zaterdag 7 maart 2015

Jacob van Neck and abangan

I am now quite busi with CMR, Christian-Muslim Relation, a Bibliographical History. Six volumes have been published an now I am writing for volume 8: the first to be published in the 17th century. One of the great figures is Jacob van Neck who went twice to the East Indies, was the first to make great profit, return quickly and write in a quite modest and peaceful way about Muslim-Christian relations, at least positive observations of what he (and other, because part of his writings is based upon the observation of others) really saw in the East.
Part of my entry on Van Neck is about the contrast between Muslim doctrines, or the written accounts of Muslim, and the concrete or practical observations. While the written doctrines often are rejected as heresy, nonsensical phantasy or simple false doctrines, the first men who came to the Indies were really surprised to see the simple Muslim ceremonies, people praying, burying their dead people, more or less in the same way as Christians would do it. In the concrete encounters it is honest observation and even sometimes admiration. I write then that 'One may even speculate whether the later theory that these Indonesians were not truly Muslims, has its origin in the factual and somewhat romantic image by the first visitors to these territories' The Indonesians are not Arabs and anything positive in Islam is then qualified as non-Arab and non-Muslim.
People in Amsterdam were happy with the return of the rich fleet of Van Neck. Below a painting celebrating his return.

Rahardi and the Return of Jesus

F. Rahardi has been mentioned earlier in a short reflections about his book on the Catholic priest who wroked in Lembata. He is able to mix religion with some funny, or even absurdist stories. This is even more the case in his book of 2009 Para Calon Presiden (Yogyakarta: Penerbit Lamalera). It begins with a message that Jesus is returning to the earth and, after descending in Jerusalem (on the temple mount),coming to Indonesia with an aircraft of the Jordanian Army, to Ngurah Rai in Bali. It turns out to be different: he comes to Tengger first. After a few days in Tengger, he moves to West Java, where he has meetings with politicans near the top of the mountain Gede and in Cibodas. Together with the trips of Jesus, who meets Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Megawati, there is also a description of the elections campaigns of 2009 with important roles for Jusuf Kall, the Sultan of Yogyakarta (hesitating whether he will wanbt to become President, or Vice-President or just Ratu Adil). Jesus does not want to interfere in Indonesian politics, he stays out of the actions of the success teams for the various candidates, but only gives them moral support.
In fact Rahardi has writte a political novel, satire about political life in Indonesia. For Jesus he switches between Christian and Muslim terminologies: Jesus Kristus, Nabi Isa Alaihissalam. The Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Council of Churches are surprised that Jesus could come and the feelnot happy with the situation. They doubt. An official statement of the Bishop says that they still have to do inquiries 'whether the person who claims to ne Jesus, is really Jesus, the Son of God.' They stress that people now have to mee Jesus in the Eucharist. The Protestant Council of Churches wants to meet Jesus in reading Scripture. Also MUI, the National Council of Muslim Clercs, abstains from a judgment: this Jesus is involved in the national political elections and the MUI wants to remain out of politics.
On pages 279-280 the journalists put some questions to Jesus: how is his relation to Mary Magdalene? Who was his biological father? Was Jesus ever in Tibet? 'Well, about my biological father, you should ask Mary rather than me, because she is my biological mother. But I am never angry about naughty questions, nor my mother Mary. Only my followers may become angry about these questions.  ... Some talk about a Roman soldier, or some scholar in the text of the Torah. I am not worried about these things,because legally Joseph or Yusuf is my father.' Also about some stories about Jesus that are very similar to stories of the Buddha and Krishna: 'Indeed, that is the risk of being born some centuries after these figures.' Lovely light hearted writings. I wondered how this could happen: in the 1970s there was much problems about the story of the descent of Muhammad to the earth by Ki Panjikusmin, published by H.B. Yassin: court cases and intimidation. Is Rahardi not so well known or has the climate changed?

dinsdag 3 maart 2015

Indonesian Islam is 'colourful and relaxed', fit for export according to Azyumardi Azra

During the last few years I have given several times a course of eight lectures on international Islam. These courses start with the three central countries of early Islam: Arabia, Persia, Turkey. They are followed by convert after 1000CE: Indian subcontinent, Indonesia, African Muslims. No 7 is the modern Islam in the West and last session for conclusions. For each Muslim culture modern novels were discussed besides the historical and cultural data. Always the conclusion was that the Muslim world is very diverse.
This is also a main theme in an interview in the daily TROUW of 2 March 2015. Reporter Wouter van Cleef (living in Japan) had a talk with Azyumardi Azra of the Jakarta Syarif hidayatullah UIN (Universitas Islam Negeri). The title was: Exporteer de kleurrijke en relaxte islam van Indonesië. This reminded me of an observation by G. Drewes in 1955 (in a book on the Muslim Word by Grünebaum): they were always good followers, they never have taken the lead.  In Mecca, in Damascus, in Cairo they were industrious students, but not leading reformers.
Here Azyumardi expresses the need for a Muslim Enlightenment that could and should start from the moderate and modern Indonesian style of Islam. Important is that the two great organizations (Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama) may count on some 150 million members or sympathizers. Moreover there is a strong sufi interest and concern among Indonesian Muslims. Arab traditions like wahabi Islam are too 'dry' for Indonesians.
In the period of Yudhoyono some politicans sought support from radical islamists, sectarian groups and therefore under his presidency these radical groups could begin violence and not much action was taken against this. Indonesians have tried to propagate their model in a modest way to other countries, but they have not continued these actions. Another problem is that Indonesians have a big market where they can use Indonesian and they do not often publish articles or books in Arabic or in English. Good to read this in a Dutch newspaper!
Also in the Netherlands the Indonesian Muslims are modest. Indeed, they are a minority among larger groups of Turkish and Moroccan Muslims. But quite a few hardline preachers from Syria and Egypt have a following among various nations, while the Indonesian Muslims mostly only seek a following among themselves. A nice exception of Ahmed Pattisahusiwa as Sufi shaykh of Indonesian/Moluccan offspring who preaches the Haqqani-Naqshbandi variant of sufism according to Shaykh Nazim al-Qubrusi (from Cyprus). My students loved to go there to see the darwishes dwirling!
A nice observation is the trouble in the Middle East about cartoons like those of Charlie Hebdo. They have little experience with secular people in their society and do no know how to react.

zaterdag 7 februari 2015

The conversion of Sergeant Nicholas Brody

At home Paule and I are watching the TV series Homeland. It is quite an undertaking: we have the 4 series, 12 hour each. In total it is 48 hours or  even more. Watching two shows on one evening it still will take us about a month to see the whole series. It is wonderful to see how many people have commented on the series on the Internet. It seems to be the favorite series of President Barack Obama.
From the first show it was striking to me how sergeant Brody (convert to Islam during his 8 years of prison in Irak; the Stockholm syndrome) performed his prayers in his garage during the night. Taking ablutions first, then a simple prayer rug, the Fatiha spoken in a quite hesitant way of a mu'allaf, a recent convert (one would expect him saying it in the usual fast way Muslims do after years of experience. I can recite al-Fatiha in one breath only: Catholics pray the rosary in the same fast way as Muslims recite their prayers). The prayer of Brody is a solemn, quiet and somewhat mysterious element in the series.
In Caracas Brody is taken as a prisoner/important asset to receive a fortune, in Tower of David, we hear the sound of the azan, the call to prayer (quite illogical: so loud and dominating this big city, but there is so much irrational in the series) he flees to to the imam of the mosque and says a few short sentences, hesitant in fusha the formal Arabic speech not the colloquial he could hear from the people who guarded him in the eight years in prison.
Brody here praying with Issa, the little boy who later was killed by a drone and the vice-president is blamed for this action. Therefore Brody hates this man and consents/is happy with his being killed. 
Also Dana, the daughter of Brody incidentally imitates the prayer of her father, although she does not know much about it: it seems to be quite impressive to see the Muslim prayer. It is more or less a quiet dance, where gestures are more important than words. And even the words are quite few.
Some comments talk about Islamophobia in the series, a negative image of Muslims just as terrorists. But definitely the prayer sections have a mystical and peaceful character. On the whole the series shows a very multi-ethnic and multicultural America. One special character is the veiled young women who is a specialist in bank affairs.

woensdag 4 februari 2015

D'Albuquerque, Rinkes and Knaap

Last month I received volume six of the series Christian-Muslim Relations. A Bibliographical History, edited by David Thomas and John Chesworth. A new section editor for the Netherlands, I attended the yearly conference in Birmingham, September 2014. Volume 6, 890 pages, is the first volume about the 16th century. It has many different approaches. I wrote myself about Erasmus (should European countries start war against Turkish agression: 1529 in Vienna)? and Michael Servet (quoting the Qur'an as part of his attack on Trinity; became a martyr in Geneva, condemned by John Calvin). There are many other entries: British drama by Chrstiopher Marlowe about Timurlang or Tamburlaine the Great, pictured as a liberal freethinker,criticising allmajor religions. One is about Afonso de Albuquerque (pp. 318-327), the architect of the Portuguese settlements in Asia, especially in India.
 In 1909 Douwe Rinkes defended his doctoral dissertation in Leiden (under supervision of Snouck Hurgronje). One of the short statements, traditionally added to this dissertation, is as follows: It has to be regretted, with a view on the permanent global domination of the Caucasian race, that d'Alboquerque could not execute his plan to conquer Mecca. (My translation from the Dutch. In 1513 D'Albuquerque attacked Aden and so wanted to start an Arabian campaign, but he was not even successful in the attack on Aden. He died in 1515.
This brought to my mind again the debate about the difference between Dutch and Portuguese/Spanish colonialism. Were the Dutch traders and the Iberians hardline conquerers? Is this the difference between Sinbad the trader and the cowboy (as once contrasted by Fatima Mernissi, where the cowboy was George Bush)? Gerrit Knaap held his inaugural lecture on 10 October 2014 as Professor of Overseas and Colonial History in Utrecht.
 Knaap makes a strong argument against those who label the Dutch East India Company or VOC as a simple trading company. His title was: The Core Business of the VOC: Market, power and inspiration from an overseas perspective. In the Netherlands the VOC behaves as a trading company, but when anaylyzing its tactics, the number of its personnel (on an expedition of 400 personnel, only few were traders, the majority soldiers) then there was a strong military basis for the trading factories. The 'trading posts' looked more like military base than as a market. The mindset of a VOC leader overseas was more that of a statesman and military than that of a trader. The VOC mindset therefore can be better defined as an imperialis attitude.
There is a possibility to contrast the 16th century Iberians as continuing the Reconquista, while Dutch (and British, French, Danish) colonialism at least began as a trading business. In fact, writing about the two brothers Houtman for volume 10 or so in this CMR series, it proved that there was a contrast: Cornelis de Houtman was a brute sailor, ready to use arms and take the stuff (pepper, nutmeg, any spices), while his brother was the diplomat who showed much more respect and interest for the people he visited. But the overall result was in fact that the Dutch were not only building an empire after 1800, after the 'trading period' of the VOC: their style of doing overseas business did in fact not so much differ from that of the Iberians. There were soft and hardline Iberians, and so it was among the Dutch.
Azyumardi Azra wrote in our History of Christianity in Indonesia a very lucid chapter II about the Race between Islam and Christianity in the Malay Archipelago, 1530-1670? He depicts the Iberians as fostering great hopes for massive conversion, which did not materialise. The Dutch were less outspoken in their religious concerns. But both parties had priorities for strong fortified settlements and political power. They did not just come as visitors for trade, but considered some permanent power basis as necessary.
In my own description (Dutch Colonialism and Indonesian Islam) I make the distinction between the first explorations (people who wrote positive descriptions of pious Muslims and quiet mosques) and later colonial officials who did not really trust Muslims. This may be corrected in this way that from the beginning there were the doves, the diplomats versus the warriors, those who sought power and domination.

zondag 18 januari 2015


F. Rahardi is mentioned earlier in the Dutch section blog as the author of the wise and funny book Para Calon Presiden, where Jesus returns to this world to give some insights related to the election of a new President of Indonesia in 2009. My second book of Rahardi is not less wise and funny at the same time. It has the title Lembata, also pbulished by Bone Beding at Penerbit Lamalera, July 2008, 256 pages, in Wijirejo, Bantul DIJ.
The main figure here is a diocesan priest, Romo Pedro, who returns from a Bachelor Study in economy in Jakarta (Atma Jaya University) to Larantuka. He is sent to the extremely poor island of Lembata, to serve as an assistent priest in a parish. he is in company of a bright and good looking young lady of Menadonese offspring, Luciola. Her father is very rich, through the management of casinos in the big places of the world, Monte Carlo, Las Vegas. She only gives a nice amount of money for the CU, Credit Union in Lembata, but then disappears. (There is a warning of Pedro about the Crdit Union: money should not be used for consumption, to finance big feasts, but for investment). Her trips to Singapore, Europe (Monaco, Rome, Lourdes, Amsterdam) and Latin America are in sharp contrast to the sober life of dry Lembata.
On p. 24 the Dean of Lembata gives a summary of the history of Catholicism: it was brought by the Dominican Friars in the 17th century. The Jesuits of the 19th century reformed the liturgy, the SVD brought education and better health care. In the 21st century the diocesan priests must bring prosperity for the poor and halt poverty.
Romo Pedro begins his work in the Catholic parish. At one moment he discusses the expensive wine and hosts that is imported from Australia and the USA. Why should church law not allow the use of local alcoholic beverage, moke and local food, roasted corn chips or jagung titi? Once at Sunday Mass he preaches about the idea and practises it immediately. One third of the parish leaves the church, one third takes from the blessed moke and jagung titi. One third stays in the church but does not participate.
Rome Pedro is summoned to the bishop, comes to Larantuka, but has written already his letter of resignation.
Pedro returns to Lembata and starts a project to grow wheat and grapes. He had saved some money from high school on and is given some land high on the mountain where it is cool and wet during the nights. It is quite successful and this development project helps to give an income to poor people.
There is also a debate about plans to start a gold mine in Lembata: NGOs from outside the island protest, but local people (with a corrupt bupati leading) support the possibility for development.
Luciola tried to seduce Pedro to marry her, but he remains celibate and even is rehabilitated as a priest in the end of the book. Ola, as the lady is often called, discovered lesbian love in Latin America, but visits Lembata again in the final chapter of the book. Her wild life story makes the book more lively than just the pious novel of a modern priest.
The whole style of the book is less dramatic than Rahadi by Mangunwijaya or Saman by Ayu Utami. I enjoyed this book also very much as a third important novel about a modern Catholic priest.

Sayyid Uthman

Among the 19th century Muslims of Indonesia, Sayyid Uthman (1822-1914) is definitely an important figure. He wrote and published many popular pamphlets and books with his lithographical press in Batavia. He was born in Batavia, studied and travelled in the Middle East (Mecca, Hadramaut, also in Egypt (Damietta), Istanbul, Jerusalem, between 1841-1862. From the 1860s on he was as an author and publisher of religious pamphlets and more serious books. He worked close with three Dutch scholars: Karel Frederik Holle, L.W.C. van den Berg and finally Snouck Hurgronje. After Snouck left the Indies, he remained close to the Kantor Agama, the Malay name for the Office of the Advisor of Native Affairs. On 13 March 1913 he held a uite positive speech at a meeting of Sarekat Islam, the nationalist organization. Before he had been very critical of all Reformists: Muhammad 'Abduh and Rashid Rida in Egypte and also the Indonesian Muhammadiyah.
Nico Kaptein has been working for many years on this prominent Muslim leader of Indonesia and published late last year a biography of the man.The book starts with two Malay biographies of Sayid Uthman between his death and 1924, one in poetry (a Malay syair) and one in prose. In a second part of the book Kaptein gives a biography from Dutch sources and from hiw own writings. The analysis of the writings is a very important part of this book (Islam, Colonialism and the New Age in the Netherlands East Indies. A Biography of Sayyid 'Uthman, 1822-1923, Leiden: Brill, 2014).
Last week I visited the exhibition that was prepared on this important figure, with explanations by Nico Kaptein himself.
One of the most astonishing objects of the exhibition is the stone used for lithography: a quite big stone is covered with fat, then the text or the drawings are put in the fat in mirror writing. Ink is put in the empty places and so page after page can be printed. It is a quite time consuming, but also difficult job, because of the very fine lines. If we see the personal character of the writing, the fine lines in the decorations we are astonished to see how this simple technology can create such refined results. Our generation, writing on computers, has much easier technology for the texts!
The exhibition showed some more special objects. One was a photograph of the office of the Dutch consul in Jeddah where Agus Salim was the secretary. On the picture below he is on the extreme left behind the table, still a young man. The Indonesian pilgrims had to show their passport in order to receive a stamp from the consul (and of course to pay for this service!)
Sayid Uthman was not a reformist. He was a staunch defender of what he considered as orthodoxy, but in a realistic way. He did not support any idea of a Holy War against colonialism, as long as freedom of religion was guarenteed, mosques could be built, prayers said, Ramadan observed and the Hajj could be performed in a proper way. Some modernizations were supported by him. He would be astonished to see in Indonesia now so many Friday services in so many places. He defended to right of one mosque in one place and became involved in several conflicts over new mosques who also wanted to offer Friday prayers, including the regular sermon. As to some modern devices he was lenient. He did not forbid to listen to a phonographic recording of the Qur'an, although it did not give the same reward as listening to a live recital. He also allowed prayers for the Dutch Queen and even composed  a prayer at the occasion of the coronation of Queen Wilhelmina in 1898.
There is some kind of a dynasty of ther learned Sayid. The exhibition has a decorated and coloured poem at the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the rule of the Dutch Queen Wilhelmina in 1923.
His grave is still honoured by members of his family in Jatinegara. But now there is also the academic book, published by the Leiden scholar Kaptein with many new details of the long and eventful life of this traditional scholar.