donderdag 16 oktober 2014

Asian Library in Leiden

We saw manypeople, but only few books at the official opening of the Asian Library in Leiden, 15 October 2014. The old theatre inthe Lipsius Building was more than fully booked for the inevitable lecturfes preceding to opening in the library building. Interest in Indonesian and Carribian Studies is still a sentimental affair and this was given 30 minutes for Adriaan van Dis who was born in the Netherlands in 1946 as the only child in a family that had dramatic experiences in Indonesia (the first spouses of father and mother died during the Pacific war; his father worked on the Pekanbaru railway). So, 'it was blood that counts' described Van Dis early society in the Netherlands of the 1950s and 1960s.
After the lecture there was a debate with David Henley, Henk Schulte Nordholt and Elizabeth Pisani, author of a book Indonesia etc. Exploring the Improbable Nation. She commented on the Indonesian Declaration of Independence: not a long and elaborated manifesto but just the fact of independence was mentioned and 'everything else will be regulated later..' bisa diatur nanti..The interest of cultural knowledge is directed towards the contemporary period, not the old books and manuscripts that made KITLV so important, but research on the modern developments. And here we saw a learned trio of people who commented in a journalistic style on the modern development.
The commentators were rather pessimistic about the possibilities for Jokowi, because his economic vision is not so clear and maybe not realistic, considered his weak basis in parliament. And Henk SH said: and still there is economic growth of 5% per year during the last decade!  Corruption: the best way tocombat corruption is to set a good example. Maybe, in fact some things cannot be beaten totally, but restricted, brought under some control.

Ambassador Retno Marsudi had nice words about the 'special relation' between the Netherlands and Indonesia.

Then we moved to the other side of the canal, Witte Singel, following the KILV books that are now in that new building. There was a nice atmosphere, some good food and more even, good people.
 Pram Sutikno, KITLV librarian between 1975-1993, stood in a modest way somewhere in the back row, surprised that watching so many people he had to conclude that he did not know so many people in the big audience. The books will remain, people change: they write new books, mostly taken from the older ones and from their own experiences. I heard that less and less books will be stored in the main building: they must be removed, in order to give more place to people. That is in some respect a nice policy and we trust that we will be able to find and borrow the books.

woensdag 8 oktober 2014

State Radicalism in Indonesia?

I am preparing a lecture for Nagoya (Nanzan University) and Tokyo (Sophia), where I will give some views on modern religious development in Indonesia, also seen through the eyes of Catholics. This is more or less another phase in my 'serial conversions': after finishing the third volume on Catholics in Indonesia, I will more turn to Muslim developments.

1° In 1984 Husnul Aqib Suminto defended his doctoral dissertation on  the Islamic policy of the Dutch colonial government. His main argument was that the devotional activities, prayers, pilgrimage, celebration of holidays, building, maintenance of mosques, the ‘strict religious’ practices of Muslim could be continued and even sometimes supported (religious courts for marriage, inheritance), but that political activities were severely controlled, supervised and quickly forbidden. Alfian (alsi nicknamed Alfian Alit, little Alfian, who wrote on Muhammadiyah in the late colonial period, to differentiate from Ibrahim Alfian, the tall Acehnese scholar) asked him whether there was a difference between colonial and modern Indonesian strategy towards Islam under Suharto. The audience laughed, because it was not really a question but rather a statement and Suminto politely answered that in fact there was not much difference.

                Things were changing already at that time. As I see it, a policy of distance between government administration and the life of religions made a substantial turn in 1974 with a more active role for the major religion in the administration of marriage. This increased in 1989-1991 with the law and the guidelines for religious courts. As sketched above the administration has since then taken more steps towards public support of implementation of religious rules and values, with under the period of Reformasi as major developments the introductions of shari’a rules in Aceh and about 10% of all districts, more religious education according to the religion of the pupils and in 2008 the law on or rather against pornography and porno-action. A dark development since then has been severe measures against Ahmadiyyah and Shi’a Muslims, heavily supported by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Minister of Religions Suryadharma Ali. It must be awaited how the new administration of Joko Widodo will handle this policy.

2° In 2006 Andrée Feillard and Rémy Madinier, two French scholars, published their book La Fin de l’innocence? L’islam indonésien face à la tentation radical, de 1967 à nos jours. It was published in an English version in 2011 with the subtitle of Indonesian Islam and the Temptation of radicalism. They seek the roots of the radical Islam in the secessionist Darul Islam movement of the 1950s, of conservatism in Muhammadiyah, since it vety beginning, in Dakwah since the beginning of the new order of Soeharto, the radical activities in the big campuses of the country (Bandung, Yogyakarta), while FPI, the Muslim Defence League from August 1998, Lasykar Jihad and similar movement were the radical continuation in the period of the Reformasi.
                In 2011 Bob Heffner published an article with the challenging title of ‘Where have all the abangan gone?’ Where are these non-dogmatic, somewhat syncretist Muslim, still seen as the majority of the Javanese Muslim in the 1960s and 1980s? He considered religious education by orthodox teachers at state schools as a major factor. In 2013 Martin van Bruinessen published a book with the title: Contemporary Development in Indonesian Islam: Explaining the ‘Conservative Turn’, where a major significance was given to the end of the centralistic Suharto government and the rise of populist Muslim orthodox parties.

3° In this contribution we take the longer period and see a continuity in the development since 1974 when the Ministry of Religion was no longer a pure administrative unit, but could start to play a more active role in one of the basic elements of daily life of Muslims: family and marriage. Until the law on pornography of 2008 this has increased. Perhaps we should even go back to the colonial period when the Dutch took over the role over the former sultans and other rulers as heads of religion, much more than the French who strongly defended a secular society and the British who held the system of indirect rule. Bousquet wrote in the 1930s already a critical, not say a nasty description of this pro-active policy of the Dutch. Is this a (not the only) explanation for the state supported-radicalism of modern Indonesian Islam?

zaterdag 6 september 2014

Lukman Hakim Saifuddin

After the terrible period of SDA, Suryadharma Ali, now a fresh new minister gets a much better record. He is from a NU dynasty, because his father Saifuddin Zuhri was leader of a pesantren (and wrote a nice humorous book, a novel rather than a treatise) and the 9th minister of religion in Indonesia. But Lukman Hakim studied in Gontor, which is not really a NU based institution. From 2004-2014 he was a parliament member for PPP. He received positive reviews, but will he be acceptable for PKB as the next minister of religion?  Anyway he was a PPP partisan and that is different from PKB.
On 15 July, only one month after being appointed (on 9 June 2014), he invited Ahmadiyyah and Shi'a representatives for an infar  meal in his house, besides Sunda Wiwitan (a reconstruction of the original Sunda religious traditions) and Parmalim (Batak traditionalists). Since then he also has made a good name in blaming ISIS, the terrorists of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and proposing that Bahai should have some status as a religious community. This is complicated, because what is then the definition of religion?

Berkas:Lukman Hakim Saifudin.jpg 
Not everything is OK with his statements. A few days ago he celebrated 50 years of marriage law of 1974 and defended his position that mixed marriage should not be allowed in Indonesia, because religion must be dominant in the definition of marriage law. Besides, who should be dominant in a mixed family: the religion of father or mother? Well that sounds perhaps reasonable, but reality is different: there are mixed couples and they have to be accepted anyway: you cannot exclude or deny them.One Anbar Jayadi has made a case against the ban on mixed marriage with the MK Mahkamah Konstitusi, stating that the ban on mixed religious marriage is conflicting with the Indonesian Constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion.

                While completing the text for my talk in Nagoya and Tokyo, next month, there was an interesting message from Dr. Machasin, prominent advisor to the new Minister of Religion, Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, who took the position after SDA, Suryadharma Ali has to leave the function on 27 May 2014 due to suspicion of corruption. This fresh new minister declared on 20 September 2014 that one of his duties should be to give more attention to those people who do not follow one of the six major religions. Examples given are Baha’i, Taoism, Kaharingan (local renewal of Dayak religion), Jewish religion. 

Sahiron Syamsuddin and the Mutashabihat of Muhammad Shahrur

The Arab root of sh.b.h. has the meaning of ´to make equal or similar´or ´to resemble´.
It is used in Sura 4,153: shubiha lahum, it seemed to them as if they had crucified him, Jesus. This verse is also a first example of mutashabihat, or verses which have a dubious meaning. One may interpret this as if the Jews saw the body of Jesus, but it was in fact fake, it was a different body that was substituted for the 'real Jesus' and in fact it was someone else (Pontius Pilate? Judas? Simon of Cyrene?). We also may interpret this in the sense of the pride of Muslum in/after the battle of Badr who claimed that 'they had killed the enemies', but Qur'an 8:17 says: you did not kill them I have killed them.

A second meaning of mutashabihat is related to the idea of antropomorphism: God lookes like human beings, talks, sees, sits on a throne and is great.
 A third meaning is about verses or short phrases that are similar in wording and are put twice, sometimes even three times in the Qur'an. I even found a website, quite practical that gives many examples of this practice: Then we may ask why these doubles phrases are so frequent in the Qur'an?
Dr. Sahiron Syamsuddin 
I mention these possibilities, because Dr. Sahiron Syamsuddin of the UIN of Yogyakarta is now translating with some of his PhD Students my book on the Jesus Verses of the Qur'an. Sahiron himself hold a PhD from the University of Bamberg (2006). The title of his dissertation is Die Koranhermeneutik Muhammad Sahrurs und ihre Beurteiling aus der Sich muslimischer Autoren, Würzburg: Ergon 2009. In this book he studies the theories of the Egyptian scholar Muhammad Shahrur, from Damascus, a Syrian, born in 1938 who studied between 1958 and 1964 engineering in Moscow and later for some time in Dublin (1968-9). He specialized in soil mechanics, and foundation engineering. He taught between 1972 and 1998 in Damascus University. In the 1980s he published also some articles and in 1990 his first book on Qur'an interpretation. His vision is that a modern reader should not forget his modern science, but also apply his own knowledge and vision in the interpretation of the Qur'an. This is the general idea of hermeneutics: meaning is the result of communication between the sacred text and the reader. He applied this in the mathematical results of reading about inheritance (sura 4:11-12), on polygamy but also on the story of Noah and the technical details of the construction of the vessel that should rescue Noah's family. It is a quite detailed and complicated book: much about general theories, but also some clear examples. I trust that the translation of the book on Jesus will be clear and helpful as well.

woensdag 3 september 2014

The inter-religious harmony of VOC regulations and treaties

These days I am busy reading about Frederick de Houtman for the CMR project, the bibliographical history of Christian-Muslim Relations.
One of the major issues in the contribution on De Houtman will be the treaties he coined with Muslim rulers in the archipelago, especially in Ambon (26 August 1609) and another of 1 July 1620).