donderdag 14 december 2017

CMR 10: Christians in the 17th century Ottoman and Safavid Empire

Yesterday I received volume 10 of CMR, the great project on Christian Muslim Relations. A bibliographical history, published by Brill in Leiden, but in fact a programme under David Thomas, John Chesworth and their team in Birmingham.
Again many pages: 715 pages in print with much new and often fascinating information for so many outsiders. It proves here agin that the format for the series is very strong: concentration on biographies of one person and discussion of concrete texts. Christians were old minorities in these regions: Armenians, Syrians, georgians, Greeks and also traders and missionaries, ambassadors, adventurers. The nice format of this great work is that it has a focus on individual persons and their biographies. The great development are shortly sketched in introductory essays, not more than 50 pages.
 I give here summaries of only two examples. Pages 319-328 are about an Ottoman scholar, Nuh ibn Mustafa who died in Cairo in 1660. He was a mufti in Konya but then joined a man from his Amasya region to Egypt, where he was teaching, writing and advising until the end of his life. He wrote an fatwa on an ahl al-dhimma or non-Muslim, living in the Ottoman empire who converts to Islam. Is it enough if this persons just recites the confession about the One God and Muhammad as Prophet or should he/she also renounce the Christian faith? He states that Egyptian Christian call Muhammad a Prophet, but add 'he is your prophet, not ours'. So they should renounce also Christianity. But the Zoroastrians (Majusi) of Iraq can recite the shahada and this is enough. He mentions also earlier scholars who  in general accept that recitation of the shahada is sufficient.
He has also a statement about praying: 'If an infidel prays salat in a Muslim congregation, the agreement is that he be considered a Muslim, for this kind of worship is exclusive to the umma of Islam.' This was my practice in the pesantren of Gonto in 1970-1 with a permit of Kiai Imam Zarkasji and so we debated whether I was legally a Muslim or not?  Fortunately later Nurcholis Madjid came with a distinction of Muslim as 'someone who surrenders to God' and muslim (no capital!) as member of a spcific community/congregation. Wa'llahu a'lam bissawab!
From the Persion Empire of Safavids there is an entry about Baha' al-Din al-'Amili (1547-1621). He was from an Arab family of South Lebanon. His father became a scholar in Herat, while he himself became the most important religious scholar in Isfahan. he discusses  the question whether Muslims may eat the meat slaughtered by Christians. Although Qur'an 6:118 allows this, the answer is negative, because 'Christians utter the name of God with reference to Christ or to the 'father of Christ' while Jews will refer to the father of 'Uzayr/Ezra'.  (511). Like in the Indonesian interpretation of a Muslim man marrying a Christian wife, also here the fear of the 'other' is stronger than an explicit text of the Qur'an: human fear stronger than the Word of God.

dinsdag 12 december 2017

Vroklage and his kitab jenggot

A kitab jenggot is a book written in Arabic with Malay of Javanese translations under each single word. In this way the text may look like many bearded faces. It was used in pesantren or rather in circles where older people wanted to use Arab books. Now it has become popular with copies of the Qur'an: Arab script, Latin transliteration and Indonesian translation in one package for those who want to read or recite the texts.

Something similar has beendone by the missionary scholar, Bernard Vroklage in the period January-July 1937 when he did his fieldwork in the Belu region of West Timor.

 Vroklage spoke Dutch but had three Timorese men who asisted him. The first was A.A. Bere Tallo, who had followed the three years of primary education, and attended five years seminary in Todabelu (West Flores). This man later would become raja (nowadays camat) in Kewar. He had a Belu mother, while his father came from the Marae region. As a youth he grew up in the Belu area and so he could speak this language in the right way. The second was D.K. Faru who had a teachers' training of two years after the primary school and later became fettor of Lssiolat. The third informant/assistant was Petrus Bau. All three could speak Dutch with Vroklage. They listened to ritual texts in Tetum, in the 'priestly' language of special ceremonies. They typed the texts on paper and provided Dutch translations. For interpretations Vroklage also made use of the older missionaries who knew the region since decades. In this way he gathered texts and interpretations of pre-Christian social and religious life in this region, all written down and interpreted by 'outsiders': full outsiders like the Dutch and relative outsiders as the direct interpreters already had become Catholic and educated in the Catholic tradition.
The text first was printed as it was spoken, with translations word by word. Then Vroklage wrote a more understandable text interpreting the meaning of what the ritual leader or traditional priest had said. Besides two volumes with nearly 900 pages of these stories and texts, Vroklage also published nearly 450 pictures in a photographic album of 104 pages. Neatly printed and published by Brill in Leiden. And he became professor of anthropology in Nijmegen. In October 1951 he wrote in this quiet town in the Netherlands on his bicycle and was hit by a car and died, 54 years old (born in 1897). He has saved some aspect of Tetum language and Belu culture. Nowadays we of course question his way of research, working not himself in the culture and language of the people he researched. The data were neatly put into a western anthropological framework. But Vroklage stayed close to facts, gave no strange theories like Margaret Mead in Samoa or Bali. Vroklage had no negative idea about traditional religion, although he wanted it 'supplemented' by the modern Catholic doctrines and practice.
The picture above has been taken from volume II:78-79 and is part of a burial ceremony for a raja:
The  honoured and allmighty God
called and summoned
the Raja, our Ruler.
Thou who created and made him
closed his eyes and silenced his mouth.
We now want to show the way 
his soul must go,
our Lord and Ruler 
the soul of the Raja,
she may go the way that runs along
Kuda Hali and Ai Knoru
and further along
Lakirin and Au Feto,
that leads
to Nokar Inan and Taha Dekor .. (etc.) 
According to Vroklage  the purpose of this and followign songs is to speed the soul to leave the region, because it is a danger for the living people.

maandag 4 december 2017

Modest Muslims of NTT

NTT, Nusa Tenggara Timur, the Southeastern Islands of Indonesia, is probably the only  province with a Christian majority. 89% of its 4,7 million citizens (figures of 1991) are Catholic or protestant and 8,6% Muslim. The first Muslims arrived somewhat later than in the Moluccas (centre of the spice trade) in this centre for the trade of sandal wood: the island of Solor was the oldest trading centre and here we find the five petty kingdoms (lima kerajaan Islam kecil)  of Lamakera, Lohajanag, Lamahala, Terong and Labala, much more modest than its northern counterparts of Tenate, Tirode, Bacan and Jailolo. Everything here is in a smaller scale! On these modest Muslims a team of Catholcis, Protestants and Muslims have published  in 2015 a very interesting book. Because connections with the region and with Penerbit Ledalero in Maumere are not always eaqsy, I only could read it last week.
The first 109 of its 380 pages are filled by Philipus Tule who concentrates on the debate between santri and 'abangan' or adat-honouring Islam. He rejects qualifications as 'popular Islam' versus official Islam or imperfect, defective versus true Islam. For the small region he studied (the coastal villages, east of Ende in Flores) he defines that the pesisir Muslims and the inland Catholics still share much of a cultural identity, in rituals at birth, marriage and social life, honouring the same ancestors. Tule compares this to the Javanese distinction between santri, abangan and priyayi (because it is also found in the concept of elite) and the Minangkabau distnction between Shari'a and Adat.(page 11). He even has a quite daring theory about all of Indonesia for 'orthodox Islam' as a coastal culture, concentrated on purity, ablution, because of the abundance of water, while the house of culture or dar al-thaqafa can be found in all inland cultures, as an abode where formal or global religion is integrated in a broader cultural tradition.
The study of Tule is also interesting for the history of Islamization: how did Islam spread to this remote area? From Java, from the various tribes/cultures of Sout celebes, from the Moluccan kingdoms, from Arabs (the al-Qadri family is prominent in the chapter on Sumba, Waingapu!)
Fredrik Doeka wrote on the spread of Islam in Alor, dominant and sometimes even aggressive in the coastal regions. He mentions that in 1522 Antonio Pigaffeta was in the island of Pantar and already found the Muslim village of Moluccan people here. He has also the story of the thread of  gunting Turkii in the 1930s when his mother was compelled to embrace Islam.
There are two articles on the Pesantren Wali Sanga in the town of Ende, seen as a great example of interreligious harmony, where Catholic students for priesthood are teaching English and mathemetics since several decades. Another institution is the Muhammadiyah University of Kupang where the majority of students is Protestant or Catholic (contribution by Ahmad Atang). The Catholic Carmelite priest Bertholomeus Bolong (with a Doctoral Degree of the Islamic University of Yogyakarta!) give a short history of Muslim in or around Kupang: they concentrated initially on fishing and transport by ship, because they were seafaring Buginese and lived in a kampung or their own. Bolong minimalizes the impact of the inter-religious conflicts of 1998 (page 241) but criticizes the FKUB, Forum Kerukunan Umat Beragama as an initiative of government officials, not really integrated in the communities (page 243: 'of there is no government money, no activity will take place, jika tidak ada anggaran maka tidak ada dialog. In contrast on page 304 FKUB in Waingapu is praised).
The 14 authors have made a balanced, informative and rich book for a modest corner in the variety of Muslims of Indoensia.

woensdag 29 november 2017

The light version of the NICMCR Netherlands Indonesian Consortium on Muslim-Christian Relations

Yesterday it was the first day for the Dutch hosts and the Indonesian guests, participants of the regular meeting of the NICMCR. It started as an initiative of the Dutch Protestant Churches to stay in contact with the former missionary churches, now independent and adult churches, perhaps even somewhat more vital than the original Dutch churches, suffering from secularisation, shrinking membership and shortage of leadership, new ideas, in short: nearly everything.
There was quite a big group, seven participants, from the State Institute of Islamic Studies of Ambon. When I was asked in the beginning of this informal meeting to give an idea of what has changed between 1970 and 2010, I told them that in 1970 is stayed in a pesantren for my PhD research. I confessed that I was a Catholic, but liked to join prayers in the mosque. It was OK. But nowadays there are signs outside mosques that non-Muslims are not allowed to visit these places. Even, when visiting the great mosque of Ambon town in 2009, with Prof. Saleh Putuhena, young Muslims protested: how could a bule or white non-Muslim with his wife visit this mosque?

Above two impressions of the 'world cafĂ©' in Utrecht with among others, some of the Ambonese participants. 
I was happy to hear that  one of the participants here in Utrecht also had been member of the party in Ambon in 2009 and agreed with the strong defence by the late Saleh Putuhena in this debate: the Prophet Muhammad had met with a delegation of Christians from South Arabia, Najran in the mosque of Medinah. And 'the time of their prayers having come they stood and prayed in the apostle's mosque and he said that they were to be left to do so. They prayed towards the east.' (in the translation of the sira by Guillaume, p. 271.)
To Dutch people present here, both Christians and Muslims from Indonesia  assured that there was a rise of hardline fundamentalist Muslims in their country, but also a strong chain of liberal movements as well.
There was a nice gift from Dr. Aris Pongtuluran, theologian of the Duta Wacana Christian University of Yogyakarta: a batik painting with Jesus and the miracle of feeding the four thousand from two fishes and five pieces of bread.

Above we see Dr. Robert Setio showing the great batik, while below Corry van der Ven shows a smaller piece of batik: a little boy has two fishes in his hands, while a crowd is waiting for the miraculous food.
The Consortium not only brings together NL+IND, Christians and Muslims, but also academics and activists. One of the latter group was Irfan Amalee of Peace Generation in Bandung. He told us that in the life of the Prophet there is also a miracle with much food: while working in the trench to defend Medina against the attacks of the Meccans, Muhammad worked hard and than felt weak and wanted to eat.He was invited to eat some nice and delicious soup, but many others also were in the row for this soup: for more than hundred there was enough soup! A nice message for those who dream of paradise, prosperity and peace for all.
This was not a heavy, intellectual or academic dialogue, but a nice and lighthearted meeting. Salam and peace for all of you!

maandag 20 november 2017

An opera by Ayu Utami on Kartini and 'Katini': Kill the West in me...

Most operas are known by the name of the musical composers: Monteverdi, Mozart, Wagner, Verdi to give just some of the big names. But last Sunday, 12 November we attended an opera in Utrecht, where the two musical composers and the other people who designed this musical theatre all were important, but the basic idea was formulated by Ayu Utami. She gives a portrait of two Indonesian women: the first is Kartini, known for her letters to Dutch citizens in Holland (and some in Batavia, as part of the colonial administration). Kartini  (1879-1904) wants to free herself and people around her from the restrictions imposed by Javanese male, patriarchal traditions. Her letters have remained well known but she died young, still part of the system she wanted to change.
The other personality is a contemporary poor Javanese lady, who was given the name Katini, because her father, illiterate could not write the name in a proper way and forgot the letter -r- and she became Katini. She was sent to Arabia to earn money for her family and became housemaid in a family where she was raped by the father, had a short affair with the son, but finally killed the mother in revenge. Therefore she was condemned to death.

On the picture above we see the two musical groups: right is the gamelan, left the string quartet. The gamelan played new music, but very fine in the tradition of the Javanese musical style. The string quartet played as minimal music. Many notes were in flagiolet, raw, very high and more like a cry than making beautiful notes as in classical music.
Below we see the two personalities. The little one on the left is Kartini, played by Bernedeta Astari, (b. Jakarta 1988) trained at the Utrecht conservatory as an opera singer and now working at various places in Europe in the operas of Mazart, Von Gluck and others. She has a wonderful voice, not as high as some Javanese singers in combination with gamelan, but strong and also beautiful in the low registers. Katini was played by Romy Roelofsen, not really a singer but more a theatre player. She has the dramatic story as a housemaid in an Arab family, until she killed the lady of the house and was condemned to death.
The text was mostly in English, with some Dutch, indonesian and Javanese. There was a screen where we could see the text very clear. Like the minimal music, also the text was in very short phrases: more like a deep cry than a real narrative and definitely not a philosophical discourse, but just short expressions. The text switched quickly between the two personalities who were developed simultaneously. Kartini: I was a victim of protection. Katini: a victim of exploitation.
Another confrontation is about the West: Kartini wrote to make friends in the West and to ask help from Western ladies to escape the confinement, part of her 'protection'.  Katini went to another 'West' because Mecca is (North-) West of Indonesia.
How must we understand the title of the opera? Kill the West in me? Does it mean that for these two ladies as for all Indonesians the fight against exploitation and restrictions must be done in Indonesia, by the people there? In het first book, Saman, Ayu followed the international 'liberation theology', but already in Larung and the great book Bilangan Fu the Indonesian spirituality is more important. Like we also see in the Islam Nusantara strategy of anti-Salafi Indonesian Muslims.
At some moments the players of the string  quartet, joined the gamelan to make their soft sounds here.
There is a moving closing episode when Katini hears in the morning the first call to prayer and begins her devotion, as preparation of the execution. We do not see more, not the dramatic episode of the killing of the Carmelite sisters as in the opera Le dialogue des Carmelites by Poulenc. Although the theme of this play is extremely dramatic, it is all performed in a quitecontrolled way, in line with the minimal space available in the small theatre of Kikker. It was the first performance, made special by the presence of Ayu Utami herself. Thank you, Ayu, for this rich text.

vrijdag 17 november 2017

Belief and faith: agama dan kepercayaan? A special decision of the Constitutional Court, november 2017

I found it often complicated to understand Wilfred Cantwell Smith in his debate about (personal) faith and (institutional) belief. In the Indonesian constitution two words also are debated until now. Article 29 states that there is 'freedom of religion and belief' (Negara menjamin kemerdekaan tiap-tiap penduduk untuk memeluk agamanya masing-masing dan untuk beribadat menurut agamanya dan kepercayaannya itu.). Perhaps they were meant as identical, because these solemn texts often have repetitions.
In the decades after 1945 there has been a growing consensus that agama or religion should be taken as a world religion, in fact restricted to five: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Protestantis and Catholicism. Later Confucianism was added.
Kepercayaan or 'belief' was reserved for local spiritualities and aliran kepercayaan indicates most often the traditional or even modern Javanese 'new religions' or spiritualities. In the 1974 Law on marriage it is defined that marriage is only valid when celebrated/administered according to the religion of the couple. Civil marriage was until the 1980s still possible, but has gradually been banned. Also in other cases (like getting a passport, an identity card, a driver's licence; insurance for your car or motorcycle) one of the 5/6 religions should be mentioned.
In early November (6 or 7) the Constitutinl Court took a short but firm decision: Mahkamah Konstitusi memutuskan bahwa "negara harus menjamin setiap penghayat kepercayaan dapat mengisi kolom agama dalam Kartu Tanda Penduduk (KTP) dan Kartu Keluarga (KK)". Or: the constitutional court takes the decision that the state has to guarantee that members of a spiritual community are able to fill in the column of religion on their identity cards and in the marriage books.
Immediately the question arose whether this will also diminish the monopoly of the six big religions in the field of civil administration, give more freedom to individuals to abstain at all from any religion (or fill in: 'atheist')? What Ahmadiyyah people: should they be free to fill in that they are Ahmadiyyah, but also Muslim? We will see further developments perhaps.

vrijdag 10 november 2017

Buni Yani, Prabowo, and other complot theories

In November 2016 the Ahok Case started with a movie, places on the internet by a person, Buni Yani, who had deleted one word from a speech by the candidate for the governorship of Jjakarta. It suggested that the Koran lies (dibohongi) but Ahok wanted to say that political opponents lie if they say thatit is Muslims not allowed to vote for non-Muslim candidates or to be ruled by non-Muslims.
Buni Yani was at that time still on the website of Leiden University as a PhD candidate. In fact had had been accepted in 2010 as a PhD student in Leiden. His topic was the popular music in the Philippines, part of a great research project on modern culture in Southeast Asia. His MA waqs from Ohio University where he wrote a thesis on the differences in press reports of the 'Moluccan Wars', the violent clashes between  Muslims and Christians in the Moluccas. Also his native island of Lombok had experienced some effects of this great series of religious violence.
In late 2014 Buni Yuni returned to Indonesia with his family, where he accepted a small position at the Jakarta branch of the London School of Public Relations. Staff in Leiden considered his PhD traject as a failure and in November 2016 he was immediately removed from the Leiden website.
The Duch weekly magazine De Groene Amsterdammer asked journalist Lizzy van Leeuwen to do research about thisBuni Yani and the 2 November 2017 issue came with some stories about him.

Jeroen Krul made this drawing for the article of five pages (34-41, with some advertisements). It begins with the rich harvest for universities through the Indonesian programmes of the Dutch government, but also the money flowing from Indonesia. They are accepted with gratitude because they bring money for poor faculties in the humanities and social science. But the results are often not so spectacular. In the end there is the dilemma between: send back frustrated students or accept lower standards? Full professors are proud if they bring many students in the programms, but the jnior has problems with students who have a poor command of English and are not used to European academic traditions.
Another issue is the influence of salafi students in European universities. There is PPME: Persatuan Pemuda Islam si-Eropa. Besides there is PPI, Perhimpunan Pelajar Indonesia. In Leiden there was an effort by PKS students to take over leadership in PPI in the Netherlands (some 1500 in NL). Sujadi has written a dissertation of PPME: his dissertation 'is full with luaghing salafi ulama. In a statement attached to his dissertation he says that Indonesian salafism is not really noticed in the Netherlands'. In Melbourne, Japan and the UK the PKS-students could take over PPI leadership.
Related to the case of Buni Yani a professor of Wageningen University  (who have good relations with the Bogor Agricultural University, with a strong networl of salafi students) asked: 'why do we not receive any Christian student from Indonesia during the last decade?'
Journalist Lizzy van Leeuwen also was for some time in Indonesia, seeking information about Buni Yani (who only had a small position at the Jakarta institution and has been dismissed since the beginning of the affair). She gives much interest to the cooperation between PKS (now in a difficult position due to the 2014 corruption affair) and Gerindra of Prabowo.
Finally she also quotes Bart Barendregt, assistent professor in Leiden and responsible for the study of Buni Yani: 'He was not really interested in Islam here. He was in fact not an academic, but a journalist. He was a supporter of Jokowi, but probably lost his confidence in him. Buni had a strong feeling of justice, or perhaps it was rather some naive love of justice. He really loved his country and was not an man for machinations.'