By Sadanand Dhume
22 November 2009
If you had to pick the place in the Muslim world least susceptible to any kind of religious extremism, it would be hard to find a better candidate than Indonesia. The world's most populous Muslim country is on Islam's eastern edge, separated from the faith's Arabian birthplace by space and time. Islam washed up in the archipelago in the 12th century, took root in the 15th and became dominant as late as the 17th. For the most part, it arrived through trade rather than conquest, by Indian dhow rather than Arab charger. It was preceded by more than a millennium of Hinduism and Buddhism, whose achievements included Borobudur, a massive 9th-century Buddhist stupa.
As the anthropologist Clifford Geertz wrote in comparing Indonesia to Morocco: "In Indonesia Islam did not construct a civilization, it appropriated one."
In India, a strain of Islamic orthodoxy was sometimes in open conflict with Hinduism. But in Indonesia, the new faith sat comfortably atop a Hindu-Buddhist past. Like most Indians, and unlike the Arabs, most Indonesians continued to believe that there are many paths to God. Indeed, until recently, Indonesian Islam - steeped in a culture of music and mysticism - was synonymous with tolerance. By and large, the one-in-eight Indonesians who are Christian, Buddhist, Hindu or Animist, rarely faced discrimination, much less religious violence.
Most strikingly, Indonesians did not confuse being Muslim with being Arab. Their national airline is named Garuda. The national epic is the Mahabharata. In Bahasa Indonesia, the word for heaven is surga, the word for hell neraka.
But this culture of pluralism and tolerance can no longer be taken for granted. Today, Indonesia is struggling to cope with the same conflict between moderate and radical Islam that has ripped apart Muslim communities from Morocco to Mindanao. Radical Muslims, those who seek to order every aspect of society and the state - from burqas to banking - by the medieval dictates of sharia law remain in the minority, but their numbers are growing. Moreover, these believers make up for numbers with zeal, organization and the conviction that history is on their side.
For Indians the drama unfolding in Indonesia is especially urgent because the conflict there is as much cultural as political, a battle between a native, deeply Indicized Islam and a strident Arab import. Over the past 30 years, Arab names have gradually edged out Sanskrit ones in kindergartens. Headscarves have mushroomed on college campuses. In offices, the greeting assalamu alaikum has become an alternative to the religiously neutral selamat pagi, or good morning. The traditional tiered-roof Javanese mosque has given way to the ubiquitous onion dome. For the first time, a generation of Javanese children is growing up unfamiliar with Arjuna and Bhima from the Mahabharata.
The political consequences of this broad cultural shift are already apparent. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's ruling coalition includes the Prosperous Justice Party, a highly disciplined cadre-based organization whose roots can be traced to the banned Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt. In recent years, a demand that Indonesian Muslims follow Sharia law has resurfaced.
In universities throughout the archipelago, students congregate in mosques to study the writings of the Egyptian radical Sayyid Qutb, or to enrol in Hizbut Tahrir, another group banned in many countries for its call to unite all Muslims in a single superstate that recalls the Ottoman Caliphate. To be sure, only a fraction of orthodox Indonesian Muslims espouse violence, but that has been enough to make the past decade the bloodiest in the country's history since the anti-communist pogroms of the 1960s. Terrorist attacks - Bali bombings, and the Jakarta hotel bombings - make headlines. But much more goes on under the international radar screen. In the Moluccas, the once fabled Spice Islands, the aftermath of a bloody civil war has segregated Muslims and Christians on religious lines. Across Java, Christians complain of church burnings and intimidation by local militias. As in Pakistan, the tiny Ahmadiyya community is under attack for departing from mainstream Sunni orthodoxy. by claiming that their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908), received revelations directly from God. Balinese Hindus have protested against a so-called "anti-pornography" law, which they see as an attempt to impose orthodox Islamic values on non-Muslims.
Nonetheless, despite these inroads by radicals, the battle for Indonesia is far from lost. Moderates can count on the deep roots of Javanese culture, a non-sectarian constitution and deeply secular business, military and cultural elite. Indonesia may yet live up to its promise as a bastion of moderation, a Muslim version of, say, Thailand. But by the same token, nobody who follows the region should be surprised by a very different outcome, an Indonesia where radical Islam continues its march toward cultural and political influence, in short a Southeast Asian version of Pakistan.
The writer, a Washington-based journalist, has reported from New Delhi and Jakarta for the Far Eastern Economic Review. He is the author of 'My Friend the Fanatic: Travels with a Radical Islamist'
Source: The Times Of India, 22 Nov 2009
URL of this Page: http://www.newageislam.com/the-war-within-islam/indonesian-lessons-for-secular-india--insidious-impact-of-saudi-exported-wahhabism/d/2123
Sir, this is in reference to Mr Sadanand"s article, The war within. I would have appreciated if Mr Sadanand would have posted the same comments on the atrocities meted and discrimination done to Muslims in India particularly in the states of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. Indian nation could not even debate the Muslim proportion in its armed forces, it has not yet made public the recommendations of Sachchar committee report, leave its implementation. Now a day it has become a fashion to criticize the Muslims. Any ragtag and ragamuffin or a self-styled columnist would post any absurd storey against Muslim nation and journals and papers like yours, which are ex facie anti Islamic would feel free to give them space in their so called muslimnomic journals.
Alliance plans to propose review of blasphemy lawThe Jakarta Post09/26/2009The National Alliance for the Freedom of Religion and Faith (AKKBB) has planned to file a request with the Constitutional Court to review the 1965 blasphemy law which they say is discriminatory and against the amended 1945 Constitution that guarantees freedom of religion in the country.The alliance comprising of, among others, the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace (ICRP), Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta), the Wahid Institute and the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) said the law had raised a public outcry and triggered sectarian conflicts as people were required to accept only the six official religions - Islam, Catholic, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu and Kong Hu Chu - and those with different faiths were branded heretics."We are in the process of completing the necessary documents to be given to the Constitutional Court," AKKBB coordinator Anick Hamim Tohari said here last week.The 1965 law on the prevention of religion abuse and blasphemy stipulates that no one is allowed make interpretations deviating from the official religions' teachings. Anick, executive director of ICRP too, said the alliance had formed a small team who was still preparing the judicial review proposal and supporting documentation.Febi Yonesta of the LBH Jakarta said the official request for the judicial review would be filed as soon as the documents were complete.Ahmadiyah and Lia Eden were two Muslim communities that have been rejected because their teaching and doctrine were different to what has been designated official Islamic teaching and doctrine. Many mosques belonging to the two communities have been burned down and their followers displaced from their villages in the West Java regencies of Bogor, Sukabumi and Kuningan, and Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara.Ahmadiyah is a religious sect whose teachings are claimed to be heretical by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and who have been attacked by various Muslim groups. Last year, the government made the decision that Ahmadiyah members were allowed to perform their religious activities but banned them from proselytizing new believers. The decision was made based on the law on religious blasphemy.Lia Eden is a sect leader who has been sentenced to prison for religious blasphemy. "The law is the foundation of article 156 of the Criminal Code Law which criminalizes many religious minorities. Lia Eden has been charged under this article."Our constitution guarantees religious freedom. All religious groups deserve equal treatment. Therefore, this law which gives the government the power to intervene in religious matters must be annulled," Anick said, referring to the 2008 joint ministerial decree barring Ahmadiyah from disseminating its teaching.Febi said the Alliance had been planning to ask for the judicial review since 2005. "However, we had many considerations to take into account which postponed the plan." He said in 2005, the situation was very tense and many groups were showing great resentment against religious sects. "We do not want to raise controversies and conflicts. We want the Constitutional Court to be able to decide on the review with a clear conscience. We do not want any political pressure to affect the legal process," he said.He said in the past, a believer of an unofficial religion must declare themselves a believer of one of the official religions in the religion section of his or her identity card. "However, the 2006 administration law allows them not to fill in the religion column," Febi said."We hope if the 1965 law is annulled, all laws and regulations which take reference from this law will be applied without discriminating against any religious group," said Feby.Anick said the alliance's top priority was to annul the terminology of official religions."Other laws and regulations, such as the marriage law, the population administration law, the joint ministerial decree which regulates houses of worship building permits also took the official religions from this law," he said, adding that, to be consistent with the decree, the state did not recognize marriages between believers of different faiths. (mrs)
Govt urged to respect Ahmadiyah rightsThe Jakarta Post10/15/2009A series of attacks on followers of the Ahmadiyah religious sect has once again drawn criticism, with an expert in religion and democracy urging the government to exercise its authority when there are violations of human rights.Alfred C. Stepan, director of the Center for the Study of Democracy, Toleration and Religion at Columbia University in New York, said on the sidelines of a discussion held Tuesday that while the government must keep a principal distance, the separation did not mean the state should never get involved in religious matters."They should think more about whether there are circumstances in which they have to act quickly because I think it is the government's responsibility if people's rights are in peril," he said.Followers of the Ahmadiyah group are deemed heretics by mainstream Muslims for recognizing sect founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as the last prophet.Islamic teachings maintain that the Prophet Muhammad is the last prophet.The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) issued an edict officially declaring Ahmadiyah to be a heretical sect.For years, followers of the religious sect have suffered attacks from various Muslim groups. Some of the attacks, which involved hard-line Muslims, resulted in the fire-bombing of Ahmadiyah mosques and houses.Stepan said the attacks were violations of human rights and therefore the government's intervention was needed."It is the duty of a democratic government to protect its people's rights even if they have to act against some people's freedom," he said.Although such measures should not go against the constitution, he said.In the discussion, Stepan also said that Indonesia was a place where democracy and religions coexisted.Indonesia, he noted, recognized and respected all the major religions, except Judaism."India and Senegal are also examples of democracies that recognize and financially support all religions, but keep some principal distance that would allow the state at times to interfere in the religion *if there were human rights violations*," he added.However, he said, the Indonesian government had shown much less willingness to exercise the principal distance than the other two countries."That may be a problem," he added.Stepan said that in all democracies, tolerance on the state's part and the religions' part were needed. Stepan terms the concept "twin tolerations".For democracy to function, he said, democratically elected governments must tolerate citizens' legitimate aspirations, "as long as they do not hurt other people"."In pure democratic theory, any group that doesn't violate other people's rights has the right to articulate some of their ideas in civil society," he said.At the same time, religious hard-liners cannot reject the sovereignty of an elected government; instead forcing religious rules on the populace."That's too great a restriction on democracy," he said.Theoretically, twin tolerations would allow religion to act in the area of the civil society, he said.But, "the twin tolerations could also break down if someone violates it from the other side, if this happens the government must have some role in it," he added.Stepan also said that fundamentalism does not necessarily not pose an obstacle to democracy.He added his research in India showed the greater the intensity of religious practice, the greater the intensity of support for democracy.
Your writer needs to keep himself well informed before informing the public.
As recent as Thu, 10/15/2009, in the Jakarta Post, the Government of Indonesia was urged to respect Ahmadiyya Rights.
The reason is that under the influence of Extremists and Wahhabis, they are trying to follow Pakistan to declare Ahmadi Muslims a "Non Muslim" entity.
Source : www.thejakartapost.com/news/2009/10/15/govt-urged-respect-ahmadiyah-rights.html
The National Alliance for the Freedom of Religion and Faith (AKKBB) has planned to file a request with the Constitutional Court to review the 1965 blasphemy law which they say is discriminatory and against the amended 1945 Constitution that guarantees freedom of religion in the country.
The alliance comprising of, among others, the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace (ICRP), Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta), the Wahid Institute and the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) said the law had raised a public outcry and triggered sectarian conflicts as people were required to accept only the six official religions - Islam, Catholic, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu and Kong Hu Chu - and those with different faiths were branded heretics.
Sadanand Dhume is stating what is obvious to any long time observer in South Asia. It is time for Indic Muslims in South Asia to realise their true faith. This is what led to establishment of Aligarh Muslim University.
Present leaders of Muslims are forgetting this legacy and becoming Wahhabi rather than Indic. Sooner they change this wrong road it will be a great boon to Indian Muslims and therefore to India. Prophet taught the best ideas of his time, present Arabs are the most regressive but oil-rich people. Indonesia will take the lead since it is not oil-poor.
Dr L N Godbole
It would be sad if Indonesian Muslims gave up on their traditions of moderation and tolerance. The onslaught of radicalized Arabist Islam advocating imposition of Shariat and revival of the Caliphate is a danger signal for Muslims in Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia and wherever else Islam has been practiced as being consistent with universal brotherhood and compatible with secularism and democracy.
Complacency on the part of moderate Muslims would be a grave error. The spread of radicalism in the Muslim world can be insidious and rapid, partly because of the proneness of the Muslim mind to find comfort in absolutism, but largely because of current geo-political and economic realities.