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 K√ľng 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.

woensdag 15 maart 2017

The Boxer Codex on Muslims of Brunei

Charles Ralph Boxer (1904-2000) was a Beritish colopnial historian, who wrote solid but often also well-written and pleasant books about Portuguese and Dutch colonial history. Around 1960 he bought at an auction a manuscript from about 1590 with many fancy illustrations about the whole of East Asia, from China and Japan to the Philippines and Indonesia. It wass in 2016 published in its original language, Spanish, with an English translation and many footnotes.Chapters 8-11 are about Brunei, the Moluccas, Java and Aceh. Most intyereting of these is the chapter on Brunei, 397-426. The sections on Java and the Moluccas are extremely short, not much more than one page about the ruler and the dress used for fighting.
The thirty pages on brunei begin with a history of the arrival of Islam in Brunei, which was about 1300 according to this source. One Sultan Yusuf was the first to accept Islam. He went to China to visit the emperor and received a consort, a Chinese Pricess, also known in Javanese history as the spouse of one of the rulers.
Quite interesting for me was the meaning ot the word Orang Siak, which I knew as an expression for a santri, a Muslim student. Here it is explained as a Shaykh, venerated older man who was teaching religion.

Quite funny is on page 411 the story about the sultan who is sleeping with his one real spouse or isteri sungguh in the same room as his many concubines. Because they all sleep in the same room. When the sultan seeks the company of one of other other women he goes to her sleeping place and 'there he does whatever he wants without his wife scoulding him or her'.  Pure harmony, although many stories tell about problems in polygamous relations especially in the royal families. But this is only a Portuguese account of the situation as they heard or imagined the lives of these quite different people.
Muslims here are not qualified as 'Moor' but as Islam 'who do not eat pork and follow the Koran'. Moor is often only used for Mediterranean Muslims and here they are apparently different. But the description is very short and I could not yet really see what is the use of an outsider source for our knowledge of Indonesian Muslims.

dinsdag 7 maart 2017

The Arab King and the Balinese Priest Venus

King Salman of Saudi-Arabia has made an Asian tour, ending in Jakarta, then Brunei and finishing with a holiday in Nusa Dua, Bali.
In Jakarta some people were somewhat disappointed: he did not give a speech of 10 minutes in the national parliament, but spoke only 2 minutes. He did not sign contracts for US$25 billion but only for one billion. People of the FPI, especially Habib Rizieq Syihab were disappointed because he did not give open support to Muslim hardliners and the Arabs of Jakarta. Instead, he spoke in favour of a 'moderate' Islam and some espect that the position of Jokowi (and Ahok) against the hardliners has been strengthened. On 3 March there was a meetng with a large number of religious leaders, including Bishop Suharyo of the Catholic Conference of Indoensian Bishops and Jesuit Magnis Suseno, who mentioned this meeting as a strong symbolic event, stressing the need for interreligious harmony.
King Salman promised in Jakarta money for three centres of learning Arabic in Medan, Makassar and Surabaya.
But he arrived in Bali on 4 March in grand style and extended his holiday from 4 to nine days.
He will probably know that English is much more practised and loved in Indonesia than Arabic. So his plane has God bless you, besides Allahu bi hafdhikum!
Many newspapers had the story of the diocesan priest Eventius ('Venus') Dewantoro, born in Larantuka. He stayed for one year in Cairo to learn Arabic (2002-3) and after that two years at PISAI, the Pontificaul Institute of the Study of Arabic and Islam in Rome. He greeted the king with a nice Ahlan wa sahlan, whereupon the king asked whether he was a minister of the Masihiyin. The short conversation brought him to the front pages of many newspapers. Further they wrote that the beach was under security, but still open for divers and other guests.
'Venus' Dewantoro here enjoys his moment of glory!
His name is also written as Evensius (born Riangkemie 2 May 1969. Ordained in 1996). In 2001 he was the parish priest of Ampenan in Lombok.