woensdag 8 oktober 2014

State Radicalism in Indonesia?

I am preparing a lecture for Nagoya (Nanzan University) and Tokyo (Sophia), where I will give some views on modern religious development in Indonesia, also seen through the eyes of Catholics. This is more or less another phase in my 'serial conversions': after finishing the third volume on Catholics in Indonesia, I will more turn to Muslim developments.

1° In 1984 Husnul Aqib Suminto defended his doctoral dissertation on  the Islamic policy of the Dutch colonial government. His main argument was that the devotional activities, prayers, pilgrimage, celebration of holidays, building, maintenance of mosques, the ‘strict religious’ practices of Muslim could be continued and even sometimes supported (religious courts for marriage, inheritance), but that political activities were severely controlled, supervised and quickly forbidden. Alfian (alsi nicknamed Alfian Alit, little Alfian, who wrote on Muhammadiyah in the late colonial period, to differentiate from Ibrahim Alfian, the tall Acehnese scholar) asked him whether there was a difference between colonial and modern Indonesian strategy towards Islam under Suharto. The audience laughed, because it was not really a question but rather a statement and Suminto politely answered that in fact there was not much difference.

                Things were changing already at that time. As I see it, a policy of distance between government administration and the life of religions made a substantial turn in 1974 with a more active role for the major religion in the administration of marriage. This increased in 1989-1991 with the law and the guidelines for religious courts. As sketched above the administration has since then taken more steps towards public support of implementation of religious rules and values, with under the period of Reformasi as major developments the introductions of shari’a rules in Aceh and about 10% of all districts, more religious education according to the religion of the pupils and in 2008 the law on or rather against pornography and porno-action. A dark development since then has been severe measures against Ahmadiyyah and Shi’a Muslims, heavily supported by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Minister of Religions Suryadharma Ali. It must be awaited how the new administration of Joko Widodo will handle this policy.

2° In 2006 Andrée Feillard and Rémy Madinier, two French scholars, published their book La Fin de l’innocence? L’islam indonésien face à la tentation radical, de 1967 à nos jours. It was published in an English version in 2011 with the subtitle of Indonesian Islam and the Temptation of radicalism. They seek the roots of the radical Islam in the secessionist Darul Islam movement of the 1950s, of conservatism in Muhammadiyah, since it vety beginning, in Dakwah since the beginning of the new order of Soeharto, the radical activities in the big campuses of the country (Bandung, Yogyakarta), while FPI, the Muslim Defence League from August 1998, Lasykar Jihad and similar movement were the radical continuation in the period of the Reformasi.
                In 2011 Bob Heffner published an article with the challenging title of ‘Where have all the abangan gone?’ Where are these non-dogmatic, somewhat syncretist Muslim, still seen as the majority of the Javanese Muslim in the 1960s and 1980s? He considered religious education by orthodox teachers at state schools as a major factor. In 2013 Martin van Bruinessen published a book with the title: Contemporary Development in Indonesian Islam: Explaining the ‘Conservative Turn’, where a major significance was given to the end of the centralistic Suharto government and the rise of populist Muslim orthodox parties.

3° In this contribution we take the longer period and see a continuity in the development since 1974 when the Ministry of Religion was no longer a pure administrative unit, but could start to play a more active role in one of the basic elements of daily life of Muslims: family and marriage. Until the law on pornography of 2008 this has increased. Perhaps we should even go back to the colonial period when the Dutch took over the role over the former sultans and other rulers as heads of religion, much more than the French who strongly defended a secular society and the British who held the system of indirect rule. Bousquet wrote in the 1930s already a critical, not say a nasty description of this pro-active policy of the Dutch. Is this a (not the only) explanation for the state supported-radicalism of modern Indonesian Islam?

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