Day 2: Little disagreement, many enlightment!

The building of Universitas Indonesia is impressive, and they just brought us to the library tour only. I’m not good in number, but I’m pretty sure that the size of its library is at least twice bigger than my campus. They showed us a room in the library which keep old manuscripts, if not ancient. The room is set in a cold temperature to keep the manuscripts in well condition, we were also not allowed to touch anything or to take a picture. This lady who worked there wore a glove and showed us 3 manucripts: the first one, an old bible from the 17th century, it was written in an old Dutch-language. The second one, a manuscript written in daun lontar (papyrus?) in old Balinese language, it was about practices in Balinese traditional ceremony. The third one I can’t remember, but there were Chinese figures in it, and written in Javanese letter (wait, now I start to get curious, a Chinese figure in a book written in Javanese letter?).

We had two professors from UI as our speakers: Pak Maswadi Rauf (Faculty of Social and Political Science) and Pak Muhammad Fuad (Faculty of Humanity, and a Head of Muhammadiyah office branch). Pak Rauf told us about democracy in Indonesia. He explained about the democracy trend started from our independence in 1945 up to now. I should say that I wasn’t totally agree in all of his points, especially when he answered Cindhi’s question about the case of Yogyakarta, and he said that Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono does not fill the requirement of being a king and a governor at the same time. And he said that we should’ve adopt the same system as the United Kingdom in where the King “can only be” the symbol. You see, we need to understand the idea of power in Javanese before we get further into this; the power of King in Java cannot be separated into parts of political, religious and cultural, which means the King cannot only be the symbol of cultural. Yet, although stick in this principal, the King himself aware that we’re now in the era of modernity, in where the King cannot acts authoritarian even if he can, so the King will consciously act democratically, regardless his absolute power as a King, so he’s trying to wisely combine his role as a King and as a governor, which is a leader of a modern concept in nation-state. But I’m sure we’ll have a lot more discussion about this issue later in Jogja. Other than that, I think Pak Rauf’s highlighted many interesting points, like what it takes to have a good democratic country. He said that the law and regulation have to adapt the need of democratization, to help implementing the democratic way of life. But what we’re lacking of today is the individual democracy, which is why people are misusing the idea of freedom (he defined freedom as a chance for everyone to do anything that is not against public’s interests) and harming others. But of course, it takes a lot more effort to instill democratic way of life and way of think to the individual’s mind and heart.

Meanwhile Pak Fuad told us the case of Nahdhatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah. I like that even though he himself is an activist of Muhammadiyah, but he was very objective in giving the presentation. He admitted that NU is probably more aware with the issue of pluralism rather than Muhammadiyah. Let me brief you about his presentation: Muhammadiyah was created in Jogja, by Kyai Hajji Ahamad Dahlan in 1912. It was a response toward the backwardness of Islam (he didn’t elaborate that, but I remember my teacher told me in the middle school that at the moment, the Muslim society were mixing the Islamic teachings with their cultural beliefs, which created bid’ah, or practices that were not taught by Rasulullah SAW and that was why they against the religious teaching), and the Christian missionary activity. Christian missionaries were very active to spread their teachings especially through building education and health facilities. It became a threat—because the number of Christians might increased over the number of Muslims—as well as an inspirations, that Muslim should also contribute toward society’s welfare, while spreading the teaching of Islam at the same time. Meanwhile NU was created in in Jombang by Kyai Hajji Hasyim Asy’ari 14 years after Muhammadiyah. It was a response toward Muhammadiyah’s rapid development, which is in fact very rapid; at first they only built 5 schools, and then increased into 1.774 schools! I don’t know how many they are now.

In terms of way of thinking, Muhammadiyah is more progressive, yet puritan. Funny, right? Muhammadiyah has many scholars and they are really concern in modern science. At the same time, their vision is to purify Islamic teachings from traditional or cultural elements (which is again, funny, because somehow they refer to Middle Eastern tradition and culture). Pak Fuad said that Muhammadiyah is tend to be suspicious toward traditions. Meanwhile NU has a traditionalist approach. NU realized that Islam came to a place who has its distinct character, so it should be flexible and adapted. He introduced us to Kyai Hajji Abdurrahman Wahid, or Gus Dur, who was apparently the grandson of NU founder. Gus Dur disagreed with the “imported Islam from the Middle East” (that’s going to be my new favorite term), and believed that “no ideal of Islamic society outside Indonesia we need to aspire to” (another new favorite quotation).

I also like the idea that, even though we have this Islamic belief, but we need to realize that we are now in a modern nation state society in where the government is exist with its constitution and the rule of law. So if Islamic group wants to voice out their aspiration, they also have to struggle through democratic political system, instead of blind violence. Religious groups also cannot be selfish only in advocating their ideology interest, but they also need to be aware of social problems such as poverty and education issues. I see these efforts in Muhammadiyah and NU, but these are exactly what groups like Front Pembela Islam does not do. I also see these approaches when we met the representatives of student religious bodies of Universitas Indonesia. We met the groups of Islam, Hindu, Catholic and Christian. In their activities, they conduct religious discussions, but also many social activities. This last meeting was also quite enlightening for the US participants. Like Angela said, the image of Islam domination was really dominating their view about Indonesia, so it was great to see that the believers of non-Muslim are actually prominent too.

We ended the day by going to the Margo City mall. We ate at Pizza Hut. I managed to order one pizza with meat, because 3 out of 4 Lehigh participants are vegetarian, and one of them just wanted the plain pizza tonight. They were very excited with the many kind of drinks that our pizza hut have, and also the many kind of donnut toppings in JCo. It was a fun day! We will have to get on the bus at 7 tomorrow for another journey! I’ll talk to you later!

Depok, June 5 2012


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