A reliable primary source on Islam in Indonesia

Mona Abaza*

Darul Aqsha, Dick van der Meij, Johan Hendrik Meuleman, Islam in Indonesia: A Survey of Events and Developments from 1988 to 1993. Jakarta, 1995 (Inis Materials 26)

Darul Aqsha, Dick van der Meij and Johan Hendrik Meuleman provide a rich and well documented comphehensive survey about the events related to Islam, politics, education, social and economic life from 1988 to 1993.

Islam in Indonesia is publication by INIS, the Indonesian-Netherlands Cooperation in Islamic Studies, which aims at encouraging the study of Islam in Indonesia.

The merit of such a study is that it has no pretension of presenting any in depth analysis. Instead, it provides detailed information and listing of events that could be used as a reliable primary source.

The content is divided into the following: political aspirations and initiative of the Muslim community, conflicts and protest, government decisions and activities, hajj and umrah, miscellaneous political and social issues, international relations, trials and judicial decisions, economic life. Detailed information about the Majelis Ulama Indonesia, the Muhammadiyah, the Nahdlatul Ulama, the Ikatan Cendekiawan Muslim se-Indonesia, various Muslim organizations, seminars, conferences and scholarly discussions, Islamic education, religious sects, interreligious relations, and obituaries is also provided.

The value of this thick volume of 535 pages is that it supplies sensitive political information about first, Islam and politics in Indonesia as well as the recent events concerning the complex relationship between the Islam of the centre (the Middle East) and the so called peripheries.

For example, the volume provides stimulating details about female Indonesian labour in Saudi Arabia statiung that there are around 250,000 Indonesian women working as household servants and that they are mistreated by their Arab employers (p. 140).

As concerning pilgrimage it states that there is a 40% increase on the preceding year (1990) of pilgrims and that H. Munawir Sjadzali, the Minister of Religious Affairs was nominated as this year’s Amir al-hajj (leader of the Indonesian contingent) (p. 116). Transportation problems are mentioned (p. 119).

ut more important is the event of the second of July, of 1990 when “hundreds of pilgrims were trampled under foot in a tunnel linking the Turkish and Southeast Asian encampments in Mina with jamrah (place of the stone-throwing ritual) at Mina. The overhelming number of people streaming together from either end in this tunnel combined with panic which broke out after the lighting and air-conditiong system broke down were blamed for the accident.

The country most affected was Indonesia: “according ro a report of the Ministry of Religious Affairs of 24 July, 649 Indonesians died in the accident and 11 Indonesian were still missing”. (p. 116). The mismanagement led to the worseninh of the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, in particular after that the victims were buried at four different places without any signs og identification. (p. 116)

Furthermore, this volume gives vivid examples of the reality in everyday life. The incidents related to the jilbab (female Islamic attire), instigated the Indonesian government to issue a decree on school uniforms in order toallow female students at public junior and senior high school to wear “special uniforms” the so-called jilbab. (p. 85).

I list a few other events that led to controversies such as the opinion of Muslim organizations and lottery (p. 75), Indonesian television stations criticized for presenting uncensored films and Zionist propaganda. (p. 80)

Ulama’ protest against prostitution; the Sumatra, which involved female senior high school students, have aroused the anger of the provicinal MUI. (in 1991) (p. 74). Muballigh were criticzed for receiving money in “envelopes” after they had delivered lectures. It was considered that this kind of muballigh tended to commercialize religion (p 90). Whether marriage by telephone is legal or not, are all issued mentioned.

For anyone studying Islamic education, or interested in the impact of Arabic language and the programme on Indonesian television (1990) (p. 98), on the promotion of religious awareness in the army (p. 99), on the Shi’a/Sunni controversy, on Islamic banking and debates on Islamic architecture, certainly this book provides reliable material.

The activities of Abdurrahman Wahid, the leader of the Nahdlatul Ulama and the various other political parties are very well covered.

The recent events which occurred at the IAIN Institut Agama Islam Negeri (IAIN, State Institute for Islamic Studies), activities and pesantrens are also comphrehensively covered. For instance, there were 43 Malaysian students at Sumatran IAIN’s (p. 394). Information on the development of religious education on grants, courses, teachers training. Finally, most important are the obituaries, that entail crucial information, biographies of religious and political public figures.

This volume is indeed central for anyone working on contemporary Islam in Indonesia.

*Professor of Sociology, American University in Cairo, Egypt

Welt des Islam, Germany


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