(P48) Progressive Urban Religion in Southeast Asia: Religious Activists and their Struggles against the Conservative Turn in Metropolitan Areas
Fri 09:00-10:30 K12 | 2.03
- Mark Philip Stadler University of Copenhagen
- Amanda tho Seeth Humboldt-University Berlin
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Humanist Islamic Theology of al Fatah Transvestites Islamic Boarding School (Pesantren Wari
Muhammad Arif UIN Sunan Kalijaga
Robby Habiba Abror
When asked about transvestites (waria), most Muslims will answer that transvestites are sinners who are cursed by Allah (this matter does not imply that people from other religions are more tolerant than Muslims). Based on google search and based on questionnaire that I spread on social media, I found many answers stating that transvestites are against God’s nature and social disease that prohibited by Islam. Even, Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI) has a fatwa about transvestites, namely fatwa number 21, October 11, 1997 that states that transvestites are illegitimate and must repent. Nevertheless, in Yogyakarta Indonesia there is one Pesantren (Islamic boarding school) that is special for transvestites, that is Pesantren Waria al-Fatah. Unlike most Muslims, community Muslims of this Pesantren don’t see transvestites as cursed people. They position waria as normal human beings as usual who have rights to be treated as a human as usual and have rights to be Muslims and to learn Islam. The act of humanizing transvestites of Pesantren Waria al-Fatah is certainly based on Islamic theology. This is definitely interesting to research. There are already quite a lot of studies on the Pesantren Waria al-Fatah, however the focus of his studies on average tends to see this phenomenon as a cultural, psychological, anthropological or sociological phenomenon and pay less attention to the theological dimension. Whereas, in interviews I did with some administrators of Pesantren Waria al-Fatah, Islamic theology is also one of the reasons for the establishment of this pesantren. Hence, this research seeks to systematize the forms of humanization of Islamic theology in Pesantren Waria al-Fatah. Furthermore, this research also analyzes the factors which encourage the humanization of Islamic theology.
Jalin Harmoni: an inter-religious progressive organization in Makassar
Dissa Julia Paputungan Humboldt University
Mutmainna Syam Humboldt University
Indonesia’s “conservative turn” has been characterized by growing intolerance and the influence of religious extremism spreading across the country: especially cities have become the stages of competition and polarization over religious narratives. In this paper, we discuss experiences in Makassar, the largest city in Eastern Indonesia and the country’s fifth-largest urban center. In Makassar, the fragmentation of religious authorities has made the city one of the major Salafi centers and home of the Darul Islam movement that strives for the establishment of Islamic State in Indonesia from 1950 to 1963. The sympathizers of this movement reverberate the ideals of Darul Islam in some of the Islamic boarding schools (pesantren). The rise of conservatism and extremism has resulted in church bombings, the persecution of minority groups, and attempts at local shariah regulations as well as Islamization in the education sector.
Only a small number of progressive civil society initiatives exist in addition to the mainstream Islamic organizations Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah. One of them is Jalin Harmoni, a non-governmental organization comprising of mainly young people and members of religious minorities. The initiative promotes religious freedom, inter-religious tolerance, and minority rights. This paper sketches the activism conducted by Jalin Harmoni as well as the challenges that they encounter. Drawing on interviews with Jalin Harmoni members and participant observation, we examine the formation and development of the organization in the context of its urban setting: In what ways does Jalin Harmoni seek to counter conservatism and extremism? How do they frame their activities? What challenges do they face?
Jalin Harmoni has provided a framework for interreligious tolerance and activism. The organization is not driven by a narrow set of religious values like many other prominent movements, but instead builds upon different religions and beliefs. The study of Jalin Harmoni indicates a vulnerability of the progressive movement in Makassar. The organization suffers from the simultaneous stigmatization as liberal and communist as well as an organization that promotes Western values. Furthermore, Jalin Harmoni also struggles with the urban problems of shrinking space for religious minorities: the difficulty to built worship places and restrictions or even prohibitions for religious activities.
Progressive and Conservative Negotiations through Educational Initiatives: Learning about Inter-religious Interactions and Dialogue in Manado, Indonesia
Erica Larson National University of Singapore
This presentation analyzes discourses about inter-religious socializing encountered in several high schools of varying religious affiliations and public/private statuses in Manado, a majority-Protestant city which has also been recognized as a model city for religious harmony. I also bring in a discussion of an inter-religious initiative among Christian and Muslim university students as another example of an educational project which approaches inter-religious socializing and dialogue. In Indonesia, religious groups seek to exercise their influence on the messages disseminated in schools, both in formal and informal ways (Salim et al. 2011). Rather than revealing clear liberal values pitted against conservative majoritarian currents, however, this case study demonstrates the complexity and ambiguity of deliberation about religious difference and belonging that takes place among youth in Manado. For example, many teachers believe that religious harmony in Manado is related to a history of Christian-Muslim intermarriage, while
many of the same teachers also follow national religious education curricula which teach or assume students will select a spouse of the same religious background. Schools are often assumed to be either conservative social institutions which simply reproducing the existing social order, or as primary agents of social change which plant new and progressive ideas among the young generation to institute social change. My research focuses on the process of education itself rather than the intended result, viewing schools and other sites of socialization as arenas where “deliberation” (Varenne 2007) itself takes place. This deliberation includes politically-inflected questions about whether and how to engage with those of a different religious background, with proposed answers in the religious and civic education curricula, school policies, and through peer-peer interactions. The stakes of this deliberative
process are high, and schools must be recognized as important mechanisms for “scaling up” (Hefner 2021) particular ideas about citizenship and belonging—whether they are conservative or progressive—with ramifications for normative understandings of religious difference.
Wasatiyyat Islam and Covid-19: Muhammadiyah’s Fatwas and Responses to the Pandemic in Indonesia
Andar Nubowo ENS DE LYON
Dubbed as the largest modernist Islamic organisation in Indonesia, Muhammadiyah has been challenged to prove its progressive understanding of Islam during the COVID-19. Since March 2020, the organisation has issued religious fatwas and policies to adjust their religious and social activities during the sanitary crisis. However, its fatwas on COVID-19 were an object of virulent critics and opposition from conservative elements, who believe in a conspiracy theory that COVID-19 is being made to destruct Islam. Nevertheless, through its networks, Muhammadiyah continues to boost public consciousness of the virus’s danger and mortality. The paper, thus, seeks to discover why and how the organisation adapts new circumstances in their rituals, new sites of worship and, at the same time, fights against religious ignorance and hoaxes around the COVID-19. It also seeks to figure out how Muhammadiyah mobilises its networks and resources to deal with the outbreak and opposition. Finally, it will examine its relationship with state actors and non-state actors, nationally and internationally, to face the impacts of such a very contagious new H1N1. Drawing upon Muhammadiyah’s official fatwas, policies, statements, and socio-religious praxis, this paper finds that Muhammadiyah’s social mission and engagement during the pandemic are based on its progressive and rational belief system. It also argues that Muhammadiyah, as a faith-based NGO, plays, discursively and practically, significant roles in providing creative ways of protection, care, healing, salvation, and enlightenment, which could be understood in the frame of its socio-religious mission and praxis to saving people and addressing these unprecedented circumstances.
Metropolitan Areas in Southeast Asia have become the space for power struggles and political contestation. Religious (-political) forces experience a conservative turn with polarization, politicization and are part and parcel of wider national power struggles. Conservative forces, at times conservative-majoritarian or outright illiberal and radical, are at the forefront of appealing to followers and non-followers, voters, civil society and the wider public. At the opposite are progressive religious groups, activists and movements which struggle for liberal values, for the inclusion of LGBTIQ+, for interfaith marriage as well as for harmony between religious groups. These civil society groups and activists also care for the poor and the marginalized, which are otherwise overheard by the “loud” discourses of the conservative forces. Not only are these groups and initiatives at the forefront of a struggle for better lives of their members or target groups, for peace among
religions, but they ultimately safeguard liberal democracy and values, such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech etc.
This panel gives space and room for the study of progressive religious groups and organizations, churches, mosques, temples etc. of Southeast Asian urban areas. The focus is both the religious groups from a mere social-movement theoretical point of view as well as about concrete ideas, initiatives and activities that counter the conservative-majoritarian currents trying to establish counter-narratives of progressive nature – the empirical aspect of this panel.