zaterdag 24 juni 2017

Sultan 'Ibrahim/Ahok' in a period of ascetic practice: a Raja-Pandita in the prison of Depok?

Russell Jones published in 1983 a short Malay text, in Jawi script (Malay with Arab characters), together with transcription and English translation about a Muslim version of the story of Siddharta Gautama, the Buddha. A king (of Irak) left his richness and royal position to become a religious mendicant, living in Mecca. His son Muhammad Tahir hears from his mother later that his father has gone. He finds him in Mecca, learns from him and returns to the city of Irak as a mendicant (seorang fakir). The wazir who ruled the country in the name of Sultan Ibrahim recognizes him as a princely son and gves him many goods, the possession of his father. Tahir travels to Kufah and find his mother and gives her rich gifts from the wazir and stayed with her. Every year the wazir sends goods to Muhammad Tahir, who does not claim a political position, but continuous to live as an ascetic man.
This text came into my mind when I followed the story of the Ahok trial last months. The public prosecutor asked six months suspended detention for his comments on Qur'anic verses. On 9 May Ahok was sentenced to two years prison: heavier than was asked. Initially both parties appealed against the verdict, both by Ahok (in a moving letter, 21 May, read by his wife Veronica under tears) and also by the public prosecutor. From the side of Ahok, he did not blame any person or group in particular but stated that the whole process went into the wrong direction for all parties:
The city of Jakarta has suffered much loss because of the traffic jams and economic problems. I do not like that my struggle will continue and cause problems for the town. ... Let us all show that we believe that God is ruling this world and decides about the  direction of history for all people. We all want to show that we are people who believe in the One Allmighty God, we want to love all people, the whole of humanity and we want to confirm truth and justice for all people.
Tuhan does not sleep [in Javanese, not Indonesian: Gusti ora sare].
Psalm 131 verse 3: Put your hope in the Lord now and always [written in English]
According to my faith I say: [again in English] The Lord will work out his plans for my life , Psalm 138, 8a.
Signed as Ahok BTP [Basuki Tjahaja Purnama]
I took the text from
https://news.detik.com/berita/d-3509010/ini-isi-surat-yang-ditulis-ahok-di-tahanan


Ahok has asked for a laptop, and will spend his time writing, reading the Bible and refresh his Mandarin. In 2008 he has published a book Merubah Indonesia on the way how to change Indonesia, while giving more attention to the poor. I hope the borrow it next week from the library in Leiden University and to read it. I wish our ruler turned into hermit a good spirit and result for his personal physical and mental health and Indonesian society as a whole!
In the story of Sultan Ibrahim the ladies are always waiting, but do not join the spiritual exercises or trips. What about Veronica?
There is an old term in Javanese: the status of a Raja-Pandita, a Priest-King as was the case until 1625 in Giri and also in Ceribon (Syarif Hidayatullah). It is too much to label Ahok as a Raja Pandita, but it is nice to remember the word.

donderdag 22 juni 2017

Dutch Colonialism revised and revived

From 1970 until 1988 I was busy with and in Indonesia: research for the PhD on pesantren and teaching in Jakarta and Yogyakarta. After returning to the Netherlands I wrote a first book for the Dutch market with the title De Islam bekeken door Koloniale Nederlanders. ('Islam in the eyes of Dutch Colonials')
Islam was a new issue in Dutch society and I wrote from my experience of Indonesian studies.  The book was published in 1991. An English translation followed in 1993 and an Indonesian one in 1995 thanks to the translator Drs (now professor) Suryan A. Jamrah.
The Indonesian translation was published by Mizan and sold quite well. 4000 copies. But there was no reprint. I was told that the Arab connections of this publisher were not happy with the account of the warm cooperation of Sayyid Uthman with the colonial government.
The English edition was reprinted in 2006 with a new concluding chapter about the last 50/70 years. Times are changing quickly. Now again the translation by Suryan Jamrah has been published with a new concluding chapter and prefaces by Azyumardi Azra and Mujiburrahman. The latter wrote a nice poem for me here:
Steenbrink bukan sarjana menara gading; 
Masalah antar agama dia turut berunding; 
Di Belanda dan Indonesia dia pontang panting; 
Didukung isterinya yang selalu menggandeng. 
In English translation it can be read as:
Steenbrink is not a scholar of the ivory tower
he is always concerned with interreligious things
active in Indonesia and the Netherlands
supported by his loving wife
Thank you, Suryan Jamrah, Mujib and Azyumardi, as well as Farid Wajdi of Gading Publishers for this edition. Mujib wrote me that he considers it the proper gift for the end of Ramadan this year. To all readers: Mohon maaf lahir batin: I ask for all the mistakes made in this book and elsewhere in my life! May it contribute to peace and understanding.

Shariatism as another bad ideology, preaching a truncated Islam, now also in Indonesia

The Moroccans and Turks are the largest Muslim groups in the Netherlands. Observers note that they did not bring a 'full and rich Islam' to our country. Among the Moroccans, they have left the rich history of maraboutism, holy men, healers, a history of pilgrimage and holy graves. They only took a number of imams to our country, people who control the mosque, preach the right observations for prayers, for halal food, proper dress. And civil and political support for the King!  If people say that migrant Muslims have become more devout Muslims than in their country of origin, they mean: the formal rules are better tought and kept by many. Why? Because the alternative, especially for women, the marabout as a personal advisor and a key figure in popular religion is not present. It is a truncated Islam that has arrived in the 500 mosques in our country!
The same can be said  about Turkish Islam, with some variations. When the caliphate was abolished in 1923 also the Muslim brotherhoods were banned. Not only the azan should be said in Turkish, but the graves of saints were no longer sacred places. In Konya there is a museum, where you have to buy a ticket to see the grave of Maulana Jamaluddin Rumi, where it is not allowed to kiss the grave or to offer a letter with prayers and vows to this grave. Diyanet is the equivalent of the Ministry of Religion in Indonesia. It is used to look after the proper rituals in the mosques and at marriages, burials, circumcisions.. It is preaching a 'moderate' style of Islam, which is also a 'tamed' Islam with no straight or direct interference in politics, but it has served to bow for politicians who wanted to condem and even ban Shi'a and Ahmadi Islam. Elsewhere I have written about the verdict against Fethullah Gülen by Diyanet (as if he is no longer a Muslim, because in meetings of interreligiosu dialogue 'he skipped the prophethood of Muhammad').
Leiden University Press has recently (2016) published an angry book: Kees van Dijk, & Nico Kaptein (eds), Islam, Politics and Change. The Indonesian Experience after the fall of Suharto. It has in part the story of PKS as the most popular Muslim party for some time. Even some Leiden scholars (like Henk Schulte Nordholt) considered it as a promising initiative. But it has now proven that it is as vulnerable for corruption as other parties. So, for the sake of a relevant and healthy Islam, it should abstain from politics!
For me the most interesting contributions  in this book were by Moch. Nur Ichwan (MNI) and Reza Idria on the disastrous introduction of some aspects of sharia in the province of Aceh. MNI studies a non-Sharia oriented sufi group around Syeikh Amran Waly. In 17th century there was a period when Sufism was 'state Islam' when sharia Islam was marginalised. Now we see the opposite, but he pleads for a good balance at least. P. 229 quotes Teungku Zamhuri as saying that 'implementation of sharia as it is today will not bring people closer to God. For him, God should be approached by dhikr and good deed to others.' .. 'The sharia euphoria has neglected the inner dimension of Islam and marginalised sufi groups' (234)  in these circles 'There was a feeling of being oppressed by the sharia ulama and the government with its 'simplistic' policies, as they saw it, of Islamisation taking the form of formal Shariatization. The implementation of sharia in Aceh was dismissed as trivial and artifical, because the qanuns and official sharia discourse neglected the richness of the esoteric dimensions of Islam.' (243)
Quite funny is the debate about dress for women: Alyasa Abubakar (one of the first architects of sharia implementation in Aceh, now at a distance quite critical) considered the regulation unnecssary, pointing out that trousers are the traditional attire of Acehnese women.  (244) And it may be added: it also can be modernised in a nice way!


woensdag 21 juni 2017

Idul Fitr AH 1438 Happy End of Ramadan!

Dear readers,  friends,:this is written in the last week of Ramadan 1438: a difficult week for Dutch Muslims because weather is very hot and the days start very early (04:00), and iftar is only at about ten in the evening. And this at 30 Celsius during daytime!
But there is much more. Themedia continuously report about attacks in London, Brussels, with a limited number of victims, while in Syria and Irak, not to speak about Somalia, casualties run into the hundred. Recently I had some idea about how al-Ghazzali must have felt amidst the attacks of Sassanid terrorists, who caused him to flee from Baghdad and seek security in a calm desert place.
The most painful messages are about the fraternal problems between Muslims: Turkish Muslims in our country are divided between followers of Erdogan and his Diyanet who call Fethullah Gülen a terrorist and instigator of the failed coup of 15 July 2016. Gülen followers now no longer use his name. Their website with the name Hizmet or 'service' has been stopped, and what is left of the Zaman New Agency has now been given another name as well.
Nevertheless, we all ask forgiveness for the mistakes we have made and pray that the near future may be better.
Our son Floris saught a long holiday, three month adventure, with his wife Inge and the son Doemer (5 years) and daughter Mette (2 1/2). Not to any southern country, but here they are crossing the polar circle: cold, but empty places and quiet! Enjoy freedom and peace!

donderdag 1 juni 2017

A criminal or a victim? Pius Rasi Wangge of Flores.

The latest issue of BKI, the journal of Indonesian and Caribbean Studies (in full Bijdragen tot de Taal-, Land- en Volkenkunde uitgegeven door het Koninklijk Instituut..) has an interesting article by Steve Farram ( 2017, vol 173:23-52) on the reasons why West or Indonesian Timor was integrated in an independent Indonesia in the period 1945-1950, while Portuguese Timor received support from Australia and first of all from the USA to retain it status as a colony. The major reason was that the USA wanted to use the harbour of the Azores Islands during Worldwar II and made the promise not to disturb the colonial relations of Portugal in Africa and Asia. Anyway: Portugal lost the colonies after 1975!
Part of the article is also about the court cases against two Indonesian for 'war crimes' during the Japanese period, 1942-5. One of these was about Pius Rasi Wangge. He was the son of a village head in Central Flores. Born about 1890 he was  in 1909 the guide to the first Catholic missionary visiting the  region from Sikka. In 1914 he was nominated in the new position of raja for a region of five villages, a colonal creation, also to curb the influence of Islam. This duty expanded to the great territory of Lio where he was raja with some 50 kapitan under him. The Dutch officials found him efficient but also somewhat irregular with taxes and talked about 'extortion'. A native raja is different from a colonial official. This 'irregularity' became so serious that in the late 1930s he was condemned by the Resident of Kupang and expelled to that town for ten years. He was also accused of some killings and practices that now would be called corruption.
It is clear that he prevented the growth of Islam in his region and made Lio a truly 'Catholic' territory, although his methods were not always applauded.

I could not find pictures for Raja Pius and so above is a picture of Don Lorenzo of Larantuka (who died in exile in Yogyakarta and Raja Don Thomas of Sikka, the last to bear this dignity until he died in 1954.
While reading the life story of Raja Pius again (most of it is in the second volume of Catholics in Indonesia, 107-9), I wondered whether it was a wise and just verdict: was he only the subect of death sentence only for his support to the Japanese  since 1942 (after he was condemned by the Dutch to a simple exile in 1941): was he really a criminal or was it is 1946-7 also a frustrated Dutch government anxious to get its colonial power back and made Raja Pius a victim of the last colonial war? I must look to the documents in the National Archives in the Hague.

vrijdag 26 mei 2017

Adat Law between lawyers and social activists

Prof. Cornelis van Vollenhoven became in 1901 the first professor in Adat Law at Leiden University. It was a move towards more respect for the culture and style of indigenous society. In 1917 Van Vollenhoven started together with Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje the Adatrechtstichting, a Foundation for the promotion of adat law (besides European Law and Islamic Law or shari'a). The Institute now under director Jan Michiel Otto organised a three day seminar in Leiden. I attended the opening session on 22 May. Apparently adat law is no loger directed against European influence, but is now in defence for IP or Indigenous People. The big organization is AMAN: Asosiasi Masyarakat Aman Nusantara.
From Indonesia I saw some lecturers in Adat Law, both from general and Islamic universities, besides activists of Aman and related organizations. After 1998 and the movement towards decentralization there is better understanding for them, but it remains an uphill struggle, especially in order to fight the great plantations who received so many adat lands. How to get these back?

Adat Law is still part of the law faculty in Leiden and on the picture above we see Jan Michiel Otto, embassador Puja (from Bali: for him Adat is the rich culture of Bali, based in Hindu traditions), dean of Leiden law faculty (name forgotten) and senior assistent to Jan Michiel Otto, Adriaan Bedner.
Picture below is Sandra Moniaga, human rights activist, fighting for land to be given back to local adat copmmunities. It appears to be a difficult problem, because poor farkers have to fight rich conglomerates and business people, often connected with local administration. And the law are complicated.
There was much debate about pro and contra the formulation for a new law in village administration.
In 1969-1970 I followd a course on adat law in Nijmegen. Prof. moh. Koesnoe was a visiting professor at the time. He abused adat law to defend the procedure of mushawarah as the 'best and traditional' way of making decisions. Not one man one vote, but seeking harmony (which in fact meant a total submission to the central government of Soeharto).
For Snouck Hurgronje it was also local Indonesian rules against shari'a rules from Arabia.
There are many faces in Hukum Adat

Jaspert Slob, born 18 January 1945, died 16 May 2017

Jaspert Slob was born in Hardinxveld-Giessendam, a section of the Dutch 'bible-belt' where quite many orthodox Protestant live and foster their churches.
Jaspert was a clever boy, son fo a farmer, who went in Gorcum to HBS, the secondary school for people who want to do technical or business studies. Jaspert was excellent in chemistry, but after secondary school he decided that he wanted to study theology. During two years he had to study Greek and Hebrew (as well as some latin), before he entered the theological faculty of Utrecht University, considered at that time the most orthodox in the country.
In 1976 he was sent by the missionary organization of his church as a lecturer to the Theological School in Tomohon, where he taught until 1982. Jaspert fell in love with the country and culture of Indonesia and until the end of his life he remained a true follower of anything that was happening in Indonesia.
For some time he became secretary of relations with Christians in Asia, but his finest hours were always when an Indonesian delegation visited Oegstgeest or (later) Utrecht. He liked also field trips to Indonesia to give a good warming up to the mutual relations.
One of his duties was also to make contact with Indonesian student in the Netherlands and one of these was Th. Sumartana. The idea of a dialogue between the religions was heartly welcomed by Jaspert who was no longer a staunch and obsolete orthodox Calvinist any longer. I found a paper by him where he considered what had been done by the mission to Sadrach as a big mistake, while he also praised the openness of Kartini. These two were his great heroes.
From the beginning (was it 1988?) he supported DIAN/Interfidei in Yogyakarta. This reminded me about the problems Ben Boland had experienced around 1970 when he completed his doctoral dissertation on contemporary Islam in Indonesia (1945-1970) where Prof. Mukti Ali featured as the great hero of dialogue. Boland was considered too pro-Islam and as an enemy of the Protestant missionaries.  Boland hoped that there would be a less aggressive message by the Christians in Indonesia and more openness for the many nice aspects of Islam. Only 15 years later Jaspert Slob could be instrumental in the new turn.
Until one year before he died (after a long process of heart problems and pneumonic cancer) he sent weekly excerpts from Indonesian newspapers on current affairs.
Probably the most beautiful period in his life was the period of more than five years when he was with his wife Josien Folbert in Salatiga supporting the Percik activities of Pradjarto.
Jaspert and Josien had two (adopted, Indonesian) children: Anne en Marteun. They enjoyed five grandchildren who decorated the coffin with joyful drawings. He now 'lives in another light'or, following the text of Rumi quoted in the service:God has spread his light over all souls. Happy are those who open their robe to receive this light. They do not see anything else than God. Without this robe of love we cannot live a full life.'

A New Princess of China "Puteri Cina': Veronica Tan

The Puteri Cina or Chinese Princess is a personality known in Javanese history as the spouse of a Javanese ruler. Honoured, but sometimes also discriminated.   According to the Chronicle of Java the 16th century ruler of Majapahit, King Brawijaya V, had a Chinese princess as a junior wife and mother of their son Raden Patah (Fatah). She was later given to the king’s son, Arya Damar in Palembang, to appease the jealousy of the queen consort, and with him she had a second son, Raden Kusen (Husen).   These two historical figures played a role in the great changes that came in Java with the waning of the Hindu-Javanese kingdoms and the advent of the first Islamic rulers. The Chinese princess reflects on the events of her time, and their impact on her family, then in the person of the Putri Cina she travels through time, observing the tragic vulnerabilty of her people in times of social disorder, right up to events in the very recent past.
The Jesuit priest Sindhunata was until 1998 mostly known for his writings that mix  Catholic and javanese ideas and symbols. Only after the events which surrounded the fall of President Soeharto and caused the death of some 1000 Chinese-indonesian citizens of Jakarta he turned more to his partly Chinese roots and wrote a novel Putri Cina, where the story of Chinese in Indonesia is put in a romantic garb, accompanied with philosophical thinking about René Girard and his theory of the need of a scapegoat in society.
The novel of 2007 was translated by Dr. Simon Rae of Dunedin, New Zealand and his daughter Catherine and published in 2015. It is sold for Rp 110.000 in Indonesia and for US$ 31.75 abroad: these differences remain!
I had to think about the Chinese Princess again when reading the story of the Ahok trial and condemnation. The latest step in this tragic history is that Ahok initially wanted to  appeal for the verdict of two years of prison, but now says that he has accepted thedecision of the court. What should we think of it. Simon Rae, the translator of the Chinese Princess wrote me: "
I think Ahok's move shows both a generous spirit and a careful calculation.  He is saying 'I do not want to cause more dissention' but also 'I do not trust the judiciary to deal with my case on its merits'.  He is denying FPI any further opportunity to demonstrate against him and he will have earned some sympathy and respect, internationally and at home.  But it is all moving in an ominous direction. How much influence and power do these popular extra-constitutional groups (premen, FPI etc) have over police, courts..."
Above we see Veronica Tan, wife of Ahok, showing the letter written van Ahok in prison. There are youtube movies showing her in tears, reading this letter.
Is Ahok making himself a martyr/scapegoat?

dinsdag 9 mei 2017

Ahok in prison! Hizbut Tahrir banned

Yesterday, 9 May 2017, Ahok has been put in prison for his debate about Qur'an 5:51, according to him abused by politicians who claim that Muslims should not vote for non-Muslim leaders, presidents, governors: Oh, you believers, do no take the Jews and Christians as your wali (friend, helper, leader). The central word was dibohongi: politicians had according to him been lying about the true meaning of this verse. What is the original meaning in its historic context? Is it the attack on Medina by unbelieving Arabs from Mecca, who led a siege on the town and is Muhammad here warned that he should not ask Jews and Christians to join him in the defence?
The debate went its own way and many participants in the debate had their own dyamics. What was the reason why one Buni Yani (a Ph.D. candidate in Leiden University; see his blog http://buniyani.blogspot.nl/, no additions after 24 June 2014).
SBY had his motivations to support the case against Ahok, because he wanted to stimulate his son.
The MUI saw a possibility to gain extra power in society. FPUI and Habib Rizieq Syihab made the biggest investment in this affair. A friend wrote me that Amin Rais had threatened to Jokowi that 'he could forget a second term as national president in 2019 if Ahok would escape prison'. The Prosecutor had only asked for a suspended one-year imprisonment with a probation time of two years. What will happen now, when people want to make his prison a place of pilgrimage?
Ahok is clearly angry now!
On the previous day 'good old', 8 May,  Minister Wiranto has made the Hizbut Tahrir a forbidden organization. Under SBY Hizbut Tahrir xcould flourish and even received a seat inm the MUI, Majelis Ulama Indonesia. It could be quite active and push for more and more hard measures against pluralism, Ahmadiyyah. Although they want a caliphate and in fact do not recognise an Indonesian government, they push for more Islam in local politics. It still must become clear what the impact of the ban on Hizbut Tahrir will be. Will FPI also have to diminish its activities?
PDI-P the old nationalist party of Megawati immediately denounced the verdict and suggested the the judges had bowed for political pressure.
Dutch journalist Michel Maas was not optimistic about the possibility to ban Muslim activists from streets and politics.

The new Max Havelaar: Alfred Birney

Yesterday Alfred Birney was announced as the winner of the most prestigious literary prize in the Netherlands: AKO Literature Award. It was for his book Tolk van Java (Translator of Java). The book is about his father Adolf Nolan, born in 1935 in Surabaya from a truly colonial mixed family: father half Scottish/Dutch, mother Chinese/Javanese. He was a cruel fighter against Japanese in the period 1943-5 and then vowed to defend the Dutch Queen and administration (kneeling before an image of Queen Wilhelmina, in fact a vague unknown personage to him) in the period 1945-1949. Then he came as a broken personality to the Netherlands where he had a poor career in many jobs, dying at the age of 80 in 2005, in self-chosen exile in Spain.
His son Alfred Birney was born in 1952, experienced the impossible marriage of his cruel father to a weak Dutch lady, was partly educated in an orphanage, never had a good home for himself nor for his brothers and sisters, but developed first as a musician (playing guitar in the kroncong style of entertainment) and then becoming a writer. He published in 1998 a colonial literary history, Oost-Indische Inkt, but now his masterpiece, which was compared to the other great criticism of colonialism, Max Havelaar.

 Max Havelaar  (first published in 1860) is a severe criticism of colonialism, but besides many feudal Indonesians and lazy and corrupt Dutch officials, the hero of the book is the enlightened Dutch official/administrator who knows the ideal solution for the situation.
Tolk van Java is so different: it has only the dark side of the tropical paradise. Not the lyric, the romantic glorification of the tropical country, but the brutality of a divided country where racial prejudices and boundaries are strong, where violence continues and the value of an individual outside the privileged classes means very little. Adolf Nolan driven by some irrational sympathy for the Dutch Queen joins the Dutch army after its return to Surabaya in late 1945 and becomes an interrogator of Indonesian Nationalist soldiers and activists. The book is full with brutal killings, torture, also onthe Indonesian side. No romantic of a heroic war of independence. Finally there was much frustration on the Dutch side, but also many leaders on the Indonesian side who sought profit for their own sake.
There is a renewed interest for the dark side of the period 1945-1949 with more money for research, the publication of the great book by Rémy Limpach about the 'burning villages of General Spoor' (De brandende kampongs van Generaal Spoor) 870 pages.

zaterdag 8 april 2017

Three mediators for a modern and moderate Indonesian Islam in Leiden

Three prominent Indonesians, Alwi Syihab, Azyumardi Azra and Amin Abdullah are making a 6 week trip to Europe and America. They want to promote the position of Islam in the Muslim world as  a place of reason and safety. Although they also experience some problems in their own homeland, they want discuss further steps in favour of religious harmony, adjustment to the modern world.
They made their first visits to Berlin and London and arrived on Amsterdam airport in the early morning of Friday 7 April 2017. They went immediately to the meeting in the former observatory for atsronomy of Leiden university. Still quite tired!

Left is here Azyumardi Azra from Jakarta, right Amin Abdullah from Yogyakarta. Listening. Apparently it is not all exciting during such a long trip. Only looking more lively when speeking. 
The whole mission was initiated by Jakob Tobing and Matius Ho of the Leimena Foundation after the Protestant Vice-Prime Minister of Indonesia in the first decade of the independent republic. Financiel and moral support comes from an American conservative Christian organization, Fieldstead and Company, here represented by Steven Ferguson. There was one intriguing question: Why are the radical Muslims so attractive for youngsters?  One answer was: because they have much money (from the Gulf States and Saudi supporters). But the opposite answer was here present as well: a war or at least a competition to find supporters between radical and moderate Muslims is als the one between Arabian and Western supporters and funders!
There are in Indonesia thousands pesantren  or Islamic boardings schools (a number of 30,000 was given) against only some 30 truly salafi pesantren. There are some 4,000 Indonesian students in al-Azhar, Cairo, an institution where besides some Wahhabi, also quite many liberal Muslims are teaching. In Arabia less than 1000 Indonesian follow academic education. An not all of them turned into Wahhabi activists!
Attractive for Salafi Muslims is the description of the problems. Alwi Syihab formulated it as: 'You Muslims, you are not master of your own country! Islamic values are not guaranteed here!' But Azyumardi Azra reacted: 'Among Salafi Muslims there is also a battle about the definition of what is true Islam.'
It  was quite curious that Jakob Tobing, a Christian politician, was the initator here (above right). Above, left, we see the senior politician and  a prominent member of the Nahdlatul Ulama Islamic organization. Alwi has a strong talk about the past of Islam in Indonesia. It was introduced since the 1`2th century without any violence. This was done by Sufi traders with soft persuasion. They made the Hindus to believing Muslims. This is so different from what is happening today when angry Arab teachers turn the believers into unbelievers. This is a quite complex statement: Indonesian Muslim are labelled as unbelievers by a movement called takfir: people who label all who do not accept Islam as they do it themselves, should be called unbelievers. In this way from a majority Muslim country a battlefield for true Islam has been created! Henk Schulte Nordholt wisely concluded that here in Leiden we were 'among the believers!'  I quoted (again) the remark of Mangunwijaya that 'Indonesia has too much religion'.  Too many people claim that religion is so important and that everything, all problems, must be solved by more religion. So many countries with low participation in the great religions have a good welfare system for the poor, the old and the sick.
Azyumardi blamed corruption as one of the causes: Indonesian economy is stagnant and there is lack of credibility in politicians. Salafi preachers claim that religion will be the solution, but they can never give real evidence for this.
The only woman in the group here was Naima Ajouaau of Not my Religion!, a group and a website against radical Islam in the Netherlands. But she had to give in that her group of activists wanted to give secular education and teaching of the Dutch language to migrant women who in fact wanted knowledge of Arabic and Qur'an reading as well as cheap (salafi) books rather than secular knowledge and liberal Islam.
A new term was launched (at least new for me): Wasatia Islam means Islam of the middle of the road, after the verse of sura 2:143 that the Muslim community should be a group of the middle. It is in the section of the change of Qiblat from Jerusalem to Mecca where Madina is the middle. But it is now also used between secular society and full shari'a state, in fact the Pancasila State.
I repeated the suggestion that moderate Islam has a connotation of tame, not really convinced and enthusiast system of belief. Islam Nusantara may add some nationalist fervor to the Indonesian Muslims. Anyway they do often not really like the Arabs!
A photo was made at a moment when quite a few had already take leave and a select group was preparing for the nice lunch we had and where talks were continued in an informal way. Perhaps some secuilar opponents of Islam should have been invited as well as radical Muslims: it is one step again in the quest for a modern and adjusted Islam for the whole world!

donderdag 30 maart 2017

The debate about Islam Nusantara, 3: a concluding dinner and a poem

The second day, 28 March 2017 was for internal affairs within the Nahdlatul Ulama organization. 29 March there was a great dinner for some 150 people at the Indonesian Embassy in The Hague. There was nice food, many speeches and also quite many performances of Muslim 'entertainment'. It was the kind of what we called the Friday morning 'desert sound' on the radio with sons, lyrics in mixef Indonesian and arabic.


For the presentation of Islam Nusantara there was a group of some 14 former stewardesses of Garuda Airlines. They had come especially for this three-day event from Jakarta. Above, in red is their presentation at the conference of 27 March at the Free University. Below the colourful dress worn at the closing dinner of 29th. All hymns and lyrics sung by heart with modest dancing.


The ladies in black above are a group of salawat-singers of NU circles in the Netherlands. The youngsters below performed a very dynamic way of pious local dances. Great entertainment, between the numerous speeches as part of a good Indonesian festive event.
I had written a poem to celebrate Islam nusantara and could read it here as well.


Sifat duapuluh seorang Muslim Nusantara atau
Kebanggaan Ganda

Tentu saja dia bisa berenang
antara sini dan sana, datang dan pulang
dia tetap dalam air merasa senang
dari pulau ke pulau Tuhanlah dia memandang

Baginya samudra adalah Tuhannya
pulau-pulau hanya stasiun atau maqamnya
Hamzah Fansuri nakhodanya
Sunan Giri tetap gurunya

Baginya Belanda tidak lagi musuh
banyak cari negara ini sebagai tempat teduh
restorannya menyediakan nasi lezat, piring penuh
tanah Arab dianggapnya kering dan keruh

Mukhalaf lil hawadith, berbeda dari yang baru
dia juga tidak takut kemodernan, tak terharu
hal yang baru tidak jadi dia menyeru
malah penyesuaian, pembaharuan itu perlu!

Ahmad Baso adalah laksmana pikiran
dialah yang memimpin pasukan
memberikan ceramah berapi, nulis laporan
Habib dan ustaz takut dia punya ajakan.

NU tidak hanya makna Nahdat al-'ulama
tetapi juga bangkit semangat Nusantara
tidak perlu lagi fatwa jihad lawan Belanda
Tebuireng, waratsatul Majapahit, menjadi tanda kebanggaan ganda.

Karel Steenbrink, Den Haag 29 Maret 2017

International presentation of Islam Nusantara in the Netherlands, 2: Nine heroes of Islam Nusantara

Ahmad Baso is quite negative about the orientalists, who in his view too often qualify anything where Indonesian Islam is different from mainstream or Arab Islam as 'syncretic' and 'impure'. I had myself to give the last presentation on an overloaded first day: concluding remarks. Between 17.00 and 18.00 first a presentation was given byDr. Adib Abdushomad, high official at the directore of Islamic Higher Education of the Ministry of Religion in Jakarta. He gave a warm talk about the strategy of the Ministry to change the Islamic Academies into universities with religious as well as general facylties. This should improve the  sound knowledge of Islam with students in science, medicine and other disciplines. It should also update the religion students in their contact with all kind of academic disciplines.
I gave myself a talk about nine scholars who in the past defended also a broad interpretation of Islam, not yet under the (new) name of Islam Nusantara. 1) Snouck Hurgronje has a long section in his book on Aceh where he defends that 'pure Islam' is found nowhere in the world. It is always practise that local (sometimes pre-Islamic) traditions are included and defended as part of the Muslim tradition. Snouck uses the term of 'popular religion'.  2) Merle Ricklefs has spent his long and rich academic career to an analysis of development in the javanese courts and Javanese society at large and coined the term mystical synthesis where pre-Islamic ideas are mixed with Islam and later (after 1850) were called abangan. 3) I told about the criticism of Prof. Rasjidi on the title of my book (1984) on Islam in 19th century Indonesia. I wanted ti too give the title of Paderi, Penghulu dan Penjual Jimat or P3. Publisher Bulan Bintang accepted the book but its advisor Prof. Rasjidi rejected the title: amulet sellers are not part of Islam. The content of the book remained the same, but its title was less interesting: iBeberapa Aspek Islam di Indonesia abd ke-4. 4) Marshall Hodgson divided the history of Islam in seven Muslim cultures: three classic and basic peoples: Arabs, Persians, Turks. They were followed by the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Africa south of Sahara. Nowadays we see a seventh Muslim culture growing, Islam in the West. All different but all Muslim. 5) Hans Küng has not the geographical but historical pattern of change of paradigm and come to paradigm changes in sevel cultures for Jews, Christians and Muslims that run parallel.
6) The Jesuit priest Jan Bakker wrote a book on Agama Indonesia Asli as Catholic propaganda for its policy of unculturation. But not only Catholics practise this idea, although they are stronger in its outspoken defence. 7) Wilfred Cantwell Smith coinedthe idea of cumulative tradition as the reality in the global religions. They keep changing and including new ideas.. 8) Prof. Hazairin and Hasbi ash-Shiddieqy tried to formulate a mazhab Indonesia. It is a strong idea, but they restricted it to law of inheritance and some more aspects of family law. It should be formulated stronger. 9) Harun Nasution was the man who accepted me as a lecture in Jakarta and Yogyakarta (with Mukti Ali), 1981-8. He wrote a strong article: does the Qur'an include everything? No!  The Qur'an suggests that people should think for themselves. Even the practical rules for prayer are not found int he Qur'an.
These were just nine examples of how the idea od Islam Nusantara continues earlier proposals for a flexible and creative understanding of Islam.

Islam Nusantara discussed in the Netherlands. 1: The Conference at Free University Amsterdam

27-29 March 2017 the Special Branch of Nahdlatul Ulama in the Netherlands organised a three-day programme (Festival) on the concept of Islam Nusantara. The first day was a full conference programme. The ambitious programme to make it the beginning of a series of biannial meetings.
The International Conference Rethinking Indonesia's Islam Nusantara: From Local Relevance to Global Significance had a slow start with many short speeches by  functionaries: dean of the theological faculty of VU, ambassador in The  Hague I Gusti Agung Wesaka Puja, two NU leadersthe young Fachrizal Affandi for the Tanfidziyah ansd the somewhat older, but looking more pastoral KH Zulfa Mustofa.

Zulfa Mustofa was the only yo give a speech in Arabic, clear extremely well written, defending that local adaptations are a general feature of the international religion of Islam. It was either polemic nor defensive, as if the theme of Islam Nusantara is accepted by a vast majority in the organization and in Indonesian Islam in general (what is not the case!).
The only lady speakere here was Safira Machrusah, a 'NU activist', so not someone in a hierarchical position. Traditionally in dress, but a very good speaker.
Machrusah has been for her Ph.D. in Australia and feels comfortable in an internaionally audience. But the major speaker in the morning session was Ahmad Baso, also not someone in a high hierarchical position within NU, although I heard that he has a position in Lakpesdam, the office for education and human resources development of the great organizatrion. He has finshed no formal education at academic level, but is a good writer and avid reader. He gives spirited speeches and is by some seen as the great power behind the idea of Islam Nusantara, which was launched at the Muktamar of Djombang in 2015.
He has a style of talking of a great religious leader: starting with a quite calm warming and than moving the a full-fledged dramatic style asfter some ten minutes to calm again aftar ten minutes in a concluding way. He has published nearly twenty books, mostly on the history of pesantren, but also on the contribution of Nahdlatul Ulama to the political unity of Indonesia. His small book The Intellectual Origins of Islam Nusantara. A Study of a Globalising Islam and Reform of Hegemonic Reason (Jakarta, March 2017) is more or less written as an ideological pamphlet in preparation for this three-day event. He hopes that Indonesian Islam will be recognized internationally as an interesting, important blend of Islam, besides the Arabic Islam of Wahhabi or Salafi origins which is now dominating the international press and other media. It was repeated again and again that this support of 'moderate' Islam was an action against Arab Islam, but the other side of the coin is the fervent nationalist pride which can be heard in his speech and read in his book: from the earliest Muslim in the archipelago (in the 12th century CE, Muslim traders or 'Sindbad Muslim' in the language of Fatema Mernissi, who settled in Pasai or Samudra/Semutra, now the eastern coast of Aceh).
The afternoon was for sessions of younger participants, many of them Ba, MA or PhD Students. There was a quite technical talk about santrionline, a quite popular website. Also a talk about Mafia Sholawat by K.H. Ali Shodiqin, a series that also can be seen in many Youtube movies: looks more Arabic than Indonesia, whith derwish dancing in the Rumi/Turkish style, but the young preacher wears a black turban and black jellaba. There were still 30 more presentations, divided in four groups. About the Mafia Sholawat I will receive the paper by the researcher and maybe write later about it.
The most important qualification of Islam Nusantara is still that it is moderate, tolerant, liberal. These are qualifications to be given by administrators, bureaucrats. The more striking are that it is nationalist, based on love for the own country and its excellence and that it is modern.

donderdag 16 maart 2017

God is great and does not suffer from strange ideas by Gafatar!

In 2012 a new religious group called Gafatar (acronym or another name is Gerakan Fajar Nusantara, Movement for the Rise of the Indonesian Archipelago), created a society, called Millah Ibrahim or 'the society of Abraham'.  They seem to be active in Mempawah, West Kalimantan and several thousands of followers. MUI, the Supreme Council of Muslim Clerics of Indonesia issued a fatwa against this doctrine and practice mostly still Islam, but in a less strict way as to jilbab, the veil, and the obligation to say prayers.
7 March 2017 the civil court of East Jakarta condemned them guilty of blasphemy and therefore three leaders to imprisonment for several years. Against the MUI they could claim that they were no longer Muslims and therefore not subject to the MUI. But plasphemy?
Amnesty International has a campaign in favour of them. I support this action and suggest that they are not dangerous for the state. They should have freedom of expression and of religion, even when their ideas may seem strange. In the royal palace of Granada all rooms have the expression: inna al-hukm inda Allah: judgment is to God. Let it be so!And in general, as stated by Human Rights Working Groups: blasphemy is a very vague formulation and can be easily abused for political goals.