Saturday, May 28, 2011

Identifying an Indonesian ‘Osama’

Identifying an Indonesian ‘Osama’

Al Makin, Yogyakarta | Fri, 05/27/2011 8:00 AM, op ed column, The Jakarta Post
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Although Osama bin Laden was killed, radicalism on behalf of Islam – as some of the groomed “heirs” to the throne of al-Qaeda have vowed to avenge the blood of the mastermind and many pundits have prophesized in various media – looks to live on. With or without Osama, extremism, which has given birth to various atrocities, bombs and suicide attacks, goes on.

A bomb exploded in Pakistan a week after Osama’s death. In Surakarta, hundreds of men masked their faces as they took an oath on the street rallying to retaliate. A few days later, the anti-terror squad arrested and shot dead more suspected “terrorists” in neighboring Sukoharjo.

With or without Osama, the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) holds its radical faith firmly. This group publicly mourned the death of Osama, whom they regarded as a martyr, and condemned US President Barack Obama, whose figure embodied the super power.

Grief, however, does not weaken the FPI’s spirit. Nor does it stop them from thinking of a new agenda. This group showed their teeth and fangs in attempting to halt Hanung Bramantyo’s pluralism-themed film in Bandung.

It appears that the pundits’ prophecies and the radicals’ vengeances were fulfilled. But be prepared to see more.

For two decades, Osama’s simple rhetoric filled the air we breathed. His curse of the superpower‘s hegemony remains enshrined and is repeated in the Internet, Facebook, blogs and Twitter. Due to its simplicity, people easily understand the logic. But with this reasoning, radicals have failed to cope with the reality. They can never comprehend this world’s complexity. Nor can they accept their own defeat.

In whose figure in Indonesia can Osama’s be compared?

According to Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, a firebrand radical preacher from Ngruki, Sukoharjo whose excessive media coverage has sparked envy from rival jihadist preachers, he is the one whose reputation in terms of jihad is comparable to that of Osama’s. It is unclear whether Ba’asyir is proud or unhappy when surrounded by the tight security forces in the court. What is obvious is that he imagines himself as Osama, whose death and life has become a subject of a never-ending debate.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Increased radicalism: The failure of moderate Islam

Increased radicalism: The failure of moderate Islam

Al Makin, Yogyakarta | Mon, 05/16/2011 9:33 AM | Opinion, The Jakarta Post
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There is moderate Islam like there is moderate Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism or even Marxism. However, lately we have been confronted mostly with “radical Islam” or worse “terrorism” in the name of Islam.

Islam, an ancient religion born in the Arabian Peninsula during late antiquity and related to an older Semitic religious tradition to which Judaism and Christianity also belong, has recently become a brand name for various bomb and suicide attacks.

Minority radical Muslims have hijacked Islam to justify their new radical faith. According to those radicals, the current world has deviated from the truth of Islam. Democracy embraced by most nations in the world, including Muslim nations, is seen as incompatible with Islamic dogma.

Moderate Islam, practiced by moderate Muslims around the world for 1,500 centuries, seems to have become extinct. Islam, like any other religion in the world that teaches spirituality and life after death, appears to challenge the current order of the world and to replace it with that of an “imagined” ancient religious dogmatic society.

Islamic radicalism has become a safe haven for those who are dissatisfied with the fast progress of the current world and those who feel marginalized within harsh global competition. This world is then blamed for its disagreement with old concepts of religious norms. In this regard, radical Muslims always pursue a dream to transform current society to the society in the Medina of the seventh century.

Radicals imagine that society in Medina then was the most ideal society in human history and guided by prophetic revelation. This can be achieved with all necessary cost and means. As in communism with a Machiavellian touch, violence is often used as a means to achieve a goal. Whereas Islam is old, radical Islam is a new school of thought emerging in a modern global context.

Islam came to Indonesia in the 13th century, and has become a political power since the 16th century. Indonesian Muslims have practiced Islam for five centuries.

But, they retained their local identity, tradition and culture. Indonesian Muslim women did not wear veils but traditional clothes that varied from one province to another. Indonesian Muslim men wore songkok (a traditional hat) and sarong, not the long gamis and turbans worn by their Middle Eastern counterparts.

Indonesians rarely grew beards, which have now become a sign of piety in certain Islamic circles. Unlike the pants worn by members of the Taliban, their pants are long, reaching their ankles. They eat rice, not khubz (Arab bread). They like sambal, not hummus.

In the current development, Islam in Indonesia has been used to assault people of other faiths, or other Muslims from different schools of thought. The peaceful Islam in Indonesia seems like an old story. This and the next generation will only listen to the story that Muslims used to be neighbors to Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and other people embracing other faiths. Those who still hold the idea of old inter-religious harmony are strangers in their own community.

In the current blatant process of “Talibanization” and “Pakistanization”, Indonesian Islam has turned out to be a new radical religion. Religious attributes, clothes, the increase in the number of mosques, religious expressions in the public domain and various attempts to sell religious sentiments in politics are nothing but indications of the resurgence of Islamic radicalism. There is little room, if any, left for moderation in practicing Islam in this country.