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April 26, 1944 |
Surakarta, Dutch East Indies
Muhammad Amien Rais (born 26 April 1944) is a prominent Indonesian politician who led and inspired the reform movement that forced the resignation of President Suharto in 1998. Amien Rais was the leader of Muhammadiyah, one of the two biggest Muslim organizations in Indonesia, from 1995 to 2000. Amien Rais was the Chairman of the People's Consultative Assembly (MPR) from 1999 to 2004. During his chairmanship, the MPR passed a series of amendments to the Constitution of Indonesia. The amendments, among other things, established direct presidential elections, a presidential term limit (two terms), and the Constitutional Court.
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Amien Rais was born in Surakarta, Central Java, as the second child of Suhud Rais and Sudalmiyah. The couple were Muhammadiyah activists in Surakarta. Suhud Rais graduated from Muhammadiyah's Mualimin high school. He worked in Surakarta's religion affairs office. He also was a member of Muhammadiyah's Board of Education in the Surakarta chapter. Sudalmiyah was an activist in Aisiyah, a Muhammadiyah's women organization and had been its chairperson for 20 years. She graduated from Muhammadiyah's teaching school 'Hogere Indlansche Kweekschool'. She was a member of Masyumi party in the 1950s. She was awarded 'The Central Java Best Mother' in 1985.
Amien's siblings are Fatimah (a daughter, the first child), Abdul Rozak, Ahmad Dahlan, Siti Aisyah and Siti Asyiah. They were brought up with strict discipline as their mother taught them. On various occasions, Amien Rais said that his mother influenced his life. He always took time to meet or to consult with his mother - who died on 14 September 2001.
Amien married his childhood friend, Kusnasriyati Sri Rahayu in 1969. During their ten years of marriage, they had had no child despite various medical treatments. In Mecca - on their Haj pilgrimage - they prayed to God in front of the Kaaba hoping that God would give them children. Two months later, Mrs. Rais was pregnant. The couple now have 5 children (Ahmad Hanafi, Hanum Salsabiela, Ahmad Mumtaz, Tasniem Fauzia and Ahmad Baihaqy).
When in primary school, Amien wanted to be a mayor which was inspired by Muhammad Saleh, the then mayor of Surakarta. Saleh was a respected person in his tenure. But in senior high school, Amien made up his mind and wanted to be an ambassador. This may have led him to enroll in the International Relations department in Gadjah Mada University. Amien graduated from the university in 1968 and attended Al Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt as a student fellow until 1969. Amien earned his master's degree from University of Notre Dame, Indiana in 1974. His thesis was on Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's foreign policy. In 1984, he earned a Ph.D. degree in political science from the University of Chicago. His thesis was 'The Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt: Its Rise, Demise and Resurgence'. In 1988, he attended a post-doctoral program in George Washington University, Washington, DC.
Activities in Muhammadiyah and ICMI
After his studies in the United States, he was a Middle East specialist and was noted for being a critic of US foreign policy. Controversially, Rais learned a lot about human rights and democracy in the US. Amien Rais' activities in Muhammadiyah began in 1985 when he led The Council of Preacher (Majelis Tabligh). Later in 1990, Rais was vice chairman elected in a convention (muktamar) in Yogyakarta. Amien Rais was also active in the newly established ICMI (Ikatan Cendikiawan Muslim Indonesia), the Muslim Scholars Association. Rais led ICMI's Expert Council, but resigned in 1997 under pressure from Suharto because he argued on the Busang and the Freeport cases. In 1995, Rais replaced Azhar Basyir, then the chairman of Muhammadiyah, who died soon after his re-election. In 1993, at a Muhammadiyah mid-term meeting (Tanwir) in Surabaya, Rais urged a presidential succession, a very rare issue amid the New Order regime. The political and economical decay in Indonesia during the 90s had Rais call for a controversial issue: political reform. Amien Rais' calls were one of the many catalysts that led to the eventual downfall of the New Order regime. This made him enemy number one for the Suharto administration.
In 1998, Amien Rais became an outspoken critic, and allied himself with the reform movement. However, this would also force the New Order regime to ban any demonstration reflecting the people's voice regarding Reformasi. In May 1998, Jakarta was in chaos following rioting in some parts of the city. The army and the police forces were unable to handle the situation. Meanwhile, President Suharto embarked on a state visit to Cairo, Egypt. Upon his return from Cairo, Suharto learned that the situation was out of control. Several days later, he invited some prominent Muslim figures - including Abdurrahman Wahid, Emha Ainun Najib, Nurcholis Madjid and Malik Fajar - to discuss the nation's current condition. Suharto proposed to establish a Reform Committee, to reshuffle the cabinet ministers and to resign from the presidency within 6 months. This was not responded to by those who attended the meeting. Suharto panicked as 14 of his ministers resigned from the cabinet. On 20 May, Amien Rais cancelled the mass rally to Monas square as an army general threatened to make "another Tiananmen" should he do so. Less than 24 hours later, Suharto resigned from his office and was replaced by Vice President B.J. Habibie. Habibie had previously lived in Aachen, Germany.
Amien Rais and other reformists established the National Mandate Party (Partai Amanat Nasional/PAN) on 6 August 1998. Amien Rais was elected its first chairman with Faisal Basri as secretary general. Therefore, his position in Muhammadiyah was replaced by vice chairman Ahmad Syafi'i Maarif. PAN gained 6 percent of the vote in the 1999 election but failed to nominate Rais as a presidential candidate. However, political compromise allowed Amien to lead the People Consultative Assembly (MPR ). As a king maker, Amien Rais and other Islam parties and Golkar elected Abdurrahman Wahid as president and Megawati Sukarnoputri as vice president. Amien Rais was also a leading figure in the Indonesian constitution amendment process.
Amien Rais ran and lost in the 2004 presidential election. He and running mate Siswono Yudohusodo were nominated by PAN, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and some small political parties, and finished in the fourth place with 15% of the vote.
Amien Rais is currently the Chairman of PAN's Advisory Board, Muhammadiyah's Advisory Board, and is a professor at Gadjah Mada University. One of the founders of PAN, Abdillah Toha criticized him for his controversial statements and inconsistencies on many issues including his support on changing local elections to be indirect, and called him a "traitor of the Reform".
In a corruption scandal trial of a former Health Minister, Amien Rais was reported to have received funds related the case. He did not deny and admitted that he had received the fund but then accused the Corruption Eradication Commission of being an incompetent, dirty organization.
- (in Indonesian)King Maker on Nationwide Political Stage
- (in Indonesian)Biography: Prof Dr H.M. Amien Rais, MA
|Chairman of IndonesianPeople's Consultative Assembly
Hidayat Nur Wahid
|Chairman of National Mandate Party
|Chairman of Muhammadiyah
Ahmad Syafi'i Maarif