donderdag 16 maart 2017

God is great and does not suffer from strange ideas by Gafatar!

In 2012 a new religious group called Gafatar (acronym or another name is Gerakan Fajar Nusantara, Movement for the Rise of the Indonesian Archipelago), created a society, called Millah Ibrahim or 'the society of Abraham'.  They seem to be active in Mempawah, West Kalimantan and several thousands of followers. MUI, the Supreme Council of Muslim Clerics of Indonesia issued a fatwa against this doctrine and practice (mostly still Islam, but in a less strict way as to jilbab, the veil, and the obligation to say prayers.
7 March 2017 the civil court of East Jakarta condemned them guilty of blasphemy and therefore three leaders to imprisonment for several years. Against the MUI they could claim that they were no longer Muslims and therefore not subject to the MUI. But plasphemy?
Amnesty International has a campaign in favour of them. Is support this action and suggest that they are not dangerous for the state. They should have freedom of expression and of religion, even when their ideas may seem strange. In the royal palace of Granada all rooms have the expression: inna al-hukm inda Allah: judgment is to God. Let is be so!And in general, as stated by Human Rights Working Groups: blasphemy is a very vague formulation and can be easily abused for political goals.

woensdag 15 maart 2017

The Boxer Codex on Muslims of Brunei

Charles Ralph Boxer (1904-2000) was a Beritish colopnial historian, who wrote solid but often also well-written and pleasant books about Portuguese and Dutch colonial history. Around 1960 he bought at an auction a manuscript from about 1590 with many fancy illustrations about the whole of East Asia, from China and Japan to the Philippines and Indonesia. It wass in 2016 published in its original language, Spanish, with an English translation and many footnotes.Chapters 8-11 are about Brunei, the Moluccas, Java and Aceh. Most intyereting of these is the chapter on Brunei, 397-426. The sections on Java and the Moluccas are extremely short, not much more than one page about the ruler and the dress used for fighting.
The thirty pages on brunei begin with a history of the arrival of Islam in Brunei, which was about 1300 according to this source. One Sultan Yusuf was the first to accept Islam. He went to China to visit the emperor and received a consort, a Chinese Pricess, also known in Javanese history as the spouse of one of the rulers.
Quite interesting for me was the meaning ot the word Orang Siak, which I knew as an expression for a santri, a Muslim student. Here it is explained as a Shaykh, venerated older man who was teaching religion.

Quite funny is on page 411 the story about the sultan who is sleeping with his one real spouse or isteri sungguh in the same room as his many concubines. Because they all sleep in the same room. When the sultan seeks the company of one of other other women he goes to her sleeping place and 'there he does whatever he wants without his wife scoulding him or her'.  Pure harmony, although many stories tell about problems in polygamous relations especially in the royal families. But this is only a Portuguese account of the situation as they heard or imagined the lives of these quite different people.
Muslims here are not qualified as 'Moor' but as Islam 'who do not eat pork and follow the Koran'. Moor is often only used for Mediterranean Muslims and here they are apparently different. But the description is very short and I could not yet really see what is the use of an outsider source for our knowledge of Indonesian Muslims.

dinsdag 7 maart 2017

The Arab King and the Balinese Priest Venus

King Salman of Saudi-Arabia has made an Asian tour, ending in Jakarta, then Brunei and finishing with a holiday in Nusa Dua, Bali.
In Jakarta some people were somewhat disappointed: he did not give a speech of 10 minutes in the national parliament, but spoke only 2 minutes. He did not sign contracts for US$25 billion but only for one billion. People of the FPI, especially Habib Rizieq Syihab were disappointed because he did not give open support to Muslim hardliners and the Arabs of Jakarta. Instead, he spoke in favour of a 'moderate' Islam and some espect that the position of Jokowi (and Ahok) against the hardliners has been strengthened. On 3 March there was a meetng with a large number of religious leaders, including Bishop Suharyo of the Catholic Conference of Indoensian Bishops and Jesuit Magnis Suseno, who mentioned this meeting as a strong symbolic event, stressing the need for interreligious harmony.
King Salman promised in Jakarta money for three centres of learning Arabic in Medan, Makassar and Surabaya.
But he arrived in Bali on 4 March in grand style and extended his holiday from 4 to nine days.
He will probably know that English is much more practised and loved in Indonesia than Arabic. So his plane has God bless you, besides Allahu bi hafdhikum!
Many newspapers had the story of the diocesan priest Eventius ('Venus') Dewantoro, born in Larantuka. He stayed for one year in Cairo to learn Arabic (2002-3) and after that two years at PISAI, the Pontificaul Institute of the Study of Arabic and Islam in Rome. He greeted the king with a nice Ahlan wa sahlan, whereupon the king asked whether he was a minister of the Masihiyin. The short conversation brought him to the front pages of many newspapers. Further they wrote that the beach was under security, but still open for divers and other guests.
'Venus' Dewantoro here enjoys his moment of glory!
His name is also written as Evensius (born Riangkemie 2 May 1969. Ordained in 1996). In 2001 he was the parish priest of Ampenan in Lombok.

donderdag 23 februari 2017

The VOC under attack again

The National Acrhives in the hague have finished  their digital copy of the VOC archives for the period 1600-1800 as to the Dutch resources and to celebrate this new access for sources on Indonesia (and many other regions like Muscat, Ceylon/Sri Lanka, Malaysia) an exhibition about the VOC has been opened in the building of the National Archives, attached to the Cerntral Station of the Hague.
In its  first review a comparison was made with 2002 when there was a celebration of 400 years VOC. At that time historical memory was dominated by pride: how the Dutch had been able to establish such a big enterprise, worldwide, the first global business.
Now it is quite different. Nancy Hovingh, the lady who is responsible for designing the exhibition read to her surprise 'how open Dutch staff of the VOC were about corruption, the way they could become rich in an easy way, even with the trade in slaves.' Much violence is now shown and it is clear that the VOC was much more than an innocent trading firm, it was building an empire with the goal to make much profit at all cost.
Much attention is now given to the way the Dutch treated the blacks in southern Africa. Much attention is also given to one of the warrior-governors, Cornelis Speelman who in an alliance with Bugis Arung Palakka destroyed the Makassar kingdom/sultanate and established in Makassar an important fortificatioon for the VOC in their efforts to dominate the trade in spices. Like was done later by Westerling in the same region,. 1946-7, this was not possible without burning some 30 villages in the region with many casualities. This was the price for the spice trade! The big drawing made in praise of Sipalman alias Speelman and Arung Palakka now has become one of the emblems of the exhibition.
Top left: Cornelis Speelman and right Arung Palakka, witnessing the burning down of Makassar villages.

maandag 13 februari 2017

A Miracle in Bogor?

GKI, Gereja Kristen Indonesia is simply known as the 'Chinese Church' in Indonesia. In 2001 its congregation in Bogor bought a piece of land to build a new church. Until 2006 they collected money for the construction and 445 signatures of people living in the neighbourhood of the Jasmin Garden. In this wat they received on 13 July 2006 an IMB, Izin mendirikan bangunan or building permit from the mayor of Bogor. In January 30 citizens of the town protested against the building of a church and the mayor easily gave in and forbade the building. The GKI went to court and several judges estimated that they were entitled to build the church, between 2008-2011. But still the mayor did not give in an building came to a standstill.
The poster above announces that "the majority in this district are Muslims who do not like the coming of a church building here.
Yesterday, 12 February 2017 there seemed to be a new development in this long case: an agreement is announced, that this piece of land will be partly used for a church, partly for a mosque. If this comes true, then a situation may rise like in Surabaya, where a church is built next to the largest mosque of the town, and Jakarta where the old Catholic Cathedral has the magnificent Istiqlal Mosque as its neighbour. Until now the congregation of GKI Yasmin holds its services in the open air, sometimes even on public places, praying and protesting at the same time. A similar problem is still going with the Batak Church (HKBP) in bekasi.

dinsdag 24 januari 2017

Fatwa under discussion

Like every year there was also last December some debate about Christmas in Indonesia, especially related to the public space of the capital and large towns where big shops, restaurants, offices are decorated in 'Christmas style'.
14 December 2016 the Majelis Ulama Indonesia or MUI issued a fatwa forbidding Muslim to spread Christmas decorations, to produce or sell these things. It wass labelled Hukum menggunakan atribut keagamaan non-Muslim or 'A judgment about the use of religious attributes of a non-Muslim origin'. the fatwa used 6 verses of the Qur'an. Quite often the word kafir was used and general statement was that Muslim should not imitate the unbelievers or kafirun.
My good friend Jan Sihar Arotinang, a professor at the Jakarta School of Theology wrote a quite angry letter to the MUI on 17 december 2016. He stated that much of the 'Christmas attributes' have nothing to do with Christianity as a religion, but or often only quite local developments that have sometimes to do with winter in thr northern countries. Surely there is no consensus or agreement about these attributes. Even some are forbidden by some Christian denominations. It may be known by all people that Christmas tree, Santa Claus, wearing clothes with elements of Santa Claus' hat or the moose, are quite recent elements and not essential for anything that has to do with Christian faith.
In the argumentation the MUI often uses the term kafir as if Christians are simply unbelievers, while the status of Christians in the Qur'an described also as 'people of the book' as followers of the prophet Isa son of Mary.
The letter of Aritonang was sent to many people and until today, more than a month later, I receive reactions from many sides. A few days ago, Aritonang complained that he has as yet not received any answer. Some of his Protestant colleagues wrote that we should consider this fatwa as an internal Muslim affair and not react to it. Aniway, it is a social and politcal element in a society that has many more ofthis kind of problems, the most important being now the court case of blasphemy against Jakarta Governor Ahok.

dinsdag 10 januari 2017

Ismed Natsir, 1951-2017

Two days ago we received the astonishing message that at the age of 66 years Ismed Natsir had died.
His health had deteriorated in the end of last year: he had some kind of stroke, problems with talking, moving. But his memory was OK, and his spirit still bright.
To most of us he is known as a brilliant editor. First of all the diary of Ahmad Wahib, but many other writings, a continuing stream of books went through his hands, his computer. Humble, not seeking glory for himself, but serving the great ideas and all those many people who wanted to promote this.
Ismed wrote also poetry: probably this is the best known

Sajak dalam-dalam

dalam laut ada tiram
dalam tiram ada mutiara
dalam mutiara: ah tak ada apa apa
dalam baju ada aku
dalam aku ada hati
dalam hati: ah tak apa jua
dalam syair ada kata
dalam kata ada makna
dalam makna: mudah-mudahan ada Kau

In the sea an oyster
in the oyster a pearl
in the pearl: oh, nothing at all
in  my clothes: it's me
in me my heart
in my heart: oh, nothing again  
in a poem we find words
in words is meaning
in meaning we hope to meet You

inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji'un 
Our condolences to Lies and to the children Reza, Tanja and Boris.