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Feature | April 23, 2020

Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama response to COVID-19

By Mark Woodward (Minerva)

In the recent article by Minerva-funded researcher, Mark Woodward, he discusses how Indonesia was not prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic is posing unprecedented challenges for Muslims with the fasting month of Ramadan beginning 23 March. Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) is the largest Indonesian Muslim organization and they altered customary Ramadan activities to prevent them from becoming venues for transmitting the contagion. NU faces a unique, vexing set of challenges for two reasons. The first is organizational. NU is a loosely structured federation of independent religious boarding schools (pesantren) each led by a charismatic Muslim scholar (Kyai). Loyalties are as much, if not more, to an individual Kyai than to the NU. The second challenge is how to bring some sense of religious meaning to the COVID-19 pandemic.