donderdag 3 maart 2016


For the CMR project: the bibliography of Christian-Muslim Relations, i have written the entry on Rumphius (together with Lucien van Liere). Rumphius is a naturalist, interested in geology, but most of all in biology, plants and animals. He writes also about circumcision in Ambon: pre-Islamic and the Protestant ministers were not able to ban it from the Christian community.
The most obvious sign of being Muslim is wearing a turban, while Christians wear the Dutch hat. He has a nice (but also cruel) story of  Joan Paijs from Hative, a Christian village on the eastern beach of Hitu. Close to the 'Muslim half' of Ambon, or even encircled by it. At one moment in history Joan Paijs joined the Muslims against the Dutch and converted to Islam. He was taken to Ambon castle where he was interrogated. In the book by Livinus Bor on the war of 1651-1566 of Arnold de Vlaming van Oudshoorn, it is told that  when he was asked why he had joined the Muslim party, although born a Christian he is quoted to have said: Het Kristen geloof (dit waren Pays eige woorden), is voor my maer een uiterliken schijn, want ik Moors van inborst ben (Christianity is only and outward appearance for me –according to his own words- because my soul is Muslim). 

But the story of Rumphius is even more interesting. In the process it was mentioned that he had slept often with a turban (Historie I:53-56). Also other documents from this period tell us that wearing a turban, rather than circumcision, was the outward sign of being a Muslim (Niemeijer and Van den End 2015: I:248, Muslims re-converting to Christianity burn their turbans). Rumphius has here nice additions to the story of Livinus Bor. The society as suggested by Rumphius shows the mirror image of the Ottoman empire with its dhimmi status for non-Muslims. In the Moluccan VOC territory the Muslims could be ruled by their own people, had some freedom for free practice of their religion, but conversions were prohibited and there were special privileges for Christians as members of the dominating religion.

For this issue I looked also inthe six volumes of Niemeijer/Van den End on the Protestant Documents for East Indonesia in the VOC period. There are 8 places where the turban in mentioned as a signof a Muslim identity. Among these some three stories of villages who (re)converted to Christianity and as a sign of this they set fire to their turbans (I,1:248) or took of their turban. Propagating Islam takes place through the donation of beautiful and splendid turbans (I,1 412; II,1: 155).

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