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.

zaterdag 7 januari 2017

Sifa al-Rijali and the Moluccan Muslims and the Dutch as wife and husband

Volume 11 of the great series Christian-Muslim Relations. A Bibliographical History has been puiblished now. It has 640 pages ob South and East Asia, 1600-1700. I have written myself entries on Coen, Frederick de Houtman, Pelsaert, Jacob van Neck, Livinus Bor, Jesuits, Nicolaus de Graaf, Daghregister). There is one contribution by Gerrit Knaap on a Malay document from the Moluccas, Hikayat Tanah Hitu, written by Rijali (born about 1590- died after 1657). It gives first the early history of Hitu (the larger half of the island of Ambon), its conversion to Islam after 1500, the arrival of the Portuguese. The confrontation with the Portuguese or Faranji as they are called by Rijali, is described mostly as a religious war.
Cover of CMR 11 showing a Jesuit priest at a Mughal court about 1600, painting by court painter Kesu Das.

Because of the work for another volume opn Valentijn i read myself also section of the Hikayat Tanah Hitu in the edition by Z.V. Manusama (1977). Page 22 (reference to the original manuscript) relates the arrival of the Portuguese and Holy War, where death is a guarantee for being accepted in heaven (Apabila Islam mati perang sabil, maka dalam akhirat suatupun tiada hisabkepadanya melainkan masuk syurga). Onthe same  page there is already a war. Both parties stand in rows, like at prayer (kedua pihak berhadapan seperti orang sembahyang mengadap kepada kiblat). The first confrontation did not result  in a victor: there was no winner.
Page 62 of the text mentiones that both sides want to destroy the other: Christians want to destroy the Muslim faith and make them Christians and therefore it was called a war of throwing away the turban or the hat: kehendaknya Nasrani itu enda mengerusakkan agama Islam dimasukkan agama Nasrani. Daripada itulah maka digelar nama kelengkapannya itu `Buang Destar` namanya dan demikian pagi kehendaknya Islam enda mengerusakkan agama Nasrani dan Yahudi dimasukkan kepada agama Islam. Daripada itulah maka gelarnya kelengkapannya johan pahalawan kimelaha Leliyato "Buang Capeu" namanya. There  were no or very few Jews in this region. It is not clear to me why they were mentioend here.
The Portuguese are calles kafir la'nat  or 'cursed unbelievers'.
On p. 36 of the text of 106 pages the Dutch arrive. It first tells about a peaceful treaty between the Muslism and the Dutch. Pages 69-70 give a curious comparison (by a 'Dutchman') of the relation between the Muslim of Hitu and the Dutch:  Hitunese and Dutch are like man and wife. If the wife does something wrong she will be corrected by the man. Therefore we keep the Captain of Hitu and the Chiefs in prison. So it is with man and woman in this world, but we should have a meeting, discuss tha affiar and make peace.. Tanah Hitu dan Wolanda itu seperti laki-bini. Apabila bini salahitu melainkan lakinya juga ajar kepada dia. maka beta pegang kepada Kapitan Hitu dan orang kaya kaya ini. Demikian itulah halnya orang laki-bini dalam dunia, tetapi keluarl;ah kita kedua berbicara serta kebaikan.

woensdag 28 december 2016

Johan Hendrik Meuleman, 4 May 1954- 20 January 2016

Only yesterday I received  information that Johan Meuleman had died earlier this year.
Johan was the son of a quite conservative, orthodox philosopher at the Free University of Amsterdam. He studied also philosophy, besides history. In the 1980s he went to Algeria for a doctoral research about the economy of Algeria in the full colonial period, 1920-1940. It was most about prices of grain. He fell in love with an Algerian lady, Saïda Belghoul. She was a student of physics and also working on a doctoral dissertation (at McGill University of Montreal if I am not mistaken). They celebrated twice the marriage: once in a Muslim way in Algeria, once in a somewhat 'ecumenical' way in Amsterdam. The father of Johan was not really happy (to say it mildly) with the conversion to Islam of his son. In fact it was the conversion to the rational and open Islam of Muhammad Arkoun. His Lectures du Coran were later translated by Johan into Indonesian. I played a fragment from Mozart's sonata in A at the occasion, because the musician did not come.
I met Meuleman for the first time in 1989, when we were both part of the INIS team, the Indonesian Netherlands Cooperation in Islamic Studies. Johan became between 1993-1998 (or so) a lecturer at the Jakarta IAIN. After the INIS project finished he had problems in finding a good place in the academic world. He worked for some time at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. After 2007 he was a lecturer at the Islamic section in Hogeschool INHolland. He was also a very dedicated lecturer and administrator at the Islamic University of Europe. The IUE was established after the Islamic University of Rotterdam experienced a leadership-crisis around 2000, which ended with Ahmed Akgündüz as its strong rector. A number of people who were not happy with this outspoken follower of Said Nursi came together in the IUE. Like many institutions of Muslims in the Dutch Society it proved to be a complicated affair of people seeking authority and influence in a still fragile organization. Meuleman had no ethnic or organizational backing and was somewhat naive in social contacts. He remained loyal and hoped that here his dream of a modern and moderate European style of Islam could be established. He lived not long enough to see this dream to become reality and died at the still rather young age of 61 years only.
Of his publications some are compilations under INIS initiatives like the collection of articles on Muslim women in Indonesia (1993) and the Survey on Indonesian Islam, 1988-1993. His interest was not the social and definitely not the political expression of Islam but the spiritual meaning and in the academic world the philosophical translation of this spirituality. He was a man who continued to live in the Western (post-) Christian world and at the same time in the various Muslim regions of Europe, Indonesia and North Africa. May he rest in piece and his wife and daughter find their way too.

maandag 19 december 2016

Kafir and attributes for Christmas

7 March 1981 the Majelis Ulama Indonesia, the semi-official national council of Indonesian Muslim scholars or MUI, issued a fatwa on Christmas celebrations. Muslims should avoid participation in such festivities. Some even concluded that it is haram or forbidden to express Merry Christmas. One reason for the fatwa was that Muslim pupils at Christian schools joined the school choir and sung Christmas songs. The head of the MUI, Hamka (Haji Abdul Malik ibn Abdul Karim Amrullah) was dismissed by the Minister of Religion (because he did not obey the inter-religious harmony of Pancasila). However, the fatwa was never withdrawn Near yearly the President of the Indonesian Republic is one of those who light a candle in a giant tree during the Christmas celebration in the great Senayan stadion of Jakarta. Yearly the fatwa is repeated, debated, nuanced, abused for many purposes.
This year the MUI has taken the subject of 'religious non-Islamic attributes'. (Fatwa no 56, 2016 Tentang hukum menggunakan atribut keagamaan non-muslim). Attribut  is not a common Indonesian word, but has apparently the meaning of 'gadgets, incidental elements'.  Their hukum or legal status is: haram. So, Muslims are not allowed to propagate, use, sell, produce, transport, give to other people 'religious attributes'. No examples are given in the fatwa. Prof. Jan Sihar Aritonang of the (Protestant) Theological School of Jakarta wrote a letter of protest against the fatwa and gave as examples: Christmas trees, dress like Santa Claus, bells, candles, the charriot of Santa Claus.
It reminded me of the four hours I had to stay last year on a trip to Singapore, mid December, where I saw to my surprise that there was a great Christmas tree on the crowded international airport of Dubai. Also our own nice bronze statues for the Christmas group, Joseph and Mary, the three kings, shephards: are made in Burkina Faso by a group of Muslim artists.
What will be the result of this new fatwa in the long history? Will the big malls in Jakarta, Surabaya and other towns stop advertising with all kinds of Christmas trees, Santa Claus to attract Indonesian customers to their shops? I doubt so! Perhaps the FPI, Front Pembela Islam will  seek an opportunity to demonstrate against malls (if they do not pay money for 'protection') and destroy some Christmas trees.
Prof. Jan Aritonang wrote an open letter protesting against the wordings of the Fatwa. In not more than 8 pages the word kafir was used 13 times, denouncing Christians as unbelievers. In the recommendations there is some lip service as to the need that Muslims 'respect the creed and conviction of all religions. This respect includes freedom for non-Muslims to perform their religious duties, without including that there should be mutual acknowledgment of theological doctrines.' But in the arguments there is a quite general qualification about kafir or unbeliever. But the special status of Christians as people who are close to Muslims in a belief in God as creator and sustainer of the world is not mentioned at all. Also the status of Jesus as a prominent prophet is not mentioned in the fatwa. It has now been 35 years since the first Fatwa of Christmas and apparently the debate continues. Happy Christmas to all of you!