woensdag 28 december 2016

Johan Hendrik Meuleman, 4 May 1954- 20 January 2016

Only yesterday I received  information that Johan Meuleman had died earlier this year.
Johan was the son of a quite conservative, orthodox philosopher at the Free University of Amsterdam. He studied also philosophy, besides history. In the 1980s he went to Algeria for a doctoral research about the economy of Algeria in the full colonial period, 1920-1940. It was most about prices of grain. He fell in love with an Algerian lady, Saïda Belghoul. She was a student of physics and also working on a doctoral dissertation (at McGill University of Montreal if I am not mistaken). They celebrated twice the marriage: once in a Muslim way in Algeria, once in a somewhat 'ecumenical' way in Amsterdam. The father of Johan was not really happy (to say it mildly) with the conversion to Islam of his son. In fact it was the conversion to the rational and open Islam of Muhammad Arkoun. His Lectures du Coran were later translated by Johan into Indonesian. I played a fragment from Mozart's sonata in A at the occasion, because the musician did not come.
I met Meuleman for the first time in 1989, when we were both part of the INIS team, the Indonesian Netherlands Cooperation in Islamic Studies. Johan became between 1993-1998 (or so) a lecturer at the Jakarta IAIN. After the INIS project finished he had problems in finding a good place in the academic world. He worked for some time at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. After 2007 he was a lecturer at the Islamic section in Hogeschool INHolland. He was also a very dedicated lecturer and administrator at the Islamic University of Europe. The IUE was established after the Islamic University of Rotterdam experienced a leadership-crisis around 2000, which ended with Ahmed Akgündüz as its strong rector. A number of people who were not happy with this outspoken follower of Said Nursi came together in the IUE. Like many institutions of Muslims in the Dutch Society it proved to be a complicated affair of people seeking authority and influence in a still fragile organization. Meuleman had no ethnic or organizational backing and was somewhat naive in social contacts. He remained loyal and hoped that here his dream of a modern and moderate European style of Islam could be established. He lived not long enough to see this dream to become reality and died at the still rather young age of 61 years only.
Of his publications some are compilations under INIS initiatives like the collection of articles on Muslim women in Indonesia (1993) and the Survey on Indonesian Islam, 1988-1993. His interest was not the social and definitely not the political expression of Islam but the spiritual meaning and in the academic world the philosophical translation of this spirituality. He was a man who continued to live in the Western (post-) Christian world and at the same time in the various Muslim regions of Europe, Indonesia and North Africa. May he rest in piece and his wife and daughter find their way too.

maandag 19 december 2016

Kafir and attributes for Christmas

7 March 1981 the Majelis Ulama Indonesia, the semi-official national council of Indonesian Muslim scholars or MUI, issued a fatwa on Christmas celebrations. Muslims should avoid participation in such festivities. Some even concluded that it is haram or forbidden to express Merry Christmas. One reason for the fatwa was that Muslim pupils at Christian schools joined the school choir and sung Christmas songs. The head of the MUI, Hamka (Haji Abdul Malik ibn Abdul Karim Amrullah) was dismissed by the Minister of Religion (because he did not obey the inter-religious harmony of Pancasila). However, the fatwa was never withdrawn. Near yearly the President of the Indonesian Republic is one of those who light a candle in a giant tree during the Christmas celebration in the great Senayan stadion of Jakarta. Yearly the fatwa is repeated, debated, nuanced, abused for many purposes.
This year the MUI has taken the subject of 'religious non-Islamic attributes'. (Fatwa no 56, 2016 Tentang hukum menggunakan atribut keagamaan non-muslim). Attribut  is not a common Indonesian word, but has apparently the meaning of 'gadgets, incidental elements'.  Their hukum or legal status is: haram. So, Muslims are not allowed to propagate, use, sell, produce, transport, give to other people 'religious attributes'. No examples are given in the fatwa. Prof. Jan Sihar Aritonang of the (Protestant) Theological School of Jakarta wrote a letter of protest against the fatwa and gave as examples: Christmas trees, dress like Santa Claus, bells, candles, the charriot of Santa Claus.
It reminded me of the four hours I had to stay last year on a trip to Singapore, mid December, where I saw to my surprise that there was a great Christmas tree on the crowded international airport of Dubai. Also our own nice bronze statues for the Christmas group, Joseph and Mary, the three kings, shephards: are made in Burkina Faso by a group of Muslim artists.
What will be the result of this new fatwa in the long history? Will the big malls in Jakarta, Surabaya and other towns stop advertising with all kinds of Christmas trees, Santa Claus to attract Indonesian customers to their shops? I doubt so! Perhaps the FPI, Front Pembela Islam will  seek an opportunity to demonstrate against malls (if they do not pay money for 'protection') and destroy some Christmas trees.
Prof. Jan Aritonang wrote an open letter protesting against the wordings of the Fatwa. In not more than 8 pages the word kafir was used 13 times, denouncing Christians as unbelievers. In the recommendations there is some lip service as to the need that Muslims 'respect the creed and conviction of all religions. This respect includes freedom for non-Muslims to perform their religious duties, without including that there should be mutual acknowledgment of theological doctrines.' But in the arguments there is a quite general qualification about kafir or unbeliever. But the special status of Christians as people who are close to Muslims in a belief in God as creator and sustainer of the world is not mentioned at all. Also the status of Jesus as a prominent prophet is not mentioned in the fatwa. It has now been 35 years since the first Fatwa of Christmas and apparently the debate continues. Happy Christmas to all of you!

vrijdag 2 december 2016


For the great research project CMR, Christian-Muslim Relations, a Bibliographical Survey, I am now reading sections of 5100 pages of Francis Valentijn's Oud en Nieuw Oost-Indien. I look especially for his vision on Muslim-Christian Relations, of course. The eight volumes tell us much about Asia, concentrating first on tyhe Moluccas, (Ternate, Tidore, Ambon), Javanese history and also further countries of Asia. Because Valentijn was a Protestant (Calvinist, Reormed) minister he gives much information about his own church, but deals also in length with other topics.
The first to be said is about the title page with the image of Valtijn himself, three ladies and three men.
The left above is the Church of the East (in fact of Ambon and batavia): she is a shining light for others. The lady with one bare breast is the Greek goddes Pallas Athena, in the Latin world known as Minerva. She is a goddess of war (therefore the helmet) but also of science. A strange combination! Right on top a lady has disappeared, Thalia, the goddess for festivals and theatres. She is a daughter of Zeus/Jupiter.
The man right, with the turban, is the representative of the Jewish religion.
Below left, in the back, there is a Chinese man, representative for Mandarins, Confucians religion. With the curly hair we see a Moor or Muslim, but from East Indonesia. He is looking in a book where we can read the words Al-Kitab which stands for the Bible (not the Qur'an here!) and apparently a Muslim who is interested in Christianity (a rare occasion and not really supported by the content of the book by Valentijn).
One interesting thing in the first volume is a letter in Malay, written in Arab script by Valentijn's daughter Cornelia.  It is originally written by the Sultan of Bacan, who hopes that a precious diamand will be sent to him from Hitu on the island of Ambon.
Here is the text (with small alterations taken from Valentijn, Volume 1, Section on the Moluccas, page 121):

Kalām al-sidq  qaul al-haqq
Salaam afdalul doa akmaal yang terbit dari pada Mahabet ul coloeb, iya itu Anacdah padoeka siri Sulthan Makadeddin, Raja Bacan yang menyampaikan tsahhief ul ikhlas, akan menyatakan hormat al aziz serta dengan tabea banyak-banyak kepada ayahanda Heer Gouwernedur Adriaan van der Stel yang memerintahkan dalam negeri Ambon, memegang kuasa Kompeni, hingga dari sekalian dalam India, sebab cahaya akalaan budiman lagi bijaksanaan melakukan pada segala pekerjaannya. Syahdan mengasih segala orang kesukaran dan kedagangan, lagi mengetahui segala bangsa qarib dan ba’id dan terlebih pula yang menganugerahkan Akkah subhanahu wa ta’ala salamat sempurna usia umur kabesaran dan yang ketinggian, selama-lamnya. Amin Ya, rabb al ‘alamin.
Kemudian daripada itu tiada ada barang sesuatu, hanya anakdah bilang tatkala kaicil Mangsur dan kaicil Duba Duba itusudah memberitahu kepada ayahanda daripada bat uiwak itu. Maka itu anakda minta tolong sedikit kepada anakda, memanggil mana orang yang menaruh batu itu namanya tubang besi, baiklah iya membawa kepada Ayahanda Heer Gouwernadoor, maka ayahanda mengambil batu itu, memberi kepada budak anak Syahbandar yang bernama Abdur-Rahman itu karena batu itu dengan janjinya, jikalau Ayahanda tiada mengerti janji itu baiklah panggil Latuwani karena anakda sudah memberi tahu kepada Latuwani itu tempat.
Tiada ada cenderamata barang sesuatu seperti patut, hanya dua ekor burung Papua.
Demikianlah kami tamatkan surat ini dari istananya Raja Bacan, daripada selikur hari bulan Syawwal tahun seribu dan seratus dua puluh satu.

Another picture here is about the queen or sulthana of Ternate who ruled after her husband Bayanuallh had died in 1522. In fact the drawing looks somewhat like a European court scene!  But the queen is not sitting on a chair or throne, but on the ground, the courtiers wear turbans. Valentijn also tells us that Bayanullah wanted to kill all Portuguese in his realm (they were just arriving at the time).

zaterdag 26 november 2016

More Maarif

I have now finished reading the book Islam dalam Bingkai Keindonesiaan dan Kemanusiaan by Syafii Maarif (2009). It is so different from the other angry book of 2009, Ilusi Negara Islam which is mostly an attack on the 'infiltration of Salafism' in organization like Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah. As a remedy not the old receipe of Muhammadiyah 'cleansing the ummat from false and heretic doctrines' is mentioned, but rather civil purity. Syafii Maarif is someone who repeatedly states that about 85% of Indonesians are Muslims but it is not a fact of pride, but rather he confesses that all defects of the independent Indonesian Republic should be considered as a blame for the Muslim community: ineffectiveness, corruption, lack of democracy....
During further reading it has remained a kind of compilation of wise observations and wishes.
Qur'an 49:13  (about God who has created mankind different, male/female, various peoples and tribes) at least three times pp. 16, 69, 201. Wh should not dream about one dominant religion or state system. The Caliphate is denounced as a political system that never was perfect: out of the four first caliphs, three were killed: not really a peaceful start for Islam.
Maarif has much interest for Takdir Alisjabana (TAB) and the polemik kebudayaan, whether western modernity or Indonesian tradition should dominate our thinking.
In the chapter III on the present state of the Indonesian society (213-254) he discusses the problem of quality: according to United Nations standards for education Indonesia is only no 111 out of 175 countries. That is a low ranking (and he does not mention that NTT, the province with the highest percentage of  Christians also has nearly the lowest ranking for all of Indonesia!).
Some short remarkable  annotations:
p. 21: on 17 August 1945 the Piagam Jakarta was still included in the Constitution. Should it be still valid now? In general, however, we do not see a plea for application of shari'a rules. P. 28 has a somewhat cryptic note about the difficulty to discern between those who really have accepted the divine revaltion and those who do not
p. 27 Obama has uttered mild but clear criticism towards organized religion.
pp. 116-110 Is an unexpected positive description of the ideals of Tan Malaka: not only a Minangkabau scholar like maarif, but same idealism...
 Burhanuddin Harahap   (above) is praised for his perfect organization of the 1955 elections, a glorious event in the history of Indonesia. The outcome of the elections were a disaster: no agreement and the debates were frustarted by Sukarno who in 1959 proclaimed the authoritarian rule.
Page 185 is a strong argument against his old friend and colleague historian Deliar Noer, who joined a meeting of the Majelis Mujahidin  Indonesia. P. 190 has a very strong qualification for short-term president B.Y. Habibie as 'the second Hatta'. Next week I want read Maarif's  autobiography, to get a more complete picture of modern Muhammadiyah (between Amin Rais and Din Syamsuddin).

zaterdag 12 november 2016

Louis van de Vrande, chaplain for Dutch soldiers in 1945-1947. A war that not did become a Holy War.

In October I wrote already a blog about the recent Dutch debate on the dramatic, dirty and often neglected war crimes of the Dutch in Indonesia, 1945-1950. Next week, 17 November 2016,  a seminar at the Free University of Amsterdam will discuss the role of the churches in this last colonial war of the Dutch. I went to Sint Agatha to see the archives of the MSC priests, for Louis van de Vrande MSC (1901-1971). His diary was typewritten (about the year 2000 by Father Arie Vriens)  and available in the archives of the Dutch religious orders. After ordination in 1935 he went to the Philippines as a missionary, but returned to the Netherlands to seek candidates for the MSC religious order. When the diary begins, in Juky 1942 the Germans occupy the Netherlands. It is a story of cruel rule by arrogant Germans. Then, in mid-1944 the Allied Forces arrive (mostly Canadians and Polish troops). The Germans destroy bridges, costly machinery, the Allied Forces destroy many houses, many people were killed, terrible warfare like we now hear about the conquest of Mosul by the alliance against ISIS.
In  March 1945  Van de Vrande becomes army chaplain for Dutch troops, then still in France to fight against the Germans. In November he arrives in Malacca, in March 1946 in Batavia/Jakarta as army chaplain in the Dutch army.
In March-April 1946 he describes twice cruelties by the Ambonnese of the KNIL, the Dutch colonial  army.The first time it is about terrible beating during an interrogation. The second time several Indonesian soldiers are taken captive. One, a young boy of about 17 years, is relieved from his handcuffs and sent away. At a distance of some 8 meters he is killed by four Ambonnese soldiers who shoot in his back. Van de Vrande finds it a terrible act, something that should not happen in the army.  But he does not protest openly. Later in the diary we do not meet such descriptions: did they not happen, or was this man already accustomed to the crimes?
In the Government Report Excessennota of 1969 this event is mentioned and the army chaplain as witness, but not by his name.
In my talk on 17 November I will talk about several topics. First, about the fact that the war of independence was not about religion. Religion only played a very minor role here, it was between Dutch and Indonesians. I quote Mangunwijaya's Burung-burung Manyar as a sign of this minor role for religion. Second, some authors think that the colonial period did not change fundamentally Indonesia: just scratches on a rock? At least the presence of some 9% of Christians in Indonesia is an important aspect, a by-product of  the colonial relations and infrastructure. Of course, the whole process is more complicated, on the Dutch as well as on the Indonesian side. Third, the Catholics were divided as well  (like the Protestants): in Semarang and Yogyakarta Soegijapranata was as important as Kasimo on the Indonesian side, while Jesuits in Jakarta were often still dreaming of a continuation of some colonial influence.

dinsdag 8 november 2016

A partial wilayah of Ahok and NU/Muhammadiyah?

Since nearly amonth there a hot debate in Indonesia about Qur'an al-Maídah, 5:51. In translations it read: Take not the Jews and Christians for guardians and confidants (Ali Ünal). Awliya or wilayah is also translated as associates, partners. Ahok, the Chinese-Indoensian Christian who is governor of Jakarta, mentioned that some people use thise verse against the continuation of his position as governor after next elections in 2017. - The quote was also understood as if Ahok rejected the idea absolutely and so rejected the Qur'an. Some people want to take him to court for blasphemy or at least insult of the Qur'an.
While I was teaching in Indonesia, 1981-1988 I experienced quite often a liberal attitude for me. My farewell lecture had as title: Word of God or Toiletpaper? and could be sold in 3000 copies. Also a lecture with the title: Does God sleep caused no protest but some interest.
I had once a more heated debate about sura 17:1, where I quoted John Wansbrough who suggested that travelling by night was here not about the ascension of Muhammad to heaven, but about Moses/Musa leaving Egypt in the night through the Red Sea, because verse 17:2 is also about Moses. Anyway, maybe the situation is now more difficult. Definitely Ahok is a politician and I was just a foreign professor teaching in Jakarta and Yogyakarta.

The idea is also discussed by Farid Esack in his doctoral dissertation Qur'an, Liberation and Pluralism (esp. 180-193; published in 1997). Esack lived in South Africa (his homeland) during the last decades of apartheid. He joined the 'good whites' of the Protestant Church like Beyers Naudé in the protests against this racial oppression. Some South African Muslims said that he should not do this, quoting some verses like 5:51 (60:1+9; 3:28+118; 4:89, 139, 144). They suggested that he should join Ahmad Deedat, fierce and eloquent debater with Christians, defending Islamic doctrines. Esack wanted to create justice and stated that in quite a few verses of the Qur'an the Christians and Jews are also mentioned as believers, because believing is doing good, creating justice. And the believers should cooperate.
Some verses of the Qur'an indeed suggest that there are conflicts with (some) Christians and Jews, but this is not a general rule. Even in Al-Ma'idah 5:51 there is a difference between ba'dahum... and others. So, it is not one block against another, but there must be made a difference between the good and the bad ones.P. 181:  The text under discussion, Qur'an 5:51, like all those prohibiting Muslims from the wilayah of Others, is Medinan and reflects the religio-political tensions of that period. As I indicated in chapter 5, it is evident from the seemingly contradictory texts dealing with the religious Other that these reflect various stages in the Muslim-Other relationship.
In the reports about the protests against Ahok, Nahdlatul Ulama did not take part and also Muhammadiyah stayed away, not allowing its members to use Muhammadiyah symbols during the protests. But it will remain difficult. Sahiron Syamsuddin found it wise to use the word 'outsider' in the title of the translation of my book on Jesus in the Qur'an.  Outsider's view on the Qur'an are even more delicate than insiders debates.
Added on 12 November 2016: Henk Schulte Nordholt discussed this issue on Dutch Television. He added with some angry that Budi Yani, the man who shot the movie of Ahok talking about al-Ma'idah 51 was a former PhD student in at Leiden University but failed to finish or to do any writing and sho he was sent back to Indonesia.

maandag 7 november 2016

Muhammadiyah from TBC and 'Wahhabi' to attacks on Salafism

I am now busy with a close and detailed reading of the Masterpiece (according to Ayumardi Azra) of Syafii Maarif, his book Islam dalam Bingkai Keindonesiaan dan Kemanusiaan. It was published in 2009. The professor of history gives here a view on Islam from the perspective of Indonesian culture (history of Islamisation, fragments of Islamic history in Indonesia) and Human Rights (also related to the Indonesian statemphilosophy of Pancasila).
Syafii Maarif does not give a historical expose, rather an essay on various aspects of history. I wonder whether someone not familiar with the history of Indonesia will understand his arguments. But for insiders it is a wise, strong and fundamental book. My last great book on Muhammadiyah was the local study by Nakamura, The Crescent arises over the Banyan Tree (second edition of 2012). Mitsuo here mentions that the good old time of TBC, when Muhammadiyah could condemn in strong words the Takhayyul, Bid'ah, Churafat (superstitions, heresy, idolatry) is over and even in Kota Gede the Muhammadiyah Muslims are more open for present Indonesian culture. They do accept wayang stories, ketoprak theatre and modern movies. In the same way, Maarif here accepts a very broad definition of Indonesian Islam and does not repeat that we have to return to (only) Qur'an and Hadith.
Pp. 60-1 has a nice juxtaposition of Geertz (who understands true Islam as the hardcore santri variant, as separate from abangan or local Muslims), while Hodgson in his Venture of Islam has a broader vision on the changes in the world religion of Islam, also in Indonesia.
For the last century Maarif sees a growth of conversions to Christianity, but this has not weakened Islam. Just the opposite: there is an overall revival and growth of the major religions and besides a turn to Christianity there was over the last 100 years even a stronger growth of Islam.
On p. 329 Maarif quotes Wertheim writing about a 'pound of rice [to be given to] any child actually attending a Christian school'.  This is seen as the beginning of Rice Christians, already by order of Jan Pieterszoon Coen. (Indonesian Society in Transition, p. 201). Maarif blames me that I did write some four pages about Coen (in my Dutch Colonialism and Indonesian Islam) but did not mention this reward for a conversion. Instead, I have stressed the idea of Coen that it was impossible to convert Muslim to Christianity, especially in the Moluccas, and therefore he hoped that the VOC would send many native Dutch people to the Indies (what did not happen). I looked in the sources of Wertheim, but could not find the pound of rice. I will look further! And more will come out of reading this precious book.

vrijdag 28 oktober 2016

Shame to you: Dutch army in Indonesia!

Many Indonesian and Dutch people still remember the 'Pronk Affair' of 1992 when Dutch Minister for International Cooperation and IGGI chair Jan Pronk uttered severe criticism to the Soeharto Government for its cruel oppression of freedom fighters and demonstrations for human rights in East Timor. More recently there is the action related to the finding and recognition of truth of the violence of the period 1965-1967 related to the beginning of the Soeharto regime after the bloody coup of 30 September 1965.
Now, however, the Dutch army itself is under attack because of increasing publications and debates about the cruelties, war crimes committed by many members of the Dutch army in the period 1946-1949 in Indopnesia. In 1969 a list of these crimes were already listed as 'excessen' to be understood as incidental transgressions of the use of violence. Two books have recvently been puiblished on this theme. One is by KITLV Director Gert Oost-Inhdië with a summary of 659 private documents (reorts, diaries, letters, published books) of former soldiers. They add many more war crimes to the list of more than one hundred cases of the 1969 report.
All kind of reactions are now coming. One is a congference, 16 november 2016 to be held in Amsterdam, Free University, under the title: The Churches and the War in Indonesia, 1945-1950. Various speakers will talk about the role of churches in this cruel process that ended colonial rule in Indonesia (with the exception of Papua).
I will give an overview of the Catholic history. There are two general considerations to be made: one if that the end of colonial rule did not so much affect directly religious relations. Dutch missionaries experienced problems, but in general they could continue their work, different from business people.
It is also interesting to see that the religious sentiments did not play an important role: it was not a fight between Muslims and Christians but between Indonesians and Duch.
UCAN, the site of information about Christians in Asia, yesterday had a report about the 'Javanese martyr', the priest Richardus Sandjaja, killed on 20 December 1948 by members of a militia which was probably Islamic of character. But in the description it was only said that they blamed him 'for cooperation with the Dutch'.

The picture above shows some people praying at the grave. It is believed that praying here may help women who want to become pregnant. There are also stories of people who saw their cancer stopped after praying at this grave in Muntilan. The Dutch who were killed at this and one other event during the perior of colonial war (one 20 December 1948,  and nine victims in Magelang on 1 November 1945. They are not officially recognised as 'martyrs' by the Catholic Church, because the process for this has been stopped.
Postscript on 3 December 2016: Yesterday the Dutch government took the decision to finance a great project for historical research about the war crimes. The project will take 6 years: the last victims will be dead probably at the end of that period. but some things put on paper properly!

vrijdag 21 oktober 2016

Ahok, Sura 5 Al Maidah: 51 and the Sultan of Banten

Al Islam ya'lu la yu'la alaihi: 'Islam is the greatest and will not accept superiority of a non-Muslim person' is some kind of Qaidah Fiqh, a basic idea in Islamic thinking. It can be explained in very different ways. One is, that God has created human beings different: men and women, various nations and tribes (Qur'an: 49:13) and also of different religions and denominations: so, faqtabiqu bi'l khairat, we have to struggle to be the best. There is also a more restricted explanation, that Muslims should be ruled by Muslims only, not by other people.
A tricky verse of the Qur'an (5:51) forbids the Believers to take Jews and Christians as 'partners, friends, awliya' 'He among you who taketh them for friends is one of them.'
This is extended in many ways: if you are dressed like them, 'you are one of them', ... if you join their festivals, like the yaum al hubb or Valentine's Day: you are one of them. This was a fatwa that I used at the University College, to explain the structure and logic of a fatwa and how it is used to solve modern questions.
On 27 September 2016 the Chinese Christian Ahok, governor of  Jakarta visited the islands in the bay of Jakarta, Pulau Seribu and quoted this verse, because the population of the islands is strongly Muslim and Ahok has been educated in a state school where Islam was thoroughly instructed. The verse 5:51 can be explained in various ways too. Ahok wanted to state that he is a friend for Muslims, who also gave good subsidies and donations to Muslim schools, madrasah. There are new elections for local officials in 2017 coming and popularity is important and religion is again an issue. Ahok took the wrong verse or Muslims took different interpretations and Ahok was corrected and criticised by the local Muslim Council. He apologised at various occasions.
But one day later (22 October 2016) the Jakarta Post mentioned that a number of NU activists praised Ahok (Basuki Tjahaja) for his concern to understand and deal with Muslims.
Another recent case of Musim sensitivity for non-Muslim officials is the nomination of the head of police in Banten, Listyo Sigit Prabowo, a Catholic. This nomination is contested by several Muslim groups, including the leadership of MUI-Banten, the Indonesian Muslim Council, Banten chapter.  They stated that traditionally Banten has been a Muslim sultanate (although not surviving until today like the much more liberal Yogyakarta). So, this Banten identity should request that the local government shoulod be dominated by Muslims only.
5 October 2016 was the great day for the inauguration this Listyo Sigit Prabowo in Banten as the head of police (it is also the Day of the Indonesian Army).

zondag 2 oktober 2016

Cornelis de Bruin 1652-1727

Cornelis de Bruijn was a Dutch artist, painter, and traveller. I came across him in the preparation for CMR, the great project on the biblographical history of Muslim Christian Relations. He made two long trips to the East. The first trip took more than twenty years: 1672-1693 when he went through Italy  to Turkey, then to Syria and Egypt, coming back through Venice for perfection of his drawing and painting. He had not much money, so earned his living by making portraits, selling antiquities.

In my memory the sphynx of Cairo looks much different and the pyramids are broader, but it is a nice drawing.
The second trip began in 1701 when Cornelis de Bruijn first went to Russia, especially the city of Moscow, then to Persia where he concentrated on the runes of Persepolis. From 24/2 until 25/8 1706 he stayed in Batavia, from where he returned to Persia and Russia and aarived in the Hague on 10 October 1708.
He was not well versed in linguages and spoke Latin, Italian, but no Eastern language. His sojourn in Syria, Egypt and Persia did not give much as to Muslim-Christian relations. From Batavia he made a trip of some two weeks to Bantam where he had to nice meetings with the Sultan. They are in pages 361-400 of his second book: Cornelis de Bruins reizen over Moskovië, door Persie en Indië.. (Amsterdam 1711, reprint 1714 is on the Internet).
During his visit in Bantam he describes mostly the town, flowers, fruits, all kind of people and the many ladies at the court: not only there were four official, quite a few unofficial wives, a female army and many female assistant, some 850 in servioce of the sultan zodat het er grimmelt van de vrouw (such that is is squirming with ladies in the palace).
The kings tells much about the present condition and the past of his sultanate, which was pagan until 300 years ago. Some names of rulers are mentioned. The king asked to foreign guest also some religious questions: especially about the age of the world. How long ago was the creation according to the Christians? And how long will it last until the Day of Judgment? According to the drawing it was not a talk in a quiet atmosphere: an translator between them and also quite a few ladies serving with food and ladies dancing for entertainment. Pages 375-385 are about his visit to Bantam, most of it in two long talks with the sultan. The ruler showed him also the palace, small rooms for many of the ladies, also a place where they had to take of their shoes, 'because of the sacredness of the place'.  But no special and profound interreligious contact. And this is the reasom why the Bruijn will not make it to the volumes of the CMR Project, but it was some fun to read about this non-political, non-economic visit.

Judas, Jesus and stories of a dog

Simon Rae has sent me from Dunedin in New Zealand a book in return for something I sent him. It is the book by C.K. Stead My Name was Judas. It is nice reading because it is written by a poet, a professor of literature. It depicts the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth through the eyes of Judas, a friend in his youth. Single son fo rich parents while Jesus grew up in a poor family with many children in the crowded and small house. In a nice setting it has much bibliocal archaeology and history. On p. 30 he writes about the Romans in Palestine: The soldiers who had served a long time in our region were very unpleasant, as if they'd learned to dislike the local population whom they regarded as ungrateful, unwashed and potentially rebellious. The more recent arrivals, especially if they were young, were friendlier. I wondered whether this is true. In the other colony, the Dutch East Indies, the totok or full-blood white new arrival is often cosidered as someone who is still embedded in the European culture. The indo or Eurasian could be closer to the 'native' population but  in fact was a  distinct category.

Sent walking by their teachers the two young boys Judas and Jesus meet a  pack of wild dogs. Judas was afraid, Jesus not, or at least, he was calm. Jusad took his staff and chased them away, hitting one dog so serious that he lay wounded. He finished him with a blow to the head.
This reminded me one of the Muslim stories of Jesus as retold by Tarif Khalidi in his beautiful book, The Muslim Jesus. Jesus and the pupils came along a dead dog. The disciples said 'How foul is his stench!' Jesus said 'How white are his teeth!' He said this in order to teach them a lesson- namely tot forbid slander. (no 127 out of 303, page 122).

donderdag 29 september 2016

CMR in Woodbrooke, Birmingham

CMR is the project Christian-Muslim Relations, a Bibliographical History. It is an encyclopedic work, in two parts. CMR 1500 were the five volumes published on the period 600-1500. CMR 1900 is the extension for the period until 1914. I entered the programme in 2014, writing two entries (Erasmus, Michael Servet) for the 16th century. For the 17th century I wrote 14 entries.
There is an annual meeting of some 25 coordinators in Woodbrooke, Selly Oak, Birmingham. I was present since 2014 as section leader for the Netherlands.

Woodbrooke was the home of the richest Quaker family of Britain, the Cadbury, famous for their chocolate. The 19th century mansion has been extended and is used for many meetings. Together with the annual CMR meeting (25 members) there was a venue of some 80 people who came for the Nontheist Friends Meeting. Quakers in the UK are quite liberal and Buddhism and natural religion as well as ecological concern is important for many of them (notice the labyrinth in the grass field). John Chesworth, long working for PROCMURA (Programme of Muslim-Christian Relation in Africa) remarked that East African Quakers are 'much more firmly Christian'.
A rivulet runs down in the valley and a man-made lake has been part of the landscape for the large mansion.

David Thomas (above left) is the intellectual leader of the programme while Chesworth (right) coordinates much of the many writings (per volume about 100 entries and some 4-5 essays, summaries of development). The 17th century will be discussed in volumes 8-11. We are now moving towards the end: 18th and 19th century. A problem is that there are so many items, that it is difficult to contain the material. It can be done in two methods: cluster articles where more authors are discussed under one title. The second is the retriction to more strict 'religious debates' and to leave the more social and cultural differences out of the books and concentrate on the more theological or at least spiritual issues.
There were also reactions against this limited focus. If we compare the two major works of the 'ancestor' of studies on Christian-Muslim Relations, Norman Daniel, its is clear that for the period 1000-1400 he concentrated on theology (Trinity, Jesus as God), while in his book Empire and Islam it is often about the image of women, the idea of 'modernity', colonial system, democracy rather than the traditional theological issues of the mediaeval period.
Merle Ricklefs wrote also about cultural differences in the Javanese perceptions of Western people: 'All their arms branch out and they constantly urinate, those Christians. They wear a pair of servants' trousers and are always dressed: day and night they wear their jackets..'  (The Seen and Unseen Worlds in Java, 1726-49, quote from the Kitab Usulbiyah, p. 302) Not the 'religious distinctions' are seen as the most important, but rather the cultural and social.
This is already seen in the imbalance of the title of Norman Daniel's first work: Islam and the West, as well as in the qualifications of the seven civilisations of Huntington.

dinsdag 13 september 2016

The Pluralist Vision of Fethullah Gülen, between Europe and Indonesia?

Fethullah Gülen has been compared to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi , the 'caliph' of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, ISIS. The debate about Gülen has now reached  the Netherlands as well. As far as I know, there is not much debate about him in Indonesia, although there are some 8 Gülen schools in the country and a Gülen chair, or 'Gülen corner' in the UIN of Jakarta.
In 2015 I published a chapter on Gülen ethics (together with Gürkan Celik, in the book: Gülen-Inspiered Hizmet in Europe). Our argument was that, besides Islamic ethics as shari'a with very detailed and precise prescripts, there is a more general ethics based on a formulation of virtues, psyuchological goals to be attained (like self-control, modestymagnanimity, amiability, obedience to God). In his four-volume book on Sufism, Gülen has in the style of al-Ghazzali, many descriptions of virtues.
Now a Dutch philosophy journal asked for an update of this review of the thinking of Gülen, concentrating on social philosophy and ethics. I cam,e across a quite interesting perspective of the role of Turkey in the modern world. Gülen compared his time to that of Alexandre the Great, the Greek who conquered Persia but also accepted much of Persian civilisation. This resulted in a hybrid civilisation that dominated not Mediterranean world, until Persia and Arabia from 300 BCE until the arrival of Christianity and Islam. Angelika Neuwirth  qualified the Qur'an as a 'Text from the Late Antiquities'.
The process of Turkey's membership of EU, strongly supported by Gülen, is seen by him as a new opportunity to mix European and Asian cultures: 'Turkey's membership in the EU may yield a new cilizational mix rather than leading to a clash of civilisation.' (Gülen-Inspired hizmet in Europe p. 134).
The picture above present a quite common image of the idea many Europeans have about the 'integration' of Muslim in Europe. They simply should adapt to all aspects of European society. Gülen promotes the idea of Turkish membership of the EU but ion a way, where somthing new has to be started.
He condemns ISIS and now also the Erdogan government for a policy that should create a monolytic, uniform society. Instead he defends the Ottoman rule, with its millet policy where so many etnic and religious communities should be allowed to live according to their own rules.
The colonial Dutch rule in Indonesia created a state of apartheid, where different rules were valid for white European, for Arabs, Chinese and native populations. There are many weak points in this undemocratic and uneven society. We never should hope for its return. But the Turkish Ottoman rule also had some degree of tolerance. Martin Luther, who separated from the Roman Catholic Church, even once stated that he would rather live under Turkish rule than under the Pope. Also French critical philosopher Voltaire stated in the mid-18th century that Turkish rule was much more tolerant than what he experienced in France and Italy of his times. Also under Kemal Atatürk there was a tendency to create a strongly unified country where local languages and cultures (especially of the Kurds, but also the Alevi tradition in Islam) were banned.
Lherefore it is the more a pity that the liberal and plural ideas of Gülen are now forbidden in favour of the monolythic culture as promoted by President Erdogan. One of the accusations against Gülen is that he did not obey the exclusive administration of Islam by Diyanet.
NKRI, Negara Kesatuan Republik Indonesia somtimes sounds to me as the opposite of Bhinneka tunggal ika, a support of pluralism together with an open unity.

donderdag 18 augustus 2016

The Jesus of Bambang Subandrijo

On 19 December 2007 Bambang Subadrijo, lecturer in New Testament Studies at the Theological Aschool of Jalan Proklamasi 27 defended his doctoral dissertation in Amsterdam. This week I received the Indonesian translation of this dissertation, published by STT Proklamasi in cooperation with BPK Gunung Mulia, the best known mainstream Protestant publishing house of Jakarta. Subandrijo had his masters´ thesis in the doctrines of Saint Paul, where he defended the position that the doctrine of Trinity cannot be found in Paul who remained close to Jewish monotheism, although he gives high titles to Jesus. He was since then a debated personality in Indonesian Protestant churches. For some time he was teaching mathemetics, because he had studies mathematics besides theology.
His English title of the dissertation was Eikon and Ayat: Points of Encounter between Indonesian Christian and Muslim Perspectives on Jesus. As you may see below he removed to Greek word and made it a title of encounter and debate. The drawing is quite funny: Jesus is a Mediterranean figure with a beard) while few Indonesian have a beard, in fact only people of Arab or Papua descent. The hat is purely Javanese, but not a traditional blankon. There are two krisses in front of his body: Javanese mystical and magical weapon, qlso two hands crossed. the krisses perhaps signify the double status of Jesus: human and divine. The two hands crossed may signify Muslims and Christians, both honouring Jesus. The clouds (mountains?) surrounding Jesus are in typical Javanese style.
At the occasion of the defence of the dissertation in 2007 I wrote the following short speech:

I have read your biography with much interest for your career in theology, but also for the things you have left out there. You also took a degree in mathematics and for many years was a teacher of that discipline, besides teaching religion. That is perhaps a golden line in your life, living between religion and mathematics, between Yogyakarta and Jakarta, between Islam and also a little bit of Christianity, minister of the word but also minister for financial affairs of theological schools. Or, perhaps I may express it here in Indonesian as well

Doktor Bambang ini sudah suka dua lambang
Agama dan ilmu pasti baiklah seimbang
Antara Yogya dan Jakarta sering dia terbang
Tetapi dalam bidang isteri hanya satuyang  terbilang!

Islam dan Kristen bagi dia gaya bayi kembar
Sumbernya sama, kemudian tersebar
Mau kelahi dan berbeda, sering kesasar.
Sebaiknya bersatu lagi, jangan yang satu terlalu besar.

We met for the first time in mid 2004, as far as I can remember, by writing and then later in person. I still remember how we were sitting together for the first time in the great open hall of the Guesthouse of the Council of Church, Jalan Teuku Umar in Jakarta, where we read this text from Sura 19 on Mary and Jesus. This was the first time your read this text truly in its own context. You were and are a devout Christian, but you have also a very open mind and was touched by the setting and wording of this other story of Jesus and wanted to go the way of the experience. How is it when not the differences between the Christian and Muslim stories and doctrines are pointed, but when we see the two as members of one hermeneutical family.

You have made good inventories of the creeds of the Indonesian churches, of past polemics between Muslims and Christians in Indonesia and you have reached conclusions that may cause quite a few problems in your church. You are a true teacher, but not a full minister of your church. In this sense you have some independence and this may make your suggestions for bridging the interpretations of Christians and Muslims very valuable.

Theology is not only the analysis of past doctrines and texts. It is also criticism of these doctrines. You have written in your mild style a very sharp verdict about the creeds of your church and even about the basic councils of Christianity like the doctrines of Nicea and Chalcedon. Well, you would not call it criticism, but just the need for another interpretation of trinity, statements about the divine character of Jesus. That is your Javanese style of saying things in a mild way! I do hope that your contributions to Christian and Muslim theology, or to religious thinking in general will be taken up in a positive way in you country.

Or to conclude in Indonesian:

Doktor Bambang mengakui Trinitas
Tetapi mohon juga kata lain atau alias
Mohon rumusan modern yang berkualitas
Sehingga orang yang beriman tidak lagi waswas. 

Doktor Bambang sudah doctor fi’din

Dia telah pergi ke negeri yang dingin

Berulangkali dari isteri dia dapat izin

Asal dia tetapi minal mu’minin. Amin!

maandag 15 augustus 2016

Phantoms of a colonial past

On a prominent place in The Hague a monument is placed to commemorate the victims of the Pacific War: Dutch colonial soldiers, officials, Eurasian, Indonesians. The yearly ceremony is today, 15 August. It is not a celebration of Indonesian Independence (17 August), not the end of colonialism. It is still a quite multifaceted memory: for quite a few older Dutch people it is still a commemoration of the end of the war, where 4-5 May is dedicated to the European/German enemy and 15 August to the Japanese enemy. Yasuko Kobayashi qwrote me that she in Japan now remembers the end of a 'crazy period' a period dominated by demons, zaman edan.
Many Dutch still think that the Indonesian were a divided and very diverse people, who followed just a few radical nationalist leaders, Sukarno, Hatta, Sjahrir and some Communists like Tan Malaka. Better informed people realize that the Dutch were wrong in keeping so long to colonial dreams (or was colonialism, even as international trade inevitably wrong?)
The actual celebration, including the speeches by the prime minister Mark Rutte, are all compromises. But Robert Cribb has been accepted by the Dutch government to do research about war crimes committed by the Dutch in the period 1945-1949. This will concentrate on the cruel killings of Westerling in South Sulawesi. But many people in the netherlands still have more interest in the bersiap-killings, Dutch people killed by nationalists in the period September 1945-early 1946. Still much past mistakes are not healed and the way the Dutch celebrate 15 August (with former colonial soldiers wearing their old fashioned costumes) is not really helpful for this.

zondag 14 augustus 2016

Abdurrahman Wahid and conversions

Elga Sarapung of Interfidei was here for a day and a night, in company of two members of other NGOs: discussion of a programme on freedom of religion. She told one story, which she had heared from Djohan Effendi. Abdurrahman Wahid once visited a kiai who complained about his youngest child. The man had six children. Five were married with a good Muslim partner. But the youngest child, a bright daughter who studied medicine at the University of Indonesia in Jakarta had fell in love with a Christian boy and now was planning to convert to Christianity in order to be able to marry this boy. The kiai was angry and sad, because people would blame him as a famuos Muslim leader who could not retain his daughter for the right belief.
Abdurrahman Wahid commented: "well, he should not mounr too much about this. Imagine what God, the Father had to experience. He had only one son and this one guy converted fromthe Jewish religion to Christianity!"

donderdag 11 augustus 2016

Norman Daniel as an early post-colonial author

While working on the history of Muslim-Christian Relations, two western scholars were pioneers before the great project of David Thomas began. Jean-Marie Gaudeul published in 1984 two very rich volumes. But the first to write a comprehensive book was Norman Daniel, Islam and the West. The Making of an Image (1960). Norman Daniel was not someone in an academic position: he was for a long period, (since 1947) involved in the management of the British Council, basically a fine library and institute for cultural exchange (exhibitions, lectures for well-educated people) in various places in the Middle East: beginning in basra, Baghdad, Beirut, Khartoum and finally in Cairo where was was also Cultural Attaché, part of the British Embassy. He died in 1992 and George Anawati,m Dominican priest and scholar wrote an In memoriam for him in MIDEO (1993), where he 'forgot' or anyway did not include his year of birth.
Kristin Skottki did some work on him for her 2011 dissertation on the first crusade and praised him for his great knowledge of sources and his restrained criticism of mediaeval theologians who often knew  enough about Islam ('well-informed') but nevertheless fabricated theological condemnations because they thought they had to do so ('willingly distorted it').

Daniel wrote in the opening lines of the Foreword for the 1960 edition of his great book (a best-sellers. I found even more different editions and covers for this book): 'I hope that Muslim readers will not be scandalised by some of the things in this book'.
That was the same feeling I had when I read the Indonesian translation of my Kawan dalam pertikaian: Kaum Kolonial Belanda dan Islam di Indonesia!
Daniel wrote lengthy books with many footnotes. After this first book, he published in 1966 a book Islam, Europe and Empire mostly on 19th century colonialism which was much more cultural (superiority) than theological, related to the Western domination of the period. In 1975 appeared Heroes and Saracens about the chanson de Roland, as well as The Arab impact on Sicily and Southern Italy in the Middle Ages. 
In 1979 Edward Said  published his book Orientalism, followed in 1981 by Covering Islam. Said praises Norman Daniel for his subtitle: 'the making of an image' which is 'a phantasy, a phantom' not reality. In 1985 I was in Yogyakarta where Covering Islam was presented in the Indonesian translation. Amien Rais was there too and saw all Western Orientalism as an attack on Islam. Mukti Ali at the time pleaded for Occidentalism: easterners should study the West in a modern open way. I pleaded for an open attitude as well: many Muslims also have used the books by Said and Norman Daniel only to play the victim. That is an unproductive reading of excellent texts.