zondag 7 december 2014

Elizabeth Pisani and her Indonesia

Elizabeth Pisani was a special guest of honour at the transfer of the KITLV Library to the University Library of Leiden on 16 October 2014. She was interviewed without too much coordination her self between Henk Schulte Nordholt and DEavid Henly. Pisani arrived in Indonesia as a journalist for Reuters in the later 1980s, lost her visa in the eary 1990s, but returned as a specialist in medical affairs, especially HIV/AIDS and undertook in 2009 a trip through Indonesia.

There are three covers for this book: A European, and American (sawah, rice fields), and this is the Indonesian for Lontar Books.
The first 60 pages are a concise history of Indonesia from late colonialism to the year 2000. She is wonderful in telling complicated things in a short story, without too much details.
60-217 is a trip through East Indonesia, mostly by simple boats. It reminded me of trip I had with Paule in 1997 to Flores and Timor, as far as Maumere, Larantuka (but not to Adonare or Lembata), and in 2009 to Minahasa, Amon and papua. But Pisani is much more radical: she planned a whole year for this trip, worked really in slow motion.. After East Indonesia she went to Aceh (219-248, with many nuances about GAM: idealiism mixed with much violence, criminality and corruption). 
She took opportunities, invitations by common people.
She is sometimes very critical about NGOs, the 'protest industry'. People who behave as if they defend the rights of the 'local popuation'. She was in Halmahera. A new nickel company had arrived, Japanese and French: The NGOs said they werew speaking on behalf of local people who were too scared of reprisals to give their names. When the NGO organized demos, some locals then stages counter-demos in support if the mine. What is here the truth? Were they paid? Threatened? Or did they also see real profits in the arrival of rogeign companies? The two Chinese companies were much worse than the Japanese and French.
Pisani is not keen on religion. 313-342 is about religion. Much is about faith healing, by Muslim and Christians: simple popular belief, mixed with bad knowledge. About the fine varieties in Islam: p. 314: Many learned volumes have been written about the various flavours of Islam. She does not follow these scholars. She is quite negative about any emo-religion, conservative, not a renewal in society.
In Ambon she had visited a Mega Church, GBI (Gereja Baptis Indonesia), ROCK. She summarize its doctrine: 1. It is your duty to spread the name of Jesus; 2. If we wait patiently Jesus will fullfill our demands. That is the simplicity is AA Gym!
She makes also much fun of the sexual attractivity of Gunung Kemukus, near Solo, a traditional sacred place where one must have sex with another than the usual partner: anonymous sex.
In general, she experienced that low class people do not bother about doctrines or convictions of other people. Only the middle class urban people bother about the rise of Salafi Muslims (328): FPI since 1998, PKS after 2002. They are the successors to Pemua Pancasila that is no longer used by politicians. There is a new power, on the basis of what is called 'morality'.
p. 340 gives a detailed report of Ahmadi people who live in a poor shlter. Some had been chased from their place of living more than 8 times.
For Java she has a report of restoration of classica;l heritage,old buildings in Semarang: a Dutch professor of conservation: he as huge on every axis with satisfactory Mad Professor hair and the look of an man who appreciates a tankard of beer or two.
Nice book, easy reading and it makes 'academic writing' somewhat light!

zaterdag 6 december 2014

The 'Tribute Conference', the final poem and some more pictures

Among the older people who came were also Djam'annuri, Syafa'atun,Mujiburrahman. Damami, Hilman Latief. The wife of Noorhaidi, Nurlelawati, had a nice presentation on the cases of mixed marriages in Shari'a Courts: one of the examples of excellent research, seeking facts and good interpretations.
Here we see Syafaatun al-Mirzanah and Mujiburrahman during the presentations of the second day. I was not in the mood to make precise notes. It will all be published later in a more polished way.
Here I restrict to the four stanza of the syair I wrote to conclude this conference:

Martin dan Karal lama mondar mandir
Minum teh di Yogya, kalau di Belanda suka bir
Di negeri panas kadang-kadang berzikir
Di Belanda mungkin mirip kaum kafir

Martin dan Karel senang dengan mahasiswanya
Seolah mereka sudah bagian keluarganya
Biasa manis dan sabar untuk membimbingnya
Tapi sedih malah marah kalau janji ditinggalkannya

Martin dan Karel sudah sering menguji
Baca paper, dengan potlot merah mengoreksi
Kali ini lain: yang jadi materi justru mereka sendiri
Tetapi hasilnya baik: hanya diberi puji

Martin dan Karel sering menduga: inilah terakhir kali
Mungkin tidak pernah ke Indonesia lagi kembali
Sampai sekarang toh datang, walaupun capai
Datang mungkin terus sampai dunia lalai 
Fredrik Doeka had come all the way from Kupang (here first on the right, with jacket in NTT style, from Alor like my own shirt). The three ladies in front are from right Lies Marcoes, Nurlelawati, Syafa'atun.
A wonderful experience, thank you all for this happening.

The 'Tribute Conference', the older colleagues

The reason for this November trip to Indonesia was the International Conference of the Studies on Indonesian Islam: Tribute to Katel Steenbrink asnd Martin van Bruinessen, of 17-18 November at Universitas Islam Negeri, UIN in Yogyakarta.
In 1970 i began my study of the Islamic education in Pesantren and Madrasah, in 1978 I was the coordinator for the first group of IAIN staff who came to the Netherlands. Between 1981 and 1988 I was a lecturer in Jakarta and Yogyakarta. Martin van Bruinessen arrived in 1982 as a researcher for LIPI. In the early 1990s he was during three years also a lecturer in Yogyakarta. We felt very honoured by the idea of this conference that was initiated by Lies Marcoes and some opther friends. In Yogyakarta Muhammad Nur Ichwan became the actual organiser under the umbrella of the Graduate School.
Of the old buildings of the IAIN/UIN nothing is left. Already in 2004 there were many new building, but after the earthquake of May 2006 again many building had to be restored or totally rebuilt. There is a great convention hall, where the two days were held: the first day in the largest hall, the second in a somewhat smaller place, but with a more gentle atmosphere. On the early morning of 18 November we were welcomed by a musical group playing music in Arab/Islamic style.

Lies Marcoes was one of my first student to write a 'doctorandus thesis' (now considered as a MA) on a Libyan sufi order. She is now 55 years., but could retire from the Ford Foundation two years ago, because trafic between Bogor and Jakarta became to difficult for her, with one blind eye and other health problems. But she is still very active, among other things in women empowerment. She gave me for Paule a very positive book about 'dream women' who could make improvements in the lives of themselves and of their community.
The title of the book is: A Journey against Defeat. Narratives of Women's Rejection of Poverty. It has wonderful pictures and strong stories. I will later write more about the book. Like the others, also Lies had nice anecdotes of her contacts with 'Romo Karel'  and Sayyidina Martin.

 Here we see Lies Marcoes with Din Wahid (specialist on the Salafi Pesantrens) and Martien van Bruinessen.
Left of Lies is here on the 2rd row Moh. Nur Ichwan, the true organiser and the on the front line Ana Saidi, one of the first colleagues of Martyin van Bruinessen at LIPI. Right of Lies is Machasin, now a high official at the central office of the Ministry of Religion (Dirjen Bimas Islam). He regretted the Agama or Religion had been removed during the transfer of IAIN to UIN. The UIN has been going a long way from Pesantren to the way of thinking of international academic institutions, but still there is some soft sentiment for the traditional way of Islamic learning. Noorhaidi Hasan ('Lasykar Jihad') is on this picture first row left (but right from the perspective of the viewer).
We appreciated very much that Azyumardi Azra was also present. He look older, tired, but had a warm speech on the Development of Islamic Studies. The excellency of the Dutch programmes compared to McGill was that McGill had never truly Indonesia-specialist. They came sometimes for several months, but never for longer period and were not familiar with the country.
He had some nice one-liners: Indonesian Islam is too big to fail. There is Muhammadiyah, Nahdlatul Ulama: the conservatives are not able to win, and Salafi ideas are too simple. The whole network of UIN and IAIN is much larger in number and in quality than Al-Azhar of Egypt, although it does not have the international impact.
There was a young man from Medan, of Tamil offspring who complained about Islamofobia, also about the difficult position of Islam in Indonesian politics. Azyumardi became angry: we should not consider ourselves as losers and only blame others. We must be proud for what we are, must be confident and sure, that is a much better strategy than playing the card of minority complex.
I did not make good pictures and also that of Azyumardi is not good, but still I post hem below. Here he looks somewhat angry,indeed, while responding this India-from-Medan.

vrijdag 5 december 2014

Kees de Jong and Elga Sarapung: two houses

From Jakarta, I arrived amidst heavy rain in Yogyakarta, where Kees de Jong welcomed me at the airport (after some delay: probably I had not communicated well by SMS). Anyway, I had a pleasant time in his house, a fantastic meal at the beach in Depok and a nice visit to Ganjuran, grown as a place of pilgrimage since I was there with our children in 2004.
Kees de Jong lives now in a sector where there is little or no public transport. He told me that the motorbike has become so popular and public transport so bad, that few people take buses and prefer the motor bike. So, he is depending on a car and a driver in the small village where he lives, north of Godean. But his classical-styled house is amidst the sawahs. Nobody knows for how long, but it is a beautiful environment. He has a busy job at the Duta Wacana University.

This house and its furniture could have been anywhere in or near a modern town in Indonesia. He truly adapted to his environment, joins the night watch once every month or two months. And still has a nice view on the ricefields next to his house.
Quite different is the house of Elga Sarapung, director of the inter-religious institute DIAN Interfidei. She also lives in a new neighbourhood, already more densely populated, with some great modern houses in a walled compound, that is in conflict with the earlier village/settlement. They wanted to have an exit for cars from the closed compound, but the neighbours did not like the new busy traffic and built a wall, preventing people to go out of this compound. PSS means:  Persatuan Sepakbola Sleman or the Union of Football Players of Sleman (the district where Elga lives). On the picture below it is clear how the people here prevented the use of the gate for this new walles compound (there is another gate, nearly 800m away).

Elga had her house planned and designed by Romo Mangunwijaya, who hated Aircondition and formulated as the basic need of a proper house in Indonesia that it should have much free ventilation, open window, no doors, something like a pendopo or at least a house without too high walls.

Elga had made Bubur Manado, some kind of everything in a basket, but on the basis of corn. For a small crowd, but here were only Elha and me, besides Kees de Jong and his wife Tuti. The house looks great, but it has only rooms on the ground floor: the rest is ventilation, free air.
With Elga I had a long conversation about all kind of religio-political issues. She is really fond of Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, who is the new Minister of Religion. Still under SBY he invited Bahai, Ahmadiyyah, Sunda Wiwitan (the new name for the Madrais movement, ADS, Agama Djawa Sunda), Shi'a, Christians, Hindus for an iftar in his house. And he will change quite a few things in the relation between religions and politics: the government must be less bound to religious leaders and take more distance.

An International Workshop on Qur'an Interpretation

For Monday 16 November I was invited by Dr. Sahiron Syamsuddin to give two lectures at an 'international workshop' on Qur'an Interpretation. The schedule was only known to me on Saturday 14, so I was happy that I had brought me laptop with me and could prepare the two speeches.
The workshop was attended by some 50 people. Partly staff of the Department of Qur'an Studies at UIN Yogyakarta. Most of them were young graduates who worked in the region of Yogyakarta and who could gain credit (necessary for improvement of their academic status) by a certificate that was presented at the end of the day. The Workshop took place in the Puri Artha Hotel, near the UIN, to give it some more prestige.

I gave the first lecture on basis of my contribution for the Journal of Rotterdam Islamic and Social Sciences, vol 1/1, 2010:155-166, from John Wansbrough to L├╝ling, Ohlig, ending with Angelika Neuwirth and the Corpus Coranicum project. The second lecture was a detailed interpretation of the Mary-Jesus-section of Surat Maryam. I found it a good exercise for plans to do more work on the Jesus verses. (The Indonesian translation is ready, but Sahiron waits for last preface).

I found the atmosphere very open, critical, ready to start debates. It ended with the usual series of photographs and below I stand besides Sahiron Syamsuddin.

Indonesia again: Bale Ocasa in Tangerang

After the wonderful trip to Japan that was recorded in ten short stories, I had about two weeks to correct the proofs of the book Catholics in Independent Indonesia, 1945-2010, and to compose the index, together with Paule. The index is now ready, some minor corrections still have to be made. I hope that everything will be ready in January 2015. There are 30 documents in the book. Seven are in Dutch or Indonesian. Initially I wanted to publish these in English translation, but Simon Rae suggested that they should be in the original language, like was done in the two earlier volumes. I have now posted these seven documents in https://independent.academia.edu/KSteenbrink. They will later also be posted on this blog.

From 13-23 November I went to Indonesia for a wonderful invitation: a Conference in Yogyakarta commemorating the Dutch-Indonesian Cooperation in Islamic Studies, which started in 1978. Martin van Bruinessen and I were invited to attend this event, even to be the central persons. So, I left Utrecht again on 13 November. I arrived in Jakarta/Cengkareng quite late in the evening of the 14th and was taken to the Bale Ocasa hotel, about 15 minutes from the airport. They have an excellent free airport transfer service. The hotel is quite new: no escalator for the three floors, although the space has been prepared. But spacious rooms, nice garden and low price.

There is special decoration in the lobby and at the reception. Large 2.50-3.00 long would carvings, one of Abraham and the other of Moses/. In somewhat medieval style, with several episodes put together in one big ensemble. Most moving for me was the picture of Abraham, happy that he had his son back, liberated from that impossible divine order to sacrifice him.
There is also a quite extraordinary scene in the hotel lobby: two angels as guardians of something that looks like the Hebrew Tabernacle. Resembling quite healthy young human beings! I received an email, signed by Ferdian Octavianus. Is he family of the well known Evangelical church leader, Petrus Octavianus, founder of the Institut Injil Indonesia in Batu, near Malang? The artist is some Toto from Jepara, apparently not an artist of big fame, but especially the Abraham is beautiful.
From Bale Ocasa I arrived easily back at the airport. I had to move from one hall to another. By shuttle bus: I felt immediately at home in Indonesia. There were few buses, overcrowded in the hustle of the traffic at the airport, so different from Japan and also from Kuala Lumpur, we I had seen modern shuttle trains between the terminals.

donderdag 4 december 2014

Tokyo, last encounters and impressions

From 17-27 October 2014 I went with Paule to Japan for guest lectures in Nagoya (Nanzan) and Tokyo (Sphia University). But we took also the opportunity to see more of the country. This is impression no 10 and also the last in the series. We thank Kobayashi Yasuko who took the initiative for the series of lectures, insisted on the participation of my wife Paule and facilitated everything from our arrival until departure. Thank you very much for your kind hospitality, Yasuko!

On this nice Sunday morning, Yasuko suggested that we make a walk from our hotel along Sophia University to the big garden surrounding the large New Otani Hotel. Yasuko once stayed in one of its 1479 rooms, at the occasion of a visit by President Abdurrahman Wahid to Japan (to receive an award by Sophia University). She stayed here, hoping that she could interview Wahid. I put already sme pictures of the garden and its 'Christian' chapel in the section on wedding chapels. The three of us here on a picture by some people waiting to attend a marriage ceremony later that day, because in the early morning the chapel was still used for a Christian service.

Thew hotel itself looks like one of these big international buildings. But the garden is truly Japanese and the view from the restaurant is superb. Look also to the quite big waterfall, left of Yasuko: all man-made, but in perfect harmony, at least that is the impression we should have. On top of the hill is the wedding chapel.

Our guide on this day was Motoki Yamaguchi, close to Yasuko in academic interest. He had continued his academic studies and written a dissertation on the Arabs in Indonesia, especially the Jamiatul Khair versus Al-Irsyad debate and the thinking and writing of Ahmad Surkati. His doctoral dissertation is finished and accepted. So, now he has to think about a post-doc position: my own two sons Floris and Stijn did not like to pursue an academic career as their father did. They studied engineering and work in more practical (and better earning) jobs!
With Motoki we went to one of the largest temples of Tokyo, in the district of Asakusa, built for an old statue found somewhere around 650. It was immensely crowded with people having fun, shopping in the many petty stalls, looking a little bit like the entrance to the grave of Sunan Ampel in Surabaya, but with more order and more fine buildings. But after visits to so many temples and shrines it looked as if it was more of the same, also because we do not understand very much of this language of images and ceremonies.
The second visit was to the Yasukuni shrine, in honour of the souls of those he fought during the earlier wars and especially the Pacific War for the 'peace of Japan'. Yamaguchi Motoki is standing here on the right. I had no better picture of this learned specialist of Indonesian Islam, concentrating on the writings of Ahmad Surkati (Motoki is able to read the Arabic of Surkati: complicated debates of fiqh and one of the few to study this after Pijper!)
In the official leaflet of the Yasukuni shrine it is said that behind the main building, another kind of archive room is built. 'It houses the Symbolic Registers of Souls, lists the names of all the divinities worshipped here at Yasukuni Shrine.They are written on handmade Japanese papers.' This is some kind of bad translation or bad Shinto theology?
 It was not allowed to make pictures close to the main shrine, but with my camera I could make some pictures of bowing and clapping people, paying honour to the 'divinities' here. There is also a Museum for the Pacific War' with prototypes of the planes that were used. Probably also the airplanes that destroyed the American fleet in Pearl Harbour. Also the locomotive that was used at the inauguration of the Burma railroad. For Dutch visitors these items in the museum have special elements as well.

On the map of Tokyo it is clear that the district of our Hotel has many small shrines. We made a few walks in this section of Tokyo, narrow streets, but many houses with a garage for a car, and many nice gardens and statues of deities or something old and religious here.

These are just only a few impressions of an extraordinary trip to Japan. So many issues came together: meetings with a group of colleagues in Indonesian Studies whom we could meet here in their own situation in Japan. Visits to Japanese places, but in contact with students and scholars of Indonesia. Of course, there was much comparison between the countries. The impressions were so overwhelming that Paule said: we must put the pictures and the texts in a booklet that is easy to handle. As a tributre to Yasuko Kobayashi and so many of her students and colleagues who made this trip possible, we put this here on a blog, as a small sign of our gratitude for their hospitality, liberality and concern with our condition. Terima kasih!