Indonesia Court to rule on Bali Bomber

Patek, whose real name is Hisyam bin Alizein, has apologized to the victims’ families, Christians and to the government, saying he was not in favor of going through with the attack against partying tourists, but that he could not speak out against other senior members of the group.

Read more: http://world.time.com/2012/06/21/indonesia-court-to-rule-on-bali-bomber/#ixzz1z42MXNPH

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Islamism versus Islam according to Professor Kara

http://www.majalla. com/en/interview /article86374. ece

Islamism Versus Islam
An Interview with Professor Ismail Kara

Turkish Islamists women attend 26 November 2006 in Istanbul a rally against the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI.

By Nicholas Birch

Published: Sunday 18 July 2010 Updated: Sunday 18 July 2010

In this interview with The Majalla, Ismail Kara, professor of Turkish intellectual history, speaks about Islam’s relationship with modernity and the state. Professor Kara discusses, among other things, political Islamism and its origins, and the increasing visibility of Islam in Turkey.

Born in 1955 in the north-eastern Turkish province of Rize, the son of a village religious teacher, Ismail Kara is professor of Turkish intellectual history at the Marmara University Theology Faculty in Istanbul. An editor at Dergah Yayinlari, one of Turkey’s most respected publishing houses, Kara is the author of 14 books, including Islamist Thought in Turkey, On Philosophical Language and, more recently, The Issue of Islam in Republican Turkey. Professor Kara spoke with The Majalla in his office at Marmara University, located on the Asia side of Istanbul.

Istanbul, 15 June 2010

The Majalla: In the West, Islamism tends to be understood as political Islamism. How do you define it?

To a certain extent, Islamism can be seen as the antithesis of traditional Islam, or popular Islam. From the start, back in the very early 19th century, it has been a movement of intellectuals, the product largely of people who had a western-style education. In effect, it set out to find answers to the question “what sort of a relation should Islam build with modernity.” That was its starting point.

Q: What were the main contradictions early Islamists saw between Islam and modernity?

Here, I think there is an issue that European scholars have perhaps not sufficiently understood. The idea of laïcité-a state without religion-is quite literally incomprehensible to traditional Muslims. Among Turks particularly, the idea of the state is infused with what you might call a religious or spiritual meaning.

Q: How is that “spiritual” meaning expressed?

One of the expressions you find very frequently in the communications of Ottoman bureaucrats is din u devlet: in other words “religion and state.” The two are inseparable. Among Ottoman intellectuals, meanwhile, one of the most common expressions for the same thing is din asil, devlet fer’idir: “religion is the foundation, the state one of its parts.” These are ideas that were shared by ordinary people, and still are.

Q: So Islamism played a sort of bridging role, then?

In a sense, yes. Islamism started because modernization movements imported from the West proved unable to provide a religious legitimization for change. It is what made modernization of the Muslim world possible, because popular conceptions of Islam were not compatible with modernity. It also had a secular character.

Q: In what way?

Let me give you a concrete example. In the 1970s, one of the most popular slogans of radical Turkish Islamists was “the Koran is our constitution. ” The slogan is a hybrid. Few words are more important to Muslims than the Koran. The word constitution is a key concept of modern, secular political thought.

Q: Can you give any other examples?

Think about that most Republican of concepts-milli hakimiyet-national sovereignty. It is a concept borrowed, again, from secular western political thought. But the word millet has a double meaning: It means nation, but it also means religious community. When a modern Turk says national sovereignty, the phrase contains both those meanings. Modernization in the Muslim world has been conceptualized in religious terms. That is perhaps the main reason why Islam has become more visible the more “modern” Muslim countries become.

Q: It would be wrong to see the increasing visibility of Islam in Turkey merely as a delayed response to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s radical secularizing reforms, then?

Yes. It is a fundamental attribute of the whole modernization process in the Muslim world as a whole. Furthermore, I would question the description of the Republic as radically secular. It is true that it represented a serious break with earlier reform movements, particularly after 1924 [when the Caliphate was abolished and traditional religious schools and dervish lodges were closed]. But it also shared some similarities with Islamist thought.

Q: What sort of similarities?

Islamism is about trying to pull Muslims towards an interpretation of Islam in step with the modern world, open to modern ideas. It does that by going back to the sources, trying to excavate what it sees as an “unadulterated” interpretation of Islam. To a degree, Republican ideology has tried to do something similar. It opposed popular Islam, which it saw as backward and superstitious. Set up immediately after the abolition of the Caliphate, the Diyanet [the state department in charge of religious affairs] has always advanced an interpretation of Islam which emphasizes the Koran and the traditions of the Prophet.

Q: Are you talking about the Republican authorities’ emphasis on Islam as a “religion of reason and science?”

That is part of it, but the real issue here is that, in the eyes of Islamist modernizers, the negative conditions of the Muslim world are not the result of Islam itself but of the fact that contemporary Muslims have misunderstood Islam’s teachings. They blame the accumulated traditions and history of the Islamic world for its backwardness. In essence, their call for a return to the sources means pulling Islam out of its history altogether.

Q: You are an outspoken critic of the Islamist movement. Is this why you criticize it?

What differentiates me from Turkey’s Islamists is that I am interested in the internal dynamics of change and they are not. Ideologically, they are internationalist, to use a Marxist concept. They defend a vision of Islam which has its roots outside Turkey.

Q: You are talking now about the radical political Islamists influenced by the Muslim Brotherhood, I assume?

I am talking about them, but I am also talking about an attitude shared by many of the products of Turkey’s state-controlled religious education and many educated members of religious orders.

Q: When did this view arrive in Turkey?

In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood began to radicalize immediately after the Second World War. Egypt was closer to the Soviet Union than the West, as you know, and the Muslim Brotherhood borrowed concepts from Marxism, became more rebellious, even revolutionary. Turkey had meanwhile allied itself with the United States. In the 1940s, the new radical rhetoric of the Egyptian Brotherhood had no equivalent here. It only began to grow in Turkey after the 1960 coup.

Q: Radical Islam contained an implicit criticism of the traditional idea of the state as defender of the faith, din u devlet. Is that why it took so long to put down roots in Turkey?

In part, yes. But it is also, as I implied before, because the Islamist vision of Islam clashed with the Islam practiced by many Turkish Muslims. Religious brotherhoods [tarikat] are powerful in Turkey. Radicals see them as the worst form of blasphemy. As far as they are concerned, the attachment a follower of one of these brotherhoods feels for his sheikh is idolatry.

Q: Are you saying religious brotherhoods are closer to popular Islam than the Islamists?

In terms of their structure and their rituals, yes. This is perfectly comprehensible. These are movements that address themselves to the masses. They are not particularly open to exceptional ideas. They seek a homogeneous style of person, a vision of the world. And that brings them closer to the views of your average Turkish Muslim.

Q: The most powerful Muslim group in Turkey today is the Fethullah Gulen Movement, a conservative group opposed to political Islam. Is its popularity a sign that radical Islamism was a blip, that Turkey is settling back into its traditional, conservative ways?

Political Islam was a product of a period when ideologies were everything. It grew after the 1960 coup, along with the other ideological movements of the time, socialism and right-wing nationalism. After 12 September 1980 [Turkey’s third military intervention] , they fell together. But today’s conservatives are not the same as the conservatives before 1960. Indeed, it is questionable whether they are conservative at all. Look at the AKP government. It calls itself a “conservative democratic” party. It is a good slogan. But the party behaves as though there isn’t very much in need of conserving at all.

Q: More radical Islamists criticize the AKP for having “taken its [Islamist] shirt off” and taken on a stance indistinguishable from liberalism. Is that your criticism?

I am making a broader point. Since 1980, the ideological heart of all the major political movements in Turkey has been emptied out-the left, Islamism, Kemalism. The current clash between the AKP government and secularists is an argument over bones. What worries me is that seems to me that a country needs to have an idea, an identity, if it is to carry itself forward. That requires reflection, self-criticism. I see neither.

Q: So what needs to be done, in your opinion?

A recent article I wrote was entitled “remembering what we have forgotten.” Turkey is a country whose language has changed so fast that the speeches of the man who founded it are now understood with difficulty by the younger generation. Ottoman Turkish, because the Republic introduced the Latin alphabet, is a foreign country. What is needed is a conscious effort to recuperate the past. You can only know where you are going if you know where you come from. Otherwise all you can do is to move in the direction the international or national wind is blowing.

Q: Every religious brotherhood has a silsile, a kind of family tree going right back to the time of the Prophet. Is this the sort of unbroken chain you are referring to when you talk about recuperating the past?

Sufism is an important aspect of this recuperation of the past, yes, but it is not enough. The silsile is a concept you find in religious schools too from the 12th century onwards. There is a concept of icazet starting with you and going all the way back to the Prophet himself. The point I am making is that Islamists’ criticisms of Sufism and the culture of the religious schools shares the same logic. Both are a critique of Islamic history. Early Islamists believed, wrongly in my opinion, that the traditional Islamic world they had grown up in was incapable of building a new world, and they made a deliberate decision to cut themselves off from this web of connections and obligations. When you do this, the only thing left is you and the sources. And you can get them to talk as much as you like.

Interview conducted by Nicholas Birch – Worked as a freelance reporter in Turkey for eight years. His work has appeared in a broad range of publications, including Time Magazine, the Wall Street Journal and the Times of London.

Christianity’s Surge in Indonesia

Monday, Apr. 26, 2010

Christianity’s Surge in Indonesia

By Hannah Beech / Temanggung

 

They flocked to the open field by the hundreds to praise Allah. In a village in central Java, just a few miles from where Indonesian special forces shot dead an Islamic terrorist linked to the fatal July bombings of two hotels in Jakarta, worshippers raised their hands to the heavens. But this ceremony, which took place as the call of the muezzin echoed in the sultry air, was not a celebration of Islam. Instead, in the heart of the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation, Christians held a Pentecostal revival, complete with faith healing and speaking in tongues. As a tropical downpour fell, believers’ tears mixed with rain — and a line of sick and disabled took to the stage to claim they had been cured by a God they, like Indonesian Muslims, call Allah. “People think Indonesia is just a Muslim country, but look at all these people,” says pastor David Nugroho, whose Gesing church boasts a congregation of 400 worshippers today, up from 30 when it was founded in 1967. “We are not afraid to show our faith.”

A religious revolution is transforming Indonesia. Part of the spiritual blossoming entails Muslims embracing a more conservative form of faith, mirroring global trends that have meant a proliferation of headscarves and beards in modern Islamic capitals. More surprising, though, is the boom in Christianity — officially Indonesia’s second largest faith and a growing force throughout Asia. Indeed, the number of Asian Christian faithful exploded to 351 million adherents in 2005, up from 101 million in 1970, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, based in Washington, D.C. (See pictures of spiritual healing around the world.)

Much of the growth comes from Pentecostal and Evangelical conversions, which have spread charismatic Christianity across the globe and are a large reason for estimates that by 2050 a majority of Christians will be living in developing nations. Already, less than a quarter of the world’s 600 million Pentecostals reside in the West, where the modern movement has its roots. Indeed, Pentecostalism is believed by some to be the fastest-growing faith in the world, if measured by conversions as opposed to births.

Because of the relative youth of these Evangelical sects, they are less bound by the history of colonial conversion that has complicated the legacy of, say, Roman Catholicism or mainstream Protestantism. Instead, by focusing on personal salvation adapted to local environments, Evangelicals, especially Pentecostals, have found great success across Asia in recent years, from Indian metropolises like Chennai to rural China where homegrown sects are drawing in tens of thousands of people each year. The world’s largest megachurch is the Yoido Full Gospel Church in South Korea, which claims a membership of 830,000 people. Its Pentecostal Sunday services regularly attract a quarter of a million people to an upscale neighborhood of Seoul. In poorer regions of Asia, as well as within many ethnic Chinese communities, converts are lured by the so-called prosperity gospel, an American theology linked to charismatic Christianity that promises riches to those who follow a moral path. (See “The Biology of Belief.”)

For many in the global Evangelical community, though, it is the faith’s inroads in Indonesia — a nation with some 215 million Muslim adherents — that are most riveting. Exact figures are hard to gather in a country where conversions from Islam to Christianity face a stigma and likely lead to an underreporting of Christian believers. The 2000 census counted just under 10% of Indonesians as Christians, a figure many Christian leaders believe is too low. Anecdotal evidence paints a compelling picture of the faith’s rapid rise. In the early 1960s, for instance, there were no Evangelical churches in Temanggung, where the soccer-field revival took place; now there are more than 40. In the capital Jakarta, newly built megachurches that might seem more at home in Texas send steeples into the sky. Other Christians worship at unofficial churches based in hotels and malls, where Sunday services rival shopping as a popular weekend activity. Asia’s tallest statue of Jesus Christ, built in 2007, presides over Manado city in eastern Indonesia, while Indonesian cable TV beams 24-hour Christian channels.

State of Grace — and Disgrace
What is it about Evangelical Christianity that has so resonated in Indonesia? As in many other crowded, developing-world countries where a person can feel lost in a teeming slum, the concept of individual salvation is a powerful one. At the same time, the attempted hijacking of Muslim theology by a small band of homegrown terrorists who have killed hundreds of Indonesians in recent years has led some to question their nation’s majority faith. So, too, has the general trend toward a more conservative Islam that has given rise to hundreds of religiously inspired bylaws, from caning for beer-drinking to enforced dress codes for women.

Not everyone, though, is celebrating Christianity’s boom. Some Muslims view the faith as an unwanted foreign influence, even though Islam, too, is an imported religion. Since the country exchanged dictatorship for democracy more than a decade ago, a great diversity of voices has arisen. But an unfortunate byproduct of this pluralism has been an uptick in religious conflict, which has affected unorthodox offshoots of Islam and Christian sects alike. Although bloody outpourings — like the communal riots that claimed more than 1,000 Christian and Muslim lives in Poso and Ambon around a decade ago — have ceased, spasms of violence are still occurring.

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Over the past couple of years, Christian groups say, dozens of churches and theological academies have been destroyed or forced to shut by Islamic groups who accuse Christians of stealing believers from Muslim ranks. Despite appointing prominent Christians to his Cabinet, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has said little to defend religious minorities, and has remained silent as dozens of local governments pass Islamic-based laws that threaten Christian rights. Such moves “conflict with the constitution and have the potential to threaten freedom of religion in this country,” according to Hendardi, chairman of the Setara Institute, a Jakarta-based NGO that promotes pluralism.

Last year, the Indonesia Ulema Council, an influential Islamic clerical body, sounded the alarm about Christian proselytization and called on Muslims to more staunchly guard their faith. The pace with which unlicensed churches are being shut down by local authorities is also increasing. Christians complain that gaining official sanction to build a mosque is easy while getting similar permission for churches is glacial. As a consequence, most Christian houses of worship are unofficial. “There is a real fear that Christianity is on the march,” says Mike Hilliard, a Scottish minister who with his Indonesian wife runs an orphanage outside Jakarta that has been targeted by militant Muslims. “Because of this fear, emotions are easily stirred up and mobs can form quickly.” (See pictures of colorful religious festivals.)

Defenders of faith have mobilized in neighboring Malaysia too. After a local court ruled on Dec. 31 that a Malaysian Christian newspaper could refer to the Christian deity as Allah, many Muslims, who constitute the multiethnic country’s majority, protested. Christians professed puzzlement: when speaking Malay, they had used the word Allah for centuries — why the sudden outrage now? Prominent Islamic activists responded by saying that sharing one word for two different gods could lead some Muslims to unwittingly stray to Christianity. By January, passions had spilled onto holy turf, with around a dozen churches, one mosque and a Sikh temple attacked. Late that month, eight people were arrested for suspected roles in the firebombing of a Pentecostal church in the capital of Kuala Lumpur.

As both Muslims and Christians more fervently express their faith, a kind of spiritual siloing is developing in Southeast Asia, in contrast to the sectarian mixing that often characterized relations in previous generations. “Even compared to five years ago, relations between Christians and Muslims have worsened,” says Father Andang Binawan, a Roman Catholic priest in Jakarta who holds a Ph.D. in theology from a Belgian university. “Many people now, including government officials, feel pressure by society to identify themselves as good Muslims and they worry that by associating with people of other religions, they will be seen as less pious. Even saying ‘Merry Christmas’ to a Christian can be seen as a problem.” (See “Indonesia Faces Muslim Pressure.”)

At the same time, aggressive proselytization by Evangelical groups, both foreign and local, leads to accusations that Christians are hungry for souls — and church donations. Website and sermon invectives, in which some Christian preachers dismiss Muslims as terrorists, also feed a prejudicial cycle that is spinning both sides away from Indonesia’s pluralistic underpinnings. (Unlike neighboring Malaysia, which was set up as a Muslim state — although one that guarantees minority religious rights — Indonesia recognizes six official faiths: Islam, Catholicism, Protestant Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism.) “We have many [religions], and they all coexist peacefully,” President Yudhoyono told TIME last November. “This is the capital we will use to show that a clash of civilizations can be prevented.” But even as he spoke, Christian theological students were staging a sit-in on a busy Jakarta street to protest having been intimidated into evacuating their campus after threats from Muslim mobs. A clash of civilizations seemed to be exactly what was taking place.

Raising Spirits
To get to the hip-hop concert, you have to walk through a five-star hotel’s lobby, go past a parking lot and take a cramped elevator ride to the 12th floor. There, in an anonymous Jakarta annex syncopated by a purple strobe light, Indonesian youths dance for Jesus. The congregation bops to the beat, waving their arms in the air as the lyrics implore them to let their “lives be a celebration” of Jesus’ love. After pastor Jose Carol takes to the stage, some worshippers whip out their iPhones, onto which they have loaded electronic copies of the Bible. Back when the Jakarta Praise Community Church formed a decade ago, only a couple hundred people attended its services; today the congregation has grown to 5,500 mostly young urbanites.

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A few hours earlier, in Jakarta’s Kemayoran business district, parishioners gathered in the main auditorium of the Evangelical Reformed Millennium Center, which seats more than 4,500 people. Above the crowds, a pair of giant TV screens broadcast the sermon of Stephen Tong, an Indonesian pastor who conducts weekly services throughout Asia — including Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and Hong Kong — and ministers to a regional congregation that has grown to 15,000 in just two decades. Opened in 2008, the church complex cost $30 million to build — and it took 17 years to obtain permission from local authorities. The privately funded church is the largest licensed one in the capital, although an unofficial megachurch with space for 10,000 faithful is nearing completion in a Jakarta suburb. When Tong, 69, raised a crucifix onto the church’s massive steeple, worshippers at a nearby mosque complained. Tong didn’t back down. “Jakarta has 1.2 million Christians, so a church for 4,000 people is nothing,” he says. “We did this all legally, so why can’t we put a cross on our church, just like mosques have their symbol?”

Other Indonesian Christians worry that such towering icons will only serve to inflame Muslim sentiment. The dangers are all too real. Take the hundreds of students from the Arastamar Evangelical School of Theology, who staged the November sit-in. They were subsisting in refugee-like conditions, sleeping on thin mats in an abandoned Jakarta building with no electricity or running water. Before that, the beleaguered students lived for months in a park, 35 to a tent. Yet on the outskirts of east Jakarta, the Christian college actually had a handsome campus. In July 2008, hundreds of Islamic extremists crowded the school’s gates, accusing students of proselytizing among the local Muslim community — a charge the institute’s leaders deny. When three students tried to escape, thugs threw acid in their faces. With local government officials advising the student population to decamp because of continuing danger, Arastamar officials had no choice but to accept the government’s proposal for makeshift housing. “How can you say there is true freedom of religion here if things like this can happen to us?” asks school principal Jusup Lifire. (See 10 surprising facts about the world’s oldest Bible.)

Muslim converts to Christianity are also targets, their apostasy viewed by some radical Islamic scholars as deserving of execution. Syaiful Hamzah grew up as the madrasah-attending son of a Muslim family in Jakarta that helped build the neighborhood mosque. But while working in eastern Indonesia’s Maluku archipelago, which has a substantial Christian population, he was swayed by Evangelical teachings. By 2000, he had been baptized at a Pentecostal church and returned to Jakarta to begin theological studies. His family cut him off; one brother threatened to burn his house down. Undeterred, he began lay-preaching to a house-church congregation in his modest home near Jakarta’s port. In 2008, a mob armed with clubs showed up and demanded Syaiful stop. He shuttered his church but still guides Muslim converts to Christianity, the number of which he says is growing, in part, because of the terror attacks unleashed in Indonesia in the name of Islam. “So many have converted,” he says, “but they are afraid to say so publicly because Muslims will harass them.”

The numbers of converts may not be as high as Islamic groups fear. Some so-called converts were Christians all along. In the 1960s, a government anticommunist drive forced each citizen to pick a religion for inclusion on their national ID card. (Suspected communists were quick to pick a religion to convince authorities they were not atheist Marxists.) Worried about future persecution and loath to give up the chance for certain career opportunities reserved for Muslims, some Christians chose Islam for their ID cards, even though they quietly kept going to church. Now they’re officially switching to their true religion, seeing safety in growing numbers. Another significant group of Indonesian converts to charismatic sects is ethnic Chinese. But they are abandoning Chinese religions or mainline Protestantism, not Islam. (See “Indonesia’s Fatwa Against Yoga.”)

still, it’s hard to ignore the power of a revival like the one held in Temanggung — and easy to understand why some Muslims have reservations about encroaching Christianity. Permission to hold the meeting was only granted after the organizers put up a sign forbidding Muslims from entering. Nevertheless, among the line of sick and suffering hoping to be healed was an elderly Muslim man who others said was blind. After fervent prayers from worshippers in the driving rain, he suddenly blinked and gazed at the gathered crowd. “A Muslim who can now see,” said pastor Jason Balompapueng, tears rising in his eyes. “It is a miracle.” The faithful urged the tottering man onstage to bear witness to his regained sight. As the man clambered up the stairs, he removed his peci, an Indonesian fezlike hat often associated with Islam. A visiting minister from Jakarta blessed him. Another soul was saved, the Christian pastor rejoiced. Tomorrow, he vowed, there would be more.

With reporting by Jason Tedjasukmana / Jakarta

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