Monday, August 08, 2011

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.



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