Additional Material
for Key Chapters

Chapter 19 Indonesia: Islamic Society or Islamic State?

Population of Indonesia

1898    35,000,000
1960     93,996,000
1980    148,303,000
1990    178,232,000
2000    206,265,000
2008    228,248,538

1960-2008 Figures from World Bank
1898 figure from Wikopedia


Ad p. 258 For a recent discussion of the slametan with emphasis on female activities, see “Kejawen Islam as gendered praxis in Javanese village religiosity”, Ch. 4 in Bianca J. Smith, in Indonesian Islam in a new era: how women negotiate their Muslim identities, ed. Susan Blackburn, Bianca J Smith & Siti Syamsiyatun. Clayton: Monash University Press, 2008.


(lit.: place for santris) or Pondok Pesantren (see p, 119 in Introducing Islam)

• Usually founded by a kiai
• Kiai is teacher and spiritual guide
• Students (santris) board (Pondok = hostel)
• Studies include Qur’an, Hadith, fiqh, spiritual and moral training; now also government school curriculum.
• Close relation between kiai and santris
• Financially supported by students and local community
• Usually cheaper than other schools
• Santris may work for pesantren
• Usually in rural areas
• Continuation of pre-Islamic tradition of schools (ashrams?)

Ad p. 258 etc. For a discussion of women in 20th century pesantrens see “Negotiating Public space: three nyai generations in a Jombang pesantren”, by Eka Srimulyi. Ch. 5 in Bianca J. Smith, in Indonesian Islam in a new era: how women negotiate their Muslim identities, ed. Susan Blackburn, Bianca J Smith & Siti Syamsiyatun. Clayton: Monash University Press, 2008.

Pancasila (The Five Principles)

(See p. 262 in Introducing Islam)
• Belief in the one and only Divinity. (Ketuhanan Yang Maha Esa)
• Just and civilized humanity, (Kemanusiaan Yang Adil dan Beradab).
• The unity of Indonesia (Persatuan Indonesia).
• Democracy guided by consensus arising out of deliberations amongst representatives (Kerakyatan Yang Dipimpin oleh Hikmat Kebijaksanaan, Dalam Permusyawaratan Perwakilan)
• Social justice for the whole of the people of Indonesia (Keadilan Sosial bagi seluruh Rakyat Indonesia)
The “seven words” of the Jakarta Charter (1945)
“with the obligation for the adherents of Islam to practice the Shari‘a”

Sukarno on his religious beliefs

(see Introducing Islam, p. 262)
Not back to the early glory of Islam, not back to the time of the caliphs, but run forward, catching up with time (chasing time). . . . .
If you ask whether Bung Karno believes in God, then I will answer: Yes, I believe in God . . . . I used to hear from my father . . . : The One who made you was God! Even though my father was only half -and-half Muslim. . . . his religion was Islam, but mixed with much Javanese religion. And my mother, her religion was Hinduism mixed with a lot of Buddhism. . . . .
Islam seems to have had an ebb and a flow. . . . Before, there was a rising tide; Islam was like a lighthouse; everybody looked at it, impressed, with pride, with admiration! Later, there came an ebb tide for the Muslim community . . . when other peoples considered Muslims as a group of no importance, as ‘inferior’. How did this happen? . . . .
If you really want to understand the truth of Islam, . . . . free your own mind from the sphere of thinking of the pesantren. . . . and look outwards! And don’t only look to Saudi Arabia, to Mecca and Medina, but look to Cairo, Spain, look around the whole world; look at history, at the past, the past history of the peoples of the world . . . !
So is God a being on a throne up there? A Being in space, what people call ‘a personal God’? If He lives only up there, God is limited. Isn’t that so? . . . . The Bhagavad-Gita says — I’m not concerned with whether that song is true or not — the Bhagavad-Gita says, ‘I am in the first, I am in the heat of the fire; I am in the moon, I am in the rays of the moon . . . I am in the darkness. I am in the light. I am without beginning and without end. This agrees with my opinion . . . . I am a monotheist. But I am a pantheistic monotheist. Pantheism means: I feel — feel! — this God everywhere. . . . but He’s One, One. Like, in a rough example, like ether. Penetrating everything.

Neo Modernists: Nurcholish Madjid

(see Introducing Islam, p. 264-5)

“Except for the fundamental value of taqwa [fear of God] which grows out of faith in God and worship of Him, there are no fixed values. [Most] values are cultural values which have, of necessity, to develop continuously in accordance with the laws of change and development. Therefore the values of Islam are those which conform to humanity’s true nature or to universal truth and are supported by taqwa toward God. Those values are Islamic if they do not contradict iman [faith] or taqwa, are good according to humanity and its development.” (quoted in Defenders of Reason in Islam, ed. Richard C. Martin, Mark R. Woodward and Dwi S. Atmaja. One World Publications, 1997, p. 150)

From the “Mission Statement” of the Paramadina Foundation.

Paramadina Foundation is a religious institution which is wholly convinced that as the universal values of Islam are made concrete in the context of Indonesia’s local traditions, Islamness and Indonesianness are profoundly integrated. Paramadina Foundation is designed to be a centre for Islamic religiosity which is creative, constructive and positive, for the purpose of the advancement of society, without being defensive or reactionary in attitude. For this reason its core activities are directed towards the building up of society’s capacity to answer the challenges of this age and to contribute towards its growing tradition. This means investing considerable resources in developing the quality and authority of scholarship. As a consequence, the core programme of activities revolves around initiatives to raise up and disseminate an understanding of Islam which is broad in scope, profound, and imbued with a spirit of openness, together with disseminating ideas which support justice, openness and democracy. (Greg Barton, “Indonesia’s Nurcholish Madjid and Abdurrahman Wahid as Intellectual ulema” in Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, 8/3 (Oct 1997): 334)

Abdurrahman Wahid on “Fundamentalism”

Traditionally, Indonesian Muslims had shown the ability to develop as well as implement “Islamic teachings” in the most detailed forms in their daily lives. . . . . Local customs and social frameworks were absorbed and integrated into the religious life of the Muslim in imaginative ways doing justice to the rich heritage of the nation’s past as well as to the virtues of Islam as a universal religion. The result was, and in most cases is, the emergence of a unique way of “Islamic” life, quite distinctive in many respects from its counterparts in other regions of the world.
But in recent times modernity, the present one with its bankrupt imperatives such as the escalation of nuclear arms race and unchecked disparity between the haves and the have nots, brings out a new type of response from an increasingly (although still small in numbers) militant group, mostly from university campuses, demanding a literal adherence to the “true words of God” expressed directly in the Holy Qur’an and the Prophetic traditions. This kind of ‘Scripturalism’, admittedly not a just word to use here, denotes a rejection of the past adaptive ways of Islam as a religion ‘living’ in a concrete local tradition, replete with nuances enabling it to peacefully accept religious, ethnical and cultural (even political) plurality as the single most important principle regulating the life of the nation in the past. Tolerance is the catchword, now challenged by an increasingly strict and one-sided adherence to universal dictums not yet adapted to local needs. Is the new development within the Islamic polity” apt to be named “Islamic fundamentalism”? As stated before, there is no easy answer to this question. (Typescript from author, c 1984)
Note: Abdurrahman Wahid died on December 30, 2009.

A Radical Islamist View of Democracy and Women

The following is based largely on interviews with Ustad Ja'far Umar Thalib, the commander of Laskar Jihad, in 2000. Note that the phrase ahlus sunnah wal jamaah (Indonesia spelling of the Arabic ahl al-sunna wa-l-jamā‘a) is the usual label Sunni Muslims use for themselves.
Laskar Jihad is the paramilitary division of the Forum Komunikasi Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama'ah (most simply translated as the Sunni Communication Forum) or FKAWJ, an organisation formed by a group of hardline Muslim leaders in early 1998 to promote 'true Islamic values'. FKAWJ is controlled by a 60-member board of patrons (dewan pembina), of which Ja'far is chairman. Most board members are leaders of pesantren or prominent preachers and it is their followers who form the core of the Laskar Jihad.
FKAWJ doctrine is notable for its narrow Islamism and exclusivism. Although most of Indonesia's main Islamic organisations regard themselves as ahlus sunnah wal jamaah, FKAWJ believe that only they can rightly use this ascription. For example, Ja'far states that neither Nahdlatul Ulama nor Muhammadiyah can claim to be genuinely ahlus sunnah wal jamaah because they have deviated from the Qur'an and example of the Prophet Muhammad and have doctrines which are corrupted by non-Islamic sources
FKAWJ also rejects democracy as 'incompatible with Islam' and refuses to support any political party, including the more Islamist parties. According to Ja'far, 'in democracy, people who don't understand anything, and they are the majority, elect their leaders without any educated considerations at all. They only elect those that give them money or say what they want to hear.' By these means, religious minorities and nominal Muslims have been able to 'thwart the application of Islamic law' in Indonesia. In a genuine Islamic society, it is God's law rather than the will of the people that is supreme. FKAWJ calls for democracy to be replaced by a council of experts ([lit: people of loosing and binding]) dominated by Islamic scholars who are learned in Islamic law. The council would have the power to appoint the head of state and control government policy.”
Its attitudes to women also place it outside the mainstream. Women are not permitted to hold leadership positions in FKAWJ and cannot join Laskar Jihad. For Ja'far, FKAWJ's main responsibility to women is 'to educate them and then marry them to pious men who are capable of preventing them from falling into sin. Men's role is to supervise women and ensure that their behaviour is properly Islamic.' Ja'far has three wives, each of whom wears Middle Eastern-style black gowns and headdresses which cover their faces. 
 (Fealy, “Inside the Laskar Jihad” in Inside Indonesia, )

© William Shepard

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