Kita Pembajak Agama

Ikut pengajian bukan merupakan salah satu kegiatan favorit saya. Jika boleh membela diri, saya tidak suka ditakut-takuti dengan api neraka, atau dilarang melakukan ini-itu karena semuanya dosa. Hidup dalam ketakutan tidak membuat saya nyaman. Saya ingin hidup senang dan tenang. Saya juga tidak hobi ke pengajian, karena isinya yang repetitive. Minggu lalu saja, ustadzah di masjid samping rumah menyampaikan kultum tentang orang-orang yang berhak menerima zakat. Tema yang sudah jadi bahan pelajaran dan bahan ujian agama Islam sejak saya duduk di bangku SD-SMP-SMA, seolah-olah perihal agama hanya berada seputar ibadah, surga dan neraka. Itu saja. Sesempit itukah? Sinisme terhadap ajaran agama semakin lengkap dengan perilaku para pemeluknya yang hobi “bermain Tuhan.” Macam teman saya yang baru-baru ini menjadi korban politisasi agama, lantas mengata-ngatai Quraish Shihab sebagai sesat. Semakin didesak, semakin ketahuan betapa ia tidak memiliki dasar yang cukup. Ia adalah korban provokasi, yang kemudian menjadi provokator. Saya lelah melihat bagaimana pemeluk agama mempergunakan agama atau keyakinan mereka menjadi sesuatu yang tidak produktif, bahkan cenderung destruktif.

Namun sore itu, saya terduduk tegak mendengarkan kultum dari Ibu Athiyatul Ulya di acara buka bersama jejaring perempuan. Tema yang dia angkat adalah bagaimana perspektif Islam dapat merekatkan dan memperkuat gerakan perempuan (ketika pembawa acara menyebutkan tema ini, saya bergairah namun bertanya-tanya dengan rasa tidak yakin, “Hah? Islam bisa disambungkan dengan hal begituan?”). Ia bercerita bahwa pada suatu hari di jaman Nabi, para wanita mengadakan pertemuan. Mereka menceritakan kekerasan yang mereka terima dari suami-suaminya. Salah seorang wanita dalam pertemuan ini pun memutuskan untuk mewakili teman-temannya, mengunjungi Rasulullah dan menceritakan isi pertemuan yang mereka selenggarakan. Esoknya, seperti diriwayatkan oleh Abu Daud, Nasa’i dan Ibnu Majah, Rasulullah SAW bersabda di depan umatnya, “…para suami yang memukul istrinya bukanlah termasuk orang-orang baik di antara kamu.”

Perwakilan perempuan pernah pula mendatangi Rasulullah untuk menyampaikan hal lain, kali ini pasca peristiwa hijrah, “Rasulullah, saya tidak mendengar Allah menyebutkan perempuan sedikitpun dalam hal yang berkaitan dengan hijrah!” Setelah peristiwa tersebut, segera turun ayat 195 surat Ali-Imran yang artinya,  ” Maka Tuhan mereka memperkenankan permohonannya (dengan berfirman): ‘Sesungguhnya Aku tidak menyia-nyiakan amal orang-orang yang beramal di antara kamu, baik laki-laki atau perempuan, (karena) sebagian kamu adalah turunan dari sebagian yang lain. Maka orang-orang yang berhijrah, yang diusir dari kampung halamannya, yang disakiti pada jalan-Ku, yang berperang dan yang dibunuh, pastilah akan Ku-hapuskan kesalahan-kesalahan mereka dan pastilah Aku masukkan mereka ke dalam surga yang mengalir sungai-sungai di bawahnya, sebagai pahala di sisi Allah. Dan Allah pada sisi-Nya pahala yang baik.’”

Ada beberapa moral cerita yang disampaikan Ibu Athifatul Ulya, salahsatu yang melekat dalam ingatan saya adalah bahwa perempuan memang harus bersatu dan memperjuangkan nasib mereka sendiri. Konstruksi kebudayaan yang selama ini ada seringkali melupakan atau mengabaikan kepentingan perempuan. Sengaja ataupun tidak disengaja, kita harus bersatu padu untuk mengubahnya.

Sang Ustadzah selesai bicara dan sayapun tertegun menyadari bahwa saya baru saja mendengarkan potongan-potongan Al-Qur’an dan Hadist tanpa sedikitpun berkeinginan untuk menarik diri. Sebaliknya, saya baru saja mendapat inspirasi. Dan bukankah begitu semestinya agama atau keyakinan kita bekerja? Menginspirasi. Memotivasi, alih-alih menjadikan kita pembenci.

Islam sendiri tumbuh sejak lebih dari seribu tahun yang lalu. Hingga Muhammad meninggal pada tahun 632, banyak wahyu yang turun, banyak gagasan yang muncul, banyak interaksi yang ia lakukan, banyak ajaran yang ia contohkan, banyak hal baru yang ia pelajari. Dari rentang waktu dan peristiwa tersebut, benarkah ia hanya mengajari kita tentang aqidah dan tata cara ibadah? Bukankah ia juga menunjukkan pada umatnya perihal kasih sayang? Bukankah ia, yang kabarnya begitu dicintai oleh Tuhan itu, tidak pernah menggunakan posisinya untuk meneriaki orang lain dengan kata sesat atau kafir?

Sayangnya, saya, beberapa ustadz sebelah rumah dan teman-teman saya memilih untuk membajak agama ini. Kami membuatnya tampak seperti keyakinan kaku dan sempit, yang tidak mengijinkan manusia berbuat banyak hal, alih-alih mendorongnya untuk mencurigai dan menghakimi sesama. Teman saya bahkan berkata bahwa ia tidak bisa memperdebatkan Islam dengan menggunakan “teori2 demokrasi, perdamaian, ham, dll.” Ia, secara tidak langsung (atau langsung?) mengklaim bahwa Islam bukanlah agama yang damai dan humanis.

Jika kita berpikir bahwa agama harus dipisahkan dengan perkembangan ilmu pengetahuan, perdamaian dan HAM, maka jangan-jangan kita sedang menyepelekan agama itu sendiri. Karena agama yang sudah tumbuh sejak lebih dari seribu tahun yang lalu itu, punya banyak inspirasi yang bisa ditawarkan pada kita. Surprise surprise!

 

Jakarta, 17 Juli 2014

 

 

Nyadran

Pak Lurah bilang, sebaiknya kami datang ke acara nyadran di masjid, dengan demikian kami dapat berkenalan dengan penduduk desa. Ini acara yang diadakan sekali saja dalam satu tahun setiap menjelang bulan Ramadhan. Idenya adalah untuk mendoakan orangtua dan leluhur yang sudah terlebih dahulu meninggalkan kita. Ini menunjukkan seberapa kuat ikatan kami, orang Indonesia, dalam cerita ini khususnya orang Jawa, dengan leluhur kami. Seperti banyak peradaban lain, spiritualitas di tempat ini dimulai dengan ancestor worship, atau pemujaan terhadap leluhur. Leluhur memiliki andil yang sangat besar dalam menciptakan kehidupan saat ini. Kematian tidak menghapus andil mereka, jiwa mereka masih ada, bahkan kekuatannya bertambah karena leluhur sudah berada di tempat yang lebih tinggi, artinya, mereka memiliki peran yang lebih besar dalam kehidupan kita yang masih hidup. Mereka bisa memberikan berkah kepada anak cucu dan keturunannya, akan tetapi juga bisa memberikan kesengsaraan apabila para keturunan ini melakukan sesuatu yang tidak sesuai dengan norma yang seharusnya. Doktrin monotheisme memberikan alternatif berupa pemujaan terhadap satu Pencipta, yang berarti bahwa leluhur tidak lagi memiliki peran yang sangat besar yang bisa mengubah nasib manusia, akan tetapi penghormatan terhadap mereka tidak serta merta luntur. Dan salah satu tradisi Muslim Jawa adalah secara khusus mendoakan orangtua serta leluhur mereka sebelum memulai bulan Ramadhan. Barangkali karena bulan Ramadhan dipercaya sebagai bulan yang suci dan penuh berkah, sehingga doa akan lebih mudah didengarkan dan dikabulkan. Selain itu, semua orang ingin memulai bulan Ramadhan dengan pikiran, hati dan diri yang bersih. Nyadran menjadi salah satu sarana untuk membangun komunikasi dengan leluhur, dengan demikian selain memohon pengampunan Tuhan bagi leluhur, mereka juga memohon pengampunan dari Tuhan dan leluhur bagi diri mereka sendiri. Nantinya kami juga punya tradisi lain bernama padusan, di mana orang-orang akan pergi ke pemandian umum, kolam renang, atau di kamar mandi pribadi mereka sendiri, untuk membersihkan fisik (lebih secara simbolis) sebelum menjalani bulan suci.

Kembali kepada soal nyadran, tradisi ini ternyata sudah dimulai sejak jaman Majapahit. Informasi tentangnya dapat ditemukan di dalam kitab Negarakartagama, di mana orang-orang pada jaman tersebut menjalankan prosesi nyradan di candi-candi yang tersedia, dengan tujuan yang kurang lebih sama. Oleh Muslim Jawa, hal inipun diadopsi. Kata nyradan diganti menjadi nyadran yang lebih nyaman di lidah, dan lokasi candi diganti menjadi masjid. Hari ini, warga desa mulai memenuhi masjid jam setengah 9 pagi. Ketika pertama kali datang, mereka menyalami satu persatu warga lain yang sudah terlebih dahulu tiba di tempat. Selanjutnya, salah seorang panitia nyadran memberikan sambutan, dilanjutkan oleh Pak Kades, dan Pak Kaum yang memberikan ceramah. Dari Pak Kaumlah kami tahu soal asal usul tradisi nyadran. Pak Kaum, dengan humoris, memberi contoh hal-hal Jawa lain yang juga diadopsi dari istilah asing. Permainan tradisional kami gobag sodor, katanya, diadopsi dari istilah go back to door.  Istilah pretengseng seperti dalam, “Ojo kakehan pretengseng!” sebenarnya berasal dari istilah Inggris pretension, yang juga bisa diartikan bertingkah. Validnya informasi ini mungkin masih bisa didiskusikan, akan tetapi semua bahasa toh memang berakar dari bahasa yang lain, jadi bukan tidak mungkin kalau yang beliau contohkan itu memang benar. Lebih dari itu, Pak Kaum menunjukkan bahwa kebudayaan yang kita miliki pada saat ini merupakan hasil campuran maupun pengaruh dari kebudayaan lain. Tidak ada yang salah dengan hal tersebut, justru proses inilah yang kemudian memperkaya sebuah  kebudayaan.

Jumoyo, 10 Juli 2012

Daisy Khan: “…they hijacked our religion.”

a flower was put beside a name of the beloved one, in 9/11 memorial

There used to be the twin towers, now they have two big square pools. Each pool has two levels, the second level leads to a hole that we can’t see the end of it. The stream goes down to that hole, artistic, but hurting. Along the wall of the pool there were written around 3000 names of the people who were perished in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, their souls seemed like being taken away with the stream, and now rest, somewhere else. I tried to figure what are they looked like? These people who died? Their names are varied- typical American names, Hispanic names, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, even Arabic. There were two names that are followed by “with her unborn child”. I had no relations with any of them, but I felt devastated. These names had nothing to do with anything, not with the terrorist’s ideological, not with any political interests. They just traveled with the airplane, probably to visit their family, holiday, business, medication, school. The people in the twin towers were working, just like any other days. And there were around 400 people who died when they were trying to help others right after the attack, these police officers or fire fighters were probably running upstairs to get some people, but they didn’t make it. How are the families coping with their loss? And who are these people who killed 3000 souls from various background, ethnicities and religions?

Daisy Khan, the founder of Islamic women movement said, “They not only killed the people, attacked our country, but they also hijacked our religion.” It has to be said that many people were in fact unfamiliar with Islam before the 9/11. They were probably only knew that some Moslem women wear hijab and they go to the mosques for praying. Suddenly, they were further exposed by the ugly event, and found out that the hijackers were Moslems, it shaped their views that Moslems do such things. And, like Pak Llyod said, there were no one who came up to the public and explained what was going on, and that Islam does not teach whatever these terrorist did. This, of course due to the fact that Islam has no single religious leader who can speak behalf of the religion, as the Pope speaks behalf of the Catholic. As a consequence, people were trapped within the belief of violence Islam. The tragedy also affected the large number of Moslem around the world. The war on terrorism was declared, people in Iraq and Afghanistan were suffered for a long time as a result. Moslem-American, even Arab-American who are not necessary Moslem, faced two times bigger challenges. They now have to be ready with the bigotry, some of their buildings were vandalized, and even until now, if your names sounded too Arabic, airport officials will keep you for hours in the room, asked you questions about your job and your religious attachment before letting you go to catch up with your flight.

One thing that most of the people does not realize is the fact that terrorist is the common enemy of everyone. It is not only the enemy of American, but also Moslem-American, and Moslem. Daisy Khan believes that the law enforcement should’ve involved the Moslem community as well, instead of making them as the searched object. Which makes sense. I remember learning in American Foreign Policy class and my professor, Mas Nur Rachmat Yuliantoro mentioned that the war on terrorism was actually one of the causes on the increasing number of radical groups or individuals, which is very ironic. But I know through Pak Najib Azca, our sociology professor, that deradicalization does possible. One of the ways of doing it is by talking to the radical group about the real Islam, for example about the interpretation of jihad. And that, can only be done by another Moslems, through ideological approach, not the coercive one.

Aside from this terrorism issue, Dasiy is doing the same thing for the sake of gender equality. She created a women network that involves women from all over the world from America, Middle East to Southeast Asia. The aim of this network is to create the same rights for women, and to socialize this idea to everyone. The approach they are using is theological too. Within the network they have the shura council to go through verses in Al-Qur’an and Al-Hadits, and interpret them on how it functions to the rights of women. For example, they look up to the Qur’an whether or not female genital mutilation is required, whether or not domestic violence is allowed, and other rights that attached into women. And by far, they successfully found interpretations which against the discrimination against women.

The pressure and prejudice against Islam, and misinterpretations on its values are just temporary phase, Daisy Khan believes. Judaism, for instance, had been through the same phase. They survived it and stays as one of the world’s greatest religions.  Moslems too will get through this. We have a woman like Daisy Khan, and many others who are inspired by her.

Amtrak to Washington DC, June 30 2012

For more information about Daisy Khan’s project, you may visit http://www.wisemuslimwomen.org 🙂

Detachment and commitment: Amish Community and another Moslem Story

Amish community, located in Lancaster, was, umm, unbelievable. I can’t promise you that I will be able to project how cute the people are, or how beautiful the area is, through words, probably not even through pictures. Amish people were originally come from Zurich, Switzerland. Their story began with a man named Simons, who had a little different opinion with Lutheran, Simon thought that baptizing should be optional, so that the people would be more absorbing the meaning of baptizing. Simon and his fellow made a new sect called Menonite. Among this Menonite, however, there were other disagreements. A guy named Jacob Amman thought that the Menonite followers were sway with worldliness very fast. He wanted to return the faith of the people to the old time, when there were not so much distractions. He wanted the people to stay plain, to translate the bible literally, to stay pure. Surprisingly, the Amish moved to America with the same reasons like many other religious believers, to run away from prosecution. Because of its different lifestyle, there were many Amish priests who were jailed or even executed. At first I thought it will be like Baduy people in West Java, but turned out that the Amish are more flexible. They live in a huge huge huge farming area. Unlike Baduy, they aren’t isolate themselves. They live among the people. They can have their houses side by side with other people’s. They go to the store, selling things to people and buying from them. They mingle with other people. The kids go to school, but only for 8 years. They learn basic things such as english, math, history, geography and so on. But they will not go to higher education because they avoid the children knowing too much about the other world that it makes them leaving the Amish culture. Amish people refused to get the picture taken. Stacy and Debra had different thoughts about it. Debra said that the reason they don’t want any picture is because the sense of worldliness, but Stacy said that the Amish believe their soul would be taken away along with the pictures. But during our trip in the area, we are allowed to take pictures of their animals, their buggy horse, their houses et cetera, just not the people. Image

We are still a little bit confused with their technology restrictions though. Because they are not allowed to have telephones or televisions. Basically their houses arent hooked with electricity wire. But then, at one of the family’s house that we visited and we had our dinner with. The family served us with fresh bread and peanut butter, meat ball, chicken and mash potatoes, brownies and ice cream. And these meals couldnt be prepared or preserved without the helped of electricity. The meatball and chicken for example, definitely needs microwave. While ice cream needs to be kept in the fridge. We also saw the fridge and the microwave. These equipments are apparantly ran using the diesel generator, so they are allowed to have that kind of electricity, but not having the wire connected to their houses. Saddie Mae, the Amish lady, was also telling us that she had a friend driving her to the market sometime. She is allowed to ride in the car, but not to drive it. I asked our tour guide, Jane, what was the border of what to do and not do, and she said that as long as the priest said that it is okay, then they are not in troubles. It is still confusing for me. But I guess, what is obvious in the middle of the paradox is the Amish’s detachment from the worldliness. They might use some modern equipments, but they CAN live without it. Saddie Mae wouldnt mind if her friend cant give her a ride that day, she’ll still serve us meals withour her microwave. Amish community are basically surrounded by the modern world, you can find cafe and convinient stores nearby, and they meet tourists everyday-tourists wear fashionable clothes and show their camera and cellphones, but the Amish remain with their salad dress, strap pants, scooter and buggy horses. They are not tempted and rather to continue their simple and modest life. As Stacy said, their world might be small, but they want it that way.   

We also went to the Islamic centre. I wasnt very excited at first, because we had so much about Islam since we started in Indonesia and in Michigan. But the guy we met, Pak Rizwan, was great and I liked him a lot. He came from Bahrain and just like most of the moslem who came from a country with moslem majority, he took his religion for granted. He was just like another teenager too, he was in the band and played Pink Floyd to Metalicca. And then he came to United States. At first he said that he was pretty shy with his identity and rather not to show people about it, since he was worried that he will be treated differently. But then he decided that he wanted to learn about Islam from the very basis, and so he did, and he found that Islam is a very beautiful religion and now he dedicated himslef to be faithful. One of the very interesting parts that he mentioned was about the gender equality in Islam. What he emphasized was basically fact that men and women are created differently. Man is physically stronger, while woman is weaker and more sensitive. But it doesnt mean that they are not equal. Each have different roles, different responsibilities and different previllages. In the Qur’an, man is responsible as the provider of the household. They have to provide foods, money, clothings and so on to her wife, her children, or even her other family members. It doesnt mean that women cant work. They can. In fact, if the women works and gets paycheck, the money is her absolute right and she doesnt need to share with anyone else including her husband. Meanwhile in husband’s money, there are included the wife’s right. This is one of the previlege that is own by women, and that to some extent, man has more responsibility. Islam does not put women as second class citizens.

So why is that we found many violations toward womens rights in Islamic country, using religious teaching as a shield? All I know is this is a major degradation in Moslem’s life. In the life of Prophet Mohammad, even in the era of 4 khalifah after he passed away, women enjoyed the chance to do what men did. They were actively involved in public. Siti Khadijah, Prophet’s wife, was a very succesful and rich merchant. In the leadership of Umar bin Khatab, a government officer who was responsible for the market conditioning also led by a women. But after the Khalifah of Ali bin Abi Thalib, women started to be kept in the house. Some said that at the time, it was a sign of social prestige. The less likely your women to be seen in public, the more prestigious you are. Besides this odd cultural shifting, I also see that the discrimination toward women also happen because of the misconception about responsibility. Men do have a big responsibilty to his wife and his family, it means that he needs to protect her and them and make sure that they are happy. This responsibility has absolutely different meaning with overpowering. Most people, not neccesary men, identify responsibility with previlages. Take our parliament member, for example, they feel the great importance of their role toward Indonesian society, that they used it as a vehicle to overpnd to take advantage. Greater responsibility does not justify you for being mean to people that you are responsible for. Responsibility means commitment.  

Our discussion with Rizwan had to stop because we heard the adzan started to call people for prayer. I felt very touched. I went to pray. Cindhi was very happy and she hoped that I can continue to commit.   

Bethlehem

Civil war, displacement from Israeli settlement, oppressive regimes, better economic chance. These were some of the factors that made Arabs move to the United States, to the land of the free. The largest Arab-American population is in California, but they do have quite significant number in Dearborn, Michigan. Most of the Arabs who live there came from the Southern Lebanon, who mostly moved because of the civil war. Southern Lebanon is the place where Hezbollah emerged, as a response toward Shabra and Shatilla massacre, as well as to represent the interest of Syiah community. Thus, according to Pak Dawud Walid from the Council of Islamic Relations, this community has a strong sympathy toward Hezbollah. As consequences, Arabs community in Dearborn has been under the FBI surveillance for years, and its name was also mentioned by right wing politicians to identify a threat toward American community. For example, as Pak Dawud mentioned, a senator from this state (sorry I just couldn’t remember her name or her state) said something like, “We don’t want to make America turns into Dearborn with its syariah law,” which is very provocative and untrue, since the Arab Moslems community never asked for the appliance of syariah law. The community might be attached with Hezbollah and Middle East ummah, but they also have the attachment toward America. I think we have to consider their purpose of moving to United States at the first place, they want a better living, which is basically given by America (regardless of some unpleasant treatments due to prejudices and all). So, they aren’t only ‘owe’ Hezbollah for defending them against Israeli and Lebanon government discrimination, but they also ‘owe’ United States for giving them the safe haven. Interestingly, different from what we found in the perspective of Moslem Student Association, I see that the issue of divided loyalty is more likely to be found within Arab American community.

When we went to the Arab-American museum, we found interesting stories, about Arab-American who served as an army. One of them was Rajai Hakki. He was a student when September eleven happened. He witnessed the raise of islamophobia since then. So he decided to drop out of college, and joined the army. His main motivation was to prove that as an arab moslem he didn’t have anything to do with 9/11, and that he also had love toward the country. So he went to Afghanistan, he was put at the front line since he looked Arabic and able to speak Arabic. He could knock the door of the suspect and asked them to get out. The Afghan saw him as a betrayer, as an Arab who fought his kind. And he felt that way too, he felt guilty. After he finished his service, he went back to his country in the Middle East, tried to make connection to his ascendant, and lives among them. There are of course many others who died in the middle of the war.

Bethlehem

We flew to Allentown, Pennsylvania in Friday. The area is relatively different with Michigan. It is hilly, compare to the flat Michigan. It is less diverse, although they have a quite large number of Hispanic there. We were welcomed energetically by Lehigh staffs- Jen, Stacy and Debra. Lehigh University is located in Bethlehem. The city was built by a group Moravians, which is sort of a Christian sect came from Europe. They said that If we had the chance to go around the town later on, we’ll find that many of the streets name are taken from the Bible too. We had orientation, and Debra did it very well. She told us her last years experience with the participants and how it influenced her a lot. She witnessed the participants met as strangers, then got to know each other, and finally learned from each other. She told us that we are part of something bigger than we thought we were. I believed her. And that just made me a lot more excited for Pennsylvania, New York, and DC.

And I hope you remember Richardsons family, I wrote about them here on blog. I met them this evening. I still couldn’t believe it. When I saw them on driveway, I still couldn’t believe it. All of them came to visit me- Mom, Dad, Amanda, Katie, Mary and Danny. We spent around 4 hours together. Catch up stories, took tons of pictures, and my siblings made fun of me just as usual. Manda works as a counselor for sexual abuse victims, Katie works at Macy’s and she plans to go to school, Mary just graduated from high school and she’ll go to college up near Burlington this year, and Danny grew up so tall and gorgeous and he is doing so well in school. There were a lot of tears, both happiness and I guess sadness when they had to leave. Even Katie cried, she always became the tough one. It was the most beautiful evening. I’m still really sad that I couldn’t go home in Vermont to see everyone else, but I guess I received my visa for 5 years. So I make myself not to worry about it because I’ll be home next year Insya Allah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll write more stories. Cheers!

Ps: And I need to extend my gratitude toward University of Michigan, especially for Kate and Kharis who took us everywhere, feed us well and became nice discussion partners as well. Thank you so much!

First Walk in Michigan: Meet Religious Students and the Fairies!

The state of Michigan has a pretty diverse community. You can tell from the first time you went out of the airport, you could see Caucasians, African-Americans, and even women with their hijab. This diversity is what makes people receive a lot more exposures toward other ethnicities, races and religions, and as a consequence they are also more tolerance. That is why, the group of Moslem Students Association’s (MSA) members that we met today, at the university library, claimed that they didn’t experience any unpleasant treatment after 9/11 in Michigan. But Obada, one of the Moslem students, lived in West Virginia when the tragedy was happening. He said that his house and some other Moslem’s were vandalized. We couldn’t tell how wide is this action happening in America statistically. But generally, the Moslem students agreed that United States is a safe haven for them as Islam believers. Some of them compare that with the condition in the Middle East, where conflicts happen a lot, and as Moslems they can receive many restrictions- don’t do this, don’t do that.  Of course most of the female members in MSA do not like conservative Moslems. I mean, most of them are Middle East descendants, but most of them (at least some members of the group that I met yesterday) are not wearing hijab. They wear dress-not necessary the long one and their nails are painted. I guess unless you are in Turkey, Indonesia, or countries like Egypt, you will not find Moslem women dress up like this. Some others though, are still wearing hijab. Regardless of the appearance, coming to America does not change the faith of the Moslem students. Even, they believe that becoming the minority has strengthen their faith. As Aisha, an international student from Pakistan explained, she felt like she took her believe for granted back in Pakistan. Being a Moslem is just what others are, and practicing the daily prayers are just what others do too. But in America, she will not hear adzan. She has to be more responsible with her obligations as Moslem. and be more aware with her identity.

Through our meeting today, I can see that Islam and America can become one part. Unlike what happening out there, where these two are always seem like in opposite side, fighting each other. I guess we all agree that these wars are politicized. But still, war in the Middle East happen. And as Moslems and American citizens at the same time, the students still feel the attachment with the Moslem world. Iya was from Iraq, and she really condemns American foreign policy toward her hometown. She said, “How do you expect people to be your friends or follow you (in democracy) if you keep beating and kicking them?” Sarah, who came from the same country like Iya, also said that they still have this solidarity toward Palestine, and they did demonstrations too asking the government to end the conflict, or its sided support.

After meeting MSA, we headed to an apartment, apparently to one room in a basement. Coming into this dark room, we were greeted by group of girls! They are a group of Christian students. Most of them are Asians, they said it because the priest in the church they get involved in is an Asian, so it probably attract more Asians. But they are also some members who are African Americans. And they know some other groups who consist of Caucasian too. I am so glad that in this evening session, we can join the group doing their usual activity. They sing a song titled Second Chance. The lyric was beautiful (it is about how God gives second chance to everyone, and I see that, although the concepts of sins, punishments and hell are exist, but all religions still share this common perspective about God which is loving and forgiving), one girl-Maggie played the guitar, and everyone sing with feeling, they close their eyes, meditate the words. After singing the song, they invited us to join the next activity which is to recite the bible and discuss the story in it. We read Samuel 2, chapter 11 and 12. It was about King David who made a mistake, he slept with Bethsheba, Uriah’s wife. Bethseba finally pregnant and King David tried to manipulate the situation so he can marry Bethsheba and made the child like a legitimate child. H sent Uriah to war, ordered the troops to leave him in the middle of the battle ground so Uriah dead. King David tried to cover his mistake, until Nathan the prophet confronted him and asked him to repent. According to the rules in the bible, people who commit adultery should die. But because David repented, God forgave his sin.

This second meeting is also enlightening to me. During our previous 2 weeks activity, Lehigh students gave me this impression that all American youth are not religious at all, and even, the fact that religions still play a big role in daily life seems strange for them. But these Christian girls showed me that, although I can generalize, there are still many American youth who take religions seriously. And I guess, there will always be. I remember this one student that I met in Mualimat, I asked her why she chose to go to boarding school. Her answer was beyond my expectation, she said, “This world is getting more challenging. And I need religions to hang on.” Probably it is also one of the reasons for the Christian girls, and the MSA members, to stick with their religions values.

Basically today was a very fun day. In the morning we had a campus tour with Kate. University of Michigan is huge and beautiful. Then we went to the downtown of Ann Arbor and had a scavenger hunt, Shannon was my partner. Ann Arbor has this urban of fairy. In many stores and even people’s house, they put a tiny door either on the wall or in front of their buildings for fairy to get in. Very cute!

pictures: (1) Ann Arbor’s attachment to fairies: fairy slippers! (2) one of the fairy door in the Himalayan store (3) University of Michigan’s library.

 

Ann Arbor, June 20 2012

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