Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The hijab in Indonesia: From oppression to high fashion

TODAY, Singapore, 13 Sep 2017

Women shopping for hijab at a traditional retail market in Jakarta. Almost 80 per cent of Muslim women surveyed wear the Islamic headscarf, with the figure rising together with education and income. Photo: Reuters
PUBLISHED: 4:00 AM, SEPTEMBER 13, 2017
Some observers of the dynamics of religiosity in Indonesia have argued that there has been a conservative turn in Indonesian Islam.
What is defined as Islamic conservatism is a type of religiosity closely associated with Wahhabism, Salafism or even radicalism. It is akin to bringing back dated Islamic culture and practising it in the contemporary era.
What is often neglected in understanding this kind of conservatism, which is different from other forms of conservatism, is its association with capitalism, market forces and global trends.
In fact, this kind of association allows religious conservatism to manifest itself in pop-cultural forms. Adopting it does not make one feel old-fashioned; instead, it allows one to experience a sense of religious piety and being trendy at the same time.
Conservatism, packaged and marketed through global capitalist channels, is no longer shrouded in a veil of backwardness, but brandishes the face of a new modern culture. One salient example of this trend is the donning of the Islamic headscarf, commonly known as the hijab.
Previously, the hijab was seen as a symbol of oppression, an awkward outfit that constricted the freedom of women.
In certain quarters of society, it was even seen as a strange practice or was taboo.
Now, the image of the hijab has taken an about-turn, as the headscarf takes centre stage in fashion shows, being displayed or exhibited as fashion accessories in five-star hotels in Jakarta and other major metropolitan cities around the world.
Thus, the hijab is getting more ubiquitous in Indonesia not just because Muslim women are getting more conservative, but because they are getting more fashionably conservative.
To wear the hijab is hip, and those that wear it are known as “hijabers”.
But as we begin to see the hijab donned more commonly in public spaces in Indonesia, have Muslim women in general really taken to the headscarf, and has it really become a standard part of their attire?
A recent nationwide survey commissioned by the Iseas–Yusof Ishak Institute seems to suggest that this is indeed the case. Over 82 per cent of respondents agree that Muslim women should wear the hijab, and the proportion differs little where gender is concerned.
That is, more than 80 per cent of Muslim women think that they should wear the hijab, which means that it is not simply a practice imposed on them by Muslim men. Indeed, 78.2 per cent of the Muslim women surveyed claim to wear the hijab.
Contrary to practices during the New Order era, particularly in the 1980s when wearing the hijab in public schools was prohibited, female Muslim teachers and students are now strongly encouraged to don the hijab.
In fact, movie stars, politicians, businesswomen, police officers, military personnel and even female national athletes wear the hijab in their daily and professional lives.
Currently, the types of hijab available on the market are not only the conventional ones sporting modest designs, but are also exquisite and luxurious ones that fetch high prices. Several nationally-acclaimed designers have dabbled in creating these trendy headpieces, while fashion models, artistes and movies stars have taken part in marketing these fashionable headscarves through various outlets, both online and offline.
Some of them are religiously motivated, while others, including non-Muslims, are motivated by profit. Whatever the motivation, the business of the hijab in Indonesia is big business, and the religious market is one that cannot be ignored.
Another interesting finding from the survey is related to the income and education of hijabers.
In contrast with common assumptions concerning those who wear the hijab, the survey shows that almost 95 per cent of Muslim women with a high education wear the hijab, compared with less than 80 per cent for those with medium or low education.
At the same time, the survey shows that the higher the income level of the Muslim women, the more likely they are to wear the hijab.
In short, the trend seems to be that Muslim women of higher socio-economic status are more likely to be wearing the Islamic headscarf as part of their regular attire.
This result also underlines the transformation of the meaning of the hijab and religious piety.
Being religious, as expressed through donning the hijab, is no longer seen as hindering the education and career of Muslim women.
Instead, for some Muslim women, the hijab is even perceived as a symbol for educated women and professional success.
Thus, the fact of the matter is that the hijab is not merely a sign of conservative Islam imposed by Muslim men on less educated and low-income Muslim women.
On the contrary, the hijab may be seen as trendy and the in-thing to wear, and a sign of independence for Muslim women in Indonesia.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Ahmad Najib Burhani and Hui Yew-Foong are, respectively, Visiting Fellow and Senior Fellow at ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute.
http://www.todayonline.com/commentary/hijab-indonesia-oppression-high-fashion

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Keindonesiaan dan Keislaman

Kajian TITIK-TEMU ke-39. Bersama Prof. Dr. Masykuri Abdillah (Direktur Sekolah Pascasarjana UIN Jakarta) dan Ahmad Najib Burhani, Ph.D (Peneliti Senior LIPI). Moderator Ahmad Gaus Ahmad AF. Rabu, 1 Maret 2017, Jam 18.30 s.d 21.30 @Grha STR, Lantai 4, Jl. Ampera Raya No. 11 Jakarta Selatan.











Thursday, February 18, 2016

Kontestasi Islam Indonesia Kontemporer (3)

Kamis, 18 Februari 2016, 06:00 WIB

Azyumardi Azra

REPUBLIKA.CO.ID, Pemikiran Islam Indonesia kontemporer sedikit banyak memiliki kontinuitas dengan intelektualisme masa sebelumnya. Pemikiran Islam Indonesia yang pernah disebut sebagai "tradisional"--sering juga disebut sebagai "tradisionalisme Islam"--dalam batas tertentu kian memudar. Pada saat yang sama, corak pemikiran ini juga mengadopsi aspek intelektualisme yang lazim dinisbahkan pada pemikiran "modernis".

Pada sisi lain, pemikiran Islam yang disebut sebagai "modernisme Islam" juga mengalami perubahan. Perubahan itu banyak terkait dengan kegagalan proyek modernisme di lingkungan masyarakat Muslim tertentu, dan juga dengan kebangkitan agama (religious revival) di berbagai lingkungan komunitas di dalam dan luar negeri. Karena itu, "modernisme Islam" kian memberikan apresiasi lebih besar pada warisan Islam (al-turats al-Islamiyyah) dalam aspek pemikiran ataupun kelembagaan.

Dalam konteks itu, jelas dinamika pemikiran Islam Indonesia sangat terkait dengan dinamika masyarakat di ranah domestik ataupun global. Kontekstualisasi dan indigenisasi Islam, seperti pernah dianjurkan para pemikir sebelumnya, semacam Cak Nur, Gus Dur, atau Munawir Sjadzali, terus menjadi paradigma pemikiran Islam Indonesia kontemporer.

Namun, pada saat yang sama, konteks transregional dan internasional--dari dunia Muslim sendiri dan dunia internasional lebih luas terus pula kian meningkat memasuki ranah pemikiran Islam Indonesia. Globalisasi memberi dampak lebih luas daripada masa sebelumnya karena kemajuan telekomunikasi instan melalui berbagai media dan jaringan yang tidak pernah ada presedennya di masa silam.

Karena itu, seperti disarankan Carol Kersten dalam karyanya, Islam in Indonesia: The Contest for Society, Ideas and Values (London; 2015), pemikiran Islam Indonesia kontemporer dapat disebut sebagai berada pada tahap post-modernism. Namun, dia menegaskan tahap-tahap sejarah pemikiran Islam tidak harus selalu bersifat sekuensial atau sambung menyambung (successive), seperti tradisional, modern, dan pascamodernisme.

Kontestasi pemikiran Islam kontemporer, menurut dia, jika dikategorisasikan, terutama menyangkut pemahaman berbeda tentang sekularisme, pluralisme, dan liberalisme. Ketiga subjek yang menjadi perdebatan dan kontestasi muncul sebagai motif pokok dalam uji daya tahan Indonesia dalam proses demokratisasi yang kini sudah memasuki tahap konsolidasi.

Perdebatan mengenai subjek-subjek ini selain terjadi di antara intelektual dan lembaga Muslim, juga melibatkan kalangan non-Muslim. Hal ini tidak lain karena subjek pluralisme, misalnya, memiliki reperkusi dan konsekuensi terhadap kebebasan beragama, toleransi, dan selanjutnya juga hak asasi manusia (HAM).

Sebab itu, kontestasi pemikiran Islam kontemporer untuk hegemoni terhadap masyarakat, gagasan, dan nilai terlihat jelas dalam banyak tulisan para pemikir Islam masa ini. Mereka berusaha mengonseptualisasi dan merumuskan berbagai wacana. Sementara itu, para aktivis mencoba mencarikan jalan untuk artikulasi dan implementasi konkret gagasan yang ada.

Pemikiran dan langkah berbeda membuat kontestasi di antara para pemikir beserta aktivis yang mewakili kecenderungan pemikiran berbeda menghasilkan perdebatan hangat dan bahkan diwarnai "konfrontasi". Di sini, Kersten meminjam ungkapan mantan menhan AS Donald Rumsfeld tentang "perang gagasan" atau apa yang disebut kalangan Islamis sebagai ghazwul fikri atau "invasi intelektual".

Sekali lagi, intelektualisme Islam Indonesia tidak bisa dibahas dan dipahami secara isolasi tanpa mempertimbangkan berbagai faktor domestik dan konteks internasional sehingga membentuk apa yang disebut sebagai "formasi diskursif". Hasilnya, seperti dikemukakan John Bowen, antropolog-cum-Indonesianis-Islamisis, "menjadikan Indonesia sebagai salah satu situs utama di muka bumi ini untuk mengkaji keragaman sosial, gagasan politik, dan komitmen keagamaan".

Kersten mengikuti kerangka Bowen. Ia melihat "Indonesia sebagai situs yang secara khas ditandai pergumulan untuk menyatukan norma-norma dan nilai-nilai yang bersumber dari Islam, budaya lokal, dan kehidupan publik internasional".

Menurut Kersten, lingkungan Indonesia ditandai keragaman yang sangat bergairah (vibrant). Karena itulah, lanskap intelektual yang berkembang memunculkan berbagai figur dan lembaga dengan pemikiran Islam Indonesia yang progresif. Pada pihak lain, juga ada figur atau lembaga yang memunculkan "kontrawacana" yang oleh kalangan Indonesianis lain semacam Martin van Bruinessen disebut sebagai "gelombang konservatif" (conservative tide).

Tarik menarik, pergumulan, dan kontestasi dalam pemikiran Islam Indonesia pasti terus berlanjut pada masa depan. Merupakan tradisi yang sehat jika pergumulan tidak didasari prasangka dan permusuhan, tetapi sebaliknya tetap dengan saling menghargai--meski tidak setuju dengan suatu corak pemikiran tertentu.

http://republika.co.id/berita/kolom/resonansi/16/02/18/o2p2dd319-kontestasi-islam-indonesia-kontemporer-3

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Kontestasi Islam Indonesia Kontemporer (2)

Kamis, 11 Februari 2016, 06:00 WIB

Azyumardi Azra

REPUBLIKA.CO.ID, Sejarah dan dinamika pemikiran Islam Indonesia kontemporer--masa yang tengah berlangsung sekarang--jelas terkait erat dan mengandung kontinuitas sekaligus perubahan dengan intelektualisme yang bertumbuh dalam masa-masa sebelumnya. Kenyataan ini bisa dilihat dari subjek dan tema yang menjadi wacana dan perdebatan di antara para pemikir dan intelektual Islam Indonesia.

Jika disederhanakan, setidaknya ada tiga periodisasi intelektualisme Islam sejak awal abad ke-20. Pertama, periode prakemerdekaan dengan tokoh intelektual, seperti Mohammad Natsir, Agus Salim, dan generasinya yang banyak bergulat tentang tema seputar hubungan Islam dengan nasionalisme atau Islam dan negara.

Kedua, generasi pertama pascakemerdekaan yang mencakup tokoh pemikir dan intelektual semacam Nurcholish Madjid, Abdurrahman Wahid, Ahmad Syafii Maarif dengan generasinya; sebagian sudah almarhum dan ada pula yang masih aktif. Mereka juga masih terlibat dalam subjek tentang Islam dan negara, Islam dan politik, juga Islam dan modernisasi.

Ketiga, generasi yang betul-betul kontemporer yang aktif berkiprah dan mencapai prominensi sejak masa pasca-Soeharto. Generasi ini hidup di masa pasca-Nurcholish Madjid dan Abdurahman Wahid yang ditandai dengan liberalisasi politik dan demokrasi yang memberikan peluang besar bagi setiap orang atau kelompok mengembangkan aspirasi, gagasan, dan nilai yang sering bertolak belakang dan terlibat kontestasi satu sama lain.

Kontestasi gagasan dan nilai untuk memenangkan pengaruh dalam masyarakat yang menampilkan kecenderungan intelektual berbeda disuarakan beragam individu yang terkait dengan lembaga, organisasi, atau kelompok tertentu. Carool Kersten dalam karyanya, Islam in Indonesia: The Contest for Society, Ideas and Values (London; 2015), berusaha memetakan berbagai kecenderungan pemikiran Islam Indonesia kontemporer.

Salah satu kecenderungan intelektualisme Islam Indonesia kontemporer, menurut Kersten, adalah absennya figur intelektual yang benar-benar menjadi primadona untuk generasinya. Figur-figur intelektual terpencar ke dalam berbagai lembaga dan kelompok--tidak lagi terpusat pada figur-figur tertentu.

Kersten mengkaji dinamika pemikiran Islam Indonesia kontemporer dengan meneliti kelompok-kelompok yang terlibat dalam berbagai bentuk aktivisme intelektual. Pendekatan dia ini berbeda dengan Robert Hefner dalam Civil Islam: Muslim and Democratization in Indonesia (2000) yang menekankan pentingnya peran individu dalam dinamika intelektualisme Islam Indonesia pada masa generasi Cak Nur.

Penekanan pada peran figur intelektual daripada lembaga sebagai aktor intelektualisme Islam Indonesia kontemporer mendapat kritik dari sarjana lain semacam John T Sidel (2001). Yang terakhir ini justru menekankan peran madrasah sebagai sumber awal dinamika pemikiran Islam Indonesia kontemporer.

Namun, Johan Meuleman, guru besar asal Belanda yang lama bertugas di IAIN/UIN Syarif Hidayatullah Jakarta, mengkritik penekanan Siedel yang ia pandang berlebihan tentang peran madrasah dalam masyarakat Indonesia umumnya dan dalam perkembangan pemikiran reformis atau kelas menengah Muslim khususnya.

Sebaliknya, Meuleman mengingatkan agar orang tidak mengabaikan atau meremehkan peran dan kontribusi pesantren dan IAIN (juga UIN dan STAIN) beserta banyak institusi yang menyertainya, seperti lembaga riset, kelompok diskusi dan belajar. Mereka ini berperan besar dalam emansipasi kelompok besar Muslim dan juga dalam perkembangan gagasan pluralis dan demokratis.

Kersten tampaknya mengikuti Meuleman dengan menekankan peran lembaga dan kelompok intelektual melalui pendekatan jaringan (network approach). Pertumbuhan lembaga dan kelompok intelektual terkait banyak dengan pertumbuhan eksplosif kelas menengah terdidik Muslim--baik dalam jumlah absolut maupun proporsi dengan jumlah penduduk Indonesia secara keseluruhan.

Dengan tetap mempertimbangkan relevansi konteks dimensi struktural politik, sosial, dan kultural, kajian Kersten memiliki ambisi menjadikan investigasinya sebagai kajian pertama tentang sejarah intelektual substantif. Kajiannya adalah sejarah gagasan dengan mengungkapkan riwayat mereka yang mengonseptualisasi dan memformulasi cara baru berpikir tentang agama dan menerjemahkannya menjadi agenda pembaruan guna merespons tantangan serius yang dihadapi Indonesia dewasa ini.

Masalahnya kemudian sudah banyak diketahui. Dalam ungkapan Kersten, tantangan berat dalam upaya mengungkapkan pemikiran Islam Indonesia kontemporer adalah absennya meta-narrative yang sistematis. Para intelektual Indonesia jarang menulis buku utuh; sebaliknya lebih banyak menulis makalah, esai, dan kolom--dan kemudian juga blog di dunia maya. Karena itu, peneliti harus meneliti banyak literatur yang tentu saja menghabiskan banyak waktu dan tenaga.

http://www.republika.co.id/berita/kolom/resonansi/16/02/11/o2c5tv319-kontestasi-islam-indonesia-kontemporer-2

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Kontestasi Islam Indonesia Kontemporer (1)

Kamis, 04 Februari 2016, 06:00 WIB
Kontestasi Islam Indonesia Kontemporer (1)

Azyumardi Azra

REPUBLIKA.CO.ID, Sejarah Islam Indonesia kontemporer yang komprehensif masih cukup langka ditemukan. Memang ada beberapa kajian tentang subjek ini, tapi lazimnya terbatas pada aspek tertentu Islam Indonesia kontemporer. Hasilnya, orang sulit mendapat gambaran lengkap, utuh, dan komprehensif tentang dinamika Islam Indonesia secara keseluruhan.

Hal ini juga benar dalam konteks buku karya Carool Kersten, Islam in Indonesia: The Contest for Society, Ideas and Values. Karya cukup substantif (xx+373 halaman) yang terbit pada akhir 2015 (London: Hurst & Company) membahas sejarah Islam Indonesia kontemporer dalam bidang pemikiran Islam. Dalam pengantarnya, Kersten menyebutnya sebagai "an intellectual history of contemporary Indonesian Islam".

Karena itu, sejarah Islam Indonesia kontemporer karya Kersten tidak mencakup dinamika dan perkembangan pranata dan lembaga Islam Indonesia yang juga sangat signifikan dalam masa setidaknya tiga dasawarsa terakhir. Peminat sejarah Islam Indonesia kontemporer dalam bidang terakhir ini harus mencari dalam karya-karya lain. Sayang, belum ada pula karya dalam bahasa internasional yang secara ekstensif dan komprehensif mengkaji pertumbuhan pranata dan lembaga Islam Indonesia pada masa kontemporer.

Kersten, dosen senior Kajian Islam dan Dunia Muslim di King’s College London dan sekaligus peneliti pada Pusat Kajian Asia Tenggara, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), memusatkan banyak perhatian pada sejarah intelektual Islam Indonesia. Ia sendiri menyebut karya terakhirnya sebagai sekuel dari bukunya yang terbit sebelumnya, Cosmopolitanism and Heretics: New Muslim Intellectuals and the Study  of Islam (2011).

Dalam Cosmopolitan and Heretics, Kersten membahas panjang lebar sejarah intelektual Islam Indonesia, seperti diwakili Nurcholish Madjid (17/3/1939-29/8/2005). Di antara hal menarik dalam kajian terdahulu ini, intelektualisme Nurcholish Madjid dibahas Kersten dalam perspektif perbandingan dengan Muhammad Arkoun (1/2/1938-14/9/2010), pemikir asal Aljazair yang bermukim di Prancis dan Hassan Hanafi (lahir di Kairo 13/2/1935), pemikir Mesir yang merupakan guru besar filsafat Universitas Kairo. Dengan pembahasan mencakup ketiga intelektual—Nurcholish Madjid, Arkoun, dan Hanafi—Kersten menempatkan sejarah intelektual Islam Indonesia ke dalam konteks global Dunia Muslim.

Kontekstualisasi pemikiran Islam Indonesia ke Dunia Muslim global merupakan gejala dan fenomena baru dalam Kajian Islam Indonesia dan Kajian Islam global secara keseluruhan. Sampai akhir 1980-an, Kajian Islam Indonesia di kalangan Orientalis yang kemudian lebih senang disebut Islamisis tidak tercakup dalam Kajian Islam global. Islam Indonesia mereka anggap 'periferal’ vis-à-vis Islam Timur Tengah atau persisnya Islam Dunia Arab yang mereka pandang sebagai ‘pusat’ (center) Islam. Hasilnya, Islam mereka buat identik dengan Arab—tidak dengan Muslim di wilayah-wilayah lain, seperti Indonesia.

Namun, gejala dan fenomena itu mulai memudar dengan kritik Edward Said dalam karyanya, Orientalism (1978), yang antara lain, mencakup identifikasi Islam dengan Arab. Dalam karya monumentalnya yang sudah klasik dalam bidangnya, Said mengkritik keras penggambaran stereotipikal Orientalisme tentang Islam dengan Arab yang eksotis, terbelakang, tidak berbudaya, dan berbahaya.

Hasilnya, sejak akhir 1980-an, teori dan argumen tentang ‘center’ dan ‘periferi’ juga mulai ditinggalkan. Kajian Islam Indonesia kian menjadi bagian integral Kajian Islam global. Islam Indonesia boleh saja dianggap ‘feriferi’ secara geografis karena jauh dari Dunia Arab, tetapi tidak dalam pemahaman dan praksis keislaman; dan tidak juga dalam dinamika intelektual dan kelembagaan.

Namun, pada saat yang hampir berbarengan, paradigma Orientalisme yang dikritik Said masih bertahan dan bahkan terus meningkat kembali berikutan peristiwa semacam ‘Nine-Eleven’/9 September 2001 di New York, Washington DC dan Philadelphia, yang kemudian diikuti pengeboman di Bali (12/10/2002 dan 1/10/2005), Madrid (11/3/2004), London (7/7/2005), dan terakhir di Paris (13/10/2015). Pandangan stereotipikal Islam dengan Arab dan kekerasan kian meningkat—membangkitkan kembali gelombang Islamofobia, baik dalam hal agama, budaya, maupun politik di kalangan masyarakat Eropa, Amerika, dan Australia.

Peristiwa kekerasan tersebut lebih tercakup dalam sejarah politik Islam kontemporer—tentang kelompok kecil Muslim yang ingin mewujudkan agenda politik tertentu atas nama Islam secara kekerasan. Aspek sejarah intelektual dalam gerakan kelompok kekerasan ini lebih menyangkut wacana dan konsep tentang jihad yang dirumuskan secara ad hoc dan parsial vis a-vis ajaran dan konsep Islam komprehensif.

Sejarah intelektual Islam Indonesia kontemporer dalam pembahasan Kersten sejak dasawarsa awal abad ke-20 juga memiliki kaitan dan ramifikasi global. Akan tetapi, dengan posisi geografis strategis, sebagai negara Muslim terbesar di dunia, negara berpenduduk keempat terbesar, dan negara demokrasi terbesar ketiga di dunia, Indonesia dapat memberi jalan ketiga alternatif bagi Dunia Muslim lain.

http://www.republika.co.id/berita/kolom/resonansi/16/02/04/o1z4mh319-kontestasi-islam-indonesia-kontemporer-1

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

An escapist view of extremism

Photo: Andris Randling on flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/jrenggo/
Yes, Indonesia’s mass Islamic organisations are tolerant and democrats. But no, that doesn’t mean their culture can be exported to counter extremism.

Can the solution to Islamic extremism be found in the importation of a more tolerant and democratic culture to the Middle East? This is the question at the heart of recent discussions in the pages of The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and The Boston Globe about Islam Nusantara (Islam of the archipelago).

Islam Nusantara is the name given to the theology of the world’s largest Islamic organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) of Indonesia. NU supports democracy, is largely tolerant of religious minorities, and does not seek state implementation of Islamic law. Promoters of Islam Nusantara argue that exporting this aspect of Indonesian Islamic culture can provide the antidote to the disease of Islamic extremism and militant jihadism plaguing the Muslim world.

It’s an instinctively appealing idea. It’s also wrong. The idea that Indonesian culture can be exported is a fiction born of a threefold misunderstanding about NU, the barriers to strengthening democratic values in the Middle East, and the origins of Islamic State (IS).

The term Islam Nusantara was coined in the early 2000s to refer to NU’s theological mix of Sunni Islam, Sufism, and local religious practices like the veneration of the nine saints of Java (the Walisongo). These practices are born out of the structure of NU.

NU is a coalition of Islamic preachers and prominent Javanese families that came together in 1926 to oppose the influence of Islamic modernism, the movement from Egypt launched by Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani, Muhammad Abduh and Muhammad Rasyid Ridha to strengthen Muslims through the promotion of science and a return to the foundational sources of Islam. Instead of reforming Islam, NU seeks to retain its mix of classical Islamic jurisprudence, Sufism, and local traditions rooted in the pilgrimage sites of Java.

Today NU’s opponent is still Islamic modernism as well as its distant cousin, Salafi jihadism. And despite what proponents of Islam Nusantara say, NU’s tolerance is selective.

Its tolerance of Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and Confucians stands in stark contrast to its longstanding intolerance of Ahmadi Muslims and communists. The reason for this discrepancy is that Christians and the other accepted minorities have been important allies for NU in its struggle against Islamic modernism, while communists and Ahmadis are seen as a threat to NU and the Indonesian nation.

Certainly it is important to counter the idea that Islam and IS are the same. And it is true that NU’s tolerant culture has been crucial for the success of Indonesian democracy. But exporting a partial aspect of Javanese traditionalist Islam without the institutional, familiar, or local structure that supports it is unlikely to have much influence. This is indeed why NU has not spread beyond Indonesia in the 90 years since it was founded.
wayang-arab-480

NU’s beliefs are compatible with democracy. But as survey researchers have long known (and reported repeatedly here, here and here), so are the views of most of the world’s Muslims. The barriers to democracy in the Muslim world are political and economic, not cultural.

IS was born in the same conditions in which the Taliban and Hamas were born, in places where there is no meaningful political representation or political order. The prolonged civil war in Syria and failed reconstruction of Iraq created a power vacuum that IS filled.

By contrast to the situation in Iraq and Syria, an environment of sustained political engagement provided the context in which the political aspects of Islam Nusantara were developed.

In the 1920s NU’s religious theology was accompanied by a political vision for an international Caliphate and Islamic state. But Indonesia provides strong evidence that if you allow Islamic organisations to participate in the political process they will moderate their demands and become part of the system rather than seek to overthrow it.

Over the course of the 20th and early 21st centuries, Indonesian Islamic organisations like NU that have participated in crafting the policies of the state have implicitly or explicitly moderated their views.

Their leaders have shifted from being pan-Islamists who seek a global Caliphate, to Indonesian Islamists who aim to create an Indonesian Islamic State, to Indonesian Muslim pluralists who actively work with other religious and ideological groups and promise to safeguard their rights, to post-Islamists who view Islam as complementary to other ways of organising politics and society. They have moderated through participation.

While there are exceptions to this trend, most notably the “new Islamists” who generate dramatic headlines but possess little electoral or social influence, the overall trend toward moderation is clear — include Islamists in the political process, and over time their ideologies and tactics will moderate toward support for democracy. This is the opposite of what has happened in Iraq and Syria, where despots with foreign backing have coopted Islamists or actively oppressed them.

The idea of exporting a more tolerant culture is a prime example of what the anthropologist Mahmood Mamdani calls “culture talk”; the predilection to define Islamic cultures according to their ‘essential’ characteristics in order to sort good Muslims from bad Muslims rather than discussing the specific conditions under which extremist movements emerge. It is a shallow and escapist way of thinking about the problem of Islamic extremism.

An example may help illustrate the problem of culture talk. What if we turned the logic of exporting culture around? Since Britain has almost zero gun violence, and the United States has an epidemic of gun violence, perhaps the problem could be solved by importing British culture to the United States?
Such a solution may be appealing at first glance, but it’s a fanciful way of thinking about a problem that would be better addressed through normal policies. In the case of IS, that means supporting more representative political institutions and equitable economies, and reducing support for militarism in the Middle East.

Jeremy Menchik is assistant professor in the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University. His book Islam and Democracy in Indonesia: Tolerance without Liberalism, is forthcoming from Cambridge University Press.

http://asiapacific.anu.edu.au/newmandala/2016/01/14/an-escapist-view-of-extremism/

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Indonesia’s Islam Nusantara: A challenge to Islamic State?

Azis Anwar Fachrudin

, Yogyakarta | December 18 2015 | 4:43 PM

The 90-minute film Rahmat Islam Nusantara (promoted in English as The Divine Grace of East Indies Islam) has attracted international attention, along with the idea of Islam Nusantara, after a piece about it appeared in The New York Times. Sharing the theme of Nahdlatul Ulama’s (NU) national congress several months ago, the film always intended to share the idea of Islam Nusantara, Indonesia’s unique style of Islam, with a global audience.

The filmmaker wants the international community to see that there are traditional interpretations of Islam that are friendly to local cultures, which are not found in any of the other Muslim-majority countries.

Indeed, being home to the world’s largest Muslim population, the concept of Islam Nusantara basically conveys the message that Indonesian Islam, despite being miles away from the birthplace of Islam, should not be treated as a peripheral tradition while “Arabic Islam” is at the center of the Muslim world.

This is one of the problems of today’s international discourse on Islam.

Instead, particularly in today’s context where the international image of Islam is tarnished by the bombings and beheadings committed by the Islamic State (IS) movement and political chaos in the Middle East, Islam Nusantara has the power to change people’s perceptions.

Islam has been a major force in the democratization process since the Reform era in Indonesia, and
in this respect Indonesia is an answer to the classic question of whether democracy is compatible with Islam (or, to be more precise, Muslims).

The report in The New York Times, along with positive responses from other international media, were right in their the premise that Islam Nusantara is a challenge to the Wahhabist interpretation of Islam.

Indeed, NU was initially founded as a response to Wahhabism: it tried to preserve local Islamic cultures that are legitimate under NU’s Sunni Islam, but considered degradations or violations of the tauhid principle according to the Wahhabists.

In this respect, Islam Nusantara is indeed a challenge to IS, as the group’s theology exemplifies Wahhabism.

The radical group’s destruction of the tombs of respectable Muslim scholars and saints, its rigid interpretation of tauhid/monotheism, its narrow definition of what a real Muslim is and should be, the ease with which it declares other Muslims infidels — these are all manifestations of Wahhabism.

Thus, Islam Nusantara can lead the theological battle against IS. What Indonesian Muslims perhaps need is more confidence that now is a good time for Islam Nusantara to be further exposed to a global audience via stepping up institutional initiatives.

A critical factor that should be taken into consideration is that some violent acts of IS are not ramifications of, or unique to Wahhabism; they have precedence in the canonical books of fiqh the opinions of classical Muslim jurists.

In this regard, good examples are the death penalty for apostasy and homosexual acts (some add heresy and blasphemy as capital offenses), cutting off the hands of thieves, stoning adulterers, killing or enslaving captives of war and other Islamic laws regarding crime and punishment (hudud wal-jinaya).

These punishments are not unique to Wahhabism. Some of them are even stated explicitly in Islamic scripture; and have been deemed permissible by many Muslim jurists in the pre-modern era.

This is why for many Muslims, it is sometimes not easy to say that some of the violent acts of IS are un-Islamic.
____________________________________

One could propose a reform of Islamic teachings, particularly in regard to legal issues.

I myself was engaged in a discussion of Islamic issues with some young NU intellectuals and activists a few weeks ago, and we found it difficult to claim that the aforementioned punishments were un-Islamic, simply because they have precedence in classical Islamic law.

Therefore, to delegitimize them would require a relatively new and sophisticated approach to the Islamic philosophy of law.

Just take the example of slavery Muslims can say whatever they want about Islam’s good treatment of slaves or Islam’s gradual movement toward the abolition of slavery. Yet one cannot find any explicit statement both in Islamic scripture and the classical books of fiqh that prohibits slavery. Even the “Open Letter to Baghdadi” signed by hundreds of the world’s leading Muslim scholars (which seems to have received less exposure in the international media) could not provide explicit scriptural support for the prohibition of slavery.

What we can see in these Islamic jurisprudential issues is that, at least on a practical level, some of the stipulations of Islamic law that were normal in the pre-modern era are no longer considered so in the 21st century, even by many Muslims themselves.

And on a theoretical level, these stipulations can still be found in the books of fiqh that are studied by most Muslims around the globe, including in the Indonesian archipelago.

The theological and legal schools of thought embraced by NU’s followers are basically similar to the majority of Sunni Muslims around the globe: Ashariyah/Maturidiyah theology and the four Sunni jurisprudential schools of Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali.

This is why we have Muslim modernists or reformists who are attempting to reinterpret some Islamic teachings that are in opposition with the zeitgeist of the 21st century.

So, the primary question is: how does one delegitimize the violent acts of IS and say that they are un-Islamic? I do not think that the ideas of Islam Nusantara are enough to combat IS on this point.

There must be something more than a theological battle.

One could propose a reform of Islamic teachings, particularly in regard to legal issues. Others could propose a revision or even abrogation of some Islamic teachings.

At the end of the day, if we are to carry out an ideological fight against IS based in Islamic theology, a reinterpretation of some Islamic teachings grounded in a well-developed philosophy is a must.
_______________________________________

The writer is a graduate student at the Center for Religious and Cross-cultural Studies (CRCS), Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, and contributor to the book Islam Nusantara (2015) published by Mizan. The views expressed are his own.

- See more at: http://m.thejakartapost.com/news/2015/12/18/indonesia-s-islam-nusantara-a-challenge-islamic-state.html#sthash.dF69eiuJ.dpuf

Indonesia’s Islam Nusantara: A challenge to Islamic State?

The 90-minute film Rahmat Islam Nusantara (promoted in English as The Divine Grace of East Indies Islam) has attracted international attention, along with the idea of Islam Nusantara, after a piece about it appeared in The New York Times. Sharing the theme of Nahdlatul Ulama’s (NU) national congress several months ago, the film always intended to share the idea of Islam Nusantara, Indonesia’s unique style of Islam, with a global audience.

The filmmaker wants the international community to see that there are traditional interpretations of Islam that are friendly to local cultures, which are not found in any of the other Muslim-majority countries.

Indeed, being home to the world’s largest Muslim population, the concept of Islam Nusantara basically conveys the message that Indonesian Islam, despite being miles away from the birthplace of Islam, should not be treated as a peripheral tradition while “Arabic Islam” is at the center of the Muslim world.

This is one of the problems of today’s international discourse on Islam.

Instead, particularly in today’s context where the international image of Islam is tarnished by the bombings and beheadings committed by the Islamic State (IS) movement and political chaos in the Middle East, Islam Nusantara has the power to change people’s perceptions.

Islam has been a major force in the democratization process since the Reform era in Indonesia, and
in this respect Indonesia is an answer to the classic question of whether democracy is compatible with Islam (or, to be more precise, Muslims).

The report in The New York Times, along with positive responses from other international media, were right in their the premise that Islam Nusantara is a challenge to the Wahhabist interpretation of Islam.

Indeed, NU was initially founded as a response to Wahhabism: it tried to preserve local Islamic cultures that are legitimate under NU’s Sunni Islam, but considered degradations or violations of the tauhid principle according to the Wahhabists.

In this respect, Islam Nusantara is indeed a challenge to IS, as the group’s theology exemplifies Wahhabism.

The radical group’s destruction of the tombs of respectable Muslim scholars and saints, its rigid interpretation of tauhid/monotheism, its narrow definition of what a real Muslim is and should be, the ease with which it declares other Muslims infidels — these are all manifestations of Wahhabism.

Thus, Islam Nusantara can lead the theological battle against IS. What Indonesian Muslims perhaps need is more confidence that now is a good time for Islam Nusantara to be further exposed to a global audience via stepping up institutional initiatives.

A critical factor that should be taken into consideration is that some violent acts of IS are not ramifications of, or unique to Wahhabism; they have precedence in the canonical books of fiqh the opinions of classical Muslim jurists.

In this regard, good examples are the death penalty for apostasy and homosexual acts (some add heresy and blasphemy as capital offenses), cutting off the hands of thieves, stoning adulterers, killing or enslaving captives of war and other Islamic laws regarding crime and punishment (hudud wal-jinaya).

These punishments are not unique to Wahhabism. Some of them are even stated explicitly in Islamic scripture; and have been deemed permissible by many Muslim jurists in the pre-modern era.

This is why for many Muslims, it is sometimes not easy to say that some of the violent acts of IS are un-Islamic.
____________________________________

One could propose a reform of Islamic teachings, particularly in regard to legal issues.

I myself was engaged in a discussion of Islamic issues with some young NU intellectuals and activists a few weeks ago, and we found it difficult to claim that the aforementioned punishments were un-Islamic, simply because they have precedence in classical Islamic law.

Therefore, to delegitimize them would require a relatively new and sophisticated approach to the Islamic philosophy of law.

Just take the example of slavery Muslims can say whatever they want about Islam’s good treatment of slaves or Islam’s gradual movement toward the abolition of slavery. Yet one cannot find any explicit statement both in Islamic scripture and the classical books of fiqh that prohibits slavery. Even the “Open Letter to Baghdadi” signed by hundreds of the world’s leading Muslim scholars (which seems to have received less exposure in the international media) could not provide explicit scriptural support for the prohibition of slavery.

What we can see in these Islamic jurisprudential issues is that, at least on a practical level, some of the stipulations of Islamic law that were normal in the pre-modern era are no longer considered so in the 21st century, even by many Muslims themselves.

And on a theoretical level, these stipulations can still be found in the books of fiqh that are studied by most Muslims around the globe, including in the Indonesian archipelago.

The theological and legal schools of thought embraced by NU’s followers are basically similar to the majority of Sunni Muslims around the globe: Ashariyah/Maturidiyah theology and the four Sunni jurisprudential schools of Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali.

This is why we have Muslim modernists or reformists who are attempting to reinterpret some Islamic teachings that are in opposition with the zeitgeist of the 21st century.

So, the primary question is: how does one delegitimize the violent acts of IS and say that they are un-Islamic? I do not think that the ideas of Islam Nusantara are enough to combat IS on this point.

There must be something more than a theological battle.

One could propose a reform of Islamic teachings, particularly in regard to legal issues. Others could propose a revision or even abrogation of some Islamic teachings.

At the end of the day, if we are to carry out an ideological fight against IS based in Islamic theology, a reinterpretation of some Islamic teachings grounded in a well-developed philosophy is a must.
_______________________________________

The writer is a graduate student at the Center for Religious and Cross-cultural Studies (CRCS), Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, and contributor to the book Islam Nusantara (2015) published by Mizan. The views expressed are his own.
- See more at: http://m.thejakartapost.com/news/2015/12/18/indonesia-s-islam-nusantara-a-challenge-islamic-state.html#sthash.dF69eiuJ.dpuf

Indonesia’s Islam Nusantara: A challenge to Islamic State?

The 90-minute film Rahmat Islam Nusantara (promoted in English as The Divine Grace of East Indies Islam) has attracted international attention, along with the idea of Islam Nusantara, after a piece about it appeared in The New York Times. Sharing the theme of Nahdlatul Ulama’s (NU) national congress several months ago, the film always intended to share the idea of Islam Nusantara, Indonesia’s unique style of Islam, with a global audience.

The filmmaker wants the international community to see that there are traditional interpretations of Islam that are friendly to local cultures, which are not found in any of the other Muslim-majority countries.

Indeed, being home to the world’s largest Muslim population, the concept of Islam Nusantara basically conveys the message that Indonesian Islam, despite being miles away from the birthplace of Islam, should not be treated as a peripheral tradition while “Arabic Islam” is at the center of the Muslim world.

This is one of the problems of today’s international discourse on Islam.

Instead, particularly in today’s context where the international image of Islam is tarnished by the bombings and beheadings committed by the Islamic State (IS) movement and political chaos in the Middle East, Islam Nusantara has the power to change people’s perceptions.

Islam has been a major force in the democratization process since the Reform era in Indonesia, and
in this respect Indonesia is an answer to the classic question of whether democracy is compatible with Islam (or, to be more precise, Muslims).

The report in The New York Times, along with positive responses from other international media, were right in their the premise that Islam Nusantara is a challenge to the Wahhabist interpretation of Islam.

Indeed, NU was initially founded as a response to Wahhabism: it tried to preserve local Islamic cultures that are legitimate under NU’s Sunni Islam, but considered degradations or violations of the tauhid principle according to the Wahhabists.

In this respect, Islam Nusantara is indeed a challenge to IS, as the group’s theology exemplifies Wahhabism.

The radical group’s destruction of the tombs of respectable Muslim scholars and saints, its rigid interpretation of tauhid/monotheism, its narrow definition of what a real Muslim is and should be, the ease with which it declares other Muslims infidels — these are all manifestations of Wahhabism.

Thus, Islam Nusantara can lead the theological battle against IS. What Indonesian Muslims perhaps need is more confidence that now is a good time for Islam Nusantara to be further exposed to a global audience via stepping up institutional initiatives.

A critical factor that should be taken into consideration is that some violent acts of IS are not ramifications of, or unique to Wahhabism; they have precedence in the canonical books of fiqh the opinions of classical Muslim jurists.

In this regard, good examples are the death penalty for apostasy and homosexual acts (some add heresy and blasphemy as capital offenses), cutting off the hands of thieves, stoning adulterers, killing or enslaving captives of war and other Islamic laws regarding crime and punishment (hudud wal-jinaya).

These punishments are not unique to Wahhabism. Some of them are even stated explicitly in Islamic scripture; and have been deemed permissible by many Muslim jurists in the pre-modern era.

This is why for many Muslims, it is sometimes not easy to say that some of the violent acts of IS are un-Islamic.
____________________________________

One could propose a reform of Islamic teachings, particularly in regard to legal issues.

I myself was engaged in a discussion of Islamic issues with some young NU intellectuals and activists a few weeks ago, and we found it difficult to claim that the aforementioned punishments were un-Islamic, simply because they have precedence in classical Islamic law.

Therefore, to delegitimize them would require a relatively new and sophisticated approach to the Islamic philosophy of law.

Just take the example of slavery Muslims can say whatever they want about Islam’s good treatment of slaves or Islam’s gradual movement toward the abolition of slavery. Yet one cannot find any explicit statement both in Islamic scripture and the classical books of fiqh that prohibits slavery. Even the “Open Letter to Baghdadi” signed by hundreds of the world’s leading Muslim scholars (which seems to have received less exposure in the international media) could not provide explicit scriptural support for the prohibition of slavery.

What we can see in these Islamic jurisprudential issues is that, at least on a practical level, some of the stipulations of Islamic law that were normal in the pre-modern era are no longer considered so in the 21st century, even by many Muslims themselves.

And on a theoretical level, these stipulations can still be found in the books of fiqh that are studied by most Muslims around the globe, including in the Indonesian archipelago.

The theological and legal schools of thought embraced by NU’s followers are basically similar to the majority of Sunni Muslims around the globe: Ashariyah/Maturidiyah theology and the four Sunni jurisprudential schools of Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali.

This is why we have Muslim modernists or reformists who are attempting to reinterpret some Islamic teachings that are in opposition with the zeitgeist of the 21st century.

So, the primary question is: how does one delegitimize the violent acts of IS and say that they are un-Islamic? I do not think that the ideas of Islam Nusantara are enough to combat IS on this point.

There must be something more than a theological battle.

One could propose a reform of Islamic teachings, particularly in regard to legal issues. Others could propose a revision or even abrogation of some Islamic teachings.

At the end of the day, if we are to carry out an ideological fight against IS based in Islamic theology, a reinterpretation of some Islamic teachings grounded in a well-developed philosophy is a must.
_______________________________________

The writer is a graduate student at the Center for Religious and Cross-cultural Studies (CRCS), Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, and contributor to the book Islam Nusantara (2015) published by Mizan. The views expressed are his own.
- See more at: http://m.thejakartapost.com/news/2015/12/18/indonesia-s-islam-nusantara-a-challenge-islamic-state.html#sthash.dF69eiuJ.dpuf