Monday, August 15, 2011

Indonesian patriotism: Recalling the middle path

Indonesian patriotism: Recalling the middle path

Al Makin, Yogyakarta | Mon, 08/15/2011 8:00 AM, Opinion, The Jakarta Post
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From the heyday of the nationalist movement in the early 20th century to the reformation era, Indonesian patriotism has been built on the spirit of compromise by seeking the middle way among various stances. Our leaders were adept at keeping the balances between differences.

These leaders gave priority to wisdom and sound judgment. In many debates among them, nobody absolutely won. Nor was anybody totally defeated.

This is Indonesia, belonging to no particular group or person. All parties have contributed to building this nation.

All citizens have the same right to live and to believe. All people can freely choose parties or leaders as they like. So can they be chosen. This is a free country. Hard work, however, is needed to establish this principle.

The unclear relationship between state and religion in Indonesia often causes confusion. Many wonder whether Indonesia is a secular or religious state. On many occasions, intellectuals and pundits have rejected both categories.

Whereas Sukarno and M. Natsir still differentiated the secular and religious state, later thinkers sought a compromise between the two terms.

The attempts can be seen in the works of Driyarkara, a prominent Indonesian philosopher, who underlines that Indonesia is neither a secular state (in which state and religious affairs are completely separated) nor a religious state (in which a certain religion dominates the law of the state).

Driyarkara explains that some ethics and norms in the Indonesian society are based on religious values. Religion is a vital element in Indonesian life. Religion cannot thus be simply discarded. Indonesian society and religion cannot be divorced. The relationship between state and religion, however, yields a different formula.

There are, of course, some ambiguities in the aspects where religion should play a role in the state and in what aspects religion should be kept away.


Monday, August 08, 2011

The ruling party now at the crossroad

The ruling party now at the crossroad

Al Makin, Yogyakarta | Sun, 07/24/2011 8:00 AM, opinion, The Jakarta Post
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The Democratic Party, under the shadow of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s charisma, which has charmed Indonesians for two terms, is now at a crossroads.

The current scandal with its former treasurer Muhammad Nazaruddin acting as a whistle-blower seems to have determined not only which direction the party will go, but also on which characters the party will be built.

Now that the party executives are regrouping in Sentul, West Java, we will soon know whether the party has done its homework — such as cleaning dirty dishes, washing muddy clothes, repairing the leaking roof, repainting the walls and throwing out the garbage — or if it has left these jobs undone to be forgotten about by the people and the media.

For the party’s leaders, there are many options available. It is absolutely up to them whether they are decent politicians or mere opportunists.

Not only are good politicians committed to the image of the party, they also have shown responsibility to control the damage caused by the mayhem.

On the other hand, there are those who want to just wash their hands and find loopholes to escape. When the party is on the rise they were happy to join.

The party’s declining image did not bother them. In fact, it is common for politicians to jump from one political party to another.

Read more....

Preachers and conservatism in RI

Preachers and conservatism in RI

Al Makin, Yogyakarta | Fri, 07/15/2011 10:36 PM, Opinion, The Jakarta Post
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The career of the late Zainuddin MZ, known as a preacher to a million followers, tells us about another side of Indonesian Muslims’ religiosity.

Indonesians are fond of religious preachers. Religion, and religious piety, has dominated the public for a long time. Religion is a vital element to control Indonesian politics.

From the 1970s to the 1990s, Indonesia witnessed several religious preachers who came and went. Good fortune sided with those who entertained the public with religious jargon and terms. These preachers mixed the ingredients of religious advice and humor, which were easily understood by Indonesians.

From the 1980s to the early 1990s, Zainuddin was a rising star. His speeches were broadcast on radio and TV, and were recorded in cassettes and CDs, which are still widely sold. Nobody could mistake Zainuddin’s voice — the ways in which he greeted the audience, told funny jokes, and closed speeches.

Additionally, some preachers were often critical of the New Order regime. I still remember that when I was in senior high school, a mosque in my village had difficulty getting permission from the local authority to invite a preacher, who had a reputation for his harsh criticism of the New Order regime’s policies on Islam.

Indeed, Soeharto was careful about “political Islam” and any seeds of radicalism, which might endanger the government. Police often monitored religious ceremonies. Religious preachers were often accused of inciting hatred against the government. Any use of religion in public was deemed dangerous.

On the other hand, religious speeches were indeed essential elements in various Islamic ceremonies, such as the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad (Maulid), memorizing the day the Koran was sent down to earth (Nuzul al-Qur’an), and the evening journey of the Prophet to Jerusalem and the heavens (Isra Mi’raj).

As far as the public is concerned, Syukran Makmun came prior to Zainuddin’s fame. But Makmun’s hoarse voice is often monotonous. His jokes are not always funny. By contrast, Zainuddin successfully managed his tone. He created many amusing anecdotes.