Friday, January 21, 2011

Good and bad religious leaders

Good and bad religious leaders

Al Makin, Yogyakarta | Fri, 01/21/2011 10:44 AM | Opinion, The Jakarta Post
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We Indonesians regard religion as vital in our life. It is difficult to imagine life without religion here. If you are frustrated when faced with harsh reality (judicial mafia, corrupt bureaucrats and irresponsible dishonest politicians), where do you go to cry out for hope?

Most Indonesians have a subtle answer — praying rooms, be they mosques, churches, viharas, temples, or any other places where you can convey all of your discontent. Unsurprisingly, musallas (prayer rooms) are mushrooming in shopping malls, offices, stations and other public places.

Perhaps building many musallas is aimed at anticipating whenever, and wherever, reality does not side with people, they will easily come to the places and pray.

As religion still plays a crucial role in Indonesian society, so do religious leaders. Indonesians still listen to their religious advice not only in ceremonies and rites but also in the media. Preachers appear regularly on TV, radio, and news portals. Their speeches are recorded on CDs, flash disks and even YouTube.

Religious leaders — ulema, priests, bikhu or any other preachers — occupy a special place in Indonesian society. Politicians are aware of this. Regent, governor, or presidential candidates want to appear in the media, accompanied by religious leaders. If not, they should look pious, wearing traditional black caps (kopiah) and collarless white shirts (baju koko). To show piety is a gambit that politicians must comply with, if they want to win the people’s sympathy.

As for religious leaders in this country, there are many kinds. It depends on how you categorize them and it is based on what criteria the categorization is.

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Monday, January 03, 2011

Between ideas and acts: Anticipating radicalism in 2011

Between ideas and acts: Anticipating radicalism in 2011

Al Makin, Yogyakarta | Mon, 12/20/2010 3:05 PM | Review & Outlook, The Jakarta Post
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In 2010, Indonesia witnessed the police’s triumph, and in particular that of the special antiterrorist squad Densus 88, over terrorists.

The successful year was preceded by a long effort that peaked with the killing of top terrorist suspect Noordin M. Top in 2009.

However, terrorism is not a consequence of cause, but of result. Terrorism is an act triggered by ideas. The acts of terrorists do not stand alone. Ideology, plans, strategy and network precede these acts. Thus, if the police chase after these terrorists and eventually catch, or even shoot them, that would not mean an end to the story.

Ideas cannot be eradicated by the deaths of those who promoted them. People may die, but their ideas live on. In fact, the network runs well. Its gears of recruitment are still active. The cell system has operated confidentiality and the continuation of the movement can be guaranteed. When a group is annihilated, another group, with its robust branches, grows.

The cell system is in fact not new in Indonesian history. Communist movements — prior and after Indonesia declared independence — employed this tactic, with loyalty of and a mode of expansion that was impressive. With regard to this method of developing an organization, nowadays terrorism, particularly in Southeast Asia, and communism a long ago are deemed comparable.

Thus, we should not put the task of annihilating terrorism on the police alone, who will never be able to eradicate all aspects of terrorism. By the same token, do not persecute too many people, simply because they are suspected of having connections with certain radical groups.

Indonesians should learn more lessons from the way in which the communist movement was extinguished in 1965 under the banner of Soeharto’s New Order. The regime imposed strict rule upon its own citizens by screening for signs of communism.