vrijdag 22 december 2017

Merry Christmas and best wishes for 2018!

At Christmas 1970 (now already 47 years ago!) Karel was in Gontor for his PhD research. Living in the the pesantren, the boarding school with 1200 students. Life went on as usual. Students even did not realize that it was Christmas, because Ramadan had just finished three weeks before and they lived in the Muslim calendar. Nowadays things have changed: public life, also in Indonesia if full with Santa Claus, Christmas carols and more shopping. However, I saw in the university library here in Utrecht that the 'special opening schedule' for 25 and 26 December is from 10:00 until 18:00. Also the big supermarkets have open doors on these days. In the Netherlands intellectual and economic life goes on also during Christmas! There is no longer a dominating Gesamtkunstwerk or an all-encompassing cultural and religious idea. Christmas is celebrated, but it is not the only idea. Is this what the Indonesian want with Islam Nusantara, a fragmented, inculturated, and not a totalitarian idea.
I remembered the special ceremonies we had in Yogyakarta with the Wayang Natalan, written in 1985: in a mixed setting of the old story, the traditional style of the wayang and the mixed audience, from the expat community and the staff of the Islamic University.  Below is the craddle of the baby Jesus, in leather, made at suggestions of Abdurrahman 'Wiyakusuma'.

But at this moment Paule and Karel, we enjoy our good health, of ourselves and the children and grandchildren. The latter grow fast and turn into individual personalities. Only Mette, now 3 years old, is still coming once a week. The others are Sophie already 8 years old, Diemer and Maud 5 years. Mette accompanied us today to the Christmas market, a gardening centre, now dominated by all kind of snow, Santa Claus, this year even a chapel-like structure, including a place for confessions.
Karel wrote many daily impressions and thoughts on his two blogs: one in Dutch http://karelsteenbrink.blogspot.nl and http://relindonesia.blogspot.nl, the English language one. So we leave it with this: a merry Christmas and a blessed 2018 for you!

maandag 18 december 2017

Indonesian Ahmadiyah defended by Catholic Priest

This morning there was the defence of a doctoral dissertation at Tilburg University. The dissertation  by Maksimus Regus, a priest of the diocese of Ruteng, was on Understanding Human Rights Culture in Indonesia. A Case study of the Ahmadiyya Minority Group. Someone remarked that it was not only 'understanding' but also 'defending' the Ahmadiyyah. The idea of Human Rights Culture should make this defence better.
Regus did not concentrate on theology or doctrine. This is understandable, because it has been studied often enough how the dfifference between Sunni and Ahmadi Islam concentrates on the two issues of Mirza Ghulam Ahmed as prophet/nabi and as the Messiah.

 Prof. Tom Zwart of the Utrecht Institute of Human Rights said that Regus had much criticism on the Indonesian government, especially since the MUI in 2005 had repeated that Ahmadi are no Muslims followed in 2008 when the President SBY and the Minister of Religion had taken over this idea and suggested that Ahmadi member should 'return' to true Islam. But on the other side Regus had great hopes on political solutions and the power of KOMHAMNAS, the National Committee for Human Rights. He hopes that religions should be more active. But Zwart stated: 'Law is not the real solution and should not be the first concern. Other vehicles should be implemented.' Especially in Africa,where governments are authorian and/or weak, religions are the backbone for NGOs in the field of human rights. But, of course, the problem with religions in Indonesia is, that the larger part of Muslims under the banner of MUI have given a very severe condemnation of the Ahmadi.
Right here Prof. Tom Zwart, followed by someone who read the questions of Prof. Kees van Dijk (Leiden, recovering from a heart surgery), and Dr. Jans, lecturer ethics in Tilburg.
I had formulated myself a question on the narrow versus broad definition of religions and faith/belief in Indonesia. Also Van Dijk had a question in this direction. The amendments of 1977 on article 28 of the Indonesian Constitution give less protection to kepercayaan (faith/belief) than to agama (religion, often restricted to the big five or six only). Already in the marriage law of 1974 it is only allowed to marry 'according to religion' while the broader concept of faith/belief (aliran kepercayaan) is not included. The recent verdict of the Constitutional Court Mahkamah Konstitusi) wants here a repair. This would perhaps be helpful in the legal sense.
I further wondered why the Ahmadi people are here only seen as victims. In fact there are some very creative and stimulating Ahmadi people, with Bahrum Rangkuti and Djohan Effendi (perhaps also Dawam Rahardjo) as the leading people. But much of Ahmadi ideas and publications is just a repetition of the doctrines that were already formulated more than one century ago. I have to confess myself that I do not really feel stimulated by their rather dull and very strict way of following the Muslim tradition.
Why was Din Syamsuddin nominated by Jokowi to be his advisor in religious harmony? Was it to put him in a position where must be mild and even 'tame', no longer using strong and exaggerated opinions?
I heard more details of the plan for '5000 Ph.D in five years' of the Ministry of Religion. Each year 1.000 new students should enter a Ph.D. programme, and 30 of these should study in the Netherlands. I heard the idea earlier also in Nijmegen: they are not able to give tutoring to so many students. Also in Tilburg they only can accept a restricted number of Ph.D. students. One will be ready next April 2018: Budi Rahman Hakim (utmost right here), who is now finishing his dissertation on the pesantren of Suryalaya.

donderdag 14 december 2017

CMR 10: Christians in the 17th century Ottoman and Safavid Empire

Yesterday I received volume 10 of CMR, the great project on Christian Muslim Relations. A bibliographical history, published by Brill in Leiden, but in fact a programme under David Thomas, John Chesworth and their team in Birmingham.
Again many pages: 715 pages in print with much new and often fascinating information for so many outsiders. It proves here agin that the format for the series is very strong: concentration on biographies of one person and discussion of concrete texts. Christians were old minorities in these regions: Armenians, Syrians, georgians, Greeks and also traders and missionaries, ambassadors, adventurers. The nice format of this great work is that it has a focus on individual persons and their biographies. The great development are shortly sketched in introductory essays, not more than 50 pages.
 I give here summaries of only two examples. Pages 319-328 are about an Ottoman scholar, Nuh ibn Mustafa who died in Cairo in 1660. He was a mufti in Konya but then joined a man from his Amasya region to Egypt, where he was teaching, writing and advising until the end of his life. He wrote an fatwa on an ahl al-dhimma or non-Muslim, living in the Ottoman empire who converts to Islam. Is it enough if this persons just recites the confession about the One God and Muhammad as Prophet or should he/she also renounce the Christian faith? He states that Egyptian Christian call Muhammad a Prophet, but add 'he is your prophet, not ours'. So they should renounce also Christianity. But the Zoroastrians (Majusi) of Iraq can recite the shahada and this is enough. He mentions also earlier scholars who  in general accept that recitation of the shahada is sufficient.
He has also a statement about praying: 'If an infidel prays salat in a Muslim congregation, the agreement is that he be considered a Muslim, for this kind of worship is exclusive to the umma of Islam.' This was my practice in the pesantren of Gonto in 1970-1 with a permit of Kiai Imam Zarkasji and so we debated whether I was legally a Muslim or not?  Fortunately later Nurcholis Madjid came with a distinction of Muslim as 'someone who surrenders to God' and muslim (no capital!) as member of a spcific community/congregation. Wa'llahu a'lam bissawab!
From the Persion Empire of Safavids there is an entry about Baha' al-Din al-'Amili (1547-1621). He was from an Arab family of South Lebanon. His father became a scholar in Herat, while he himself became the most important religious scholar in Isfahan. he discusses  the question whether Muslims may eat the meat slaughtered by Christians. Although Qur'an 6:118 allows this, the answer is negative, because 'Christians utter the name of God with reference to Christ or to the 'father of Christ' while Jews will refer to the father of 'Uzayr/Ezra'.  (511). Like in the Indonesian interpretation of a Muslim man marrying a Christian wife, also here the fear of the 'other' is stronger than an explicit text of the Qur'an: human fear stronger than the Word of God.

dinsdag 12 december 2017

Vroklage and his kitab jenggot

A kitab jenggot is a book written in Arabic with Malay of Javanese translations under each single word. In this way the text may look like many bearded faces. It was used in pesantren or rather in circles where older people wanted to use Arab books. Now it has become popular with copies of the Qur'an: Arab script, Latin transliteration and Indonesian translation in one package for those who want to read or recite the texts.

Something similar has beendone by the missionary scholar, Bernard Vroklage in the period January-July 1937 when he did his fieldwork in the Belu region of West Timor.

 Vroklage spoke Dutch but had three Timorese men who asisted him. The first was A.A. Bere Tallo, who had followed the three years of primary education, and attended five years seminary in Todabelu (West Flores). This man later would become raja (nowadays camat) in Kewar. He had a Belu mother, while his father came from the Marae region. As a youth he grew up in the Belu area and so he could speak this language in the right way. The second was D.K. Faru who had a teachers' training of two years after the primary school and later became fettor of Lssiolat. The third informant/assistant was Petrus Bau. All three could speak Dutch with Vroklage. They listened to ritual texts in Tetum, in the 'priestly' language of special ceremonies. They typed the texts on paper and provided Dutch translations. For interpretations Vroklage also made use of the older missionaries who knew the region since decades. In this way he gathered texts and interpretations of pre-Christian social and religious life in this region, all written down and interpreted by 'outsiders': full outsiders like the Dutch and relative outsiders as the direct interpreters already had become Catholic and educated in the Catholic tradition.
The text first was printed as it was spoken, with translations word by word. Then Vroklage wrote a more understandable text interpreting the meaning of what the ritual leader or traditional priest had said. Besides two volumes with nearly 900 pages of these stories and texts, Vroklage also published nearly 450 pictures in a photographic album of 104 pages. Neatly printed and published by Brill in Leiden. And he became professor of anthropology in Nijmegen. In October 1951 he wrote in this quiet town in the Netherlands on his bicycle and was hit by a car and died, 54 years old (born in 1897). He has saved some aspect of Tetum language and Belu culture. Nowadays we of course question his way of research, working not himself in the culture and language of the people he researched. The data were neatly put into a western anthropological framework. But Vroklage stayed close to facts, gave no strange theories like Margaret Mead in Samoa or Bali. Vroklage had no negative idea about traditional religion, although he wanted it 'supplemented' by the modern Catholic doctrines and practice.
The picture above has been taken from volume II:78-79 and is part of a burial ceremony for a raja:
The  honoured and allmighty God
called and summoned
the Raja, our Ruler.
Thou who created and made him
closed his eyes and silenced his mouth.
We now want to show the way 
his soul must go,
our Lord and Ruler 
the soul of the Raja,
she may go the way that runs along
Kuda Hali and Ai Knoru
and further along
Lakirin and Au Feto,
that leads
to Nokar Inan and Taha Dekor .. (etc.) 
According to Vroklage  the purpose of this and followign songs is to speed the soul to leave the region, because it is a danger for the living people.

maandag 4 december 2017

Modest Muslims of NTT

NTT, Nusa Tenggara Timur, the Southeastern Islands of Indonesia, is probably the only  province with a Christian majority. 89% of its 4,7 million citizens (figures of 1991) are Catholic or protestant and 8,6% Muslim. The first Muslims arrived somewhat later than in the Moluccas (centre of the spice trade) in this centre for the trade of sandal wood: the island of Solor was the oldest trading centre and here we find the five petty kingdoms (lima kerajaan Islam kecil)  of Lamakera, Lohajanag, Lamahala, Terong and Labala, much more modest than its northern counterparts of Tenate, Tirode, Bacan and Jailolo. Everything here is in a smaller scale! On these modest Muslims a team of Catholcis, Protestants and Muslims have published  in 2015 a very interesting book. Because connections with the region and with Penerbit Ledalero in Maumere are not always eaqsy, I only could read it last week.
The first 109 of its 380 pages are filled by Philipus Tule who concentrates on the debate between santri and 'abangan' or adat-honouring Islam. He rejects qualifications as 'popular Islam' versus official Islam or imperfect, defective versus true Islam. For the small region he studied (the coastal villages, east of Ende in Flores) he defines that the pesisir Muslims and the inland Catholics still share much of a cultural identity, in rituals at birth, marriage and social life, honouring the same ancestors. Tule compares this to the Javanese distinction between santri, abangan and priyayi (because it is also found in the concept of elite) and the Minangkabau distnction between Shari'a and Adat.(page 11). He even has a quite daring theory about all of Indonesia for 'orthodox Islam' as a coastal culture, concentrated on purity, ablution, because of the abundance of water, while the house of culture or dar al-thaqafa can be found in all inland cultures, as an abode where formal or global religion is integrated in a broader cultural tradition.
The study of Tule is also interesting for the history of Islamization: how did Islam spread to this remote area? From Java, from the various tribes/cultures of Sout celebes, from the Moluccan kingdoms, from Arabs (the al-Qadri family is prominent in the chapter on Sumba, Waingapu!)
Fredrik Doeka wrote on the spread of Islam in Alor, dominant and sometimes even aggressive in the coastal regions. He mentions that in 1522 Antonio Pigaffeta was in the island of Pantar and already found the Muslim village of Moluccan people here. He has also the story of the thread of  gunting Turkii in the 1930s when his mother was compelled to embrace Islam.
There are two articles on the Pesantren Wali Sanga in the town of Ende, seen as a great example of interreligious harmony, where Catholic students for priesthood are teaching English and mathemetics since several decades. Another institution is the Muhammadiyah University of Kupang where the majority of students is Protestant or Catholic (contribution by Ahmad Atang). The Catholic Carmelite priest Bertholomeus Bolong (with a Doctoral Degree of the Islamic University of Yogyakarta!) give a short history of Muslim in or around Kupang: they concentrated initially on fishing and transport by ship, because they were seafaring Buginese and lived in a kampung or their own. Bolong minimalizes the impact of the inter-religious conflicts of 1998 (page 241) but criticizes the FKUB, Forum Kerukunan Umat Beragama as an initiative of government officials, not really integrated in the communities (page 243: 'of there is no government money, no activity will take place, jika tidak ada anggaran maka tidak ada dialog. In contrast on page 304 FKUB in Waingapu is praised).
The 14 authors have made a balanced, informative and rich book for a modest corner in the variety of Muslims of Indoensia.

woensdag 29 november 2017

The light version of the NICMCR Netherlands Indonesian Consortium on Muslim-Christian Relations

Yesterday it was the first day for the Dutch hosts and the Indonesian guests, participants of the regular meeting of the NICMCR. It started as an initiative of the Dutch Protestant Churches to stay in contact with the former missionary churches, now independent and adult churches, perhaps even somewhat more vital than the original Dutch churches, suffering from secularisation, shrinking membership and shortage of leadership, new ideas, in short: nearly everything.
There was quite a big group, seven participants, from the State Institute of Islamic Studies of Ambon. When I was asked in the beginning of this informal meeting to give an idea of what has changed between 1970 and 2010, I told them that in 1970 is stayed in a pesantren for my PhD research. I confessed that I was a Catholic, but liked to join prayers in the mosque. It was OK. But nowadays there are signs outside mosques that non-Muslims are not allowed to visit these places. Even, when visiting the great mosque of Ambon town in 2009, with Prof. Saleh Putuhena, young Muslims protested: how could a bule or white non-Muslim with his wife visit this mosque?

Above two impressions of the 'world café' in Utrecht with among others, some of the Ambonese participants. 
I was happy to hear that  one of the participants here in Utrecht also had been member of the party in Ambon in 2009 and agreed with the strong defence by the late Saleh Putuhena in this debate: the Prophet Muhammad had met with a delegation of Christians from South Arabia, Najran in the mosque of Medinah. And 'the time of their prayers having come they stood and prayed in the apostle's mosque and he said that they were to be left to do so. They prayed towards the east.' (in the translation of the sira by Guillaume, p. 271.)
To Dutch people present here, both Christians and Muslims from Indonesia  assured that there was a rise of hardline fundamentalist Muslims in their country, but also a strong chain of liberal movements as well.
There was a nice gift from Dr. Aris Pongtuluran, theologian of the Duta Wacana Christian University of Yogyakarta: a batik painting with Jesus and the miracle of feeding the four thousand from two fishes and five pieces of bread.

Above we see Dr. Robert Setio showing the great batik, while below Corry van der Ven shows a smaller piece of batik: a little boy has two fishes in his hands, while a crowd is waiting for the miraculous food.
The Consortium not only brings together NL+IND, Christians and Muslims, but also academics and activists. One of the latter group was Irfan Amalee of Peace Generation in Bandung. He told us that in the life of the Prophet there is also a miracle with much food: while working in the trench to defend Medina against the attacks of the Meccans, Muhammad worked hard and than felt weak and wanted to eat.He was invited to eat some nice and delicious soup, but many others also were in the row for this soup: for more than hundred there was enough soup! A nice message for those who dream of paradise, prosperity and peace for all.
This was not a heavy, intellectual or academic dialogue, but a nice and lighthearted meeting. Salam and peace for all of you!

maandag 20 november 2017

An opera by Ayu Utami on Kartini and 'Katini': Kill the West in me...

Most operas are known by the name of the musical composers: Monteverdi, Mozart, Wagner, Verdi to give just some of the big names. But last Sunday, 12 November we attended an opera in Utrecht, where the two musical composers and the other people who designed this musical theatre all were important, but the basic idea was formulated by Ayu Utami. She gives a portrait of two Indonesian women: the first is Kartini, known for her letters to Dutch citizens in Holland (and some in Batavia, as part of the colonial administration). Kartini  (1879-1904) wants to free herself and people around her from the restrictions imposed by Javanese male, patriarchal traditions. Her letters have remained well known but she died young, still part of the system she wanted to change.
The other personality is a contemporary poor Javanese lady, who was given the name Katini, because her father, illiterate could not write the name in a proper way and forgot the letter -r- and she became Katini. She was sent to Arabia to earn money for her family and became housemaid in a family where she was raped by the father, had a short affair with the son, but finally killed the mother in revenge. Therefore she was condemned to death.

On the picture above we see the two musical groups: right is the gamelan, left the string quartet. The gamelan played new music, but very fine in the tradition of the Javanese musical style. The string quartet played as minimal music. Many notes were in flagiolet, raw, very high and more like a cry than making beautiful notes as in classical music.
Below we see the two personalities. The little one on the left is Kartini, played by Bernedeta Astari, (b. Jakarta 1988) trained at the Utrecht conservatory as an opera singer and now working at various places in Europe in the operas of Mazart, Von Gluck and others. She has a wonderful voice, not as high as some Javanese singers in combination with gamelan, but strong and also beautiful in the low registers. Katini was played by Romy Roelofsen, not really a singer but more a theatre player. She has the dramatic story as a housemaid in an Arab family, until she killed the lady of the house and was condemned to death.
The text was mostly in English, with some Dutch, indonesian and Javanese. There was a screen where we could see the text very clear. Like the minimal music, also the text was in very short phrases: more like a deep cry than a real narrative and definitely not a philosophical discourse, but just short expressions. The text switched quickly between the two personalities who were developed simultaneously. Kartini: I was a victim of protection. Katini: a victim of exploitation.
Another confrontation is about the West: Kartini wrote to make friends in the West and to ask help from Western ladies to escape the confinement, part of her 'protection'.  Katini went to another 'West' because Mecca is (North-) West of Indonesia.
How must we understand the title of the opera? Kill the West in me? Does it mean that for these two ladies as for all Indonesians the fight against exploitation and restrictions must be done in Indonesia, by the people there? In het first book, Saman, Ayu followed the international 'liberation theology', but already in Larung and the great book Bilangan Fu the Indonesian spirituality is more important. Like we also see in the Islam Nusantara strategy of anti-Salafi Indonesian Muslims.
At some moments the players of the string  quartet, joined the gamelan to make their soft sounds here.
There is a moving closing episode when Katini hears in the morning the first call to prayer and begins her devotion, as preparation of the execution. We do not see more, not the dramatic episode of the killing of the Carmelite sisters as in the opera Le dialogue des Carmelites by Poulenc. Although the theme of this play is extremely dramatic, it is all performed in a quitecontrolled way, in line with the minimal space available in the small theatre of Kikker. It was the first performance, made special by the presence of Ayu Utami herself. Thank you, Ayu, for this rich text.

vrijdag 17 november 2017

Belief and faith: agama dan kepercayaan? A special decision of the Constitutional Court, november 2017

I found it often complicated to understand Wilfred Cantwell Smith in his debate about (personal) faith and (institutional) belief. In the Indonesian constitution two words also are debated until now. Article 29 states that there is 'freedom of religion and belief' (Negara menjamin kemerdekaan tiap-tiap penduduk untuk memeluk agamanya masing-masing dan untuk beribadat menurut agamanya dan kepercayaannya itu.). Perhaps they were meant as identical, because these solemn texts often have repetitions.
In the decades after 1945 there has been a growing consensus that agama or religion should be taken as a world religion, in fact restricted to five: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Protestantis and Catholicism. Later Confucianism was added.
Kepercayaan or 'belief' was reserved for local spiritualities and aliran kepercayaan indicates most often the traditional or even modern Javanese 'new religions' or spiritualities. In the 1974 Law on marriage it is defined that marriage is only valid when celebrated/administered according to the religion of the couple. Civil marriage was until the 1980s still possible, but has gradually been banned. Also in other cases (like getting a passport, an identity card, a driver's licence; insurance for your car or motorcycle) one of the 5/6 religions should be mentioned.
In early November (6 or 7) the Constitutinl Court took a short but firm decision: Mahkamah Konstitusi memutuskan bahwa "negara harus menjamin setiap penghayat kepercayaan dapat mengisi kolom agama dalam Kartu Tanda Penduduk (KTP) dan Kartu Keluarga (KK)". Or: the constitutional court takes the decision that the state has to guarantee that members of a spiritual community are able to fill in the column of religion on their identity cards and in the marriage books.
Immediately the question arose whether this will also diminish the monopoly of the six big religions in the field of civil administration, give more freedom to individuals to abstain at all from any religion (or fill in: 'atheist')? What Ahmadiyyah people: should they be free to fill in that they are Ahmadiyyah, but also Muslim? We will see further developments perhaps.

vrijdag 10 november 2017

Buni Yani, Prabowo, and other complot theories

In November 2016 the Ahok Case started with a movie, places on the internet by a person, Buni Yani, who had deleted one word from a speech by the candidate for the governorship of Jjakarta. It suggested that the Koran lies (dibohongi) but Ahok wanted to say that political opponents lie if they say thatit is Muslims not allowed to vote for non-Muslim candidates or to be ruled by non-Muslims.
Buni Yani was at that time still on the website of Leiden University as a PhD candidate. In fact had had been accepted in 2010 as a PhD student in Leiden. His topic was the popular music in the Philippines, part of a great research project on modern culture in Southeast Asia. His MA waqs from Ohio University where he wrote a thesis on the differences in press reports of the 'Moluccan Wars', the violent clashes between  Muslims and Christians in the Moluccas. Also his native island of Lombok had experienced some effects of this great series of religious violence.
In late 2014 Buni Yuni returned to Indonesia with his family, where he accepted a small position at the Jakarta branch of the London School of Public Relations. Staff in Leiden considered his PhD traject as a failure and in November 2016 he was immediately removed from the Leiden website.
The Duch weekly magazine De Groene Amsterdammer asked journalist Lizzy van Leeuwen to do research about thisBuni Yani and the 2 November 2017 issue came with some stories about him.

Jeroen Krul made this drawing for the article of five pages (34-41, with some advertisements). It begins with the rich harvest for universities through the Indonesian programmes of the Dutch government, but also the money flowing from Indonesia. They are accepted with gratitude because they bring money for poor faculties in the humanities and social science. But the results are often not so spectacular. In the end there is the dilemma between: send back frustrated students or accept lower standards? Full professors are proud if they bring many students in the programms, but the jnior has problems with students who have a poor command of English and are not used to European academic traditions.
Another issue is the influence of salafi students in European universities. There is PPME: Persatuan Pemuda Islam si-Eropa. Besides there is PPI, Perhimpunan Pelajar Indonesia. In Leiden there was an effort by PKS students to take over leadership in PPI in the Netherlands (some 1500 in NL). Sujadi has written a dissertation of PPME: his dissertation 'is full with luaghing salafi ulama. In a statement attached to his dissertation he says that Indonesian salafism is not really noticed in the Netherlands'. In Melbourne, Japan and the UK the PKS-students could take over PPI leadership.
Related to the case of Buni Yani a professor of Wageningen University  (who have good relations with the Bogor Agricultural University, with a strong networl of salafi students) asked: 'why do we not receive any Christian student from Indonesia during the last decade?'
Journalist Lizzy van Leeuwen also was for some time in Indonesia, seeking information about Buni Yani (who only had a small position at the Jakarta institution and has been dismissed since the beginning of the affair). She gives much interest to the cooperation between PKS (now in a difficult position due to the 2014 corruption affair) and Gerindra of Prabowo.
Finally she also quotes Bart Barendregt, assistent professor in Leiden and responsible for the study of Buni Yani: 'He was not really interested in Islam here. He was in fact not an academic, but a journalist. He was a supporter of Jokowi, but probably lost his confidence in him. Buni had a strong feeling of justice, or perhaps it was rather some naive love of justice. He really loved his country and was not an man for machinations.'

donderdag 2 november 2017

Jan Toorop and 'Melati of Java': a painter and a writer and their Indonesian background

In the small but old town of Doesburg (in East Netherlands, member of the old Hanza Union), an exhibition is held on Jan Toorop (1858-1928). The scenery is beautiful: small but characteristic buildings in the Hanza tradition, like the town hall.
Toorop had a Dutch father and a partly Chinese mother from the island of Banka. He looked very Indonesian, at least to Dutch people. He was only eleven years old when he moved to the Netherlands ion 1969. It is debated how much he was influenced by Indonesia, wayang performances or other artistic traditions. The exhibition in Doesburg was advertised  as a way to see the Indonesian influences in the work of this artist who is also known as a prominent member of Art Nouveau or symbolic art around 1900. In fact we could not see much direct Indonesian influence.

Below we see here the advertisement of oil to be used in salades. Can we see here a remembrence of Javanese batik art? In 1905 Toorop (who was raised as a nominal Protestant), converted to Catholicism and the image of the Trinity above as one examples of this period in his career. He became immensely popular in the Catholic world of the Netherlands, but not much is seen of Indonesian influence.
This lady is Nicolina van Sloot, born in Semarang 1853 of pure Dutch parents. Her father was a teacher at a primary school. She followed a secndary school, probably at the Ursuline sisters in Batavia. The family moved to the Netherlands in 1871. Until her death in 1927 she wrote more than fifty novels, most of the under her penn-name Melati of Java. She never married and could live from her writings, because the romantic novels, many about the Dutch Indies were very popular. It was het trademark! She wrote even a novel about the historic person of Surapati, glorifying him as a noble fighter against colonialism. Recently a new biography has been published as a doctoral dissertation: she still has some fame in the Netherlands, but as far as I know none of her books were ever translated into Indonesian.

vrijdag 27 oktober 2017

New place of pilgrimage in Java: Sragen. Official blessing by (Muslim) District Officer, together with the archbishop

In the small town of Sragen the Catholic parish counted  7640 fathful in 2001 (Buku Petunjuk): a confident, but still small minority in the town between Solo and Surabaya. They have during the last few years built an extended memory of Mary's apparitions in Fatima.

The complex was blessed with an official inauguration by the district officer of Sragen withhis wife, and the archbishop of Semarang. They stand here side by side at this action. The short information given had as title: Bupati Sragen Resmikan Taman Doa Santa Maria Fatima Ngrawoh which means thet the Head of the district of Sragen officially opened the 'Garden of Prayer' Saint Mary of Fatima in the village of Pilangsari in the subdistrict of Ngrawoh, 22 October 2017.
Apparently, the Bupati,Dr. Haji Kusdinar Sukowati accepts this sacred place also as a public affair, close to the market place of the subdistrict. Inviting him means that also Catholic religion is not only a private affair, but a public business and it should not be without the highest government official in the region. Besides, it was said, that this also shows the general positive relations between the two major religions.

woensdag 25 oktober 2017

Award for Magnis Suseno: prominent philosopher

The highest award given to Franz Magnis Suseno was the Bintang Mahaputra Utama (Award for being an Excellent Son) by President Joko Widodo, 13 August 2015.
UCAN had on 24-10 a report  of the first award for 'outstanding philosopher' or Filsuf terkemuka, given by the faculty of philoophy of the Gadjah Mada University of Yogyakarta and it was given to Magnis Suseno for his 'intellectual support for social struggle'.
Born in May 1936 in Silesia (then East Germany, now in Poland), he has been in Indonesia since 1961 in Indonesia. Founder opf the Driyarkara School of Philosophy in Jakarta he has given comments on many social issues in Indonesia as a specialist in social ethics, taking Javanese culture and even mysticism as his intellectual partner. In my book on Dutch Colonialism and Indonesian Islami (first edition p. 147) I wrote 'Again and again Javanism is cited as the partner in dialogue, while Islam is not considered to be a proper or even possible candidate'.  In the second edition (2006) of this book the last chapter has been thoroughly re-written and this remark has been deleted.
Even liberal Indonesian Muslims now want to see Islam Nusantara as a strong concept: local formulations of Islamic wisdom rather than repeating an ethic based on shari'a rules and formulations. This has also been the strategy of Driyarkara himself who wanted to take Pancasila as the basis for social ethics. In the same line Magnis Suseno has formulated social strategies using not one particular religious tradition (also not his own Catholic doctrines), but more universal and some local and cultural background.

zaterdag 21 oktober 2017

Strong men, strong statements? Anies Baswedan and Eggi Sudjana

Donald Trump, Tayyib Erdogan, Vladimir Putin: as if the age of the strong leaders and their simple statements is back again! Two examples from indonesia last week. First: Anies Baswedan gave in speech at his inaugration as governor of Jakarta (after defeating Ahok as sequel to a campaign of slender and sectarian actions). He stated that  for centuries the pribumi or native/indigenous people of Indonesia/Jakarta was neglected and considered as second class. Now the power was given back to pribumi and they should be given the opportunity to make profit of it. Colonial times are over, power given back to the indigenous. Does this mean that only Malay and Muslim should have political power? Many reactions were given: from Chinese businessmen to social activists. Still, no precisions were given.
Anies Baswedan and his deputy governor were in white shirt at the inauguration: no western black suite, no Indonesian batik, the simple white shirt is now one of the innovations by President Jokowi.  (More of him is needed nowadays!)
Another strong statement was given by Eggi Sudjana, Muslim businessman, not so successful in politics (failure to run a governor in West and East Java). He stated that only Muslims are true followers of Pancasila with its definition of the Indonesian religious identity as 'belief in the One Supreme Deity'(Ketuhanan yang Maha Esa). Buddhist are even not sure about a personal God, Hindus in Bali have multiple deities and Christian follow the three of their Trinity. It was the beginning of court cases in Bali. Prominent Catholic priest Franz Magnis Suseno only reacted that Sudjana had made a stupid statement not knowing what he was talking about. Another court case, now by Sudjana against Magnis.
As if the tsunami season of court cases has started again!

zondag 15 oktober 2017

The Burda of the Prophet and the Kaftan of the Caliph

Worldwide, also in indonesia, one of the most popular stories of the prophet Muhammad is the Qasidatu'l Burda of Al-Busiri. Prof. Drewes once published a Malay translation from the 16th century, with a Dutch translation (1955). Burda means mantle and the word most often applies to the mantle of the Prophet. According to the tradition this mantle was given to a strong opponent of Muhammad. Ka'b ibn Zuhair, who finally surrendered and accepted Islam in front of Muhammad, while reciting a poem of submission to Allah and his Prophet. Thereupon Muhammad gave him his mantle as a petious gift, for this poem and his faith. After the death of Ka'b ibn Zuhair the mantle was bought by the Ummayad rulers, and finally during a period in poesession of the Abbasid Caliphs and finally in the palace of the Ottoman Caliphs. It is in the palace of Istanbul and yearly honured in the second half of Ramadan.
Al-Busiri, living in Egypt, where he died in 1295, once was very ill and dreamt that the Prophet visited him, touched his hand and gave him his mantle. the following morning al-Burisir was healthy again. At this moment al-Busiri already had planned to write a poem to praise Muhammad. After finishing this poem, at soon became famous, also through propaganda by the Mamluk Sultan Mali az-Zahir Baibar. Soon it was accepted that touching a manuscript of the poem would heal all kind of diseases.
Another mantle, a sacred robe, played an important role in a strange movie: Vatan, on the coup of 15 July 2016 in Turkey. The movie shows in the beginning a man, Turkish speaking Dave, who brings the sacred robe of Sultan Selim, Yavuz, to Fethullah Gülen, who just told that he last night has a dream where the Prophet Muhammad appeared. Dave is perhaps a CIA-man, in fact a conspirator against President Erdogan, tells Gülen 'You will wear the Kaftan of Sultan Yavuz in Istanbul soon'. This is the introduction to a conspiration where also George Soros is involved: the bad person is orchstrating the whole endeavour. Nearly 80% of the movie is filled  with fighting of brave Turkey citizens against an army that wants to take over the state. Soros is sometimes shown as waiting, calm, without a strong personality. Gülen flies to Istanbul but hears just before arrval that Erdogan is on the airport and that the coup has failed. Thereupon Gülen returns to America: without drama, without further explanation.
 This is the hand of Dave who promises that he will divide Turkey in parts, with a good share for Gülen and a big piece also for Soros. The text says: 'Long live chaos' because the chaotic fight should lead towards the annihilation of present Turkey. But it is a failure.
The real conspirator Dave,  goes swimming in the Miterranean, is picked out of the sea (first swimming like another James Bond, relaxed)  by an helicopter and later drowned. A strange movie, but apparently for Turkish citizens clear enough to strengthen their feeling that Fethullah Gülen is a bad guy who joined a complot against their president. May God forgive them.

maandag 9 oktober 2017

Iswanto Hartono fights against Dutch Colonialism and finds a way to annihilate JP Coen

Europalia is a programme of the European Union to pay attention to 'the other' (alium), in case another big coutry. For 2017 the EU has planned a programme on Indonesian culture, society and history. There is a big exhibition in Brussels, encounters in many places in Frans, Belgium and the Netherlands with intellectuals and artists. Ayu Utami will also come, next November.
For Amsterdam there is an exhibition by the artist Iswanto Hartono.
The Oude Kerk or Old Church in Amsterdam was built for mediaeval Catholic liturgy: a central hall or choir for the clergy (seven times per day prayers were said) and a nave for the common lay people. Some chapels, for societies of workers (guild) and for rich families to bury their beloved. A chapel of Mary. But after reformation the church was only used for Sunday service and now this giant building is only used for some 100 churchgoers  on Sunday morning. They use only a small part of the nave, from 10:30 tot 13:00. Outside these hours tourists may look at the building, there are some concerts (Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck played the organ outside the service: it was in early Calvinism not allowed to use the organ!), and exhibitions. For Europalia 2017 Iswanto Hartono made some works of art, in critical memory of Dutch colonialism.

He brought an image of the great Governor General Jan Pieterszoon Coen: the lower part is plaster, the upper section is wax with the idea that it burns like a candle and after the six weeks of the exhibition the wax has disappeared and so the (bad) memory of Coen disappears day after day. We were only three days after the opening of the exhibition, but the image was unpacked, the wick of the candle had burnt for some time and now the inner side of the head was empty, but the outside soemwhat damaged but still standing.
Coen stand here in a side chapel, in the back of the church (West-side). On the northern side in some chapels Hartono had made images of the murder of the population of the Banda Islands, some 2000 people. The great castel, Benteng Belgica stand also with burning candels, waiting to be destroyed.

In the centre we see the great castle of Banda of wax waiting to disappear, while in the back the church of Batavia is shown: is this the Emmanuel Church? Top and below are images of animals that were shot by the Dutch who loved the hunt and finally killed all wild animals in the Banda islands, while the original population only had killed the animals in so far as they needed meat for eating.
Spice harvesters are depicted here with the horns of deer.
Colonialism is ere never seen as an encounter of different nations and cultures, not as an opportunity for international trade and promotion of some agriculture, but quite simply and only as oppression and exploitation. Or should we consider the image of the Batavia Church as something different from the rest: probably not, because it is also temporary, made of wax.

For Hartono the personality of Coen is equal to corruption, to the oppression of the Chinese, to Soeharto's New Order. Does he work in the line of Mangunwijaya, who wrote a book  on early colonialism under the title Ikan-ikan Hiu, Ido, Homa [Sharks, tuna and sprat, after the big fishes who eat the smaller ones, who again live from the smallest]. The novel depicts the period of Western expansion in the beginning of the seventeenth century, when the Dutch tried to take over the Portuguese spice trade in the Moluccan archipelago. Both parties had to win the support of the Muslim Sultanates of Ternate and Tidore. In this novel the arrival of the colonizing powers is not depicted as a conflict between West and East or between Christians and Muslims, but as just another stage in the history of the rich and powerful who manipulate and exploit the poor. Sharks eat the tuna fish or middle class and they eat the sprat.

donderdag 28 september 2017

The rupture between Fethullah Gülen and Tayyip Erdogan: in 2010?

Prof. Simon Robinson is an Anglican priest, professor of spirituality and ethics in Leeds. He teaches mostly in business schools about management, leadership and qualities or even virtues like sincerity, responsibility, transparancy, and fight against corruption. He was in Amsterdam at the invitation of Dutch Gülen people to present his new book:The Spirituality of Responsibility: Fethullah Gülen and Islamic Thought. At some moment I had the impression that he is close the the Indonesian/Dutch Jesuit priest Paul de Blot de Chauvigny who also teaches ´business spirituality´ at a business school (in his case Nyeveldt Unjiversity).
Robinson's key concept are Responsibility, integrity, truthfullness (when seeking in the Aristotelian code of ethicsal conduct for the right virtue). He is more in dialogue with Aristotle, and Ricoeur than with Gülen, but applies his theoretical tools also to an interpretation of this Muslim scholar.
Gülen had summoned his followers to vote in favour for the Turkish Constitutional Referendum of 12 September 2010 (exactly 30 years after the coup of 1980 which resulted in a very undemocratic constitution). This support was given notwithstanding Gülen's disapproval of the way (other) Turkish humanitarian organizations had tried to bring aid to Gaza. Thieir six ships with more than 600 people supporting the action was attacked by the Gaza flotilla raid on 31 May 2010, causing nine people dead. The dispproval by Gülen of this Turkish action was, that it was against the strategy and rulings of the Israeli government. Robinson's conclusion: Gülen does not want to shock any government also not the present Israeli government.
Although Robinson is already since about ten years an active person in contacts with Gülen people, attends conferences, and now writes a book on him, I found it not a strong thesis. I still see the Gezi Park protests rather as the beginning of the estrangement between the two figures.

Above Simon Robinson and below Shanti, who was the leader of discussion during this evening. Shanti is of Surinam/Indian (Hindustani) origin. Platform INS likes also the have paid staff on non-Turkish origin. Their major goal is the promotion of a harmonious soecity with the slogan: kuns van het samenleven, or 'The Art of Living Together'.
We had a major discussant from Baltimore, Prof. William (Pim) Valkenberg who has published 'his book' on Gülen in 2015: Renewing Islam by Service, it has more precise historical and theological methodology.

 In the discussion some 50 people were present, a good mixture of Turkish and Dutch origins. In the business school terminology the idea of 'leadership' is quite important. There were many references to Shakespeare and British/Danish kings (Hamlet, William V), but I wanted also to know how it is with individual choices, while Fethullah Gülen in his four-volume book on Sufism again and again stresses that for the spiritual path the student should decide about a teacher and be obedient to this person. How is this in the Gülen Movement? Who was the teacher of Gülen himself?

donderdag 31 augustus 2017

Mutaqabilin: face to face!

I am in correspondance with Jyoti Sahi in Bangalore about Massignon, the significance of Abraham in interreligious contacts, not only between Muslim, Jews and Christians, but also related to Hindus. Jyoti quoted Massignon that satya the truth-word of Gandhi can be compared to al-haq in the Arab mysticism.
We turned to another word of Massignon muttaqâbilîn, sitting face-to-face, in contrast to 'seeing through a mirror'.
Muttaqâbilîn is four times in the Qur'an. It is always in an idyllic situation: paradise, holiday or sometimes like it, people sitting face to face, having meals and conversation, sitting with nicely and richly covered pillows, talking, exchanging ideas.
It is quite different from the sometimes rather boring idea of heaven which looked in moy youth more like a permanent adoration of the host, the visio beata, looking at God. But not the lively exchange of the four verses:
15:47 [talks about an event in a Garden, water springs. We are invited to be there in peace, perfectly secure] We [God] strip away whatevern there is in their bosoms of rancor and jealousy. As people face to faceon couches raised.
What strikes me here is that initially it is not yet perfect: some remnants of conflicts must be removed.
37:44 Sitting on thrones, face to face
44:52-3  Amidst gardens and springs. Dressed in fine silk and sil brocade, seated face to face.
56:16 [Sitting on lined thrones], reclining upon them, facing one another.

As a boy I found the image of heaven, eternel, just looking to the Allmighty, not really attractive. Is that the promise? For this world or/and the hereafter? This image looks definitely more attractive, loving and peaceful!

maandag 28 augustus 2017


Chrstian Lange, Professor of Islam at Utrecht University recently wrote a general article on the status of Islamic Studies in the broader field of religious studies (in NTT, Journal for Theology and the Study of Religion). Lange resented that in the tradition of 'comparative religion' Muslim rituals and practices are generally overlooked. Mircea Eliade, Joachim Wach, barely mention Islam at all. Is the classical tradition of Islam too much to linguistic studies, to the standards texts, to the 'dry monotheism' sometimes connected to Islam?
There is also the other tradition in Islamic Studies, sometimes called Popsipedso: not the normative Islam of shari'a and fiqh, but political science, psychology, pedagogy and sociology, the actual practices of Muslims rather than old writings, philology and history.
Christian Lange does not make a choice between these two possibilities, although his training and many projects are concentrated more on classical texts than on modern practices. Instead, he puts the more important question  of the character of Islam as a religion. For this purpose he refers to the book by Dhahab Ahmad, What is Islam?The Importance of Being islamic (Princeton 2016).  the definition of religion varies from religion to  region and also from time to time. Protestant Christianity has the most narrow definition of a religion, whil in India the term of Hinduism was never properly defined by 'Hindus' but was a 19th century Western invention. There is not an unambigous normative definition of what proper Islam is: 'the notions of ambiguity and contradictoriness as constitutive for Islam (as also for other religion).
Already in the 1980s there was a serious debates among Muslim scholars in Indopnesia about the 'notmative' and real' Islam. Some of my students in this period asked me also why orientalists have so much interest in aliran sempalan or deviations, heresies, strange figures. I wanted to publish my book on 19t5h century Islam in Indonesia under the title: Paderi, penghulu dan penjual jimat. It was forbidden by my Jakarta publisher Bulan Bintang, on suggestion by Professor Rasjidi: th penjual jimat or amulet sellers are not part of 'proper Islam'.
It is quite interesting to see how the Leiden collection of Arabic manuscripts was bought in the 17th century by Levinus Warner in Aleppo, Damascus, Smyrna and Istanbul: not only the 'theological manuscripts', but also biology, history, geography were important for the beginning Leiden University!

vrijdag 25 augustus 2017

Sexual liberty? Margareth Mead on Samoa and LWC van den Berg on Aceh and Serpong

In 1928 the young anthropologist Margareth Mead defended her PhD dissertation on Growing up in Samoa, telling about free sexual relations before marriage among Samoa youngsters. This was still in the time of Victorian restrictions in Western countries. The book tells about lack of inhibition, absence of guilt related to sex. Only in 1983 it was proven that Margareth Mead was absolutely wrong in her belief of strong and spicy stories by Samoa youngsters and that the island, like all human cultures knows rules about sexual behaviour, also in that period and that they were generally followed by the younger generation.
I remembered this case while reading the article of 1883 written by colonial consultant on Islamic Affairs, Lodewijk (L.W.C.) van den Berg, writing on the Naqshbandi sessions in Aceh (and elsewhere in the archipelago). Van den Berg describes first a session he attended himself in 1881 in Lambaru, in 'Great Aceh', capital of 22 mukim, where the Dutch official, controleur, had invited a group of people to sing zikr accompanied by two young boys who from time to time as sedati were performing dances amidst a larger group of chanting men who sung sections from the Qur'an and short lines like la ilaha illah Allah, while vehemently moving with the upper parts of their body. Van den Berg made comparisons to Javanese dancers, women, who performed the dances 'more elegant' than their Acehnese male counterparts. Van den Berg describes it as partly religious in content, but partly entertainment. He does not elaborate the idea that religion can be entertaining at the same time! In fact, many religious talks by  Javanese popular preachers contain jokes, popular songs and in this way preachers can entertain large audiences for two hours or even longer. Pak A.R. Fachruddin, the Muhammadiyah leader, was famous in this double role. Even the Dutch born Jesuit priest Tom Jacobs was known for his entertaining sections during sermons in the church of Kota Baru, Yogyakarta.

The session, described by Van den Berg, started at 19.00 and at 23.00 the controleur (who had given drinks, lemonade, during the hefty performance) ordered that it shoud stop 'because they can go on chanting and dancing until sunrise'.
Van den Berg suggest that the sedati boys offer sexual services, but this is not elaborated in his article in the Journal of the Batavia Society of Science and Arts (TBG). He mentions also that respected religious leaders are outspoken opponents of this popular religious practice.
At the end of his article he moves to Serpong, near Batavia, where he heard from an esteemed landlord that the sessions of the Naqshbandi brotherhood are also held in his region with a mixed group of men and women in a mosque and here the lights are put off during the zikir, with people sitting not in rows but in a square formation 'while all touching the pudenda (kemaluan, sexual parts) of their neighbour'. Van den Berg asserts that the standing of his informant assured him that this was the truth. He added that we find here 'how the Polynesian phallus-cult continues appearing in the midst of Muslim practices. You may chase nature away with a pitch-fork, but it will always return!' [hoe de Polynesische phallus-dienst telkens tusschen de vormen van den Islām voor den dag komt. Naturam furca expellas, tamen usque recurret.]
Van den Berg is an early supporter of Islam Nusantara, of a local appearance of Islam, but he always likes to give foreign labels to local traditions: either Chinese, Hindu or even Polynesian. Or is this originating from a naive or even a dirty mind of a landlord without personal connections to the Muslim practice?
Martin Van Bruinessen, Tarekat Naqsyabandiyah di Indonesia, Bandung, Mizan: 1992,32-3 has already some comments on this remarks by Lodewijk van den berg