zaterdag 15 september 2018

'Antrian' or lining up for position no 2

Following Indonesian politics from a European town is not so easy. Television is important, one should people hear and see. And in Utrecht we do not see the faces. The Jakarta Post has since long no real interesting analysis. Kompas is quite cryptic for people not living in the country. is an internet site for academic publications. It has now an quite lucid analysis by Najib Burhani and Deasy Simanjuntak on the choice by Jokowi to take the 76 year old Ma'ruf Amin (only 3 months younger than my own age!) as his Vice President in the elections of coming year, April 2019.
There were several other candidates, some already with the white dress of Jokowi. It was not Mahfud MD, chief justic in the  Constitutional Court), but the leader of MUI and NU Ma'ruf Amin who is the running mate.
Above we see the two, apparently during medical screening.
In the analysis of Burhani much emphasis is given to the age: with 76 year Ma'ruf Amin is no candidate for the elections of 2024: no warming up for the process of becoming the next president. This was the reason why Muhaimin Iskandar of the younger generation of NU had no problems with his old leader. In Muslim circles quite many have hope for themselves to become a next president (Amine Rais also? Dien Syamsuddin?) and much of the debate is already about the next line for the succession!
There are also a new candidates in the political arena whom they mention: TGB from Lombok: Tuan Guru Bajang, now governor of NTB. Also Ustadz Abdul Somad, young and popular preacher (now more popular than AAGym).
But more important is the question: how will conservative, traditionalist Muslim make this choice: will they now leave the party Prabowo? The Populi Center counted in February 34.6% of Muhammadiyah for Prabowo, as well as 25.4% of NU. We will see how things develop. They found it quite surprising and strange that Jokowi took a very conservative cleric as running mate (who was agianst Ahok, signed the terrible fatwa against Ahmadiyyah), while Prabowo has a more 'secular' running mate, economist Sandiago Uno. We get accustomed to new names. Below the new faces again!

maandag 10 september 2018

Joke or yoke? The Bupati of Bireuen on coffee parties

The Bupati of Bireuen, Saifunnur ('Sword of Licht') has issued a local regulation about coffee drinking in café and restaurant: a woman is only allowed to enjoy a coffee with a non-muhrim man (no husband, no family), if she is in the company of a muhrim. She is even not allowed to have a meal, or a simple drink anywhere in a public place.
This message was sent in a facebook chain without any comment of words. But there was a simple image added, clear enough, I think.
When is drinking coffee haram or halal was the question added. And this was just one of a whole series of regulations issued by this bupati.
The answer to the question of halal/haram may also be found in the Gospel of Matthew 11:30, where Jesus says about his interpretation of the sometimes  weard interpretations of Jewish law: my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
When I was teaching at the State Academy of Islamic Sciences  (now UIN), in Jakarta and Yogyakarta, 1981-1988, students saw that I was often critical about Christianity and positive about Islam. Some asked: why do you not convert fully to Islam? I always answered, 'Better be a critical Christian than a subdued Muslim who, as a muallaf has to accept all rules and cannot be critical anymore'. There is no perfect religion in this earth, but we have to careful that religions anyway remain reasonable.

zondag 2 september 2018

Inflated and dangerous accusations of blasphemy

Blasphemy is a hot issue in Pakistan, where all kind of Christians and other people easily can be condemned in court cases for anything that does not honour the Prophet Muhammad or other aspects of Islam. Last week this has hit the well-known Dutch critic of Islam, politician and member of parliament Geert Wilders. He had announced a contest of making cartoons about the Prophet Muhammad, to be shown in November 2018 in the building of parliament. Although he was only allowed to show these in the private rooms of his own party in that public building, the idea has caused such vehement protests in Pakistan (with thread to stop all trade with the Netherklands, send the ambassador home), that Wilders last week has withdrawn his proposal.

In Indonesia the best known case are the demonstrations aganst Jakarta governor Ahok in December 2016, which have caused that he is still in prison now (until early 2019), just for giving his personal opinion about the interpretation of a verse of the Qur'an.
On 22 July this year a Chinese lady in the town of Tanjung Balei complained to neighbours about the loudspeakers of the mosque just next to her house. She had the impression that it was much louder than before and said that it even was painful in her ears. This is a complaint that I also heard from Muslim colleagues in Yogyakarta: they come late to the Friday prayers, because the sound of the loudspeakers is so painful that they do not like to sit there for ten-twenty minutes, before the Friday prayers start.
Meiliana could not guess that this remark would evoke a chain of protests from the side of Muslims of her town. How just this simple remark could lead to a chain of violence is not clear. On 29 July the DKM, Dewan Kemakmuran Masjid, the Governing Body of the Mosque Al Maksum, came to her house with questions like: 'Do you want us to stop at all with the call to prayer?' There were also general negative remarks about Chinese and Muslims:
"One Ustaz complained that Chinese are arrogant, that close to temples many prostitutes are found, Muslim girls who are sold to Chinese." This 'iterrogation' ended after the last prayers that day in a demonstration.
 The result was that during the demonstration, the house of Meilana was set to fire. But it was soon exstinguished because her neighbour was selling gas in bottles. Thereupon a large number of demonstrators went to several Chinese temples and not less than 14 Chinese temples were ransacked in a violent atmosphere that began about 21:00 and lasted until shortly after midnight, when riot police came in a calmed down the region.
The result was that some of the leaders of the riots were setneced to three months of prison, but the 44 year old Chinese lady Meilana was sentenced to 1 1/2 year prison beaucse of penodaan agama, defamation of religion. A sad end to a development that apparently could not be stopped (or was rather abused by politicians who take profit from these developments in order to increase their popularity). An observer called this 'hate spin', the profit generated by hate.

donderdag 23 augustus 2018

Syafii Maarif published by Leiden University Press

In 2009 Achmed Syafii Maarif (SAM) published two books that asked much attention. He was one of the authors of the angry book Ilusi Negara Islam, The Illusion of an Islamic State, as propagated by hardline traditionalist Muslim from the Middle East who had infiltrated since the 1980s in the heaven of moderate Islam in Indonesia.In that same year he published the first version of Islam dalam Bingkai Keindonesiaan dan Kemanusiaan, later in a second edition in 2015 and now in an English translation at Leiden University Press.
 ASM was general chairperson of the Muhammadiyah between  1998 and 2005. From the two ideals of Muhammadiyah (purification/modernization) he mostly supported the idea of modernization. He was not really afraid for new things (bid'ah) in the religion of Islam. Instead, as a historian rather than dogmatic theologian, let alone a specialist of Islamic Law, he supported the idea that all religions, including Islam, know developments. One is the regional and so the idea of Indonesian Islam or Islam Nusantara is important for him. Indonesia does not need to imitatethe Islam from the Middle East societies. The other is the historical: the present state of Islam (also in Indonesia) is that is has a low quality of adherents and leadership. Not the deviation in wrong practices, but the low intellectual quality of its leadership is the greatest problem for Indoensian Muslims.
Herman Beck who wrote the preface for the translation of this book, writes in his introduction that in the 1960s and 1970s AMS still supported Muhammad Natsir and the ideal of an integral introduction of sharia law in his country. This is now no longer the great ideal, but rather an enlightened humanist Islam, adjusted to Indonesian culture. There the cover of this book shows the minaret of the mosque in Kudus, built after the model of a Hindu temple (or the transformation of a Hindu one).
I wrote already about this book and its translation 26-11-2016, quoting from my notes for the recommendation of the publication of this translation. Traditionalist Muslim in Indonesia seek support in the Middle East, modernists seek fellow thinkers in the Western world. Such is the new division.
Pages 78-84 are an appraisal of the ideals of Communist leader Tan Malaka, a fellow Minangkabau thinker. Wonderful to read how much sympathy is given here to a Communist protagonist by a prominent Muslim leader.

maandag 13 augustus 2018

The personal belief of Gerry van Klinken

On 12 June Gerry van Klinken celebrated the beginning of his new life as 'pensionado': the freedom of retirement. First there was a conference of two days with papers and speeches about civil rights and status of citizens in pre-colonial Southeast Asia. The final lecture was for Gerry himself who talked not about Southeast Asian history or present status, but about his personal belief.
Wilfred Cantwell Smith has written much about the difference between institutionalised faith and personal belief. They can be quite different, so beware of all kind of too easy statistics!
To my surprise, Indonesia did not play a role in his vision, unless a short remark that he had 'abandoned the last relics of his Christian belief during the wars in Maluku'.
Gerry started with singing: an ancient Greek hymn to Apollo for his fighting the dragon Python and stabilizing, giving order to the world! Then he moved to Socrates, as described by Plato, giving his views about events and myths in a philosophical discourse about the ideal state, a theoria, a true vision, not a lifeless theory in some science to be applied and interpreted.
Lucretius De Rerum Natura had been of much influence for him in his vision of human beings amidst the universe. Lucretius did what Nurcholis Madjid would call sekularisasi: forget the myths, look at the things around as part of the universe that includes also human beings. Material things and conditions are not divine. But Van Klinken did not need Nurcholis or other indonesian people, he likes here Lucretius.
The last model figure here was Spinoza, who formulated the phrase: Deus sive natura,  God or nature are interchangeable: all nature is 'divine'  so to say and the divinity is not separated from nature, instead. Therefore there are ethical commands inherent and clear for all rational people, also for politics: republican and democratic values against monarchy and dictotorship.
The talk is on the KITLV site, available to be read (code: 12062018).
When reading Hamzah Fansuri about the 'unity of being' the wihdatul wujud, unity of man with nature, with other human beings as a condition that includes the divinity, I feel the company of Spinoza, compatibility with the contemporary religious author, as well.
But also now concentrating on the traditional religion of Timor, where Sun and Moon are symbols for a sublime and ultimate reality, shared and supported by the ancestors, I see that also Indonesian spiritual poetry can contribute to our understanding of man amidst the universe. For a Professor of Indonesian Culture and Society, I found this neglect of Indonesian aspects somewhat surprising.

woensdag 1 augustus 2018

Aa Gym between Psychology and Shari'ah

Last week James Bourk Hoesterey was in Leiden to talk about methodology of social science and the humanities. He criticized the emphasis on libraries, books and archives, manuscript collections. Edited short movies should be seen as the new source for finding facts and theories.
Not everybody was charmed.
J. Hoesterey did not talk much about his Ph.D Thesis on Aa Gym, the reason why I went to Leiden to attend his talk. But I could borrow the book and read it.

Aa Gym (born 1962) was the son of a sports trainer in a school in Bandung and therefore the strange Arab-Indonesian name of Abdullah Gymnastiar. After general education and some years in a technical university, some study of accountancy, Aa (older brother, in Sundanese, apparently the same as kakak in Indonesian), earning money with making movies of celebrations like graduation. There was a marriage with a pious wife in 1987. Aa began a business as a preacher in Bandung in 1990. His formal knowledge of Islam and Arabic is poor, but he has a good sense of homour and practical insight in human problems. Already in 1992 Times magazine labelled him as 'Indonesia's Holy Man'. In 2000 he held his first sermon at SCTV, in 2001 his first great talk in the national mosque of Indonesia, Istiqlal in Jakarta.
Hoesterey has a chapter 2 with the title: Popular Psychology and Religious Wisdom. He also compares Aa Gym with televangelists and with other self-help gurus. There is some and even now and then a strong Muslim flavour in his teaching. Frequent Qur'anic quotes are in Arabic, but there is no talk about application of shari'ah. After the terrorist attacks in Poso he once preached in a Christian church and his concern for harmony and unity in Indonesia is sincere.
Hoesterey acknowledges that Islam in Indonesia is part of a global religion with the Arab countries as the centre. But newer developments should not always be explained by this Arab background. Like ESQ Training (Emotional Spiritual Quotient) of Ary Ginanjar has more affinity  to 'the American pop psychology of Daniel Coleman, also much content of Aa Gym is taken from self-help programmes in the international psycho-market.
Hoesterey started research in 2006 and after about one year it became known that Aa Gym had taken a second wife and his imperium of some 700 employees collapsed within a few weeks. The researcher was present and gives a fascinating story of the scandal. Aa Gym recovered slowly but never became as famous as before. What a case for a researcher, to be so close to so dramatic changes in the subject of the research!
The first chapter of the book looks like a hasty collection of all kind of broader theories. That is necessary, apparently. I liked mostly the balanced narrative of this surprising development of a major personality in modern Indonesian Islam.

dinsdag 31 juli 2018

The variety of topics in the research of Media Zainul Bahri

Media Zainul Bahri is a lecturer at the UIN, Islamic State University of Jakarta. Quite different from many young scholars he has known a great switch in his topics. In 2010 he defended his doctoral dissertation in Jakarta: on the Islamic Mysticism of Ibn 'Arabi, Jalaluddin Rumi and al-Jili: three universal esoteric masters of the later middle ages (in Western chronology, in fact: in the high period of Muslim mystical writers.
In 2013 he was for a short period in the Netherlands, because of a two-year post-doctoral  research in Cologne on the small presence of theosophy in Indonesia, 1901-1940. In the publication of this book he was praised by Prof. Edwin Wieringa, he put this book on the leven of the German Habilitation, r somce kind of second dissertation, necessary for a position as full professor.
Theosophy was not really important in the history of Indonesia. Helena Blavatsjky visited twice Indonesia: in the 1850s and again in 1862 and was impressed by the shrines of Mendut and Borobudur. After 1900 a small movement started, mostly in Pekalongan and Semarang, later also to Yogyakarta, Surakarta and Surabaya. A variety of members is mentioned, from the father of Soekarno to Haji Agus Salim. After 1914 a small series of Arjuna schools were opened. It was an open movement, more even than Budi Utomo, because European and Indonesian members were here in equal position (Ricklefs: one of the few movements which brought elite Javanese, Indo-Europeans and Dutchmen together).
In his book Wajah Studi Agama-agama dari Era Teosofi Indonesia (1901-1940) hingga Masa Reformasi goes further: the beginning of the comparative study of religion, with Mukti Ali as the most important scholar, but also Johan Effendi, Nurcholish Madjid, Jalaluddin Rakhmat and even the open-minded Abdurrahman Wahid as promotors of the comparative study of religion.

 This summer season Media again came to Cologne, now for a three months research. Again he visited Utrecht and a picture was taken in the same place as in 2013 (above). Then the Diyanet Mosque or Ulu Camii was not yet finished, now its restaurant on the ground floor is open, as well as the upper three floors of the mosqu. This mosque is on a prominent square, close to thelarge railway station of Utrecht.
Media was now invited for three month on Cologne on the base of a finding of documents in the Sono Budaya building of Yogyakarta. He found documents in fine Javanese script, with texts of bi-monthly lectures on religion in the mid-1930s and apparently in Javanese. Dr. Johan Herman Bavinck
had given a lecture on the Jewish religion. He not only gave a description of the Jewish idea of Messiah/Mahdi, but also wanted to correct the Jews. They are still expecting the 'Mahdi' but in fact this figure has arrived in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. So, Bavinck not only was a pure academic scholar, but also an apologetic defender of Christianity. In the Protestant terminology of that period, he was 'elenchtic'. Now Media Zainul Bahri is studying more writings of this Protestant scholar to determine this style of mixture of science of religion and missionary apologetic.
The major writing in this field is J.H. Bavinck, Christus en de Mystiek van het Oosten, (Kampen 1934), where pages 74-105 are about 'De Islam en zijn doorwerking op Java', or 'Islam and its development in Java'.  It is a quite disappointing study: it only quotes two other scholar-missionaries (Hendrik Kraemer and Barend Schuurman), besides Mangkunegara VII about wayang (article in the journal Djawa). Islamic Mysticism in java is a mixture of pantheism and some more strict Muslim orthodoxy. For this moment we must wait how they will develop further and in this period 'follow the command that we should try to bring them to (Jesus), the only one who is the Way, Life and Truth.' According to Media Zainul Bahri in this way Bavinck show a mix of science of religion and missionary zeal. Interesting to hear just a calm analysis from a young Muslim scholar from Jakarta. And enjoy a lunch together in the new Turkish mosque of Utrecht.

maandag 30 juli 2018

Blaming the indonesian army for more than 500.000 people killed

I started fieldwork on pesantren, the Muslim boarding schools, in March 1970. During one year of field work, I often talked about being Dutch, of the colonizing nation until the 1940s (although I myself was born in 1942). I never asked about the more recent dramatic period of Indonesia in 1965-6 when probably more than half a million people were killed, suspected or accused or being sympatetic to Communism. Also in the period 1981-8 when teaching at the Islamic Universities of Jakarta and Yogyakarta this dark period seldom was touched upon. Of course, nearly daily there was mention of people who could not become government official, would not be accepted as student of state universities, because in some way related to those terlibat G30S/PKI. Only in 1996 I asked Abdurrahman, in 1986 the translator of my dissertation and for long a close colleague, about his experience in that period. He was a member of the Muslim student organization HMI and they were during a period of several months brought by military trucks to villages. With some 30 students they had to ask in villages who had become member of organizations affiliated to the Communist Party. In the early evening these people would be arrested and during the night executed, killed. The military men urged the students also to be active in the killing. Abdurrahman (no family name, only after his PhD he sometimes used the additional Widyakusuma or 'flower of kownledge') did not join himself  the killing. Some of his fellow students did and they still suffered from nightmare, because of these terrible experiences.
 Only in the 1990s more and more was published about this ferocious time of massacre. A major book was published recently by Geoffrey Robinson as a monument for the probably more than 500.000 victims. In a book of 429 pages many aspects are described: the early history of Indonesian democracy, the growing tensions in the early 1960s, economic decline, the deadlock in parliament and Sukarno as the revolutionary dictator, balancing between various parties. There was an alleged coup of 30 September 1965, when six generals, the absolute top of the army, were killed, probably by accident, and probably in an effort to prevent a coup by generals of the army. Also in this book not all questions about this coup of Untung are answered. What should be prevented, however, happened, albeit slowly; Suharto took over the absolute power step by step and the army orchestrated the annihilation of the Communist Party and whatever was connected with it. It was not a master-plan, it happened step by step, not in all regions identical: first in Aceh, very little in West Java (because the local military commander 'did not like the killings', most brutally in Central and East Java and Bali, between October 1965 until January 1966. In Flores only in April 1966. Many people have given a major role to unrest under the population as if it was a movement from below. Some even blaim the USA and the UK for the anti/Communist actions. But in many pages and clear series of stories and arguments, Robinson again and again puts the blame for all this exclusively to the army. It was not a massacre with religious motivation or based on racial prejudice, but a political process of cleansing region after region the whole nation. Not something like the genocide of the Jews in Europe, but something like what happened in Cambodia.
He questions also the legal responsibility. Will there ever be truth and justice? After 1998 some initiatives have started to initiate a process of restoring the human rights of the victims. In April 2016 a national symposium was organized: Discussing the 1965 Tragedy. In November 2015, IPT, the International People's Tribunal came together in The Hague and some more initiatives were taken. The two movies by Joshua Oppenheimer are well known. But still much need to be done to bring more facts to the world and started a process of healing.
P. 382, note 28 mentions Magnis Suseno, 'a Jesuit scholar who was part of an ardent anticommunist youth group in Java in the 1960s, but now he has advocated a process of reconciliation'. Father Joop Beek is only mentioned in passing, with a new reference to Santamaria: 'Kamerad dalam Keyakinan: Pater Joop Beek SJ dan Jaringan BA Santamaria di Asia Tenggara',  (Harian Indoprogress, 29 September 1016. 1965 is not yet past only.

maandag 23 juli 2018

Female fighters and women warriors in Indonesia

The colonial Van Heutz Square in Batavia was renamed Taman Cut Mutiah in Jakarta after 1949: a move from the Dutch colonial general to the female fighter of Aceh in the early 20th century. Cut Mutiah is not the only female fighter in Indonesian history. Already from the 16th century rulers of Java female fighters were known to the outside world.
Recently this has lead to a sad development in Surabaya. Women who supported the ideas of IS, the Islamic State (in Syria and Iraq, but also for Indonesia), were no longer happy with their role as wife and mother. On 13 May they were active in the attacks on three churches in Surabaya, carried out by a family: husband, wife and two children. In total two women committed suicide bombing, where also children were involved, because on Monday 14 May a police office was attacked in the same way. The munition they used is described in an ISIS handbook as umm al-shaitan or 'Mother of Satan'.
Lizzy van Leeuwen wrote an interesting article in the Dutch weekly De groene Amsterdammer (12.7.2018) on this new development. She also mentioned the great role given in the army reports about the killing of the six generals 30 September 1965 at Lubang Buaya, where it has been mentioned that Gerwani women were ancing naked, as has been invented to incriminate the leaders of the alleged coup.
Van Leeuwen also mentions developments in Indonesian politics where according to her information (much from hear-say, just rumours and gossip so often circulating in Jakarta) 'my old friends, former opponents of Soeharto and the New Order, feminists, now turn to Gerindra and Prabowo, seeking nice jobs.'
She mentions Nursyahbani Katjasungkana (now 'hoping for a position as judge in the Constitutional Court after the election victory of Prabowo'), Edriana Noerdin, director of the Women Research Institute in Jakarta and also Lies Marcoes. The latter was in 1981-3 one of my first students at the IAIN of Jakarta. Lies has since long been working for the Asia Foundation and is one of the most prominent Muslim feminists of the country.
In November 2014 Lies Marcoes was one of the organizers of a seminar in Yogyakarta, a 'Tribute to Martien van Bruinessen and Karel Steenbrink'
I wrote  to Lies for a reaction and she answered immediately that this is the usual gossip of Indonesia. She is since long close to Bianti, sister of Prabowo and a feminist in her own right. Bianti is the leader of Perempuan Indonesia Raya (PIRA), connected to Gerindra 'like Aisyiah to Muhammadiyah'. For training of PIRA members Lies was last year asked to give a talk about gender and poverty. Nursyahbani, Sita Kayam and others were also invited. They are not members of Gerindra. For Lies it is important that people like these have an opportunity to communicate their ideas also to PIRA and Gerindra members. But this does not mean that they now are working under the umbrella of Gerindra. Lizzy van Leeuwen never directly contacted Lies on this issue. Lies has since long good relations with Bianti, but that is not related to recent political developments and she was never urged to become a Gerindra member.
It is not easy to be an 'independent thinker' or activist in Indonesia, definitely not in a year preceding presidential elections!

donderdag 12 juli 2018

An Indonesian General in Rome

On 4 July 2018 the Indonesian priest Paul Budi Kleden was elected to become the next General Superior of the SVD, the Societas Verbi Divini (Society of the Divine Word), with his office in Rome. It is the second non-European general superior (after someone from the Philippines) in this original German-European order. The SVD entered Indonesia in 1913 with a first mission post in Timor (Atambua region), but due to World War I only spread broader after 1919.
Now 100 years later the Indonesian branches of the SVD are worldwide the largest for this order. Of the somewhat more than 6000 male members, over 800 are Indonesians.Consequently an Indonesian has now been chosen as their international leader.
The Kleden Clan has its base in Waibalun, a district of Larantuka, East Flores. Perhaps best known is Ignas Kleden (b 1948) who studied social science in Munich, worked with LP3ES, founded in Jakarta the research and lobbying CEIA, Centre for East Indonesian Studies or the Go-East centre.
There is a younger member of the clan, Paul Budi Kleden, born in 1965. He also studied in Germany, Freiburg, 1996-2000, and became a social activist, but also seminary professor. He was already living in Rome since 2012 as a member of the international council of the SVD order, after some academic and leading positions in his home country. The UCAN bulletin ( on Asian Christianity quoted a large number of fellow priests who were proud and confident about this election.

woensdag 4 juli 2018

Kakatua or cockatoo as a bird of peace

East Indonesia has since long been known for its exotic birds. Around 1900 the feathers of the birds of paradise were very popular worldwide. Hunters came to Papua to chase the birds. They brought the venereal diseases in the Merauke district. This was nearly the cause of the extinction of the Marind tribe and a great stimulus for the spread of the Catholic mission and its strict moral teaching. I described this in the second volume of my Catholics in Indonesia, 1808-1942.
The cockatoo (or kakak tua in Malay/Indonesian) is less colourful than the paradise bird, but since many centuries also known as an attractive bird, used as a gift donated by rulers to other rulers. Recently an early 13th century manuscript has been discovered in the Vatican archives, showing a cockatoo that was donated by the Egyptian Ayyubid Sultan Al-Malik Muhammad al-Kamil (ruled 1218-1238) to Frederic II of Sicily (1194-1250), who also was the emperor of the Sacred Roman Empire of Central Europe. Frederic II was an open minded ruler with many Muslims in his own island of Sicily. Already in 1217 he had began a correspondence with Al-Malik al-Kamil on many subjects. Exotic animals were among the things he loved. In his palace he had some kind of a zoo with a cheeta, an elephant, a giraffe, and apparently as a gift from Egypt also a cockatoo. This animal was donated to him by his Egyptian friend and colleague.

The Australian scholar Heather Dalton has with some colleagues published an article in the journal Parergon, and described the text. She concludes that there must have been an economic and cultural exchange between the major empires of the world (China, India, the Arab world, Europe) where also East Indonesia and perhaps even Australia was involved.
The lover of animals, Saint Francis of Assisi visited the Ayyubid court in 1219, exactly at the time of this connection between Frederic II and the Sultan while the 4th crusade was still going on: they lived in a strange world, with people preaching war between religions and lovers of peace, like in our time!

zaterdag 2 juni 2018

Arab sources of Ramon Marti, Christian anti-Muslim author of Spain, saved by the learned and pious Egyptian scholar al-Tufi

A few weeks ago I received a small book of 156 pages, considering itself no 4 in a series of transmissions.
1) It starts with an anonymous Coptic Christian in Egypt, writing against Islam, about 1260, when Mongol leader Hulagu had conquered and promised freedom of religion to Christians. But after the battle of  'Ain Jalut, where the Mamluks of Egypt had beaten the Mongols, religious tolerance ended. This first book was entitled Al-saif al-murhaf fi al-radd ala al-Mushaf or 'the whetted sword in refutation of the written word (of the Qur'an)'. No manuscript of it has survived the long history of debates between Muslims and Christians.
2) Book no 1 was used about 1270 by the Spanish Christian scholar of Catalonia, Ramon Marti (died after 1284) in his anti-Muslim apologetic book De seta Machometi (written in Latin)
3) The Hanbalite scholar ibn al-Tufi (died 1316), wrote a book Al-Intisarat al-Islamiyya fi kashf shuban al-nasraniyya, where he discusses book no 1 and includes numerous lengthy quotes in Arabic.
4) To continue the isnad on this polemic, Sjoerd van Koningsveld, Professor emeritus of Leiden University, has published 117 quotes from author no 1 from the writings of al-Tufi, with references to Ramon Marti (who used the same texts for his polemic book against Islam).
Many authors of books and articles do not claim originality, but are only transmitters, sometimes also commentators. In this case we even may say: haddathana P.S. van Koningsveld, 'an al-Tufi, 'an Ramon Marti, 'an nasara min al Misr. The major issue for this book is the idea of Muhammad as a prophet. The polemical author here (and Ramon Marti) formulated four criteria for prophets: he must speak the truth, embody personal holiness, perform miracles, his teaching and practice must be in harmony with the natural law. Most of the text is written here to 'prove' that Muhammad does not respond to any of these four criteria.
In this way the polemic continues and it is for the history of the polemic often interesting to see how scholars are repeating arguments against Islam, not from direct contacts with Muslims, but rather through chains from their own tradition.
In his book about the period 1945-1970 (The Struggle of Islam in Modern Indonesia, 225-230) Ben Boland gave an analysis of Muslim apologetics. He ended with quotes from Mukti Ali, who concluded that 'Apologetics only formulates things that are already known ... its character is therefore negative and conservative, ... it may arouse emotions and give self-satisfaction, but they cannot produce true conviction and discernment.' Like here it is often not exciting, but rather again a sad expericnece of reading.
At the same time I was finishing an historic novel written by a Dutch-Spanish author, Reconquista, about the political process. It is a book full of fighting between Christian and Muslim rulers, much violence, adventure, much change of position: Muslims had a higher culture, Christian were stronger fighters. The latter were often hired by Muslims to fight against other Muslims and also against Christians. In the social and political reality of that period, the theological arguments were not really important or relevant, although the distinction between the two communities was rigorous. In combination one may doubt about the relevance of the usual list of religious and theological differences for the real life of Christians and Muslims living together.

donderdag 31 mei 2018

Rahima Allahu anhu: Mas Dawan Rahardjo, rest in peace

Today, 31 May 2018. just mid-Ramadan, we received the message that one of the most energetic, renovating and inspriing Muslim intellectual of Indonesia, Dawam Rahardjo died at the age of 76 years. He was born 12 April 1972, only three months younger than I myself.
Dawam studied economy and always remained inspired by the theories and views of the science of economy. But he was also a concerned Muslim: close to the young, progressive group of Masyumi thinkers asnd later the best of the Suharto/Habibie order. He adored Harun Nasdution, but also had his silly moments with Harun Nasution.
In the period 1981-3 I was a lecturer at the IAIN (now UIN) of Ciputat/Jakarta. Many young students like Din Syamsuddin, Azyumardi Azra, and many others, were close to LP3ES and its mixture of traditional pesantren background and modern social (rather than religious) science in the West. They supported development programmes and liked to receive money from the European and American development foundations. Peter Berger was mor important than forml Christian theologians in their quest for tools to modrnize Islamic thinking.
Once in 1982 he called for a meeting with Harun Nasution, but also the Catholic philosopher Dr. Kees Bertens, myself as a visiting professor ath the IAIN,  as well as a small number of his Muslim friends. Dawam proposed in a long expose that he wanted to develop some kind of Islamic Applied Theology. This should not be about the doctrine of God, which is the subject of Usuluddin and kalam, but a study of how to live religiously in society. His formula was 'applied theologye'. However, this should not be based upon the traditional rules of shari’a. In fact this is what he later did with his magazine Ulumul Qur’an and his book Ensiklopedi al-Qur’an. Immediately after Dawam stopped with his exposition of the ideas, Harun Nasution gave a short but harsh answer: ‘this is the field of shari’a and I am no specialist in shari’a and therefore will not join the programme.’ Bertens and I explained that in Christianity there is a philosophical approach to ethics and also that social science should be taken more seriously in religious studies, especially for social ethics. But in some way Harun Nasution did not like to become involved in a program like this. Maybe he knew already better than I did that there was a suspicion of Communism connected to Theology of Liberation. Somewhat later there was a priest in Singapore taken to prison for subversive activities under the label of Theology of Liberation and there were some problems in Indonesia as well. 
Recently I sent most of the more than 3000 books, I once bought in Indonesia, back to the Theologicalo School, next to the UIN of Banjarmasin. But I kept the book by Dawan: Ensiklopdi al Qur'an, one of his major works, besides the still important  academic journal Ulumul Qur'an. I read again his debate about banking as a gift for a good and socially balanced economy. The banks do not seek money from the poor, but are a meansd to facilitate a just and equal society, at leasst in their better appearances.
We must feel grateful to such a wise and open man, with the abilities of good writing, even more of organizing big projects and defending poor people like the humiliated and condemned Ahmadi people.
God be praised for a gift like Dawam Rahardjo, may his illuminating idea of a modern and just Islamic thinking be continued.

woensdag 30 mei 2018

Garuda in Spain

The Garuda, the mount of Lord Vishnu, is part of the image representing the Republic of Indonesia and its iedology of Pancasila. It has already often been stated that it is not really an Indonesian or  Indian magical bird, but rather a European eagly in the way it is represented in the Russian and German nationalist symbolism.
Last I visited the central region of Spain. Most impressing was the visit to the Valle de los caidos, the valley of those 40,000 who died in the civil war between 1936-1939. In a high uninhabited valley, with much forest, the General Fancisco Franco ordered to build a military looking square and the entrance to a 250m long basilica in the mountain itself. No natural light, ony dark granite stone and the usual furniture of a church: images, great carpets hanging on the wall, representing the biblical book of Apocalyps, the war against the army of the Anti-Christ, Dajjal in the Muslim terminology, the devilish enemy of God, fighting against angels.
The entrance the entrance is dominated by Mary sitting as pietà, the mother mourning over her dead son Jesus. The whole atmosphere here is super-Catholic (including a large monastery with a good group of monks who daily pray for the souls of the dead), although the civil war was between Nationalist Catholics and Leftist, Communist-dominated Republicans. Left of the entrance a symbol of the Spanish nation (or the house of the king?) is represented by the shield, protected or even defended by the mighty aegle.

The cross (only partly visible above) is 150m high. The mourning lady Mary, motyher of Jesus represents also a Christian symbol for mourning the dead.
This imaginery is very strongly connected to Chriistian symbolism only. It reminded me of the lack of awareness of the 'leftist' victims of the political struggle in Indonesia: the six generals have received names of streets, monuments and movies, while so many people connected with the 'losers', the Communist Party, sympathizers,  people active in trade unions and women's organizations cannot be mentioned and their stories are often still neglected. Also in modern Spain it is still quite sensitive to start the debate about this one-sided image of the past.

dinsdag 15 mei 2018

MUI and MORA: Sorcerer's apprentices?

After retiring from Utrecht University Martien van Bruinessen was for one year a research fellow at NUS, working (also) on an inventory of activities of Gülen people in East and Southeast Asia. We are still waiting for the result of this research. Later he was for some time a fellow at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies. From this period we have now a fascinating comparison of government and Islam in Turkey (Diyanet) and Indonesia (Ministry of Religion, MORA or Depag) and the Council of Muslim Clerics (MUI).
It starts with a striking subtitle: a budget for an army, summarising the great budget for Diyanet in Turkey, in euro: €  3.2 billion per  year (for mosques, mosques personnel and the secondary Imam-Hatip schools;) while Indonesia has €3.85 billion per year for MORA, even more than the Ministry of Education. Compared to two 'full Islamic States' like Pakistan and Egypt, the two countries spend much more budget from the central government to religion.
The purpose in the two countries was to educate, and build 'enlightened' personnel. But in both cases the effect was also the social mobility of marginalised conservative groups which received much more access in many layers of the national government and other sectors of society. Even terminology like the 'Trojan horse' is here used.

In both countries popular religion and Islamic streams that are under attack by orthodox Muslims became victims of this policy. In Turkey it were the mystical groups, tariqa, but even more Alevi Muslim groups which are sometimes labelled as 'Islam without sharia' who were under attack. Alevi Islam is not accepted as Islam (in Albania they are accepted as a religious identity of their own, but not in Turkey). Sunni mosques are now often built in fully Alevi villages. Religious education is orthodox sunni Islam, both in Turkey and Indonesia. In the latter country the abangan identity as well as new movements labelled as aliran kepercayaan are reduced to cultural expressions, but not as serious religious alternatives. The Indonesian MUI, in the Suharto perio quite strictly under government control, has become independent (also financially: certification for halal food proved to be a gold mine!) and sides now more and more with conservative Islam, banning pluralism, Indonesian-style Islam and liberal Islam.
In Indonesia this development culminated under SDA (´saman dengan yang diatas´, who entered prison like some ministers before him), Suryadharma Ali, close to SBY, who received a much higher budget than his predecessors and could without problem exclude Ahmadiyyah Muslims from any protection by the state. On his suggestion Yudhoyono even signed a call to Ahmadiyah people to 'return to true Islam'.

Goethe wrote a poem on a young man who learned with a sorcerer, but could not manage the mess had made. Famous is the saying Die Geister, die ich rief ("The spirits that I called, I could no longer control"), a garbled version of one of Goethe's lines (Die ich rief, die Geister, / Werd' ich nun nicht los), which is often used to describe a situation where somebody summons help or uses allies that he or she cannot control any longer, especially in politics. Bruinessen praises the critical studies of UIN, the Islamic Universities, built under the programme of MORA, but also describes some of the dangers of this kind of religious support.
It reminded me of the first paragraph of a text book I used in the last years of academic teaching, 2004-2006.  It began with the American attack on Saddam Hussein  of Iraq. After he was deposed, the Americans hoped that the Shi'a Muslims would be active in preparing the free elections for democratic institutions. They were surprised to see that the first important popular organization was for the pilgrimage to Kerbela, banned for so long by Saddam Hussein!

Families as terrorist units: Surabaya

The 'Islamic State' is defeated in Iraq and Syria. About 500 of its fighters have returned to Indonesia. Their major leader is Aman Abdurrahman (now in prison as head of JAD, Jamaah Ansharut Daulah). Last week activists of JAD killed in a Densus 88 (special police) prison in Jakarta five police officers (cutting throats) in an effort to have a personal meeting with Abdurrahman.
Last Sunday, 13 May, a family with four children carried out a brutal attack on three churches in Subaraya: the Catholic Church in Ngagel (Santa Maria tak Bernoda), a GKI and a Pentecostal Church. The father, Dota Upriarto brough his wife and two daughters to the GKI church, his two boys of 16 and 18 went to the Catholic church. He went himself to the Pentecostal church. All bombs exploded and the six members of the family died in the attacks. The mother and daughters arrived in burka at the church, but their bombs exploded before they could be stopped by the security officers.

 This picture was sent to me by Lies Marcoes Mustafsira, feminist Muslim theologian but not happy with this kind of 'emancipation'!

That same day a bomb exploded in an apartment in Sidoardjo, a small town close to Surabaya, killing husband, wife and a son of 17, busy preparing a bomb. Or was it their strategy to become 'marturs' on the spot? Three other children in another room survived the explosion. The following day, 14 May, a family of five arrived at the police station of Surabaya and their bombs exploded: only a girl of 8 years survived.
Newspapers speculate about the strategy: sleaping cells of IS, activated throug telephone calls from the Middle East  with this new 'family strategy' of making/becoming martyrs?
Lambertus Hurek, a retired journalist and active blogger in Surabaya went to the Catholic church and asked the priest whether he had already forgiven the terrorists? 'They are all victims as well', was the answer of the priest. They leave us in disarray. (see: