese, therefore asked for ‘the sending of soldiers and warriors, and to announce to all foreign peoples that we (the Acenese) are under the protection from and are citizens of the Khalifah’.”

But the Khalifa was only on the side of the Achenese. The newspaper Nieuw Tilburgsche Courant reported in 1899 that the Islamic State Al Khilafa provided education to the sons of various Sultans, to support their resistance against the Dutch: “Over the last few days a correspondent in Constantinopel reported that again sevens sons of the (Indonesian) nobility had arrived there and had been introduced to the minister of education, as they are to take courses of higher education. (…) The Muslims from Java, the correspondent also reported, had sent the Sultan (Khalifah) a letter of thanks for taking their sons into the schools of the (Islamic) State. (…) As a consequence already fourteen youths from Dutch Indonesia are receiving a strict Mohammedan education, fully paid for by the Sultan of Constantinopel. Once back in their homeland, after having sucked up the sour teachings of Islam they will become natural fighters for the Quran, against the ‘Christian dogs’ that rule their country. (…) See here the dangers of pan-Islamism in our Eastern province. (…) The Netherlands herself is to blame for the fact that pan-Islam inspired troubles are overwhelming her. For too long she has hesitated in supporting te spread of Christianity, the only effective method against Islam.”

The Khalifa also sent representatives to Indonesia to support the Muslims. The newspaper Het Nieuws van den Dag, for instance, reported regarding the consul of the Khalifah in Batavia[2] that he supported the pan-Islamist movement: “In Indonesia there was only one consul, in Batavia, and he had shown a little too much enthousiasm for pan-Islamism. Hence, the government asked him to be replaced.” The same newspaper informed its readers in 1912 that the Khalifah was sending secret missions to Indonesia to support the Indonesian Muslims: “The Dutch consul in Constantinople has warned his government that secret Mohammedan messengers have been sent from Turkey to Dutch Indonesia, with the task of motivating the Mohammedan people (to revolt).”

Cooperation also occurred the other way round. Regarding the decision of the Khalifah to build the Hejaaz railway, the newspaper Het Nieuws van den Dag said in 1905: “The king of Boni[3] has given 200 pound sterling to support the building of the Hejaaz railway to the holy places of Islam. (…) At the same time, the messenger handed (the Khalifah) a letter from the ruler of Boni, in which he asked the Khalifa for support for himself and his allies, in their difficulties with the Dutch rulers”.

“Panislamism in our Eastern province: The king of Boni has given 200 pound sterling to support the building of the Hejaaz railway to the holy places of Islam”. Article in the newspaper Het Nieuws van den Dag voor Nederlandsch-Indië, July 17th, 1905

For these close relations between the Muslims of Indonesia and the Islamic State Al Khilafa, analysts in The Netherlands began to worry when the British and France (amongst others) began to commit crimes against the Muslims of the Islamic State: “I fear our Mohammedans will feel the injustice that is being committed right now. Revolts and dissatisfaction will be on the rise, in Dutch Indonesia as well”.

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The Caliphate in the Dutch media: The resistance against Dutch colonialism in Indonesia – Part 1

The Dutch and Indonesian history books disagree strongly on the history of Dutch colonialism in Indonesia.  Most history books in...

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