maandag 12 maart 2018

The impact of religious violence

I am still working for the CMR-project on 18th century Java. Mostly there were peaceful relations of separation between the Dutch and the Indonesians, 'Christians' and 'Muslims'. There were also periods of war when the strong language about the other was amply used. There were also incidents, individual explosions of violence, small facts that had nevertheless sometimes deep impact.
One of these is the case of Modin Samat (= Abdu'l  Samad) who with his group of some 17 faithful killed two Europeans in their house in Semarang on 30 October 1733. The next day they killed two more Dutch citizens on street. Only a few months later they were arrested by the police.
Modin Samat claimed that he was born in a sacred dynasty and destined to become the ruler of Java. He had dreams about his call; and also one of his followers had a similar dream. His group all had the idea that they could obtain high positions in the new kingdom of Java. Modin Samat deemed it necessary to kill from time to time some Europeans as a preparation for the final attack on the VOC fortification in Semarang. The first attack failed, but on 30-31 October it had more effect. He was preparing a third attack. The VOC had no doubt about what to do: Modin Samat and all his followers were put to death.
This story is found in the Dutch VOC Archives, VOC 2295 f72 and f 257. I found it in the doctoral dissertation by Lucas Nagtegaal, Riding a Dutch tiger. The north coast of Java and the VOC, 1680-1743, Utrecht University 1988 (text in Dutch).
On the cover is a picture from a Javanese manuscript showing the killing of Trunajaya byAmangkurat II, while officers of the VOC are witness of this sad event. Trunajaya is sitting; behind him two weaping wives. This happened in 1680, when the Dutch did the dirty job for the ruler of Mataram, against an opponent, and brought him to the palace.  In fact, the Dutch were not present at the actual killing and this is an illustration of a 19th century text about the event. (Nagtegaal has a bad reproduction, white-black only, on the cover of his dissertation. The picture here is taken from Femme Gaastra, De geschiedenis van de VOC, Zutohen: Walburg Pers, 2002, next to p. 59).
There is much about trade reports, but also much violence in this history. The incidents of violence also had deep impact and sometimes could change the course of history, but sometimes, like in the case of Modin Samat, it was finished with the four Dutch and nearly twenty Javanese lives. And increase of suspicion, distrust, cautiousness, fear, as we see nowadays.

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