Tag Archives: Indonesia

Islamists Lose In Kuwait!

Fear of Islam and terrorists has been a staple of the right wing American media since 9/11 and the attempt to portray those of Muslim faith as synonymous with violence has become part of thinking in too many places in the world. The reality of Islam is far from the portrait painted by Fox News and people like Rush Limbaugh. The recent elections in Kuwait revealed a dramatic drop in power for Islamists in Parliament while women won four seats for the first time in history. This election comes a month after Indonesian voters witnessed a drop in votes for fundamentalists of over 10 percentage points.

It would be surprising if American conservatives ever told the truth about the vast majority of Muslims who oppose violence and hatred. The next step in moving away from hysteria is for Israel to reach out to moderate Muslims and agree to an independent Palestinian state. This will set the course of history moving in new directions within the Middle East.

Pornography Law In Indonesia Debated

The recent passage of a new law dealing with pornographic material continues to raise serious issues of free speech in Indonesia. Six experts representing various sectors of Indonesian society presented their views to the Constitutional Court. They argued the law imposed restrictions on some cultures in Indonesia, it made unclear the meaning of morality, and violated freedom of speech. “We all agree pornography has to be eradicated,’ said Professor Sulistyowati but she expressed concerns the law prevented some cultures from engaging in dances or displaying art work they regard as appropriate. If implemented it would be more destructive of cultural practices and do little to address genuine concerns about pornography.

The issue of pornography continually crops up because one person’s view as to what is “immoral” is simply not that of other people. Indonesia has dozens of cultural groups and their dances or art work might offend another group. Obviously, Muslims are more restrictive in what can be publicly displayed of the human body, but other religions and cultures have not such feelings.

Voice For Pluralism In Indonesia

Retired General and presidential hopeful, Prabowo Subianto sent a clear message to the electorate that his election would signal a dramatic change in attitudes toward pluralism. He noted the military followed multicultural practices and pointed out his nation had a long tradition of multiculturalism including having its national anthem composed by a Catholic. The leader of the Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerinda) said Indonesians were all “destined to be brothers and sisters” and that creation of a pluralistic society was his goal for the country. “My mother is a Christian and among my family there are Chinese and Western members.”

General Subianto is a long shot and it is doubtful if he will come close to securing the presidency, but the fact an important leader is advocating an open pluralistic society in which all can practice their religion in peace and security is an important message.

Groups Protest Indonesian Pornography Law

Numerous groups are protesting the new pornography law in Indonesia on grounds it violates freedom of religion as well as prevents cultural groups from enacting traditional activities. The law defines pornography as something related to nudity, but as one plaintiff in the law suit points out, “what about the japongan dance in West Java and women wearing kemben (traditional strapless top) in Central Java and East Java?” There are numerous ways in which one could be charged with supporting pornography under the new law and Christian groups are particularly incensed that the law reflects the ideas of a group of fundamentalist Muslim men who seek to impose their definition of pornography on the diverse population of Indonesia.

Any nation which believes “nudity” is equivalent to “pornography” opens the door to censorship for what might be ordinary cultural activities.

Hillary Clinton Ponders Myanmar Dilemma

The problem of how best to deal with the military thugs who control Myanmar with a iron fist has bedeviled American political leaders for years. The Bush administration tried employing sanctions but there is scant evidence those running Myanmar are worried if their people suffer due to economic constraints. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is going to attempt seeking new ways to connect with the rulers of Burma in order to explore alternatives to the failed policy of sanctions. After meeting with the Foreign Minister of Indonesia, she made clear since they have a better entry into the Burmese leaders the United States would work in close cooperation with Indonesia in finding ways to assist the people of Burma. As she noted, “imposing sanctions has not influenced the junta… reaching out and trying to engate has not influenced them either.”

In reality, there is not much the United States or even Indonesia can do to influence a group of men who inhabit a closed world in which only their concerns are of importance. Most probably, China is a better entry into these people since they have built a lucrative relationship with China in order to develop the rich natural resources of their country.

Indonesia Divorce Rate Up Ten Fold-Why?

The Indonesian Religious Affairs Ministry said the number of divorces per year in their nation has increased ten fold since reform of the laws was introduced in the 1990s. In 1998, there was an average of about 20,000 divorced but last year that figure had increased to 200,000. The general feeling is that women have a greater awareness of their rights and will not put u; with certain behaviors of their husbands such as desiring to take a second wife. About two million marriages are recorded yearly in Indonesia and ten percent of them now end in divorce. There is even evidence of divorce based on differences between men and women over political views.

However, evidence indicates the most significant reason for divorce is due to the husband’s desire for another wife. The modern Indonesian woman will not put up with such a view and would prefer a divorce over living in a polygamous relationship with her husband. There is also some evidence as women go to work they develop a sense of economic independence which allows them to divorce their husband.

Indonesia Muslim Women Reject Polygamy!

The winds of change are sweeping through Indonesia and impacting the way of thinking of many women. An increasing number of Muslim women are choosing to divorce their husband if he decides to engage in a polygamous marriage with another woman. According to the Ministry of Religious Affairs, “there has been a significant increase in divorce because women have been rejecting polygamy in recent years.” Muslim scholar Siti Musadh Mulia, says this may stem from “women are now daring to fight for their rights and reject male domination.” Women may now feel the need to respect the integrity of their feelings and desire a sense of independence rather than believe the man is always right.

Ironically, polygamy is on the rise in Indonesia even as more and more women reject it. The force of media means as women in Indonesia become aware of world wide trends it may impact their own feelings as to their self worth and right to be treated as an independent person.

Do Muslim Radicals Dominate The Religion?

If one surveyed the American media it would appear that most Muslims in the world are radicals who are engaged in some form of jihad and oppose equal rights for women. Few American media reporters have studied about Muslims or the nations in which Muslims constitute a majority of the population. Most probably not only the average American but the average media presentation is one in which al-Qaeda or Hamas or Hezbullah appear. A recent Indonesian study by the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University (UIN) Institute for the Study of Religion and Culture, reveals that a majority of mosque leaders fall under the classification of being moderates. Only 20% in the world’s largest Islamic nation support the idea of formalizing Sharia law. UIN researcher, Ridwan al-Mikassary concluded: “In general most of the mosques in Jakarta are moderate in their perceptions and ideas.” His study showed: 85% agreed women could hold public office although 56.4% were against a female president. Of the respondents, 88% believe Muslims should respect people who have different faiths although 56.4% were against non-Muslims becoming president.

In sharp contrast to what most American media “experts” believe, 83.6% of respondents believe terrorism is against the teachings of Islam and 78.4% support the death penalty for a convicted terrorist. Perhaps, people like Rush Limbaugh and his ignorant colleagues might read what is believed in the largest Muslim nation in the world.

Indonesia Muslim Council Against Smoking And Yoga

I often wonder how religious groups decide what to support and what to oppose. One assumes their decisions to ban something is connected to a religious principle or to something a religious authority years ago declared to be part of the religion. Indonesia’s Ulema Council (MUI) has issued an edict which bans the use of yoga on the part of Muslims and also bans smoking on the part of pregnant women and children. An additional declaration by the group imposes a demand on the part of Muslims to vote in elections, of course, as long as they vote for someone who meets the criteria of “being Muslim, honest, brilliant and ready to fight for the people.” For some reason, the exact meaning of being “for the people” is not spelled out other than making certain no good Muslim is caught engaging in yoga.

Another edict imposed a ban on abortion unless the mother was a rape victim. Isn’t in human nature to resist edicts imposed by government institutions? How about an education campaign to convince people to vote, not to smoke, and to avoid yoga at any cost since it might be damaging to their religious principles. How about an edict against poverty or one in which any form of physical violence is deemed to be against the Muslim religion?

Indonesians Hail Obama, BUT!

President Susilo Yudhoyono hailed Obama’s assumption of power as the dawn of a new era in relations between the United States and his country, and also expressed hope there would be a more objective approach in dealing with problems in the Middle East. “I will work with him and other world leaders in any way we can to promote enduring peace and progress in our time.” However, the speaker of Indonesia’s legislature warned although Obama was better suited to work for Middle East peace it would require shifting from the Bush willingness to turn away from any mistake made by Israeli leaders. Golkar Party leader, Hairiyanto Thohari “it would be a mistake to think it could turn its back on the long history of favoring Israel” and the new president has to break with the past if there is to be peace.

The message is clear from many Muslim nations they seek an American president who is objective and seeks to work for a peace that meets the needs of both Muslims and Israelis.