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.

A (too) big face of Jesus in Pajangan

In the dictrict of Bantul, south of Yogyakarta the majority of the population is Muslim. The most notable exception is the village of Ganjuran, where since the 1920s the Schmutzer family was the owner of a sugar factory. They financed the Panti Rapih hospital of Yogyakarta and founded a parish and place of pilgrimage around the shrine of the sacred Heart of Jesus, built in the Hindu style of the 7th-8th century Prambanan.
Recently a new image of Jesus has been added: about five meters high on the terasse where the Saint Jacob church is built, amidst rice fields.
 On 2 October 2016 the statue was inaugurated as the statue Yesus Kerahiman of the Jesus of Mercy. Not only Catholics were present, but the camat and the parish priest also had invited Muslims in this overwhelming Muslim region. One photograph of a group of ladies of te majelis taklim or Islamic Study Group aroused quite a debate in Indonesia. The parish priest in his white robe standing amidst a group of Muslim ladfies in uniform was seen as a provocatrion. The subdistrict chief, or camat has been removed to a less outspoken Muslim region. Further there has eben a short debate on the internet. I saw that Pajangan has a centre for home decoration, specializing in Catholic art. Maybe the shop (called Talitakum which sounds quite Evangelical, but it also sells rosaries, so has a Catholic image) has been the sponsor for the statue. The statue is not yet on that amazing site: patung agama terbesar di Indonesia, full with giant religious statues, mostly built in the last fifteen years.

zondag 8 januari 2017

Deradicalising or rather new and fresh issues for moderate Muslims?

Recently I saw with my wife two movies on the process of becoming a radical Muslim. The first was a Dutch movie, Layla M. about a clever girls who finished secondary education in a good way, but then had fallen in love with a young man who hade become a fervent and strict Muslim and had already migrated to Syria to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS. The couple married through a ceremony on Skype and the girl moved to Syria where she became more or less a prisoner of the whole group. Her husband died in battle and she escaped, back to Holland, where she was accepted not by her family, but by the police.
The second movie was Ne m'abandonne pas ("do not leave me") about a girl who also has a lover in Syria and wants to join him. The same story: how can a clever girl, born and educated in a moderate Muslim family in Europe, with poor knowledge of Islam and even of Arabic, become dedicated to this blend of fanatic religion? Inm both cases it is first of all love: not for the 70 virgins after becoming a martyr, but very this-worldly love for a partner. And otherwise hatred for Ditch and French society that do no not fully accept migrants from Muslim countries.
In the 1950s Masyumi formulated as one of its wishes that the Indoensian President should be a Muslim. It was not accepted. Still, in late 2016 FPI, Front pembela Islam formulated as its wish that only Muslims should be political leader of Muslims (president, governor, how far should this go?
Against the hardline  of FPI now a number of student organizations have formulated the wish to have a united Indonesia with full rights for all citizens. Parallel with the case of blaphemy against Ahok (Jakarta Governor of Chinese offspring, a Protestant Christian), they have asked that FPI leader Habib Rizieq Sihab should be put in court for bringing the unity of the Indonesian state in danger for suggesting measures that would be never accepted by the nearly 10% Christians of the country.
SPI, Student Peace Institute of the UIN, State Islamic University of Jakarta has brough a court case against Habib Rizieq for endangering the Indonesian State in this way. Not theoretical religious harmony, but concrete smaller goals may be important in this dispute.
Sukmawati Soekarnoputri, a sister of Megawati, another daughter of Soekarno, first president of Indonesia and the formulator of the Pancasila ideology had said on 27 October 2016 at a big rally of FPI (tabligh akbar) that her father formulated Pancasila when Piagam Jakarta was still part of it with the ketuhanan or Divinity on top, while it was later degraded to the back position of number five of the five principles.
The debate is continuing on and on.


Indonesians have often long names. They like to make acronyms  and it is a sign of being somewhat a celeb or celebrity of this acronym is used by many people. Best known is Haji Abdulmalik ibn Abdulkarim Amrullah or Hamka. Abdulrahman Wahid was simply Gus Dur. MNI is not so widely known, but maybe in the near future?
Muhammad Nur Ichwan is the director of the Graduate School at UIN, Universitas Islam Negeri in Yogyakarta. He sent a long series, more than 100 pictures of his whereabouts and ideas in 2016. It was a nice variation of seminars in Indonesia, visits abroad, debates about what is now going on in the modern and liberal Muslim circles of the country.
I include a copy of three of these.
Deradicalisation or attacking the attractivity of the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq (IS or ISIS). the text in top shows the attractivity: going to Syria is called hijrah with the religious connotation of exodus, leaving a bad or terrible country towards a promised land, with a true caliph (a reference to the myth of the 'four righteous caliph', a golden era).Hijrah has here perhaps also the connotation of a religious pilgrimage.
The only negative argument is that Daesh (Dawlat Islamic fi Iraq wa Sham) is brutally killing people, burns them. In serious debates some humour may be good. This is not really a good joke, as to my perception.
A picture of Muhammad Nur Ichwan, reading a book with the title: I am a Radical Muslim.
In 1970-1 I did research for my PhD on the education system of Indonesian Muslims. the most important place for my research was the boarding school or pesantren of Gontor. At that time it was all male only. Since the 1970s the school has expanded much. It still uses good Arabic, but here it prefers English for tyhe entrance of one of the several boardng schools for girls. This is MNI with his wife and in the middle probably their daughter.