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

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.