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.

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Islamization of Europe

This will give you cold chills!

Geert Wilders is a Dutch Member of Parliament.

In a generation or two, the US will ask itself: who lost Europe ?’

Here is the speech of Geert Wilders, Chairman, Party for Freedom, the Netherlands , at the Four Seasons, New York , introducing an Alliance of Patriots and announcing the Facing Jihad Conference in Jerusalem .

Dear friends,

Thank you very much for inviting me.

I come to America with a mission.  All is not well in the old world.  There is a tremendous danger looming, and it is very difficult to be optimistic.  We might be in the final stages of the Islamization of Europe.  This not only is a clear and present danger to the future of Europe itself, it is a threat to America and the sheer survival of the West.  The United States as the last bastion of Western civilization, facing an Islamic Europe.

First I will describe the situation on the ground in Europe .& nbsp; Then, I will say a few things about Islam.  To close I will tell you about a meeting in Jerusalem .

The Europe you know is changing.

You have probably seen the landmarks.  But in all of these cities, sometimes a few blocks away from your tourist destination, there is another world.  It is the world of the parallel society created by Muslim mass-migration.

All throughout Europe a new reality is rising: entire Muslim neighborhoods where very few indigenous people reside or are even seen.  And if they are, they might regret it.  This goes for the police as well.  It’s the world of head scarves, where women walk around in figureless tents, with baby strollers and a group of children.  Their husbands, or slaveholders if you prefer, walk three steps ahead.  With mosques on many street corners.  The shops have signs you and I cannot read.  You will be hard-pressed to find any economic activity.  These are Muslim ghettos controlled by religious fanatics.  These are Muslim neighborhoods, and they are mushrooming in every city across Europe .  These are the building-blocks for territorial control of increasingly larger portions of Europe , street by street, neighborhood by neighborhood, city by city.

There are now thousands of mosques throughout Europe .  With larger congregations than there are in churches.  And in every European city there are plans to build super-mosques that will dwarf every church in the region.  Clearly, the signal is: we rule.

Many European cities are already one-quarter Muslim: just take Amsterdam , Marseille and Malmo in Sweden .  In many cities the majority of the under-18 population is Muslim.   Paris is now surrounded by a ring of Muslim neighborhoods.  Mohammed is the most popular name among boys in many cities.

In some elementary schools in Amsterdam the farm can no longer be mentioned, because that would also mean mentioning the pig, and that would be an insult to Muslims.

Many state schools in Belgium and Denmark only serve halal food to all pupils.  In once-tolerant Amsterdam gays are beaten up almost exclusively by Muslims.  Non-Muslim women routinely hear ‘whore, whore’.  Satellite dishes are not pointed to local TV stations, but to stations in the country of origin.

In France school teachers are advised to avoid authors deemed offensive to Muslims, including Voltaire and Diderot; the same is increasingly true of Darwin .  The history of the Holocaust can no longer be taught because of Muslim sensitivity.

In England sharia courts are now officially part of the British legal system. Many neighborhoods in France are no-go areas for women without head scarves.  Last week a man almost died after being beaten up by Muslims in Brussels , because he was drinking during the Ramadan.

Jews are fleeing France in record numbers, on the run for the worst wave of anti-Semitism since World War II.  French is now commonly spoken on the streets of Tel Aviv and Netanya , Israel .  I could go on forever with stories like this.  Stories about Islamization.

A total of fifty-four million Muslims now live in Europe .   San Diego University recently calculated that a staggering 25 percent of the population in Europe will be Muslim just 12 years from now.  Bernhard Lewis has predicted a Muslim majority by the end of this century.

Now these are just numbers.  And the numbers would not be threatening if the Muslim-immigrants had a strong desire to assimilate.  But there are few signs of that.  The Pew Research Center reported that half of French Muslims see their loyalty to Islam as greater than their loyalty to France .  One-third of French Muslims do not object to suicide attacks. 

The British Centre for Social Cohesion reported that one-third of British Muslim students are in favor of a worldwide caliphate.  Muslims demand what they call ‘respect’.  And this is how we give them respect.  We have Muslim official state holidays.

The Christian-Democrati c attorney general is willing to accept sharia in the Netherlands if there is a Muslim majority.  We have cabinet members with passports from Morocco and Turkey .

Muslim demands are supported by unlawful behavior, ranging from petty crimes and random violence, for example against ambulance workers and bus drivers, to small-scale riots.   Paris has seen its uprising in the low-income suburbs, the banlieus.  I call the perpetrators ‘settlers’.  Because that is what they are.  They do not come to integrate into our societies; they come to integrate our society into their Dar-al-Islam.  Therefore, they are settlers.

Much of this street violence I mentioned is directed exclusively against non-Muslims, forcing many native people to leave their neighborhoods, their cities, their countries.  Moreover, Muslims are now a swing vote not to be ignored.

The second thing you need to know is the importance of Mohammed the prophet.  His behavior is an example to all Muslims and cannot be criticized.  Now, if Mohammed had been a man of peace, let us say like Ghandi and Mother Theresa wrapped in one, there would be no problem.  But Mohammed was a warlord, a mass murderer, a pedophile, and had several marriages – at the same time.  Islamic tradition tells us how he fought in battles, how he had his enemies murdered and even had prisoners of war executed.  Mohammed himself slaughtered the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza.  If it is good for Islam, it is good.  If it is bad for Islam, it is bad.

Let no one fool you about Islam being a religion.  Sure, it has a god, and a here-after, and 72 virgins.  But in its essence Islam is a political ideology.  It is a system that lays down detailed rules for society and the life of every person.  Islam wants to dictate every aspect of life.  Islam means ‘submission’.  Islam is not compatible with freedom and democracy, because what it strives for is sharia.  If you want to compare Islam to anything, compare it to communism or national-socialism, these are all totalitarian ideologies.

Now you know why Winston Churchill called Islam ‘the most retrograde force in the world’, and why he compared Mein Kampf to the Quran.  The public has wholeheartedly accepted the Palestinian narrative, and sees Israel as the aggressor.  I have lived in this country and visited it dozens of times.  I support Israel.

First, because it is the Jewish homeland after two thousand years of exile up to and including Auschwitz.

Second because it is a democracy, and.

Third because Israel is our first line of defense.

This tiny country is situated on the fault line of jihad, frustrating Islam’s territorial advance.   Israel is facing the front lines of jihad, like Kashmir, Kosovo, the Philippines , Southern Thailand, Darfur in Sudan , Lebanon , and Aceh in Indonesia .   Israel is simply in the way.  The same way West-Berlin was during the Cold War.

The war against Israel is not a war against Israel .  It is a war against the West.  It is jihad.   Israel is simply receiving the blows that are meant for all of us.  If there would have been no Israel , Islamic imperialism would have found other venues to release its energy and its desire for conquest.  Thanks to Israeli parents who send their children to the army and lay awake at night, parents in Europe and America can sleep well and dream, unaware of the dangers looming.

Many in Europe argue in favor of abandoning Israel in order to address the grievances of our Muslim minorities.  But if Israel were, God forbid, to go down, it would not bring any solace to the West It would not mean our Muslim minorities would all of a sudden change their behavior, and accept our values.  On the contrary, the end of Israel would give enormous encouragement to the forces of Islam.  They would, and rightly so, see the demise of Israel as proof that the West is weak, and doomed.  The end of Israel would not mean the end of our problems with Islam, but only the beginning.  It would mean the start of the final battle for world domination.  If they can get Israel , they can get everything.  So-called journalists volunteer to label any and all critics of Islamization as a ‘right-wing extremists’ or ‘racists’.  In my country, the Netherlands , 60 percent of the population now sees the mass immigration of Muslims as the number one policy mistake since World War II.  And another 60 percent sees Islam as the biggest threat.  Yet there is a danger greater danger than terrorist attacks, the scenario of America as the last man standing.  The lights may go out in Europe faster than you can imagine.  An Islamic Europe means a Europe without freedom and democracy, an economic wasteland, an intellectual nightmare, and a loss of military might for America – as its allies will turn into enemies, enemies with atomic bombs.  With an Islamic Europe, it would be up to America alone to preserve the heritage of Rome , Athens and Jerusalem .

Dear friends, liberty is the most precious of gifts.  My generation never had to fight for this freedom, it was offered to us on a silver platter, by people who fought for it with their lives.  All throughout Europe , American cemeteries remind us of the young boys who never made it home, and whose memory we cherish.  My generation does not own this freedom; we are merely its custodians.  We can only hand over this hard won liberty to Europe ‘s children in the same state in which it was offered to us.  We cannot strike a deal with mullahs and imams.  Future generations would never forgive us.  We cannot squander our liberties.  We simply do not have the right to do so.

aWe have to take the necessary action now to stop this Islamic stupidity from destroying the free world that we know.

  Please take the time to read and understand what is written here, Please send it to every free person that you know, it is so very important

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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C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help to Kill Jihadists

August 20, 2009

C.I.A. Sought Blackwater’s Help to Kill Jihadists

WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 hired outside contractors from the private security contractor Blackwater USA as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda, according to current and former government officials.

Executives from Blackwater, which has generated controversy because of its aggressive tactics in Iraq, helped the spy agency with planning, training and surveillance. The C.I.A. spent several million dollars on the program, which did not successfully capture or kill any terrorist suspects.

The fact that the C.I.A. used an outside company for the program was a major reason that Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A.’s director, became alarmed and called an emergency meeting in June to tell Congress that the agency had withheld details of the program for seven years, the officials said.

It is unclear whether the C.I.A. had planned to use the contractors to actually capture or kill Qaeda operatives, or just to help with training and surveillance in the program. American spy agencies have in recent years outsourced some highly controversial work, including the interrogation of prisoners. But government officials said that bringing outsiders into a program with lethal authority raised deep concerns about accountability in covert operations.

Officials said the C.I.A. did not have a formal contract with Blackwater for this program but instead had individual agreements with top company officials, including the founder, Erik D. Prince, a politically connected former member of the Navy Seals and the heir to a family fortune. Blackwater’s work on the program actually ended years before Mr. Panetta took over the agency, after senior C.I.A. officials themselves questioned the wisdom of using outsiders in a targeted killing program.

Blackwater, which has changed its name, most recently to Xe Services, and is based in North Carolina, in recent years has received millions of dollars in government contracts, growing so large that the Bush administration said it was a necessary part of its war operation in Iraq.

It has also drawn controversy. Blackwater employees hired to guard American diplomats in Iraq were accused of using excessive force on several occasions, including shootings in Baghdad in 2007 in which 17 civilians were killed. Iraqi officials have since refused to give the company an operating license.

Several current and former government officials interviewed for this article spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they were discussing details of a still classified program.

Paul Gimigliano, a C.I.A. spokesman, declined to provide details about the canceled program, but he said that Mr. Panetta’s decision on the assassination program was “clear and straightforward.”

“Director Panetta thought this effort should be briefed to Congress, and he did so,” Mr. Gimigliano said. “He also knew it hadn’t been successful, so he ended it.”

A Xe spokeswoman did not return calls seeking comment.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, also declined to give details of the program. But she praised Mr. Panetta for notifying Congress. “It is too easy to contract out work that you don’t want to accept responsibility for,” she said.

The C.I.A. this summer conducted an internal review of the assassination program that recently was presented to the White House and the Congressional intelligence committees. The officials said that the review stated that Mr. Panetta’s predecessors did not believe that they needed to tell Congress because the program was not far enough developed.

The House Intelligence Committee is investigating why lawmakers were never told about the program. According to current and former government officials, former Vice President Dick Cheney told C.I.A. officers in 2002 that the spy agency did not need to inform Congress because the agency already had legal authority to kill Qaeda leaders.

One official familiar with the matter said that Mr. Panetta did not tell lawmakers that he believed that the C.I.A. had broken the law by withholding details about the program from Congress. Rather, the official said, Mr. Panetta said he believed that the program had moved beyond a planning stage and deserved Congressional scrutiny.

“It’s wrong to think this counterterrorism program was confined to briefing slides or doodles on a cafeteria napkin,” the official said. “It went well beyond that.”

Current and former government officials said that the C.I.A.’s efforts to use paramilitary hit teams to kill Qaeda operatives ran into logistical, legal and diplomatic hurdles almost from the outset. These efforts had been run by the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center, which runs operations against Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks.

In 2002, Blackwater won a classified contract to provide security for the C.I.A. station in Kabul, Afghanistan, and the company maintains other classified contracts with the C.I.A., current and former officials said.

Over the years, Blackwater has hired several former top C.I.A. officials, including Cofer Black, who ran the C.I.A. counterterrorism center immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks.

C.I.A. operatives also regularly use the company’s training complex in North Carolina. The complex includes a shooting range used for sniper training.

An executive order signed by President Gerald R. Ford in 1976 barred the C.I.A. from carrying out assassinations, a direct response to revelations that the C.I.A. had initiated assassination plots against Fidel Castro of Cuba and other foreign politicians.

The Bush administration took the position that killing members of Al Qaeda, a terrorist group that attacked the United States and has pledged to attack it again, was no different from killing enemy soldiers in battle, and that therefore the agency was not constrained by the assassination ban.

But former intelligence officials said that employing private contractors to help hunt Qaeda operatives would pose significant legal and diplomatic risks, and they might not be protected in the same way government employees are.

Some Congressional Democrats have hinted that the program was just one of many that the Bush administration hid from Congressional scrutiny and have used the episode as a justification to delve deeper into other Bush-era counterterrorism programs.

But Republicans have criticized Mr. Panetta’s decision to cancel the program, saying he created a tempest in a teapot.

“I think there was a little more drama and intrigue than was warranted,” said Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee.

Officials said that the C.I.A. program was devised partly as an alternative to missile strikes using drone aircraft, which have accidentally killed civilians and cannot be used in urban areas where some terrorists hide.

Yet with most top Qaeda operatives believed to be hiding in the remote mountains of Pakistan, the drones have remained the C.I.A.’s weapon of choice. Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration has embraced the drone campaign because it presents a less risky option than sending paramilitary teams into Pakistan.

Source: http://www.ny times.com/2009/08/20/us/20intel.html?_r=1&th=&emc=th&pagewanted=print

Press Release: Gaza Crisis

In the name of Allah, Most gracious, Ever Merciful Press Desk Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat International 16 January 2009 PRESS RELEASE As the war in Gaza nears its fourth week, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat takes this opportunity to condemn the continued attacks which are leading to a humanitarian disaster. Innocent men, women and children are losing their lives on a daily basis due to the brutality of the occupying force. Whatever action is being taken is wholly disproportionate and cruel. The world Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad has cautioned that the current conflict in Gaza could yet escalate further. He said: “I have always said that if fairness and justice does not prevail then the world is facing a grave disaster. If we wish to save our future generations from the horrific effects of war then we must act now and with justice. Otherwise, I fear, the current situation may not remain limited to just one or two countries but could escalate into a global war, the result of which would be truly devastating. ” It is of note that during the current crisis the majority of the Muslim world has remained silent and it has been left to academics, politicians and various organisations in the West to condemn what is happening in Gaza. The Muslim world should be grateful to all of them for displaying the courage and conviction to speak out against such atrocities. Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad said: “The cruelty of the Israelis is progressively increasing. Indeed many people who had previously offered their support are now turning against them. Those countries who remain silent are actually assisting with this cruelty.” The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat views with utmost concern the growing humanitarian disaster that is occurring in Gaza. The community is committed to alleviating this suffering. Commenting upon this, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad said: “The situation in Gaza is getting worse and worse. We see that innocent children, women and the elderly are being killed on a daily basis. The United Nations and other organisations such as Save the Children have been given limited access to provide aid. Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat should individually support such organisations to the best of their ability and on a collective level our own charity, Humanity First, will also do so.” The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat wishes to be clear that it is a peaceful community who harbours no political agenda or ambition. It wishes only to serve the world by spreading its message of peace. Amidst the current conflict, the community’s motto of, ‘Love for All, Hatred for None’, is ever more resonant. The community desires and prays for peace in Gaza and in all other troubled parts of the world. Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad continued: “May God protect and safeguard the world from self-destruction and calamity. May peace prevail and may the world be saved from all forms of war and terror.” The Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat also wishes to remind all concerned, that in the past whenever the name of Islam has been used to justify any form of terror or extremism, the Jamaat has always condemned such acts without hesitation and it will continue to do so in the future. In this respect the Jamaat is forever guided by the Qur’anic injunction that ‘There should be no compulsion in religion’. End of Release Further Info: Abid Khan, Press Secretary AMJ International (press@…) / (UK) 07795490682 http://www.alislam. org

Indonesia Papua:More religions, more trouble

Indonesian Papua  

More religions, more trouble

Jul 17th 2008 | JAKARTA
From The Economist print edition

 


THE separatist conflict in Indonesia’s Papua region—formerly known as Irian Jaya and once one of the world’s great liberal causes—has become relatively quiet in recent years. Small groups of protesters still occasionally gather to wave the Morning Star independence flag and get arrested for it. But decades of repression by the Indonesian security forces, combined with the granting in 2000 of partial autonomy from Jakarta, have sapped the separatists’ ranks. However, according to a recent report on the region, there is a risk that the separatist conflict may be rekindled or replaced by religious strife because of the arrival of new and more muscular forms of both Islam and Christianity.

 

 

 

 

 

Broadly speaking, indigenous Papuans—who are dark-skinned Melanesians, like their kin next door in Papua New Guinea and Australian aborigines—tend to be Christians or animists, whereas the many migrants to the region from elsewhere in Indonesia are mostly Muslim. In recent years fundamentalist Christian groups, some started by American and Canadian preachers, have been proselytising among indigenous Papuans. Their success has also prompted the development of fundamentalist streams in the established Protestant churches.

Among the Islamic radical groups to arrive in Papua with the migrants is the Indonesian chapter of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an organisation started in Jerusalem, which seeks to unite Muslims worldwide under one government or “caliphate”. But there are also a few indigenous Papuan Muslims, some of whom have recently returned from studies in the Middle East, bringing back fundamentalist ideas.

The report, by the International Crisis Group (ICG), a think-tank, says rising religious tension has already come close to triggering violence between Muslims and Christians, as is already common in the nearby, mixed-faith province of Maluku. In Kaimana district, for example, members of the two religions had long lived together harmoniously. But in December locals came close to blows over the erection of an iron tower shaped like a Christmas tree, topped with a Star of David—often used by charismatic Christian groups but best known as a symbol of Judaism.

The new Christian groups have raised Muslims’ hackles by boasting (sometimes falsely) of their conversions of Muslims. Muslims, in turn, have become increasingly vigilant against any perceived threats either to their faith or to Indonesian sovereignty. Some Islamic radicals are prone to conspiracy theories about plots to prise Papua away from Indonesia, often involving America and its majority-Christian regional allies, Australia and the Philippines.

Increased fundamentalism has sharpened each ethnic group’s fear of domination by the other. The Indonesian government has discontinued its programme of transportation to Papua and elsewhere to relieve overcrowding on Java. But migrants are still flooding in. Official figures show that in 2004 Muslims were 23% of the region’s 2m-odd population, up from 6.5% in 1964. In reality the proportion of Muslims is thought to be much higher, probably over half now—but the government has not published accurate updated figures.

Christians believe this is a cover-up to hide the truth: that migration has made Papuans a minority in their homeland. They also fear that the government in Jakarta is increasingly endorsing Islamic orthodoxy at the expense of Indonesia’s non-Muslims. The Muslims, in turn, agree that they are now the majority in Papua—a local Hizb-ut-Tahrir leader recently claimed that Papua is 65% Muslim—but they feel that Papuan autonomy could lead to them being discriminated against or even expelled from the region.

There are some moderating influences: last year, mainstream Muslims set up a new body, the Papuan Muslim Council, to put the case for tolerance. Some of the charismatic Christian groups, far from inciting separatism among ethnic Papuans, argue for accommodation with the Indonesian powers-that- be (render unto Caesar and all that). Even so, argues the ICG, there is a danger that continuing migration, combined with the radicalisation of both main religions, could re-ignite the dormant separatist conflict.

If the heightened religious tension is not to become a catalyst for violence it would help if there was a sense of urgency about improving the dismal quality of life of almost all Papuans, whether indigenous or migrants. Autonomy has had a feeble start: central-government ministries have been reluctant to cede control to local Papuan authorities; where they have, money has been misspent, including by newly recruited Papuan bureaucrats struggling with responsibilities for which they lack skills. Last year President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered his officials to speed up development programmes for Papua. As usual, his orders fell on deaf ears.

Leaders urged to embrace pluralism

[The Jakarta Post 23/07/08] Political and religious leaders must embrace pluralism, which has become part of Indonesian society and protected by the Constitution, a seminar concluded Tuesday.

Harmony and unity in Indonesia will be ruined if leaders fail to adopt pluralist values, implement them in the protection of minorities and uphold the Constitution by protecting human rights, speakers of the one-day seminar said.

The seminar panel included members of various religious and nongovernmental organizations, as well as activists and political leaders.

“We are a pluralist nation. That’s why, from the very beginning, our founding fathers declared Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity) as one of our nation’s pillars. Our constitution clearly guarantees pluralism,” Constitutional Court chief Jimly Asshiddiqie said in the keynote address.

Jakarta Archbishop Julius Darmaatmadja and Indonesian Communion of Churches chairman Andreas Yewangoe said pluralism was a given and must be accepted by all citizens.

“I always tell my congregation to be inclusive instead of exclusive in forging harmony and peace in society,” Julius said at the seminar organized by the International Center for Islam and Pluralism (ICIP), which will celebrate its fifth anniversary this year.

By accepting Pancasila as the state ideology, all religions must embrace pluralist values, Andreas added.

Embracing democracy in Indonesia means upholding the right of anybody — including those from minority groups — to disagree with the majority on any issue, even those related to religion and politics, Jimly added.

“The problem is most leaders don’t really understand the consequences of accepting pluralism. There’s a huge gap between the idea of pluralism and its implementation. Often, pluralist values are sacrificed for political gain,” Jimly said.

He cited as an example of the state’s failure to guarantee pluralism the recent attack by the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) against pro-pluralism activists staging a rally at the National Monument (Monas). The rally was held in support of the Islamic minority sect Ahmadiyah.

Noted lawyer and rights activist Todung Mulya Lubis, another seminar speaker, said the government’s decision to issue a decree banning Ahmadiyah was a constitutional violation.

“Our law enforcement is too weak to punish those violating laws and the Constitution. The ban showed majority rule has prevailed over the rule of law,” he said.

Many activists slammed President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who had said violent groups would not be allowed to hijack the country, because his decree came on the same day thousands of hard-liners gathered in front of the State Palace to demand the ban of Ahmadiyah.

Earlier this year, ICIP and the Swiss Embassy launched a book titled Islam and Universal Values: Islam’s Contribution to the Construction of a Pluralistic World, to push for a more pluralist society in Indonesia.

Commenting on the book during the seminar, Muslim scholar Bachtiar Effendy, of Jakarta Islamic State University, said there was no reason for a confrontation between Islam and pluralism, as they are compatible with one another. (the jakarta post)