Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Beyond Jemaah Islamiyah - Update on Indonesia

More interfaith buulcrap.......and our Mr Rudd wants us Aussies to become more like our Indonesian neighbours....yeah and one day pigs just might fly....hopefully they will fly over all the muzzies and shit on their heads.

Beyond Jemaah Islamiya - Update on Indonesia
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On 9 April Indonesians go to the polls for only the third time since the fall of President Suharto. What role will Islam play in these elections? Encounter canvasses the tensions within Indonesian Islam on issues of democracy, pluralism and human rights and hears from activists who work within Islamic networks to counter fundamentalism and promote democratic pluralism. This is part one of a two part series - the second program will be heard on 22 February and will focus on Muslims involved in interfaith activities.
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Sounds of the city of Jakarta in early morning
Margaret Coffey:Early morning in Jakarta - and the sounds of this enormous city are still gentle. They're surprisingly beautiful, when you consider that greater Jakarta is probably home to as many people, if not more, than in the whole of Australia.
I'm Margaret Coffey - and here on ABC Radio National's Encounter, we're in Jakarta for the first of two programs on the state of play within Indonesian Islam. Indonesia's general election is coming up in early April, the election campaign will swing into full public mode in March, and the dynamic debate amongst Muslims about democracy, pluralism, and human rights will surely inform choices made at the polling booths.
So will the issues like corruption, and the state of the economy, but the debates within Islam are the focus of this program.
Only about thirteen million of Jakarta's residents are official.
You wouldn't know it at this hour of the morning but more than 23 million are said to be somehow within its sprawl, lured there by the economic promise of urban life. This is how the morning proper begins.
Sounds of the azan (call to prayer) in early morning
Margaret Coffey:
The final words of the azan: 'It's better to be praying rather than sleeping.'
In that 9 April poll, Indonesians will celebrate a mere ten years of democracy post the fall of President Suharto's New Order regime.
They'll chose candidates from among 38 political parties to fill seats in the two houses of the Indonesian parliament. Around a quarter of those parties are campaigning on explicitly Islamic platforms but surveys indicate that so far their popularity is declining - perhaps because voters are worried about the economy, about their access to healthcare and education, rather than about specifically religious or identity issues, and perhaps also because other political parties are finding ways to recognise Islamic interests.
Whatever the electoral fate of the Islamic parties, Islam will continue to exert important and contradictory influences in the political process.
Dadi Darmadi:But there are also some problems with the rising tide of religious conservatism, religious radicalism. The Council of Indonesian Ulemas for example also issues fatwas against pluralism, secularism and liberalism. It is very ironic to even consider that pluralism is something that is considered haram in our context where actually whether we acknowledge it or not Indonesians have been for centuries, have forever been living a pluralistic society.
Margaret Coffey:The speaker warning about a rising tide of religious radicalism teaches at an Islamic University. In these Encounters, we'll hear that just as Islam is the reference point for the fundamentalists, like Jemaah Islamiyah at the extreme end, it is also true that the scholars and activists of Indonesia's mainstream Islamic organisations are amongst the most creative and committed builders of democracy and pluralism in their country.
Nevertheless, mainstream Indonesian Islam is under pressure. Competing responses to contemporary problems are leading to tensions, which are increasingly evident in Islamic organisations, in the Islamic schools called pesantren, and in local communities. Here's an assessment from the Director of a Centre for the Study of Islam and Society who is addressing an international conference in Jakarta ...
Jajat Burhanudin: So I would say that ] they are some unhappy development in Indonesia, that Islamism is stronger and intolerant attitudes also increased. There is an increase of not acknowledging the other religious communities, the non Muslim communities as having an equal right to live in an Indonesian political and social arena.
Margaret Coffey: Jajat Burhanudin - just one among many Muslim intellectuals and activists who are worried that the politics of the election campaign will encourage a continuing rise in intolerance and its accompanying violence. Of course he also points to the countervailing tradition of tolerance and openness.
Jajat Burhanudin: But on the other hand I think we have also a strong tradition of tolerance. We still have Muslim leaders in the pesantren who are very tolerant, who are very open, we also have some leader in NU and Muhammadiyah who still are very open. And since two years I think the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is actively engaged in promoting the so called moderate Islam, inclusive Islam at the international level.
Margaret Coffey: At home, though, the political story is more complex. Last year another Government Ministry responded to pressure from fundamentalist groups, including Islamic political parties, by limiting activities of a revisionist Islamic sect, the Ahmadiyah. At the time, the authorities seemed powerless to prevent violent attacks on Ahmadiyahs or their democratically minded supporters.
Siti Sarah Muwahidah: Some political leader really, really use Islamic sentiment. I think they want to build image they are the most religious persons and they care about the majority more and they will also promote Islamic values.
Margaret Coffey:Siti Sarah, for example, works for an NGO set up by the former chairman of the 30 million strong Muslim organisation Muhamadiyyah - an organisation that originally grew out of 19th century ideas of purifying Islam in order to reform it. Now, the Ma'arif Institute for Culture and Humanity, aims to promote reform of Islamic thought on issues like democracy and human rights.
Siti Sarah Muwahidah:.....And it is not good for our program actually because we want to treat everybody equal and we want to protect minority rights. So we are campaigning how to respect the plural society, how to respect the other values, and how it is so kind of egoistic - it is too Islamic centric etc
Margaret Coffey:Outside, one of Jakarta's sudden storms!
Inside, along with Sarah, everybody in the room represents a non government organisation working from a religious base to ensure a democratic future. Sarah's organisation with its close links to Muhammadiyah has decided to narrow its focus - and 'Islamic transformations' is one focus.
Siti Sarah Muwahidah: Now we have two divisions - Islamic transformations and good governance. We also have education program. We [are] promoting human rights programs to Muhammadiyah schools in three provinces - West Java, Nusa Tenggara and Central Sulawesi. We chose these three provinces because this is hotspot or have high potency for conflict. When we [are] promoting human rights we also talking about religious rights and also tolerance etc even though that also make us have lots of challenges and critics from inside Muhammadiyah movement. Like we just have book launching yesterday and one issue that was raised up by one speaker from Muhammadiyah - he is Muhammadiyah activist and also human rights activist, Abdullah Munir Mukan - he said that we still have problems in terms of religious tolerance, so the Muslims can tolerate people who convert to Islam but we cannot tolerate Muslim who convert to other religions. So there is still that double standard.
Our NGO, we focus on strengthening moderate Muslim. I think I and some of my friends are very concerned about the polarisation between Muslim. It is also becoming problem when it seems like people have to choose between being liberal and conservative or liberal and fundamental. Some of us don't want the polarisation to sustain. So maybe they can be conservatives but non-violent, so they can still hold the religious tradition strongly but they still open to dialogue, even though they don't have to agree with everything we say and don't use violent way in promoting their thought.
Margaret Coffey:Of course, not everyone in Indonesia is caught up in these intra Islamic debates. Rather, it's the roughly half of the Muslim population who practice orthodox Islam who are engaged, to some degree. The Javanese term for these people is 'santri' - and historically it is the santri who have identified with either one of the two tremendously influential mass Islamic organisations, Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama or NU - NU being the traditionalist and rural based organisation.
Mujiburrahman:The conflict right now [is] mostly among the santri themselves. So there are different kind of Islamic groups, influenced by also Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, maybe Morocco also Sudan. Some of the santri also study in the West so they have different kinds of ideas as well. So everything now you know emerge in the public sphere and we cannot avoid conflict.
Margaret Coffey:So it is that ten years of free expression, free association and global horizons have put under pressure two great unifying and stabilising forces in Indonesian Islam. Mujib teaches at the State Islamic University in South Kalimantan.
Mujiburrahman: It is untrue if you say that only one faction in Muhammadiyah, only one faction in Nahdlatul Ulama. You know, for instance you have in Muhammadiyah you have the so-called G .. These group are more liberal oriented but the conservative wing of Muhammadiyah consider this group are not Muhammadiyah. But you cannot do that! The same thing in NU: there are a younger generation who promoted liberal Islam, but the leader of the NU right now consider that this is not NU. So, even inside the same Islamic organisation you have differences.
Margaret Coffey:How does it impact on the membership of the organisation? Is there a bleeding away of membership into other kinds of groups or affiliations?
Mujiburrahman:Yeh, first of all NU is changing as well, so it is not static as a traditionalist so there are reforms in NU, reforms in the education system of the pesantren. These change and differences inside the organisation of course had an impact on the members of NU themselves. But NU is an organisation is not too modern. You know you become a member of NU you don't have to register yourself, you don't have to have a card or membership. It is kind of natural if you study in a pesantren, traditionalist pesantren, it means that you are a member of NU. And second, NU memberships mostly depend on different pesantrens all over Indonesia. So the main important person in NU is not actually the leader of NU in Jakarta but the kyai at a pesantren, the leader of the pesantren themselves. So, therefore it can be that one pesantren support the liberal wings, another pesantren support the conservatives -this is the situation of the NU. It is very different from Muhammadiyah. Muhammadiyah is more modern, more hierarchical, more disciplined. So if Muhammadiyah leadership said no, then somebody will be kicked out I believe.
Margaret Coffey:On Radio National abc.net.au/rn you 're with Encounter - where we are surveying the state of play in Indonesian Islam - anticipating the general elections coming up for just the third time since the fall of Suharto's New Order regime.
Sounds of the azan in late afternoon
Margaret Coffey:In the late afternoon in Jakarta it is time for prayer again. Inside I turn on the television - and it obliges with this....
Sound of television lifestyle program: re 'target market' of luxury apartment complex in central Jakarta.
Margaret Coffey:The debates within Islam are taking place in a rapidly changing social context, where there are huge differences between people's capacities to satisfy their aspirations ... never mind to feed themselves.
Those debates, we've heard, are amongst the 'santri', orthodox Muslims, and chiefly the members of the two mass Islamic organisations, Muhammadiyah and NU. In Muhammadiyah, Mujib implied, the debates have edgier consequences - there's more of an enthusiasm for identifying and culling 'deviant strains'.... Professor Dadang Kahmad is the Head of Muhammadiyah for West Java Province. In Professor Kahmad's opinion, three developments are harming Muhammadiyah's capacity to lead in the ever changing national environment.
Dadang Kahmad:These problems really are a product of great social change that's occurring in Indonesia at the moment. Indonesians are facing very many changes. On the positive side of course there is a greater freedom of expression, so Indonesians and Muslims and members of Muhammadiyah are able to express ideas and be engaged with debates that previously were buried in Indonesian society, and that is a great advantage. But on the negative side, this freedom has also brought with it a bit of a waning, a bit of a slackening in the commitment of Muhammadiyah members towards the organisation because people are becoming more involved in other organisations and other currents that have emerged since the dawning of the reformasi era. What this has meant is that the people sometimes are avoiding the more established organisations that have been on the scene for a long time, including Muhammadiyah.
Margaret Coffey:Why is it so important that people should remain attached to an organisation such as Muhammadiyah?
Dadang Kahmad:The importance is that Muhammadiyah provides a type of container, a type of meeting place where people can be involved in religious and social activities underneath Muhammadiyah's general goal, which is the improvement of Indonesian society. That's where the importance arises. Of course Muhammadiyah also has a goal of developing Muslims, developing people who have specific obligations before God that they have to fulfil. But Muhammadiyah has always implemented this along with a goal of drawing upon rational thought and modern science in order to develop modern society and that combination is what makes Muhammadiyah the important organisation that it is today.
Margaret Coffey:I've always thought of Muhammadiyah as the organisation for if you like the urban elites, the upward socially mobile. So what is it about the social change in present day Indonesia that is moving those sorts of people away from Muhammadiyah?
Dadang Kahmad:There are two reasons we can identify here. Muhammadiyah was the first organisation to approach the idea of being an Indonesian Muslim with a spirit of modernity. It brought modernity to the Indonesian Muslim community. However, now there are other organisations that do that as well. Muhammadiyah is not the only one. And so for that reason some members from the elite ranks, if you like, of Muhammadiyah perhaps find the other organisations as having something to offer that is more promising or perhaps more pleasant or more modern in the contemporary situation. The second reason we can identify is due to something of an internal struggle within Muhammadiyah at the current time.
So it is Qur'anic interpretation for example: the progressive wing is interested in interpretation that draws on modernity, that draws on rational and logical thought in the context of contemporary society, whereas the conservative wing is very interested to preserve the interpretations of the past, those that have authority because they come from the sort of glorious past.
However some of the senior leaders of Muhammadiyah ,and we mention here Abdul Munir Mulkhan, Syafii Ma'arif, Amin Abdullah and others, have in fact been the motivators of the development of the younger intellectual, progressive strand of Muhammadiyah. So we have to emphasise that this sort of distinction is not as strong as some people may believe and it is very well possible that in the future that the younger intellectual elements in Muhammadiyah may in fact become the victors in the struggle that is going on now. It's very possible.
Margaret Coffey:Professor Dadang Kahmad, who is Chairman of Muhammadiyah in West Java, with Dr Julian Millie of Monash University translating.
Sound of students at State Islamic University, UI
Margaret Coffey:At the State Islamic University in Jakarta, the students neither look nor sound as if they are bound up in a glorious past. It's Friday, and they are sitting around in a forecourt, some of them - amazingly in all this noise - working in groups, others just chatting. There's even one group organising a camping trip. And there is none of the gender separation that is commonly in Australia associated with Islam.
What's happening in Muhammadiyah is indicative of important, broader social change in Indonesia. Professor Kahmad is arguing that three developments have harmed Muhammadiyah's capacity to lead, the first one being the emergence of internal division between progressives and conservatives. Now we turn to the second and related reason .........
Sound of students at State Islamic University, UI
Margaret Coffey:The second development that you referred to was the development of various... deviant groups, you called them. Tell me about the development of new religious movements and the pressure they are putting on Muhammadiyah membership.
Dadang Kahmad:There are two kinds of new religious movements that we need to talk about here. Muhammadiyah in fact has new religious movements developing and emerging within its own organisation, with its own membership. This new religious movement usually consists of a progressive movement that in the opinion of the Muhammadiyah executive has gone too far beyond the teachings that are regarded as acceptable within Muhammadiyah and this is the problem that we have at the moment with this emerging progressive wing which overstretches the limits of what is acceptable to Muhammadiyah.
However, in broader society there is also the issue of new religious movements emerging. Now these movements are of a different kind - once again, they usually involve people making claims or supporting religious teachings that extend beyond what is acceptable in a general way within Indonesian society. For example the claim that we have had in Indonesia recently - a number of cases where people have claimed to be prophets.
As to why these movements would emerge it seems as though the reasons are mostly economic at this point in time. In the past perhaps they were caused by doctrinal differences; however, nowadays they are quite often caused by economic matters. The charismatic figures who claim prophetic status for example they are able to collect contributions from their members so I feel that this has a lot to do with that development of those movements.
Sound of television program panel discussion re ethical and moral politics
Margaret Coffey:On an all female panel show, they are taking calls about politics. This one is about a distinction between ethical politics and moral politics in Indonesia. One of the panellists goes on to talk about the loosening of national solidarity. The appeal of corruption free politics has something to do with the third development to challenge the mass Islamic organisation, Muhammadiyah, and indeed NU, and that is the post Suharto rise of political Islam in the form of an explicitly Islamic political party, PKS - the Prosperous Justice Party.
Professor Dadang Kahmad, who heads Muhammadiyah in West Java, sees it as potentially a problem for religious, social and political harmony.
Dadang Kahmad: Muhammadiyah has absolutely no problem with PKS as a political party. In fact, they are our friends and we enjoy joining together with them on many issues. However, the problem arises when PKS shapes itself also as a religious organisation. This is where the problem arises from the Muhammadiyah point of view. For example, PKS promotes certain teachings, religious teachings that cause a conflict to arise with the teachings of Muhammadiyah. Furthermore, a lot of Muhammadiyah infrastructure - mosques and schools for example - sometimes are taken over in a way by PKS candidates who use those facilities then for political gain. And this causes a lot of damage to Muhammadiyah's reputation because we do insist on our own identity as a mass organisation of a religious nature not political nature.
Margaret Coffey:Does PKS go further than Muhammadiyah would like to go in intersecting religion into the public sphere, the political sphere?
Dadang Kahmad: Muhammadiyah - its position is that we prefer to keep religion directly out of the political sphere. Now of course when it comes to being active at basic levels of society, Muhammadiyah is very active but we don't bring the Muhammadiyah brand if you like into politics at all. Now PKS have been active in doing so and our concern is that if they do bring religion into the political sphere in the way they do they will inevitably create conflicts with the various Islamic currents that exist in Indonesian society such as Muhammadiyah but also NU and other organisations. This is what we worry about.
Sound of television program panel discussion re political parties
Margaret Coffey: Now on the television show the panel members are discussing why there are so many political parties in Indonesia. The reason is democracy, says Mujib - a party such as PKS has emerged as a competitor to the santri groups like NU and Muhammadiyah precisely because there is space for it in post New Order Indonesia.
Mujiburrahman:Young activists from secular universities - these groups ideologically and politically were repressed by the regime and so they develop a kind of training, may be, you know, secret training during the New Order, and they develop a network, and these groups is also now strong, becoming stronger. They have a political party, very good political party, very modern, it's called PKS - maybe you know, Partai Keadilan Sejahtera. They try to become clean, not corrupt I mean, clean. And ideologically in the beginning they were very Islamic but now they try to compromise. I think the majority of them will become more and more moderate, because they look at reality politics, talking about the art of the possible in reality. So, in my opinion, as long as these groups are accommodated they can come to a kind of consensus, even with those graduates from pesantren, traditionalist and reformist as well.
Sound of children at school/pesantren
Margaret Coffey:Mujiburrahman, who lectures at a State Islamic University in South Kalimantan. Why would he suggest that political Islamists, trained in secular universities, should be able to come to a consensus even with graduates from pesantrens, or Islamic boarding schools? Shouldn't we assume that on the face of it there would be consensus anyway between these two different groups for whom Islam is the common commitment? Here's an explanation that conveys an important insight about Indonesia.
Ida Rosyidah: Progressive Muslim thinkers usually come from or graduate from Islamic studies or from Islamic boarding school, but radical, more fundamentalist thinker, Muslim thinker, coming from like UI, secular universities. Usually in our thinking should be radical and liberal in understanding religion. But in reality, different.
Margaret Coffey:It is a counter-intuitive idea, given our familiarity with the notorious jihadist group Jemaah Islamiyah with its network of pesantren, that Islamic schools produce progressive Muslim thinkers, while secular universities produce more fundamentalist thinkers. There are around 40,000 pesantren in Indonesia and they educate about 25 per cent of Indonesian children. Dadi Darmadi is a graduate of the pesantren system.
Dadi Darmadi: Not all or everybody studying in pesantren holds that view of openness and pluralistic view of society but I think the very nature of the Islamic education system, and what I mean by that is pesantren , here very much rooted in local and community values where they are in. So for example in many parts of the country many pesantrens, its leaders, teachers, always come from within certain or specific environment and they are always very close with the local communities as well. And that develops a certain kind of stronger community network. For that very reason I don't think it will be useful for them to have a very exclusive view of the society.
Margaret Coffey: Not only are the pesantren secure in their local communities, their teaching of Islam - in most cases - encourages subtlety and flexibility in Islamic understanding. That's Mujib's argument.
Mujiburrahman:I think pesantren is very important in terms of Islamic studies, because first of all we are introduced to the tradition itself - I mean rich tradition of Islam from Middle Ages up 'til now - and second, we are exposed to practice in our rituals and our religious experience within the rituals and so on, and the third and this is most important - is that in pesantrens, especially in traditional pesantren where I studied, we are introduced to different kinds of interpretations of Islamic law, for instance. So, it is not uncommon in pesantren that you are introduced to different opinions among the jurists, Muslim jurists, so then you are accustomed to difference. Religion is not like mathematical formula you know. So I think this is one important element of pesantren education. People who study Islam just one course in let's say in secular university, and then they get one training from a very exclusive politically oriented Islamic group, then they think that Islam is only one interpretation, one true interpretation and then is becomes very hostile to differences. So that is the importance of the pesantren I think.
Margaret Coffey:Then that prepares people to enter a world of you know multiple interpretations?
Mujiburrahman:Yeh, I think so. For instance, in Islamic law Sunni traditions you have four schools and then the modern pesantren like Gontor they also studied the book by Ibn Rushd, Averroes, introducing different topics of Islamic law and then he tried to demonstrate different arguments supporting an opinion. So different kinds of opinions with different arguments. Students read this and they try to understand why this person has this opinion, why another person has a different opinion, with arguments. So not just blindly received! I think this is very, very good.
Ida Rosyidah: My name is Ida Rosyidah. Actually I am teaching at UIN we call it now, Islamic State University and also I am teaching in BSM, Bakrie School of Management for Religious Studies.
Margaret Coffey: Ida Rosyidah is a graduate of the pesantren system, and the Islamic University system.
Ida Rosyidah: Actually now we have research about gender mainstreaming at MORA - this is the Minister of Religious Affairs.
Margaret Coffey: ...and now, as a researcher with the Centre for the Study of Islam and Society, she is one among a number of women from a network of NGOs who are collaborating to take different opinions right up to the Ministry of Religious Affairs - the government body that keeps very tight oversight on all things religious in Indonesia.
Ida Rosyidah: The first is about the male and female progression at MORA. And the second thing, we try on focus on capacity building and human resources building, because we know that religion, or MORA , Ministry of Religious Affairs, is one of the important ministries in Indonesia, because it is the centre for many, many other ministries. So, they want [to] integrate gender perspective like in education - most Indonesian are Muslim so they want to know exactly how MORA interpret that kind of concept.
Margaret Coffey: So you want the Ministry of Religious Affairs to be exemplary - to exemplify a particular attitude towards including women.
Ida Rosyidah: Yes, and the second thing, we want to see about the gender perspective and gender attitudes among all staff and leader at MORA. So now, we already found that - from gender data - that the gender inequality is really high at MORA.
Margaret Coffey:Ida Rosyidah - and the results of her network's research will be published in Indonesia shortly, along with recommendations. She puts her own intellectual growth down to her years following pesantren as an undergraduate university student at the State Islamic University Syarif Hidayatullah in Jakarta.
Ida Rosyidah:Usually students not only study about Islamic knowledge but also study about secular knowledge and usually like me the first time I study at UIN and I study about like Introduction to Sociology, and I study about Karl Marx, Weber, Emil Durkheim, something that I never think about that! And also progressive Muslim thinkers - the progressive Muslim thinkers shape our thinking to be more liberal and progressive rather than in pesantren or Islamic boarding school or in K12 Islamic school. We cannot avoid that there is also resistance from student: I remember that I have one student who come to me and ask me, 'I want to stop my study here because I know that this is not good for me. I know that this is something [that] attacks my order or my tradition. In Islamic boarding school I study about God really with respectful approach. But here sometime we can criticise God, we can do anything, something that in pesantren or Islamic boarding school we are banned to do that.' So, he said that 'I want to stop my study here,' and then I said that, maybe you have to think first, because in boarding school, you study only in one way, Islamic studies in traditional method and in traditional approach. But when you study in UIN, the lecturer give you more alternatives [to] study, more alternative Islamic interpretation. Usually you eat only sayur asam in Indonesia, soup; now you eat differently - you eat MacD, you eat Kentucky, so something make you...
Margaret Coffey:Gives you indigestion..
Ida Rosyidah: ...yeh, yeh, you cannot receive it because the new one is sometimes difficult. If we already have one understanding, we see that that understanding is only the true one. Lecturers give you more opportunities to have and to understand many interpretations - and make you shock[ed]. . Now he was one of doctor of PhD program in Islamic Studies!
Margaret Coffey:On Encounter abc.net.au/rn I'm Margaret Coffey, surveying Indonesian Islam's resources for pluralism and democracy, with the forthcoming general elections in mind. We've heard about the challenges facing the mass Islamic organisations, and about Muhammadiyah specifically, and the resources offered by the Islamic education system, including the pesantren s or schools, and the universities.
But there is a third theme of importance: so many pro-democracy activists, Muslim and non-Muslim, are joined by their commitment to culture, the rich resource of Indonesian culture. Here is someone whose organisation, the Wahid Institute, strives - through a range of means including publishing, to articulate Islam in the context of local culture - for the sake of peace, democracy, and tolerance.
Ahmad Suaedy: My name is Ahmad Suaedy, executive director of the Wahid Institute. The Wahid Institute was established in 2004. But because Indonesian situation is still changing so we focus on peace, democracy, tolerance and so on.
Margaret Coffey:You use the term 'moderate Islam' - you are comfortable with that term. In Australia some people are very critical of that term.
Ahmad Suaedy: Yes this is [to] simplify how Islam I want to be: Islam tolerant, Islam pluralism and multicultural - all moderate. Because we cannot say only Islam because there are many you know faces of Islam.
We can introduce Indonesian culture, Islamic Indonesian culture, and also compete with Middle East culture. Also we introduce the Islamic multicultural in Indonesia because almost all community and ethnicity in Indonesia has special expression on Islam. Java and Sumatra have different expression of Islam. Also we have rich culture, local culture on Islam. So through this publishing we introduce to the people in Indonesia and also abroad.
Margaret Coffey:So the simple act, based on serious research, of telling Indonesian Muslims about their traditions, is a powerful way of resisting fundamentalism.
Sound of beduk with accompanying singing
Margaret Coffey:How do you persuade people who think that, in order to become modern and developed, Indonesia must abandon cultural traditions and remove mysticism from the head, that it is worthwhile doing what you are doing, and that is maintaining that synthesis between Islam and local culture?
Ahmad Souady: Actually we have so many product of culture but claim this is product of Islam. For example, you know , beduk: beduk is like bell in church in the West. Beduk is the tool to invite the people to go to mosque to worship. But there are no beduk in Middle East. This is original Indonesia, especially Java. We would like to say to the people that we have special expression of Islam and the culture of Islam is not only for Middle East, especially for Arab, but we can also produce the culture.
Sound of beduk
Margaret Coffey:Ahmad Suaedy. Around the table at the Wahid Institute there is agreement - culture is a safeguard against fundamentalism - and gathered here are people who come from both Muhammadiyah and NU backgrounds, from both modernising reformist and traditionalist perspectives.
(unknown voice:) We can go back to the founding fathers of NU who say that as long as the culture does not contradict the fundamental value of religion I think it does not matter. This idea, this notion is not happily accepted by the so-called radicalism or fundamentalism Islam who always say that everything from Middle Eastern, especially from the Saudi Arabia, can be regarded as the pure Islam. But in Indonesia, what we have in Indonesia, especially Islam Indonesia, we believe that culture can improve our religiosity, culture can improve our spirituality, and I think this is important because we live far from Saudi Arabia. Islam and Saudi Arabia is different.
Margaret Coffey:You're saying really that Islam from Saudi Arabia is a cultural product itself?
(unknown voice:) Expression - yes. In Indonesian context, Javanese culture or Sumatranese culture come first then Islam comes. If we look at the history of the coming of Islam to south east Asia countries, especially to Indonesia, one of the secret of the success of the spreading [of] Islam in Indonesia is by accommodating culture. The history of Islamisation in Java, one of the preacher was the Sunan Kalijaga: in order local people can accept Islam they introduced Islam by using the you know the cultural means - for example, like using gamelan, traditional Javanese music. Yes, to invite them to mosque they use that, in Yogyakarta, yes, they use gamelan.
Gamelan music
Margaret Coffey:So what about the future, a future beyond the April elections, given those background tensions within Indonesian Islam - tensions caused by increasingly vocal religious radicalism - and potentially an increasingly difficult economic situation?
Professor Dadang Kahmad of Muhammadiyah puts the hopes of his Islamic organisation this way.
Dadang Kahmad:Our hope for the future is that Indonesia will remain to be a religious nation but a nation that is religious in a peaceful and inclusive way. In particular Muhammadiyah really hopes that education will continue to develop in Indonesia because through education we can develop into a society of people who are able to achieve prosperity which is one of our major goals, to take advantages of technology and new science and also to overcome some of the problems of the past and in doing so we hope to develop a very tolerant society that looks forward to the future and is able to analyse critically the problems that we face now. In a similar way to Australia - we look to Australia as a society that has already achieved very many of the things that we would like to achieve.
Margaret Coffey:Mujib has a story that makes a point about preserving an open space ... a place where everybody can be heard and where dialogue would not be avoided. The story involves the spectrum of Islamic thinking, the traditionalist, the modernist and the fundamentalist.
Mujiburrahman: Let me tell you my experience. This is outside Java, because I am not Javanese and I work in South Kalimantan. Last year we had a national seminar. It was organised by inter-religious harmony forum in South Kalimantan. I was assigned to be the chair of the seminar - and the speaker, one was NU leader, another was Hizb ut-Tahrir leader and the third one was Muhammadiyah leader. So when the NU leader spoke, and then followed by the Hizb ut-Tahrir, it was kind of hot situation! You know the supporters of this one and the supporters of that one, all of them become angry. Each group defend their leaders, attack each other with very harsh words. As the chair, you know, I talked to the Muhammadiyah leader - fortunately he is an economist and I said this is a very good chance, you should talk about the economic situation of the Muslims. Yes, he said, and I am talking about that. And then he stand up and said, "Brothers and Sisters in Islam, I will ask you one question: do you agree if all Muslims in Indonesia become rich and prosperous? Yes! Everybody yes! Look, he said, so our problem is our economic situations of the people! And then the situation calm down and everybody smile. So I think if the current situation in which we have different Islamic groups called radicals, fundamentalists, whatever,] if we can maintain the free public spheres, and we can be patient enough to have a dialogue, confrontation, not violently anyway, I think we can come to a kind of - quote/unquote - consensus, but we should be patient!
Margaret Coffey:Mujiburrahman, from the State Islamic University in South Kalimantan.
Margaret Coffey:This has been Encounter "Beyond Jemaah Islamiyah - Update on Indonesia' on Radio National abc.net.au/rn - go to the Encounter website to find information about the participants, related web links and photos, or to download a transcript or podcast version.
Thanks to Dr Julian Millie of Monash University for his translation of Professor Kahmad. And thanks also to La Trobe University's Centre for Dialogue, and the Centre for the Study of Islam in Society at UIN in Jakarta.
In two weeks time, Encounter returns to Indonesia for a closer look at interfaith cooperation, and at the biographies of some of the current young Muslim participants in these interfaith activities. Technical production by Tim Symonds. I'm Margaret Coffey.

Encounter - Beyond Jemaah Islamiyah – Update on Indonesia Park 2
Sunday 22 February, 7.10 am, and Wednesday 25 February, 7.05 pm, and Thursday 26 February, 4.00am. Series Producer: Florence Spurling
Producer: Margaret Coffey
On 9 April Indonesians go to the polls for only the third time since the fall of President Suharto. What role will Islam play in these elections? This is part two of a two-part series focusing on the state of interfaith relations and the work of Muslims engaged in interfaith activities.
MP3 download available

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