zaterdag 15 september 2018

'Antrian' or lining up for position no 2

Following Indonesian politics from a European town is not so easy. Television is important, one should people hear and see. And in Utrecht we do not see the faces. The Jakarta Post has since long no real interesting analysis. Kompas is quite cryptic for people not living in the country. is an internet site for academic publications. It has now an quite lucid analysis by Najib Burhani and Deasy Simanjuntak on the choice by Jokowi to take the 76 year old Ma'ruf Amin (only 3 months younger than my own age!) as his Vice President in the elections of coming year, April 2019.
There were several other candidates, some already with the white dress of Jokowi. It was not Mahfud MD, chief justic in the  Constitutional Court), but the leader of MUI and NU Ma'ruf Amin who is the running mate.
Above we see the two, apparently during medical screening.
In the analysis of Burhani much emphasis is given to the age: with 76 year Ma'ruf Amin is no candidate for the elections of 2024: no warming up for the process of becoming the next president. This was the reason why Muhaimin Iskandar of the younger generation of NU had no problems with his old leader. In Muslim circles quite many have hope for themselves to become a next president (Amine Rais also? Dien Syamsuddin?) and much of the debate is already about the next line for the succession!
There are also a new candidates in the political arena whom they mention: TGB from Lombok: Tuan Guru Bajang, now governor of NTB. Also Ustadz Abdul Somad, young and popular preacher (now more popular than AAGym).
But more important is the question: how will conservative, traditionalist Muslim make this choice: will they now leave the party Prabowo? The Populi Center counted in February 34.6% of Muhammadiyah for Prabowo, as well as 25.4% of NU. We will see how things develop. They found it quite surprising and strange that Jokowi took a very conservative cleric as running mate (who was agianst Ahok, signed the terrible fatwa against Ahmadiyyah), while Prabowo has a more 'secular' running mate, economist Sandiago Uno. We get accustomed to new names. Below the new faces again!

maandag 10 september 2018

Joke or yoke? The Bupati of Bireuen on coffee parties

The Bupati of Bireuen, Saifunnur ('Sword of Licht') has issued a local regulation about coffee drinking in café and restaurant: a woman is only allowed to enjoy a coffee with a non-muhrim man (no husband, no family), if she is in the company of a muhrim. She is even not allowed to have a meal, or a simple drink anywhere in a public place.
This message was sent in a facebook chain without any comment of words. But there was a simple image added, clear enough, I think.
When is drinking coffee haram or halal was the question added. And this was just one of a whole series of regulations issued by this bupati.
The answer to the question of halal/haram may also be found in the Gospel of Matthew 11:30, where Jesus says about his interpretation of the sometimes  weard interpretations of Jewish law: my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
When I was teaching at the State Academy of Islamic Sciences  (now UIN), in Jakarta and Yogyakarta, 1981-1988, students saw that I was often critical about Christianity and positive about Islam. Some asked: why do you not convert fully to Islam? I always answered, 'Better be a critical Christian than a subdued Muslim who, as a muallaf has to accept all rules and cannot be critical anymore'. There is no perfect religion in this earth, but we have to careful that religions anyway remain reasonable.

zondag 2 september 2018

Inflated and dangerous accusations of blasphemy

Blasphemy is a hot issue in Pakistan, where all kind of Christians and other people easily can be condemned in court cases for anything that does not honour the Prophet Muhammad or other aspects of Islam. Last week this has hit the well-known Dutch critic of Islam, politician and member of parliament Geert Wilders. He had announced a contest of making cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad, to be shown in November 2018 in the building of parliament. Although he was only allowed to show these in the private rooms of his own party in that public building, the idea has caused such vehement protests in Pakistan (with thread to stop all trade with the Netherklands, send the ambassador home), that Wilders last week has withdrawn his proposal.

In Indonesia the best known case are the demonstrations aganst Jakarta governor Ahok in December 2016, which have caused that he is still in prison now (until early 2019), just for giving his personal opinion about the interpretation of a verse of the Qur'an.
On 22 July this year a Chinese lady in the town of Tanjung Balei complained to neighbours about the loudspeakers of the mosque just next to her house. She had the impression that it was much louder than before and said that it even was painful in her ears. This is a complaint that I also heard from Muslim colleagues in Yogyakarta: they come late to the Friday prayers, because the sound of the loudspeakers is so painful that they do not like to sit there for ten-twenty minutes, before the Friday prayers start.
Meiliana could not guess that this remark would evoke a chain of protests from the side of Muslims of her town. How just this simple remark could lead to a chain of violence is not clear. On 29 July the DKM, Dewan Kemakmuran Masjid, the Governing Body of the Mosque Al Maksum, came to her house with questions like: 'Do you want us to stop at all with the call to prayer?' There were also general negative remarks about Chinese and Muslims:
"One Ustaz complained that Chinese are arrogant, that close to temples many prostitutes are found, Muslim girls who are sold to Chinese." This 'iterrogation' ended after the last prayers that day in a demonstration.
 The result was that during the demonstration, the house of Meilana was set to fire. But it was soon exstinguished because her neighbour was selling gas in bottles. Thereupon a large number of demonstrators went to several Chinese temples and not less than 14 Chinese temples were ransacked in a violent atmosphere that began about 21:00 and lasted until shortly after midnight, when riot police came in a calmed down the region.
The result was that some of the leaders of the riots were setneced to three months of prison, but the 44 year old Chinese lady Meilana was sentenced to 1 1/2 year prison beaucse of penodaan agama, defamation of religion. A sad end to a development that apparently could not be stopped (or was rather abused by politicians who take profit from these developments in order to increase their popularity). An observer called this 'hate spin', the profit generated by hate.

donderdag 23 augustus 2018

Syafii Maarif published by Leiden University Press

In 2009 Achmed Syafii Maarif (SAM) published two books that asked much attention. He was one of the authors of the angry book Ilusi Negara Islam, The Illusion of an Islamic State, as propagated by hardline traditionalist Muslim from the Middle East who had infiltrated since the 1980s in the heaven of moderate Islam in Indonesia.In that same year he published the first version of Islam dalam Bingkai Keindonesiaan dan Kemanusiaan, later in a second edition in 2015 and now in an English translation at Leiden University Press.
 ASM was general chairperson of the Muhammadiyah between  1998 and 2005. From the two ideals of Muhammadiyah (purification/modernization) he mostly supported the idea of modernization. He was not really afraid for new things (bid'ah) in the religion of Islam. Instead, as a historian rather than dogmatic theologian, let alone a specialist of Islamic Law, he supported the idea that all religions, including Islam, know developments. One is the regional and so the idea of Indonesian Islam or Islam Nusantara is important for him. Indonesia does not need to imitatethe Islam from the Middle East societies. The other is the historical: the present state of Islam (also in Indonesia) is that is has a low quality of adherents and leadership. Not the deviation in wrong practices, but the low intellectual quality of its leadership is the greatest problem for Indoensian Muslims.
Herman Beck who wrote the preface for the translation of this book, writes in his introduction that in the 1960s and 1970s AMS still supported Muhammad Natsir and the ideal of an integral introduction of sharia law in his country. This is now no longer the great ideal, but rather an enlightened humanist Islam, adjusted to Indonesian culture. There the cover of this book shows the minaret of the mosque in Kudus, built after the model of a Hindu temple (or the transformation of a Hindu one).
I wrote already about this book and its translation 26-11-2016, quoting from my notes for the recommendation of the publication of this translation. Traditionalist Muslim in Indonesia seek support in the Middle East, modernists seek fellow thinkers in the Western world. Such is the new division.
Pages 78-84 are an appraisal of the ideals of Communist leader Tan Malaka, a fellow Minangkabau thinker. Wonderful to read how much sympathy is given here to a Communist protagonist by a prominent Muslim leader.

maandag 13 augustus 2018

The personal belief of Gerry van Klinken

On 12 June Gerry van Klinken celebrated the beginning of his new life as 'pensionado': the freedom of retirement. First there was a conference of two days with papers and speeches about civil rights and status of citizens in pre-colonial Southeast Asia. The final lecture was for Gerry himself who talked not about Southeast Asian history or present status, but about his personal belief.
Wilfred Cantwell Smith has written much about the difference between institutionalised faith and personal belief. They can be quite different, so beware of all kind of too easy statistics!
To my surprise, Indonesia did not play a role in his vision, unless a short remark that he had 'abandoned the last relics of his Christian belief during the wars in Maluku'.
Gerry started with singing: an ancient Greek hymn to Apollo for his fighting the dragon Python and stabilizing, giving order to the world! Then he moved to Socrates, as described by Plato, giving his views about events and myths in a philosophical discourse about the ideal state, a theoria, a true vision, not a lifeless theory in some science to be applied and interpreted.
Lucretius De Rerum Natura had been of much influence for him in his vision of human beings amidst the universe. Lucretius did what Nurcholis Madjid would call sekularisasi: forget the myths, look at the things around as part of the universe that includes also human beings. Material things and conditions are not divine. But Van Klinken did not need Nurcholis or other indonesian people, he likes here Lucretius.
The last model figure here was Spinoza, who formulated the phrase: Deus sive natura,  God or nature are interchangeable: all nature is 'divine'  so to say and the divinity is not separated from nature, instead. Therefore there are ethical commands inherent and clear for all rational people, also for politics: republican and democratic values against monarchy and dictotorship.
The talk is on the KITLV site, available to be read (code: 12062018).
When reading Hamzah Fansuri about the 'unity of being' the wihdatul wujud, unity of man with nature, with other human beings as a condition that includes the divinity, I feel the company of Spinoza, compatibility with the contemporary religious author, as well.
But also now concentrating on the traditional religion of Timor, where Sun and Moon are symbols for a sublime and ultimate reality, shared and supported by the ancestors, I see that also Indonesian spiritual poetry can contribute to our understanding of man amidst the universe. For a Professor of Indonesian Culture and Society, I found this neglect of Indonesian aspects somewhat surprising.

woensdag 1 augustus 2018

Aa Gym between Psychology and Shari'ah

Last week James Bourk Hoesterey was in Leiden to talk about methodology of social science and the humanities. He criticized the emphasis on libraries, books and archives, manuscript collections. Edited short movies should be seen as the new source for finding facts and theories.
Not everybody was charmed.
J. Hoesterey did not talk much about his Ph.D Thesis on Aa Gym, the reason why I went to Leiden to attend his talk. But I could borrow the book and read it.

Aa Gym (born 1962) was the son of a sports trainer in a school in Bandung and therefore the strange Arab-Indonesian name of Abdullah Gymnastiar. After general education and some years in a technical university, some study of accountancy, Aa (older brother, in Sundanese, apparently the same as kakak in Indonesian), earning money with making movies of celebrations like graduation. There was a marriage with a pious wife in 1987. Aa began a business as a preacher in Bandung in 1990. His formal knowledge of Islam and Arabic is poor, but he has a good sense of homour and practical insight in human problems. Already in 1992 Times magazine labelled him as 'Indonesia's Holy Man'. In 2000 he held his first sermon at SCTV, in 2001 his first great talk in the national mosque of Indonesia, Istiqlal in Jakarta.
Hoesterey has a chapter 2 with the title: Popular Psychology and Religious Wisdom. He also compares Aa Gym with televangelists and with other self-help gurus. There is some and even now and then a strong Muslim flavour in his teaching. Frequent Qur'anic quotes are in Arabic, but there is no talk about application of shari'ah. After the terrorist attacks in Poso he once preached in a Christian church and his concern for harmony and unity in Indonesia is sincere.
Hoesterey acknowledges that Islam in Indonesia is part of a global religion with the Arab countries as the centre. But newer developments should not always be explained by this Arab background. Like ESQ Training (Emotional Spiritual Quotient) of Ary Ginanjar has more affinity  to 'the American pop psychology of Daniel Coleman, also much content of Aa Gym is taken from self-help programmes in the international psycho-market.
Hoesterey started research in 2006 and after about one year it became known that Aa Gym had taken a second wife and his imperium of some 700 employees collapsed within a few weeks. The researcher was present and gives a fascinating story of the scandal. Aa Gym recovered slowly but never became as famous as before. What a case for a researcher, to be so close to so dramatic changes in the subject of the research!
The first chapter of the book looks like a hasty collection of all kind of broader theories. That is necessary, apparently. I liked mostly the balanced narrative of this surprising development of a major personality in modern Indonesian Islam.

dinsdag 31 juli 2018

The variety of topics in the research of Media Zainul Bahri

Media Zainul Bahri is a lecturer at the UIN, Islamic State University of Jakarta. Quite different from many young scholars he has known a great switch in his topics. In 2010 he defended his doctoral dissertation in Jakarta: on the Islamic Mysticism of Ibn 'Arabi, Jalaluddin Rumi and al-Jili: three universal esoteric masters of the later middle ages (in Western chronology, in fact: in the high period of Muslim mystical writers.
In 2013 he was for a short period in the Netherlands, because of a two-year post-doctoral  research in Cologne on the small presence of theosophy in Indonesia, 1901-1940. In the publication of this book he was praised by Prof. Edwin Wieringa, he put this book on the leven of the German Habilitation, r somce kind of second dissertation, necessary for a position as full professor.
Theosophy was not really important in the history of Indonesia. Helena Blavatsjky visited twice Indonesia: in the 1850s and again in 1862 and was impressed by the shrines of Mendut and Borobudur. After 1900 a small movement started, mostly in Pekalongan and Semarang, later also to Yogyakarta, Surakarta and Surabaya. A variety of members is mentioned, from the father of Soekarno to Haji Agus Salim. After 1914 a small series of Arjuna schools were opened. It was an open movement, more even than Budi Utomo, because European and Indonesian members were here in equal position (Ricklefs: one of the few movements which brought elite Javanese, Indo-Europeans and Dutchmen together).
In his book Wajah Studi Agama-agama dari Era Teosofi Indonesia (1901-1940) hingga Masa Reformasi goes further: the beginning of the comparative study of religion, with Mukti Ali as the most important scholar, but also Johan Effendi, Nurcholish Madjid, Jalaluddin Rakhmat and even the open-minded Abdurrahman Wahid as promotors of the comparative study of religion.

 This summer season Media again came to Cologne, now for a three months research. Again he visited Utrecht and a picture was taken in the same place as in 2013 (above). Then the Diyanet Mosque or Ulu Camii was not yet finished, now its restaurant on the ground floor is open, as well as the upper three floors of the mosqu. This mosque is on a prominent square, close to thelarge railway station of Utrecht.
Media was now invited for three month on Cologne on the base of a finding of documents in the Sono Budaya building of Yogyakarta. He found documents in fine Javanese script, with texts of bi-monthly lectures on religion in the mid-1930s and apparently in Javanese. Dr. Johan Herman Bavinck
had given a lecture on the Jewish religion. He not only gave a description of the Jewish idea of Messiah/Mahdi, but also wanted to correct the Jews. They are still expecting the 'Mahdi' but in fact this figure has arrived in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. So, Bavinck not only was a pure academic scholar, but also an apologetic defender of Christianity. In the Protestant terminology of that period, he was 'elenchtic'. Now Media Zainul Bahri is studying more writings of this Protestant scholar to determine this style of mixture of science of religion and missionary apologetic.
The major writing in this field is J.H. Bavinck, Christus en de Mystiek van het Oosten, (Kampen 1934), where pages 74-105 are about 'De Islam en zijn doorwerking op Java', or 'Islam and its development in Java'.  It is a quite disappointing study: it only quotes two other scholar-missionaries (Hendrik Kraemer and Barend Schuurman), besides Mangkunegara VII about wayang (article in the journal Djawa). Islamic Mysticism in java is a mixture of pantheism and some more strict Muslim orthodoxy. For this moment we must wait how they will develop further and in this period 'follow the command that we should try to bring them to (Jesus), the only one who is the Way, Life and Truth.' According to Media Zainul Bahri in this way Bavinck show a mix of science of religion and missionary zeal. Interesting to hear just a calm analysis from a young Muslim scholar from Jakarta. And enjoy a lunch together in the new Turkish mosque of Utrecht.