Day 3: We do what we gotta do

The yellow bus brought us out of the peaceful campus to the traffic jungle of Jakarta. Our first destination was Directorial General of Higher Education, or DIKTI. We were welcomed by Pak Purwanto, who spoke behalf on the secretary general who was sick this morning. It feels great that UI and UGM are always among the prominent universities that people mention when we talk about great higher education (I can’t help but keep thanking my mom because her prayers are the 99% reasons of why I got accepted in UGM). Anyway, Pak Purwanto explained about several efforts to increase the number of scholars in Indonesia, especially in Master and PhD. degrees. DIKTI provides scholarships for faculty members to study abroad, 4 months research scholarships for PhD candidates and so on. They are targeting at least 800 faculty members will go abroad to study in higher level of education. This scholarship opportunity is open for every faculty members from all over Indonesia, from Aceh to Papua. However, he said, there is affirmative action toward citizen in eastern parts of Indonesia. Our eastern brothers and sisters are also enjoy many special scholarships from other countries especially Australia. Which is why it remains a question for me, why the eastern part of Indonesia is still under developed if they have so many education opportunities being offered?

The next dialogue was conducted in the office of Forum Kerukunan Umat Beragama, or FKUB. The forum which is led by Pak Ahmad Syafii Mufid has 21 members, all are appointed by their own respected religious communities. We met with Pak Mufid himself and other members representing Majelis Ulama Indonesia, Catholics community, Buddhist community, Confucian community and Muslim Tionghoa community. Pak Mufid explained that there are different interfaith approaches between new order and post reformation era. In new order, people were forced to like each other. There were no conflicts that were obviously seen, but it didn’t mean that there were no prejudices between the believers. Meanwhile in post reformation era, people started to speak up and conflicts took places as the consequences, that was why the interfaith approach should be bottom up. He gave few examples on their bottom up techniques: in the midst of Ambon conflict, they invited the Ambon social figures from the Moslem side and Christian side and mediated the dialogue between them. Often they also jump to the conflict location, like when there were a group of Moslem hardliners were about to block a chapel in Kampung Duri, FKUB pointed its member, Pak Katamas, to get there and calm the hardliners down. The interesting part about this dialogue is that, the members of FKUB asked a lot more questions to our American participants more than what we asked them. Most of the questions had things to do with how Moslem were treated in America. Miss Ita, the UI supervisor who wears veil and completed her Master degree in George Washington University, told the stories that she treated nicely by Americans, and she could tell that different believers in America can work hand in hand in social services, to feed the homeless for example. One of the Kyai then asked Professor Steven’s opinion about the Quran burning in the US, he said, “By giving religious freedom in the United States, does it mean that the government protects the believers?” Professor Steven’s answer was very interesting too! He said that in the US, people are not allowed to burn flags during demonstration. But under the constitution, nothing forbids them from burning the Quran, the Bible, Hebrew Bible, or whatever related to religions. But in the case of that burning Quran plan, he told us that US Secretary of State called this priest to her office in Florida, told him not to burn the Quran. The reason was, if he continued his silly action, he will endanger the lives of so many American soldiers in Afghanistan. The general in Afghanistan also called the priest and asked him the same thing. He agreed. So United States still sticks with the state and church separation, but it will struggle to avoid religious violation, for the sake of their own security.

We thought that these questions from the FKUB members to the American kind of implied their views about America. And so Angela asked, what are their views about American’s view toward Islam. And we finally got into the conclusion that the Indonesian public in general is identifying Americans with the attitude of American government, especially its foreign policy which is hostile in the Middle East. Moreover when George W. Bush stated that the war on terrorism is just like the Crucified War, which implicitly (or even explicitly) identified the Moslem as the terrorist.

Eating our lunch in the bus (FKUB gave us a box of gudeg), we continued the journey to the office of Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah. So we had our introductions toward these 2 groups right? Today I could feel the different atmospheres between these two. Muhammadiyah for example, is proven as more progressive. The 11 gentlemen that we met (yes, we were welcomed by eleven of them!) were looked young, energetic, and they are all able to speak english. In Muhammadiyah, Pak Abdul Mukti the secrteray was answering Uwi’s question about how Muhammadiyah reacts toward the issue of Ahmadiyah. And apparently they do have a relationship! He said that founders of both groups were friends. However in 1932 Muhammadiyah produced a fatwa says that Ahamdiyah is not a part of Islamic religion, since they are different in a very fundamental principal which is the acknowledgement of the last prophet. But in the second point of its fatwa, Muhammadiyah also emphasizes that Ahmadiyah believers should be treated humanly and equally. The fatwa did not change their relationship, once, Ahmadiyah had a hospital in West Java, but they had to close the hospital for security reason. So they decided to sell the hospital, but they didn’t want to sell it to anyone except to Muhammdiyah. It shows that Ahmadiyah still trust Muhammdiyah very much.

Meanwhile the NU people are older, and their clothes too were look traditional with gamis (the long coat) and peci (Islamic religious cap). Muhammadiyah’s programs are including, beside education and health facilities, economic empowerment and disaster management! Meanwhile NU is still within the frame of religions and cultural. NU tried to accommodate all the Islam believers. They avoid not to be extremely literal or extremely liberal. They believe in the power of ijtihad, which is to explore or to interpret through thinking the issues that are not explained in the Qur’an or Al-Hadits. The process of thinking is actually always involved in many things since long time ago, and it is not something to forbid. For example, science is not necessarily obtained from the Qur’an or Hadits, but instead of haram, it is something very precious for the human being. NU also mentioned the concept of Al-Addah Mudakkamah, which is basically a perspective that justifies tradition to be one of the sources for law and order.

Regardless these differences, NU and Muhammadiyah both believe that Pancasila as our constitution is something to preserve, or even to guard. They both commit to create the pluralism society and against the interests to build the Islamic country, or other country with another ideology. Their differences are not something to argue about. They just have their own choice in doing their job to achieve the same vision. Just like United States chose to separate the state and church in order to protect the freedom of its people and the pluralism in its society. We do what we gotta do.


Depok, June 6 2012


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