Published in: thejakartapost.com, June 06, 2008
One afternoon in Muenster, while grappling with the beauty of a flowering daisy in front of the Gescherweg student apartments, I got an SMS telling me that Muhammad Guntur Romli had been attacked by Islam Defenders Front (FPI) members and was in the hospital.
Elsewhere, Ahmadiyah members, including women and children, were attacked by several "Islamic" paramilitary groups several weeks ago. Their mosques were burned down. What broke many hearts was the judgment and fatwa issued by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) that Ahmadiyah is an un-Islamic, astray and an infidel sect.
I remember praying together with Ahmadiyah mothers here in Muenster at an Ahmadiyah mosque. What a recurring beautiful memory. The Indonesian government seems afraid to give the appropriate space for Ahmadiyah in the face of brutal attacks by groups hijacking Indonesia’s peaceful and tolerant Islam.
It is we, the tolerant and peaceful Muslims, who comprise the bigger number compared to those small numbers of paramilitary members. And what is astonishing is that the government prefers listening to them than taking into consideration the bigger number of tolerant Muslims in Indonesia.
Neither the government nor the MUI is interested in taking into account the voices marching on the street demanding a peaceful Indonesian Islam.
Other "Islamic" paramilitary groups claim constantly that they are the true defenders of Islam, saying Allahu Akbar (Allah is great) while at the same time lashing women with bamboo. I murmur Allahu Akbar in prayers as well, but in a different way, expressing love for universal humanity, filling and recharging the soul with positive energy. It is certainly the same Allahu Akbar articulated by Indonesian Muslims during their five daily prayers. But it is not the FPI’s hijacked Allahu Akbar and their brutal fascism.
Is this Islamic? Definitely not. It is a hijacked Islam. It is a politicized Islam. It is indeed an androcentric and misogynist "Islam".
Post-authoritarian Indonesia witnesses the spread of misogynistic interpretations of sharia into the public realm. And harsh punishment is enforced on the streets by these paramilitaries, who are not shy about catching and ambushing women on the street.
Parading the bare-headed women on trucks and demoralizing them before the public gaze without a legal and fair process. The socio-cultural fabric of Indonesia is dominated mainly by a patriarchal cosmology in apprehending the position of women in the public.
This type of interpretation is unfriendly to Indonesian women, ambushing and attacking women on the street in the name of Islamic mores.
Shortly before the enactment of these sharia bylaws, precisely after Soeharto’s fall, along many streets in towns across Indonesia, one could easily find "Islamic" books, as cheap as nuts, which propagated the criminalization of women’s bodies.
Many books told about the beauty of polygamy, the banning of cosmetics, the suggestion to have as many children as possible to add to the mass in reaching the dream of "Khilafah Islamiyah". These are apparently the traditional values taught by ultra-conservative and ultra-misogynist clerics who believe that this is Islam.
A process of re-traditionalization and re-fundamentalization found its place in this faith. Prophet Muhammad preached, most of the time, to love women, to appreciate women and to regard them as equal partners to men. Recent Islamist books have represented traditional, patriarchal, misogynistic values that, accidentally, politicized Islam.
Swallowing such dangerous information about women’s bodies, many young Indonesian Muslims then decide to apply it, as a form of resistance and protest of the failures of the secular government.
When the sharia bylaws are practiced in the field, it is glaringly obvious that these paramilitary groups that have hijacked Islam are those taking the lead in regulating women. The government then enjoys the privilege of increasing the amount of corruption. Citizens are busied and politicized to guard the morality of the masses, which is the morality of women, while the morality of the top leaders is left unwatched.
The writer is a lecturer at Muhammadiyah University, Surakarta. She is currently writing her dissertation under a DAAD scholarship, and teaching at the Institute of Ethnology, University of Muenster, Germany.