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.

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