zondag 8 november 2015

Zarkowi Soejoeti, an honest, optimistic, efficient and devoted official of the Ministry of Religion

Earlier this year (August 2015) I wrote about Judi Suyuti. This brought me to borrow the book written by his father, Menapak Jalan Berliku. Sebuah Otobiografi, Jakarta, DPP GUPPI, Pustaka Ummat, 2010, 393 pages.
Born in 1934 as number 7 out of eleven children of the chief penghulu in Bantul, Zarkowi went to the Dutch-language primary school. 1940-2 was a good time.The Japanese time is remembered as poverty, no school no food. Soon after independence on 17 August 1945 his father died, but left some houses and ricefields. Notwithstanding a bad period for primary education, Zarkowi learned enough to attend SGHA, a school for religious judges and also entered some style of training in the army in the early 1960s. From pupil he soon became a teacher, thanks to his good knowledge of Arabic.
It is not a very personal book: Zarkowi writes more about people and events in his environment than about his personal things.
In 1963 he joined a protest against the bad policy for the (beginning) academic institute, IAIN, dominated by Nahdlatul Ulama party politics and not really focused on good quality. This meant for him as punishment a transfer to Banten. But Zarkowi made the best of it, was close to public administration and the army.
In 1974 he was at the central offica of the Departemen Agama, the Ministry of Religion and played his part in the struggle between the Ministry of Justice that wanted a secular law of marriage and the Muslim politicians who wanted a religious imprint on this aspect of social life. And they won! Partly thanks to Zarkowi (175-178). He was also active in the place of Islamic education, the specific madrasah education as well as religious education .

Some Dutch scholars enter the book. In 1969 he was for a 5-months programme in the Netherlands (located in the Volkshogeschool Bergen aan Zee) and here he met Nico Schulte Nordholt (149-152). Pages 262-3 are about the hajj ticket given to Johan Meuleman, lecturer at the IAIN of Ciputat/Jakarta in 1993.
For several periods he was active in the IAIN of Semarang, but more periods even he was active in the Ministry of Religion. Page 278 tells about problems in the Protestant Batak Churchm, HKBP and the Buddhist organization Walubi. The problems here were also discussed in the ministry by the Muslim at the top.
In 1997-1999 he was ambassador in Riyad, Arabia: many problems with the hajj pilgrimage and with Indonesian migrant (temporary!) workers  in that rich country. From 1999-2001 he had the same function in Damascus. Page 355 had a nice anecdote about a Syrian Orthodox Bishop of Jerusalem giving a talk in Damascus and pronouncing Allahu akbar in exactly the same way the Muslims do. Different from Indonesian Christians who do not give a strong double -ll-  to Allah, by a weak Alah, quite different from the pronouncement of Muslims. When I talked Indonesian with Christians in Indonesia, they laughed at my 'Muslim accent' in the common words for Christians and Muslims.
It is a book without much spicy revelations about people, only the record of what a happy man in the autumn of his life wanted to communicate. Ya, panjang umurnya Pak Zarkowi!

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