donderdag 14 mei 2015

'According to their religion'

Cartoons on Islamic subjects are hot issues these days. They show that anyway Islam is a much debated subject, so different from the late 1960s when I started my study of Islam. A funny cartoon was in De Volkskrant this week.
Two veiled women, dressed along the proper Muslim dress code look at some young Western women, with their outfit as usual for spring and summer and one says: "This is their religion. It demands that women dress in this way."

Six Volumes about Protestantism in East Indonesia under VOC Patronate. A conversion of Tom van den End

On 8 May 2015 there was a festive meeting in the centre of The Hague, in the building of the Royal Library at the occasion of the presnetation of the six volumes of Bronnen betreffende de geschiedenis van Kerk en School in de gouvernementen Ambon, Ternate en Banda ten tijde van de Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (VOC), 1605-1791. They are available, for free, on the internet HuygensKNAW.nl, but it is also possible to buy printed copies of this series.
This long title is the complete name for the completion of a progamme that started in the mid-1990s. After Tom van den End had published with Chris de Jong en Mariette van Selm nine volumes on the period after 1800, Henk Niemeijer was commissioned to work on publication of the VOC religious archives. For the church council of Batavia this work had been completed already during the colonial period. Now the archives of the correspondance between Ambon, Ternate, Banda with the central church council in Batavia have been published. It was a happening with interesting talks. Gerrit Knaap opened the session as the representative of Huygens Institute for Dutch History.
Prof. Jos Gomman of Leiden University (non-Western, mostly colonial history, but not a specialist for Indonesia) started with an interesting talk on regions outside Indonesia. On one of the pictures he showed, we see here an image from the court of the Mugals: A Jesuit with his black cap is sitting besides Aurangzeb (with a turban) as a sign of the religious talks at the court in the Mugal Empire. (From Cornelius Hazart, Kerckelycke Historie, a very strong anti-Calvninist and anti-Muslim work by a Jesuit, around 1670).
Fred van Lieburg of the Free University of Amsterdam gave a talk on the place of Missionary History in modern research and gave a plea for including this history under the general label of Church or religious history.
The first truly to talk about VOC archives was Henk Nieumeijer, who was the executive researcher for the project, somehwre between 1995-200. Since he has worked with the TANAP programme and is now in Jakarta for Cort Stichting, to rescue archives in Jakarta. He found, selected archives, made the first transcription.

The final work on the publication of these sources was done by Tom van den End, between 2009 and 2015. He had a very interesting and personal talk about these many pages (some 3500 in print!). 1) He illustrated the modernity of the merchant: there was an efficient apparatus for disaster help, needed in cases of earth quakes, floods, starvation. It provided education (albeit mostly religious only) also for girls. 2) there was a high number of ministers who died at young age. 10% of the 253 ministers who were nominated for the Indies did not arrive in Batavia, but died during the journey. Many also did not survive the first months. 3) Many ministers wrote translations, sermons, hymns in Malay (although it was mostly translations). Van den End 'converted' in his opinion about Valentyn. Had was for 2/3 right in his plea to use the colloquial Malay of East Indonesia, especially Ambon and not the formal 'High Malay' of the royal/sultanate courts of more Western regions. 4) He resented the lack of personal document and more narrative texts. It is always very impersonal. 5) He was very angry about the constant negative reports about local Christians. It is one long complaint of these ministers (jammerklacht): they are stupid, do not know their religion, do not want to learn. Tom asked whether after about 200 years and the work of so many local teachers there was nothing more than that. He judged that the 19th century missionaries were absolutely different from the 17th and 18th century government officials/church ministers.

dinsdag 12 mei 2015

The Unfinished Journey of Hans Jansen

Hans (J.J.G.) Jansen, born in 1942 died on 5 May 2015, 'Liberation Day' in our country, the Netherlands. It was commemoration of 70 years freedom from German occupation.
Hans Jansen was born in a solid Reformed, Calvinist family. He studied Semitic languages and became a gifted teacher of Arabic. He wrote a quite thin (110 pages) doctoral dissertation on The Interpretation of the Koran in Modern Egypt and became a lecturer in Arabic at Leiden University. In his dissertation he gives description of biography and character of people from Muhammad Abduh to Amin al-Khuli, Kamil Husayn, Mahmud Shaltut and quite a few others. Together with Baljon (on Qur'an interpretation in Modern India) he suggested me initially to write a dissertation on modern Qur'an interpretation in Indonesia. Instead I turned to field research on pesantren education.
In the early 1980s he was Director of the Dutch Institute in Cairo. He told me in the later 1980s, when we both lived in Leiden, that he had turned atheist during the 1960 and 1970s, but that was quite inconvenient in Egypt where atheist are seen as Communists and unethical persons. Soot  decided to embrace Christianity again, but not in the style of a Dutch village and a local tradition, but the global tradition of Roman Catholicism. We had a debate about orthodoxy and the way to be member of a great tradition.Jansen wanted a total dedication, with my family we were active in the ecumenical and liberal academic parish.
Jansen was best as a teacher and translator of Arabic. He published an English translation of the ideological defence of the terrorists who had killed Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. He reproached fellow Rabists and scholars of Islam that they presented a too rosy image of Islam. He wanted to warn the world for the danger of Islam. Many of his fellow academics were in his words tièremondist, who always wanted to forgive people from the 'Third World', ask for understanding, blame Western countries for the mistakes and blunders in their former colonies.
He wrote a quite superficial book on the 'Profit to believe in God', in Dutch Het nut van God: social cohesion, friendliness, certainty in life. His best book is the two-volume critical study on the biography of the Prophet Muhammad.
During the last decade Jansen was more and more close to the Dutch politician Geert Wilders who has considers Islam as the greatest danger for the existence of the world. Jansen was member of the team that defended Wilders in court; he delivered texts for that terrible movie Fitna and published a strange apocalyptic book, Eindstrijd.
Eindstrijd means 'The Final Battle', here between the Liberal West and Traditional Islam. On the front page of the book we see a drawing, based on an art work made by Slowak artist Kristof Kitera for the office of the European Commission in Brussels. It is the map of the Netherlands, but the country is flooded, because it is the Low Country and only some minarets have survived.
There is sime tragic feeling at the untimely death of Hans Jansen. He was since 2014 one of the some 750 members of the European Parliament. Twice he was allowed to give a talk of one (!) minute in a nearly absurdist style. He never developed a balanced and more detailed study about Islam in general or of groups of it.

maandag 27 april 2015

Baskara between Sukarno and Soeharto

Baskara T. Wardaya is an Indonesian Jesuit priest, a doctor of history from Marquette University, Wisconsin. His doctoral dissertation was about the relations between USA and Indonesia, 1955-1965. He has published several books on the Tragedy of 1965, the need to give honest and detailed accounts of what happened in the period 1965-1980 with the great number of victims of the so-called anti-Communist killings (estaimated between half and one million).
Last week I read three of his publications. In 2007 he published Menguak Misteri Kekuasaan Soeharto (Yogyakarta: Galang Press, 2007) is a critical study of many aspects of the Soeharto government. The elections of 1955 were quite fair, but under Soeharto (after 1965) there was only manipulation and oppression. The Tragedy of 1965 must be cleard and accepted as part of Indonesia's Past, but in a critical way. Until now no open research had been possible. Baskara concentrates here on the injustice as to East Timor.
In 2012 Baskara published Luka Bangsa Luka Kita. Pelanggaran HAM Masa Lalu dan Tawaran Rekonsiliasi (Yogyakarta: Galang), where most of the book as a reprint of the official report by the National Committee of Human Rights about 'The Event of 1965-1966' (Peristiwa 1965-1966, to use a more neutral terminology.
In 2006 Baskara already published a book about modern Indonesian history, beginning with Sukarno attacking colonialism. The second chapter is about the involvement of the USA in several episodes of the Sukarno Period, especially the revolts of PRRI and Permesta. Third chapter is about the Tragedy of 1965, while the fourth a last chapter is a reappraisal of Sukarno as the Guru of the Indonesian Country and a comparison with Soeharto, which is more positive for Sukarno, although both leaders are blamed for authoritarian rule.
As to the tragedy of 1965 Baskara divided the reality in three issues: 1) what happened in Jakarta between 28 September-5 October 1965? He states again and again that the 'leaders' of G30S were member of the army, Angkatan Darat, like Soeharto, not of the navy or the air force, as is often mentioned. Soeharto knew some of them in person and met them just a few days previous to 30 September; 2) what happened between mid October and late December 1965? In Mid-October the kilings began in Semarang (Chinese) and Boyolali (Javanese farmers) and concentrated on Central Java. In Novembers this moved to East Java and in December it was in Bali that these atrocities took place in Bali with probably more than 100,000 dead. Who was the orgestrator, the dalang. It was definitely not Sukarno. The names of Soeharto and Sarwo Edhie (father in law of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, until 2014 President of Indonesia) are not mentioned. The ambassador of the USA is mentioned as someone who supported the killoings. But who was/were active in the field? 3) the long process of putting people in prison and out of society.
Baskara is not the only one to write about these issues. Many sections of the book 2006 were already published in the newspaper kompas and read at seminars. But he is open and outspoken. It is not the final study. I missed one element of the process here: who were the demonstrators against Sukarno in 1966? KAMI came together in the house of the Catholic students. Cosmas Batubara, a Catholic Batak, was an important drive behind the student protests against Communism and Sukarno. Fellow Jesuit Father Joop Beek, was also important in his influence on students. This could have been elaborated further!

Mufti Shaikh Dr. Shawqi Allam in Utrecht, 21 April 2015; mutual statements of takfir!

Dr. Shawqi Allam is Great Mufti of Al-Azhar and/or of Egypt. It is an official position in the Egyptian Islamic Republic, although he is elected for this functionby some kind of a senate of Al-Azhar University. He is in a position to check death penalties in Egypt. He was in the Netherlands for a goodwill trip, to promote Islam as a religion of peace, not of extremism and violence. He had an encounter with members of parliament, with the mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmad Aboutalib (born in Morocco, but since early youth in the Netherlands, respected member of the Labour Party and already in his second term as mayor of the second town of the country and the big harbour).
Dr. Sawqi Allam also gave a public lecture at Utrecht University. I was thionking of putting him the question what he should do with the death sentence for the leader of the Ikhwan al-Muslimin, but had no opportunity to ask him that question. He held his speech on "Islam and the challenge of religious extremism". According to Qur'an 2:143 the Muslims are ummatun wasatan, a people of the middle, justly balanced. Out of the 6000 verses of the Qur'an only 300 have a legal character. Out of the 60,000 prophetic traditions only some 2,00 are related to legal matters, while the rest is a general call to good moral character.
It was a funny place where he held his talk: the Maskeradezaal with the masks used at the procession for the anniversary of the university in the early decades of the 20th century.
Islam, is a flexible religion and adapted to the great civilizations of' Persians, Indians, Chinese and Greeks'.  Of course, I missed here the Indonesians.
Amr Riyad held a nice speech for him in fluent Arabic, as well as Christian Lange (below during the exhcange of gifsts).
One of the 'most common and influential manifestations of this ideological extremism is the phenomenon of infidelization (takfir)..' But these people are not true Muslims. At this instance I was thinking that 'Islam' is not a good concept to be used in academic discourse, because it is not clear what should be understood with Islam in practice. Extremists have their own definition while other reject that their Islam is real or true Islam. Muhammad Arkoun already stated more than 20 years ago that Islam should not be used in academic debate. Wilfred Cantwell Smith even some 50 years ago made statements that words like Buddhism, Islam, Christianity have ne clear meaning and should not be used further.


Crossing between Abrahamic Traditions

Christian Lange is Professor of Islamic Studies in Utrecht. His main interest is in mystical traditions, texts from the 10th-15th century, analyzed in an atmosphere that puts the intention of the authors central. What did they want to tell us?
He convened an international conference in Utrecht, 19-21 March 2015 under the tile of The aethetics of Crossing. Experiencing the beyond in Abrahamic Traditions.

The venue for the conference was close to the 'old city campus' of Utrecht University, but not in a university building, but in the evangelical church of Booth Straat. A quite solemn building with an old organ, but all modern equipment to make televesion recording of the spirited services with much music.
Martha Frederiks opened the conference.
Due to other obligations I could only attend the first session. It was a rich mixture of topics. Hans Belting (born 1934, worked at various German universities, but also in Vienna and the USA), is specialist in theory of esthetics and intercultural exchange. He held a very broad speech on exchange, especially in geometric figures and designs between Muslims, Indians and Christians.
He was followed by four presentations where the idea of (nearly) physical tasting the divine was central. It was not the critical mood of explaining religion with social-political history, but a very congenial atmosphere where the Christian, Jewish and Muslim texts were taken at face value. Laurens Minnema was sitting besides me. He had come because he likes the idea and practice of cross-cultural interpretations. We were both surprised by the irenic, creative and even sometimes somewhat uncritical atmosphere of the conbference. Until then.

zondag 19 april 2015

90 Years Nahdlatul Ulama

During the last months I have read the history of Muhammadiyah in Kotagede as written by Mitsuo Nakamura. That is a detailed survey of development in the large organization in a small town close to Yogyakarta. Much have changed since 1970. Schools and hospitals/clinics are no longer the centre, but NGOs, many small mosques and mushalla (from 2 mosques to more than 50 since 1970!). There is more acceptation of traditional javanese culture and no longer the easy rejection of TBC: Takhayyul, Bid'an and Churafat.Mitsuo wrote this extended version of his doctoral dissertation of the 1970s quite recently and it has now become an entirely new book.The review will appear in BKI.
After reading this book on Muhammadiyah I have turned to NU with the book by Nur Khalid Ridwan on NU _ Bangsa, 1914/2010. Martin van Bruinessen had a double copy and this made it possible to read it with taking notes. It is a book of small but many pages: 628 in total. in 104 short chapters many events and persons are presented. Bangsa stands here for other national organizations and most of all national politics, ministers, parliament. It has more the smell of traffic jams in Jakarta than the dust of quiet pesantren of East Java.
It begins with the many organizations that preceded Nahdlatul Ulama. In 1914 Wahab Hasbullah began with Tashwirul Afkar in Surabaya (also Mitsuo has many other organizations in the 1910s and 1920s, finallymerging with Muhammadiyah).. Wahhabism is decribed as a cruel organization: the victory in Arabia in the 1920s cost the life of about half a million Muslims (43). Chapter 9 is about the japanese period, where some Nu people were active in Masyumi. There was Tan Malaka, Darul Islam: left and right as danger for the Indonesian State. SMK is Kartosuwirjo, Denhaq is The Hague (106: the book is full with writing errors, but still nice and easy reading for its clear style). Page 83 has a nice formula of a Resolusi Jihad. Muslims have to fight the Dutch, as long as they are within a distance of 94 km. The split between Masyumi and NU is described in a quite detached way.
In the 1960s there was LEKRA, the lack of political influence for NU, G30S and the killing of many people suspected of communism. But the involvement of Ansor in this process is neglected: still silence about the period 1965-1977. Pater Beek is mentioned on page 183 as a person close to Ali Moertopo and the intelliogence service BAKIN. CSIS is not mentioned by name, but only as lembaga studi yang terkenal itu.. that well known research institute.
Several individuals are discussed. Idham Chalid is very present, as a surviging politican. Subchan ZE is more or less the scapegoat for the killings, because of his strong anti-communism (195-7: he was in the from line of those who were involved).
In the 1970s there was the merging of political party and the rise of PPP, where the position of NU was weak up to nil. In the 1980s there was the debate about Pancasila as asa tunggal, and Nu very meak. In the 1990s the rise of ICMI and the debate about NU returning to its original format as a religious and social but not political organization. In this period Abdurrahman Wahid more and more dominates NU.
Many events are mentioned shortly. Some neglected: nothing about the riots in Poso, Maluku, and Lasykar Jihad is not mentioned at all. (my note on page 383). On 436 I made a note that I saw nothing about the book Ilusi Negara Islam. But many personalities and incidents are mentioned, although most shortly. For an update of the national and political history of the NU this was nice reading.