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.