zaterdag 23 juli 2016

From Camphor to Amok: International Malay/Indonesian words

There seems to be one Malay word in the Qur'an: Sura 76:5 promises that 'the truly virtuous shall drink from a cup mixed with camphor. It is not healthy to drink pure camphor oil: it may cause death, but the Encyclopaedia of the Qur'an has examples that it is used as an fragrant aromatic in the perfume industry and the Qur'an commentaries talk about a spring in heaven where it comes from: or rather from the trees of Baros/Sumatra?
These days another Indonesian/Malay word was in the media. The word amok was used by the German spokesman for the investigation of the Iranian-German young man of 18 who run amok in Munich and killed 8 people, before committing suicide. Very clearly the policem officer did not use the word 'terrorist' attack but only spoke of a young adult who had psychical problems and ran amok.
A used the google proghramme to find more about the word in English, where it is also written as amuck and the 19th century Javanist P.J. Veth tells us the the British made two words ot it: 'make a muck of one's job': making an absolute failure. Maybe!
At least the German public was reassured that it was not a terrorist attack that might have caused a 'state of war' like in France where the attack in Nice was the reason to lengthen the 'state of war' for a longer period.

dinsdag 12 juli 2016

Saiful Adnan among the Christian Artists of Indonesia

Volker Küster wrote his doctoral dissertation on South Korean Minjung theology in Heidelberg. In 1991 he published already with Theo Sundermeier a book on Christian Art in Indonesia: Das schöne Evangelium. A few months ago he sent me the draft for a new book in German on Christian Art in Indonesia. I read it with great interest. Bali and Yogyakarta are the most important centres, but as a third centre he has given attention to Asmat Art in the Papua  region. A special chapter is devoted here to architecture of churches and places of pilgrimage. I will write more about the book when it is fully published (most pictures were not yet in the draft which I received). I read it now also with special interest because in September I will begin with a course of icon painting. The use of Christian Art in Indonesia is quite varied, which is one aspect that is not really elaborated as yet in the book. In most protestant churches there are no picture, paintings or images at all. In Protestant houses they have also not an important function. So, the question is often: what is the focus of Christian art? Many religious painters have problems in surviving: the best can sell some pieces abroad but many are not successful here. Many modern artists work for the rich collectors and for museums. In the Catholic tradition there is much more need for pictures.
The most striking example for me was Solomon Raj in India: when Paule and I visited Vijayawada in early 2007 I was asked to deliver a sermon in the Indian Lutheran church of Solomon Raj. There were no images at all: not in the church, not in the offices! So, what is the market of these Protestant artists?
A small chapter of the book by Küster is devoted to the interreligious aspect. It is clear that quite a few Indonesian Christian take elements from local culture and spirituality in the art. In 2012 the Consortium of Indonesian and dutch (Protestant) Churches for study of Interreligious Relations also gave attention in their Yogyakarta meeting to art, Christian and Muslim. The picture below was taken at this event.
In the middle is Volker Küster. To the right is Nyoman Darsane, the Balinese painter, storyteller (we have at home one of his paintings of the two Marthas). The three young men may be three young Muslim artists, also present at this conference: Mohammed Satar, Azam Bachtiar and Kaji Habeb. The draft of the book has also a few pages of the two best known artists who have developed their own style of calligraphy: Abdul Djalil Fairous (from Aceh) and Saiful Adnan b 1957 in Minangkabau. Küster plans to include a calligraphy of sura 49:15 by Saiful Adnan: Only those are the believers who have truly believed in God and his messenger, then never have doubted, and who strive hard with their wealth and persons in God's cause. Those are they who are truthful and honest. After this I sought on the internet about the modern works by Saiful Adnan and found a list of some 100 collectors of his work: no 20 was Dr. Karel Steenbrink, orientalist from America! In 1986 we lived in Yogyakarta and celebrated that we were married 12 1/2 years. I asked Saiful Adnan to make a calligraphy of the previous verse 49:13. It is still in our living room:  Humankind: We have created you male and female and made you into tribes and families som that you may know one another. The noblest, most honourable of you in God's  sight is the one best in piety..
The picture is not good: there is an effect of the glass, but it makes a good impression.

vrijdag 8 juli 2016

Gülen Movement accused of being a Terrorist Society

In the Dutch and international press recently reports occur that mention that the Gülen Movement or Hizmet by (elements within) the present Turkish government is seen as 'terrorist'. This involves that this movement is seen as pursuing a political goal through acts of violence.  The acts of violence are not known to me and, more important, there is not a specific political goal for Fethullah Gülen or for members of his loose network of social and religious activities.
I am not a specialist on Turkey. People, much more qualified have given comments on this issue as to Turkey. The American government has in November 2015 already commented that they do not consider Gülen as a terrorist and therefore will not send him to Ankara. I made research on the activities of the movement in Western Europe, especially in the Netherlands. In this respect I became co-editor (with professor Johan Leman of Leuven University and Dr. Gürkan Celik of The Hague) of a book entitled: Gülen-inspired Hizmet in Europa. The Western Journey of a Turkish Muslim Movement (Brussels: Peter Lang, 2015).
The book has two parts. In the first part I wrote a contribution, together with Gürkan Celik on the philosophical roots of the social ethics of Fethullah Gülen: they are only in part taen from the Qur'an, but have also firm roots in the Greek  philosophical tradition ofAristotle and his doctrine of virtues. In this respect we should the Muslim tradition of Gülen not only define as part (adn continuation) of the Jewish-Christian biblical tradition, but also rooted on the foundation of European culture through its connection to Plato, Aristotle and the Greek philosophical-ethical tradition. In the second part I wrote the article on the Hizmet Movement in Europe.
For the book published in 2015, we asked Frans Kalb (since long active for the magazine Begrip on (Muslim-Christian relations) to make the drawing as reproduced above. Because of the academic tradition of the series of Peter Lang we could not put it on the cover of the book. But here it represents the important elements of the presence of the Hizmet Movement in Western Europe. Gülen is represented on the right. He sees Turkish people migrating to Europe and waves them for a farewell. Europe is represented by the Eifel Tower of Paris, the Big Ben of London, the Brandenburger Tor of Berlin and a Dutch windmill. He gives them the advice to seek participation in a European society (and not to dream of a return to Turkey and not to postpone learning a new language). Instead, he suggests for them integration in a new society through dialogue and education.
This is how I know the agenda of the Gülen movement in our country and related European countries. During a visit to Germany, Ramadan 1977 (August-September) Gülen visited Turkish centres in Germany and noticed that most people had not the perspective of staying in Germany. "Gülen preached that they should open themselves for German culture and society and seek their future in Europe. The next year Necdet Basaran, an independent preacher and close to Gülen, came to Germany and then moved in 1980 to the Netherlands." (2015:180). This was the beginning of what must be labelled as an emancipation movement, first active in education, then in business development, in dialogue centres for religious but also pure cultural contacts, in charity cooperation. They do not build mosques (also the Netherlands has enough facilities for Muslim worship), but have opened a modest number of respected high quality schools, called Cosmicus Schools, because global citizenship is their ideal. They publish an open Dutch edition of the newspaper Zaman.
Among Muslims in the Netherlands they are a small number, but known through their effectiveness in emancipation and openness for peaceful contacts and dialogue. It is sad that such strange and foul accusations are made against them, which now make it impossible for some of their active members, but also for visitors of the movement to travel to Turkey.
Postscript on 17 July 2016: I wrote this just a few days before a section of the Turkish army tried to remove Erdogan with a military coup that faild (15 July 2015). Instead of doing serious research, Erdogan and several of his ministers accused Fethullah Gülen of planning the coup. US Foreign Ministery Kelly already reacted immediately that accusations of 'American involvement in the coup' were nonsense and only could deteriorate the relations of Turkey with America. In Rotterdam there were demonstrations in front of the Turkish consulate. After yells in support of Erdogan the Turkish supporters immediately also denounced Fethullah Gülen for his criticism of Erdogan (beginning in 2013 with the protests against the authoritarian rule, at the Taksim-Gezir Park protests, of 28 May 2013 and following weeks.

Ben Anderson 1936-2015

For the 1980s I gave for the MA programme in Jakarta and Yogyakarta a course on itroduction to 'orientalism'or 'Western studies on Islam (in Indonesia)'.  From year to year there were variations but it always had an introduction to Dutch sources on Indonesian Islam: the archives (much administration and police) and libraries (manuscripts of mystical and legal, sometimes also hstorical texts). The emphasis on Duch sources was made because quite a few of them later came to the Netherlnds for a PhD.
In the book that was made after the text of this course in chapter 8 attention was given to non-Duch scholars of Indonesian Islam: first four German (Werner kraus, Olaf Schumann, Wolfgang Karchner, Niels Mulder who was teaching in Bielefeld at the time), some French scholars, British, American (Geertz, james Peacock, James Siegel, Daniel Lev), Australians and Japanese. With the Americans I did not mention Benedict O'G  (O Gorman: indicating his Irish ancestors) Anderson. Later I only read his interesting trandlation and comment on Serat Gatoloco, a funny, somewhat pornographic criticism of the Arab/Islamic tradition in some javanese circles (1981).
Anderson, born 1936, died 13 Decembre 2015 in cool Batu (south of Surabaya/Malang).

Recently an autobiography by Anderson was spread through a network of Indonesianists: A Life beyond boundaries (published in New York, 2016, after a Japanese translation) and I found this book very revealing. Only the first chapter is about the personality of Anderson himself, his family background (British colonial army in China and Malaysia) and his education in Eton and Cambridge. Nearly by accident he came to Cornell and remained in the Indonesian network. Clifford Geertz is just a decade earlier and there was not much synergy between the two: Geertz was too much involved was formal Islam. There is only one Dutchman praised and criticised; Pigeaud for his detailed book on Javaansche Volksvertoningen is praised because it was real life. But Pigeaud himself criticised Claire Holt because she lived together with the German Stutterheim and caused public scandal for which Pigeaud wanted to have her punished.
The book is mostly a fine criticism of the Yale and mostly the Cornell scholars and their work on Southeast Asia.
This book was for me the reason to do some more reading on Anderson. I loved his doctoral dissertation Java in a time of revolution: occupationand resistance, 1944-1946 very much. . Just two remarks about the book: it has a strong first chapter on the importance of the youth, pemuda and here he has a nice sectipon on pesantren, the Muslim 'monasteries',  boarding schools, where young boys settled for some months or years to study Islamic culture (6-10) Becoming an adult person in Java had much to do with the pesantren system.  The book ends with Tan Malaka as the most inspiring  peronality (more than Hatta, Sukarno or Sjahrir for Anderson). Tan Malaka was a true Communist, but always pleaded for a coalition with Pan-Islamism and the need for Communists to work together with radical Islamic groups (271-2).
Anderson also published an essay on Religion and Politics in Indonesa since Independenmce (1975). He found the religious people in politics strange: He quotes James Siegel aboud Daud beureueh who was in the later 1940s nominated Military Governor of Aceh. And after his appointment "He simply used the facilities available to him as Military Governor to go on doing what he had been doing all along: traballing from town to town, from kampung to kampung, preaching, giving sermons and addressing rallies." (23).
Anderson was not an author of handbooks, not of rigid theories, but he could place simple facts in a broad perspective (and he was very well informed, through good contacts with the elite: the only 2 1/2 years he lived in indonesia his home was in Jalan Diponegoro in Jakarta with a widow of the highest echelon of officials, close to generals and Communist leaders).

donderdag 7 juli 2016

Referendum: destructive or true democracy?

30 August 1999 a referendum was held in East Timor (as proposed before by President B.J. Habibie). Against the wish and hope of the Indonesian government, the population of the '26th province' decided in great majority for Independence, which was granted one year later.
Was independence a success for Timor Leste? My wife Paule and I visited the capital Dili in 1997 and found it a strange town, dominated by branch offices of all  ministries of the central government, all as white as the new cathedral. The beach side had the charm of Portuguese atmosphere. The giant statue of Jesus in the bay of Dili waas crowded with people going for picnic or a cool walk in the afternoon.
NKRI Negara Kesatuan Repiblik Indonesia is the acronym of the strong unitarian Indonesian, that has known a process of less outspoken centralism in the period after 1998. It was not everywhere a success: corruption and inefficiency came to the level of district or kabupaten. There was a process of growth of district, pemekaran, or blossoming with a strange terminology.
Now we had something like this in Europe: a move towards regional autonomy instead of growing unity and centralism.
David Cameron (left on the cartoon) wanted to stay within Europe, but with less power to the central institutions. Nigel Farage of the UKIP, United Kingdom Independence Party wanted absolute freedom, whatever that may be. The referendum gave them 52% for the Brexit or process of Brittania leaving the European Union.
Yogyakarta remained a deareh istimewa, so Jakarta and Aceh, with all kind of special rules. We still have to see what will be the result of the 'leaving Europe' process of the British population. Anyway, the referendum has brought less easy results even than was the case in Timor Leste.