dinsdag 12 mei 2015

The Unfinished Journey of Hans Jansen

Hans (J.J.G.) Jansen, born in 1942 died on 5 May 2015, 'Liberation Day' in our country, the Netherlands. It was commemoration of 70 years freedom from German occupation.
Hans Jansen was born in a solid Reformed, Calvinist family. He studied Semitic languages and became a gifted teacher of Arabic. He wrote a quite thin (110 pages) doctoral dissertation on The Interpretation of the Koran in Modern Egypt and became a lecturer in Arabic at Leiden University. In his dissertation he gives description of biography and character of people from Muhammad Abduh to Amin al-Khuli, Kamil Husayn, Mahmud Shaltut and quite a few others. Together with Baljon (on Qur'an interpretation in Modern India) he suggested me initially to write a dissertation on modern Qur'an interpretation in Indonesia. Instead I turned to field research on pesantren education.
In the early 1980s he was Director of the Dutch Institute in Cairo. He told me in the later 1980s, when we both lived in Leiden, that he had turned atheist during the 1960 and 1970s, but that was quite inconvenient in Egypt where atheist are seen as Communists and unethical persons. Soot  decided to embrace Christianity again, but not in the style of a Dutch village and a local tradition, but the global tradition of Roman Catholicism. We had a debate about orthodoxy and the way to be member of a great tradition.Jansen wanted a total dedication, with my family we were active in the ecumenical and liberal academic parish.
Jansen was best as a teacher and translator of Arabic. He published an English translation of the ideological defence of the terrorists who had killed Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. He reproached fellow Rabists and scholars of Islam that they presented a too rosy image of Islam. He wanted to warn the world for the danger of Islam. Many of his fellow academics were in his words tièremondist, who always wanted to forgive people from the 'Third World', ask for understanding, blame Western countries for the mistakes and blunders in their former colonies.
He wrote a quite superficial book on the 'Profit to believe in God', in Dutch Het nut van God: social cohesion, friendliness, certainty in life. His best book is the two-volume critical study on the biography of the Prophet Muhammad.
During the last decade Jansen was more and more close to the Dutch politician Geert Wilders who has considers Islam as the greatest danger for the existence of the world. Jansen was member of the team that defended Wilders in court; he delivered texts for that terrible movie Fitna and published a strange apocalyptic book, Eindstrijd.
Eindstrijd means 'The Final Battle', here between the Liberal West and Traditional Islam. On the front page of the book we see a drawing, based on an art work made by Slowak artist Kristof Kitera for the office of the European Commission in Brussels. It is the map of the Netherlands, but the country is flooded, because it is the Low Country and only some minarets have survived.
There is sime tragic feeling at the untimely death of Hans Jansen. He was since 2014 one of the some 750 members of the European Parliament. Twice he was allowed to give a talk of one (!) minute in a nearly absurdist style. He never developed a balanced and more detailed study about Islam in general or of groups of it.

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