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 cafĂ©' 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.