Asian-American Dilemma: Good News Is Bad News

Asian characters: ethisc of hardwork, family values,

Ideas

Last week, the Pew Research Center released a report called “The Rise of Asian Americans,” offering a portrait seemingly full of good news. Asian Americans, Pew said, are on the whole more educated, affluent and happier than other Americans. They hew more strongly to family values and an ethic of hard work. And, quietly, these 17 million Asian Americans have surpassed Hispanics as the largest and fastest-growing cohort of immigrants to the U.S.

(MORE:Christopher J. Ferguson: What You Need to Know About the New Census Numbers on Hispanic Births)

The report made headlines everywhere: “Asians Top of the Immigration Class” was a typical, if somewhat ham-handed, one. The leading advocacy groups for Asian Americans were silent for a beat. Then they decried the report. It was “disparaging,” “shallow,” “disturbing.” It perpetuated a patronizing stereotype of Asians as dutiful nerds, a…

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Churches Can’t Be Built in Streets with Islamic

Bogor’s controversial mayor says he has a new reason not to allow the GKI Yasmin church to open — the name of the street on which it is built has an Islamic name.

Home Affairs Minister Gamawan Fauzi said Bogor Mayor Diani Budiarto — who continues to defy rulings from the Supreme Court and Ombudsman Commission to open the church — had told him that a church should not be built on a street with an Islamic name.

“[Diani] said that it is a fact that the street is named after a noted Islamic Ulama,” Gamawan said at the Vice Presidential Palace on Friday.

GKI Yasmin is located on Jalan Abdullah bin Nuh, an Islamic leader from Cianjur in West Java.Local cleric Muhammad Mustofa, whose father is the street’s namesake, has previously stated that he has no objection to the church.

Mustofa, who said that Islam was a religion that promoted peace, said differences between religions were not new and similar problems had occurred since the time of Prophet Mohammad.

“Mecca is an example of pluralism during the prophet’s time. Every problem has its solution and hopefully the problem [surrounding the church] will be settled immediately,” he said.

Gamawan also indicated on Friday that he was siding with Diani in the dispute with the church.“This is the political reality in the field and it could cause disturbances to security and peace,” Gamawan said.

“It would not be healthy in the long run, even for the congregation members themselves. [Diani] told me that he has offered an alternative location with the same [dimensions].”

Gamawan said he would summon Diani next week to discuss possible solutions to the conflict.

“We need to mediate … but we also need to maintain security and peace,” Gamawan said.

Church spokesman Bona Sigalingging said Diani’s reasoning was unacceptable given that a number of churches were built on streets with Islamic names and mosques were built on streets with Christian names.

Bona said the church would refuse to accept any offer of alternative premises.

“The problem is it against the law, against the court ruling and against the recommendation of Ombudsman. It also breaches legal certainty.”

Ombudsman Commission chairman Danang Girindrawardana told the Jakarta Globe on Friday that the street name issue was a “made-up excuse.”

He said the Ombudsman’s recommendation was legally binding, with the Regional Representative Council (DPRD) and Home Affairs minister having the power to enforce sanctions.

He said he hoped the Home Affairs Ministry would uphold the law and impose serious sanctions.

Diani is supported by a coalition of political parties that includes the Golkar Party, Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).

(Jakarta Globe)

Buddhist extremists in India have burnt 20 churches

FALSE/HOAX:: Buddhist extremists in India have burnt 20 churches

This news = FALSA/HOAX: according to snopes.com: Buddhist Extremists = http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/india.asp

http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/india.asp

P. Samuel M. Chetcuti OFM Conv.P. Provincial of the Franciscans Conventual
Republic Street, Valletta VLT 1110, Malt Tef. (356) 21241167Fax (356) 21223556

I forward to you the message received from the provincial superior of the Franciscans in India.

“Pray for the Church in India. Buddhist extremists in India have burnt 20 churches last night.This evening they plan to destroy 200 churches in the province of Olisabang.

They plan to kill 200 missionaries during the next 24 hours. Right now, all Christians are hiding in the villages. Pray for them and send this email to all Christians you know.

Ask God to have mercy on our brothers and sisters of India. When you receive this message, please send it urgently to others. Pray for them to our Almighty and Victorious Lord.

P. Samuel M. Chetcuti OFM Conv.P. Provincial of the Franciscans ConventualRepublic Street, Valletta VLT 1110, Malt Tef. (356) 21241167Fax (356) 21223556Mob (336) 99865668

seven things you should never do on the social networking site

7 ways Facebook can get you fired

*Here are seven things you should never do on the social networking site – ifyou want to stay happily employed.By The DigitalOne TechBot,

DigitalOne | Photo: AFP | 25-05-10

Admit it already.

We’re all trying to sneak in some time to post on Facebookwhen we should really be working.

While a little detour to the social networking site during work hours wouldsound like a harmless thing, posting or doing something wrong might get youinto trouble, or even fired from your job.Here are seven things you should never do, if you want to stay happilyemployed:

*# 7 – Post something controversial*

It might seem funny to you, but not so much for others.And it would only get worse if the issue is controversial or contradicting -like a potentially insensitive post that might come across as racist.In an increasingly diverse workplace, you won’t want to risk offendinganybody. Should the management find a potentially racist type not a goodrepresentative of the company image too, then it’s the door for you.

*#6 – Confess to personal disasters*

Yes, we understand that it was not a nice feeling to get dumped, and thatyour desperate Facebook post was an attempt at seeking sympathy.

But if you’re going to post stuff along the lines of, “I’m going to killmyself!” or “Those sleeping pills look good.” – don’t.

If this gets to your employer, your post might get you fired because theydon’t exactly need a suicidal person or a psychopath in the office.

*#5 – Post unflattering pictures of yourself*

You might think that guzzling beer while already drunk and showing off yourbeer belly is really cool. Well it’s not.

And if your employer sees this, it’s only going to send warning signalsabout what a drinker you are. Or how you might actually be less suited tohelm the next mega project.

Photos, when uploaded on Facebook, are supposed to show the only the goodside of us. If you break the rule and let your employer see the worst sideof you on a bad day, that image is going to stick around.

Don’t be too shocked if it is you they pay a visit to when they next giveout those pink slips.

*#4 – Bad mouth other employees or share office rumours*

We understand if you’re always hated Prissy Priscilla or long suspected thatRoger Rake is having an affair with the boss’ wife.

It is already not a very good idea to gossip during office hours, much lessso to post it online where the messages and information can be traced backto you.

Even if you don’t really mean what you say, bad mouthing a colleague canlead to others complaining or considering you as not a team player – suicidein today’s work environment.

And should the office rumour mill determine that you are its supreme source, you might notice a few colleagues being less friendly.

All these might not ultimately lead to you being fired, but they woulddefinitely make your work life so miserable you might just fire yourself!

*#3 – Speak ill of your boss or the management*

Have a gutless boss or work for a tyrant? We understand. But no matter howmuch you want to complain, keep your posts offline.Even with friend lists and privacy filters, you might never know just who might pass your comments on to the boss himself.

We don’t think there is a need to explain in detail why your boss findingout about those comments is a bad idea.

*#2 – Share company information or secrets*

What happens in the company stays in the company.

The little bits of information might not mean much to you, but couldpotentially cost your company a lot if it falls into the wrong hands.

If you need to know what happens when company secrets are divulged orleaked, think of how Apple fans are pleading for the tech giant to belenient to the young engineer who lost the iPhone prototype.That guy might be lucky – or not – but if it happens to you things probablywon’t look too rosy.

*#1 – Use Facebook excessively*

You’re checking to see how much your crops have grown instead of checkingyour email inbox.

All your friends’ posts have been either liked or commented on by youregardless throughout the day.Your boss caught you on Facebook for the third time that day when you shouldhave been at the board meeting.

Needless to say this addiction to Facebook is going to be your one wayticket out of the office

(AFP)

President Obama’s Speech at University of Indonesia

President Obama’s Speech at University of Indonesia:

“… May our two nations work together, with faith and determination …”

Jakarta, November 10, 2010

 

 

Thank you for this wonderful welcome. Thank you to the people of Jakarta. And thank you to the people of Indonesia.I am so glad that I made it to Indonesia, and that Michelle was able to join me. We had a couple of false starts this year, but I was determined to visit a country that has meant so much to me. Unfortunately, it’s a fairly quick visit, but I look forward to coming back a year from now, when Indonesia hosts the East Asia Summit.

 

Before I go any further, I want to say that our thoughts and prayers are with all of those Indonesians affected by the recent tsunami and volcanic eruptions – particularly those who have lost loved ones, and those who have been displaced. As always, the United States stands with Indonesia in responding to this natural disaster, and we are pleased to be able to help as needed. As neighbors help neighbors and families take in the displaced, I know that the strength and resilience of the Indonesian people will pull you through once more.

 

Let me begin with a simple statement: Indonesia is a part of me. I first came to this country when my mother married an Indonesian man named Lolo Soetoro. As a young boy, I was coming to a different world. But the people of Indonesia quickly made me feel at home.

 

Jakarta looked very different in those days. The city was filled with buildings that were no more than a few stories tall. The Hotel Indonesia was one of the few high rises, and there was just one brand new shopping center called Sarinah. Betchaks outnumbered automobiles in those days, and the highway quickly gave way to unpaved roads and kampongs.

 

We moved to Menteng Dalam, where we lived in a small house with a mango tree out front. I learned to love Indonesia while flying kites, running along paddy fields, catching dragonflies, and buying satay and baso from the street vendors. Most of all, I remember the people – the old men and women who welcomed us with smiles; the children who made a foreigner feel like a neighbor; and the teachers who helped me learn about the wider world.

 

Because Indonesia is made up of thousands of islands, hundreds of languages, and people from scores of regions and ethnic groups, my times here helped me appreciate the common humanity of all people. And while my stepfather, like most Indonesians, was raised a Muslim, he firmly believed that all religions were worthy of respect. In this way, he reflected the spirit of religious tolerance that is enshrined in Indonesia’s Constitution, and that remains one of this country’s defining and inspiring characteristics.

 

I stayed here for four years – a time that helped shape my childhood; a time that saw the birth of my wonderful sister, Maya; and a time that made such an impression on my mother that she kept returning to Indonesia over the next twenty years to live, work and travel – pursuing her passion of promoting opportunity in Indonesia’s villages, particularly for women and girls. For her entire life, my mother held this place and its people close to her heart.

 

So much has changed in the four decades since I boarded a plane to move back to Hawaii. If you asked me – or any of my schoolmates who knew me back then – I don’t think any of us could have anticipated that I would one day come back to Jakarta as President of the United States. And few could have anticipated the remarkable story of Indonesia over these last four decades.

 

The Jakarta that I once knew has grown to a teeming city of nearly ten million, with skyscrapers that dwarf the Hotel Indonesia, and thriving centers of culture and commerce. While my Indonesian friends and I used to run in fields with water buffalo and goats, a new generation of Indonesians is among the most wired in the world – connected through cell phones and social networks. And while Indonesia as a young nation focused inward, a growing Indonesia now plays a key role in the Asia Pacific and the global economy.

 

This change extends to politics. When my step-father was a boy, he watched his own father and older brother leave home to fight and die in the struggle for Indonesian independence. I’m happy to be here on Heroes Day to honor the memory of so many Indonesians who have sacrificed on behalf of this great country.

 

When I moved to Jakarta, it was 1967, a time that followed great suffering and conflict in parts of this country. Even though my step-father had served in the Army, the violence and killing during that time of political upheaval was largely unknown to me because it was unspoken by my Indonesian family and friends. In my household, like so many others across Indonesia, it was an invisible presence. Indonesians had their independence, but fear was not far away.

 

In the years since then, Indonesia has charted its own course through an extraordinary democratic transformation – from the rule of an iron fist to the rule of the people. In recent years, the world has watched with hope and admiration, as Indonesians embraced the peaceful transfer of power and the direct election of leaders. And just as your democracy is symbolized by your elected President and legislature, your democracy is sustained and fortified by its checks and balances: a dynamic civil society; political parties and unions; a vibrant media and engaged citizens who have ensured that – in Indonesia – there will be no turning back.

 

But even as this land of my youth has changed in so many ways, those things that I learned to love about Indonesia – that spirit of tolerance that is written into your Constitution; symbolized in your mosques and churches and temples; and embodied in your people – still lives on. Bhinneka Tunggal Ika – unity in diversity. This is the foundation of Indonesia’s example to the world, and this is why Indonesia will play such an important role in the 21st century.

 

So today, I return to Indonesia as a friend, but also as a President who seeks a deep and enduring partnership between our two countries. Because as vast and diverse countries; as neighbors on either side of the Pacific; and above all as democracies – the United States and Indonesia are bound together by shared interests and shared values.

 

Yesterday, President Yudhoyono and I announced a new, Comprehensive Partnership between the United States and Indonesia. We are increasing ties between our governments in many different areas, and – just as importantly – we are increasing ties among our people. This is a partnership of equals, grounded in mutual interests and mutual respect.

 

With the rest of my time today, I’d like to talk about why the story I just told – the story of Indonesia since the days when I lived here – is so important to the United States, and to the world. I will focus on three areas that are closely related, and fundamental to human progress – development, democracy, and religion.

 

First, the friendship between the United States and Indonesia can advance our mutual interest in development.

When I moved to Indonesia, it would have been hard to imagine a future in which the prosperity of families in Chicago and Jakarta would be connected. But our economies are now global, and Indonesians have experienced both the promise and perils of globalization: from the shock of the Asian financial crisis in the 1990s to the millions lifted out of poverty. What that means – and what we learned in the recent economic crisis – is that we have a stake in each other’s success.

 

America has a stake in an Indonesia that is growing, with prosperity that is broadly shared among the Indonesian people – because a rising middle class here means new markets for our goods, just as America is a market for yours. And so we are investing more in Indonesia, our exports have grown by nearly 50 percent, and we are opening doors for Americans and Indonesians to do business with one another.

 

America has a stake in an Indonesia that plays its rightful role in shaping the global economy. Gone are the days when seven or eight countries could come together to determine the direction of global markets. That is why the G-20 is now the center of international economic cooperation, so that emerging economies like Indonesia have a greater voice and bear greater responsibility. And through its leadership of the G-20’s anti-corruption group, Indonesia should lead on the world stage and by example in embracing transparency and accountability.

 

America has a stake in an Indonesia that pursues sustainable development, because the way we grow will determine the quality of our lives and the health of our planet. That is why we are developing clean energy technologies that can power industry and preserve Indonesia’s precious natural resources – and America welcomes your country’s strong leadership in the global effort to combat climate change.

 

Above all, America has a stake in the success of the Indonesian people. Underneath the headlines of the day, we must build bridges between our peoples, because our future security and prosperity is shared. That is exactly what we are doing – by increased collaboration among our scientists and researchers, and by working together to foster entrepreneurship. And I am especially pleased that we have committed to double the number of American and Indonesian students studying in our respective countries – we want more Indonesian students in our schools, and more American students to come study in this country, so that we can forge new ties that last well into this young century.

 

These are the issues that really matter in our daily lives. Development, after all, is not simply about growth rates and numbers on a balance sheet. It’s about whether a child can learn the skills they need to make it in a changing world. It’s about whether a good idea is allowed to grow into a business, and not be suffocated by corruption. It’s about whether those forces that have transformed the Jakarta that I once knew -technology and trade and the flow of people and goods – translate into a better life for human beings, a life marked by dignity and opportunity.

 

This kind of development is inseparable from the role of democracy.

 

Today, we sometimes hear that democracy stands in the way of economic progress. This is not a new argument. Particularly in times of change and economic uncertainty, some will say that it is easier to take a shortcut to development by trading away the rights of human beings for the power of the state. But that is not what I saw on my trip to India, and that is not what I see in Indonesia. Your achievements demonstrate that democracy and development reinforce one another.

 

Like any democracy, you have known setbacks along the way. America is no different. Our own Constitution spoke of the effort to forge a “more perfect union,” and that is a journey we have travelled ever since, enduring Civil War and struggles to extend rights to all of our citizens. But it is precisely this effort that has allowed us to become stronger and more prosperous, while also becoming a more just and free society.

 

Like other countries that emerged from colonial rule in the last century, Indonesia struggled and sacrificed for the right to determine your destiny. That is what Heroes Day is all about – an Indonesia that belongs to Indonesians. But you also ultimately decided that freedom cannot mean replacing the strong hand of a colonizer with a strongman of your own.

 

Of course, democracy is messy. Not everyone likes the results of every election. You go through ups and downs. But the journey is worthwhile, and it goes beyond casting a ballot. It takes strong institutions to check the concentration of power. It takes open markets that allow individuals to thrive. It takes a free press and an independent justice system to root out abuse and excess, and to insist upon accountability. It takes open society and active citizens to reject inequality and injustice.

 

These are the forces that will propel Indonesia forward. And it will require a refusal to tolerate the corruption that stands in the way of opportunity; a commitment to transparency that gives every Indonesian a stake in their government; and a belief that the freedom that Indonesians have fought for is what holds this great nation together.

 

That is the message of the Indonesians who have advanced this democratic story – from those who fought in the Battle of Surabaya 55 years ago today; to the students who marched peacefully for democracy in the 1990s, to leaders who have embraced the peaceful transition of power in this young century. Because ultimately, it will be the rights of citizens that will stitch together this remarkable Nusantara that stretches from Sabang to Merauke – an insistence that every child born in this country should be treated equally, whether they come from Java or Aceh; Bali or Papua.

 

That effort extends to the example that Indonesia sets abroad. Indonesia took the initiative to establish the Bali Democracy Forum, an open forum for countries to share their experiences and best practices in fostering democracy. Indonesia has also been at the forefront of pushing for more attention to human rights within ASEAN. The nations of Southeast Asia must have the right to determine their own destiny, and the United States will strongly support that right. But the people of Southeast Asia must have the right to determine their own destiny as well. That is why we condemned elections in Burma that were neither free nor fair. That is why we are supporting your vibrant civil society in working with counterparts across this region. Because there is no reason why respect for human rights should stop at the border of any country.

 

Hand in hand, that is what development and democracy are about – the notion that certain values are universal. Prosperity without freedom is just another form of poverty. Because there are aspirations that human beings share – the liberty of knowing that your leader is accountable to you, and that you won’t be locked up for disagreeing with them; the opportunity to get an education and to work with dignity; the freedom to practice your faith without fear or restriction.

 

Religion is the final topic that I want to address today, and – like democracy and development – it is fundamental to the Indonesian story.

 

Like the other Asian nations that I am visiting on this trip, Indonesia is steeped in spirituality – a place where people worship God in many different ways. Along with this rich diversity, it is also home to the world’s largest Muslim population – a truth that I came to know as a boy when I heard the call to prayer across Jakarta.

 

Just as individuals are not defined solely by their faith, Indonesia is defined by more than its Muslim population. But we also know that relations between the United States and Muslim communities have frayed over many years. As President, I have made it a priority to begin to repair these relations. As a part of that effort, I went to Cairo last June, and called for a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world – one that creates a path for us to move beyond our differences.

 

I said then, and I will repeat now, that no single speech can eradicate years of mistrust. But I believed then, and I believe today, that we have a choice. We can choose to be defined by our differences, and give in to a future of suspicion and mistrust. Or we can choose to do the hard work of forging common ground, and commit ourselves to the steady pursuit of progress. And I can promise you – no matter what setbacks may come, the United States is committed to human progress. That is who we are. That is what we have done. That is what we will do.

 

We know well the issues that have caused tensions for many years – issues that I addressed in Cairo. In the 17 months that have passed we have made some progress, but much more work remains to be done.

 

Innocent civilians in America, Indonesia, and across the world are still targeted by violent extremists. I have made it clear that America is not, and never will be, at war with Islam. Instead, all of us must defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates, who have no claim to be leaders of any religion – certainly not a great, world religion like Islam. But those who want to build must not cede ground to terrorists who seek to destroy. This is not a task for America alone. Indeed, here in Indonesia, you have made progress in rooting out terrorists and combating violent extremism.

 

In Afghanistan, we continue to work with a coalition of nations to build the capacity of the Afghan government to secure its future. Our shared interest is in building peace in a war-torn land – a peace that provides no safe-haven for violent extremists, and that provides hope for the Afghan people.

 

Meanwhile, we have made progress on one of our core commitments – our effort to end the war in Iraq. 100,000 American troops have left Iraq. Iraqis have taken full responsibility for their security. And we will continue to support Iraq as it forms an inclusive government and we bring all of our troops home.

 

In the Middle East, we have faced false starts and setbacks, but we have been persistent in our pursuit of peace. Israelis and Palestinians restarted direct talks, but enormous obstacles remain. There should be no illusions that peace and security will come easy. But let there be no doubt: we will spare no effort in working for the outcome that is just, and that is in the interest of all the parties involved: two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.

 

The stakes are high in resolving these issues, and the others I have spoken about today. For our world has grown smaller and while those forces that connect us have unleashed opportunity, they also empower those who seek to derail progress. One bomb in a marketplace can obliterate the bustle of daily commerce. One whispered rumor can obscure the truth, and set off violence between communities that once lived in peace. In an age of rapid change and colliding cultures, what we share as human beings can be lost.

 

But I believe that the history of both America and Indonesia gives us hope. It’s a story written into our national mottos. E pluribus unum – out of many, one. Bhinneka Tunggal Ika – unity in diversity. We are two nations, which have travelled different paths. Yet our nations show that hundreds of millions who hold different beliefs can be united in freedom under one flag. And we are now building on that shared humanity – through the young people who will study in each other’s schools; through the entrepreneurs forging ties that can lead to prosperity; and through our embrace of fundamental democratic values and human aspirations..

 

Earlier today, I visited the Istiqlal mosque – a place of worship that was still under construction when I lived in Jakarta. I admired its soaring minaret, imposing dome, and welcoming space. But its name and history also speak to what makes Indonesia great. Istiqlal means independence, and its construction was in part a testament to the nation’s struggle for freedom. Moreover, this house of worship for many thousands of Muslims was designed by a Christian architect.

 

Such is Indonesia’s spirit. Such is the message of Indonesia’s inclusive philosophy, Pancasila. Across an archipelago that contains some of God’s most beautiful creations, islands rising above an ocean named for peace, people choose to worship God as they please. Islam flourishes, but so do other faiths. Development is strengthened by an emerging democracy. Ancient traditions endure, even as a rising power is on the move.

 

That is not to say that Indonesia is without imperfections. No country is. But here can be found the ability to bridge divides of race and region and religion – that ability to see yourself in all individuals. As a child of a different race coming from a distant country, I found this spirit in the greeting that I received upon moving here: Selamat Datang. As a Christian visiting a mosque on this visit, I found it in the words of a leader who was asked about my visit and said, “Muslims are also allowed in churches. We are all God’s followers.”

 

That spark of the divine lies within each of us. We cannot give in to doubt or cynicism or despair. The stories of Indonesia and America tell us that history is on the side of human progress; that unity is more powerful than division; and that the people of this world can live together in peace. May our two nations work together, with faith and determination, to share these truths with all mankind.

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.

Tifatul chided for lingking sex tape to crucifixion

Tifatul chided for linking sex tape scandal to crucifixion

(19/6/10)Communications and Information Technology Minister Tifatul Sembiring has spent most of the past two days fending off an onslaught of Twitter attacks after he compared a sex tape controversy to the theological debate between Christians and Muslims about the death of Jesus Christ.

He said Thursday during a breakfast meeting at his office that the public debate over the sex tapes featuring people resembling singer Nazril “Ariel” Irham, TV presenter Luna Maya and celebrity Cut Tari was like the dispute between Muslims, who believe that Jesus Christ was not crucified but rather that someone resembling him was, and Christians, who believe that Jesus Christ was crucified.

The celebrities have claimed the persons in the sex videos are not them.  

Tifatul said that confirming the identity of the persons in the tapes was very important to avoid adverse impacts in the future like those emerging from the different views of Muslims and Christians. He did not elaborate on the impacts of the theological discord between the world’s two largest religions.

One Twitter message directed at the minister from the account “@Williamalwijaya” asked: “What is the relationship between Ariel and the Catholic followers of God? Were you drunk when you said that?”.
Tifatul tweeted back, “You had better not quote people’s words partially, that makes you look like a drunk person”.

Tifatul also wrote to another of his Twitter criticizers, “@artjie”, “I’m explaining the point of view of Muslims on Prophet Isa and of the Christians on Jesus Christ, you can ask theologists about this.”

He also tried to clarify the context of his statements to “@nafaurbach” by saying, “Muslims believe that Prophet Isa wasn’t crucified, that it was someone ‘resembling’ him, while Christians believe that Jesus Christ was crucified”.

A Catholic priest from the Indonesian Bishops Council, Father Beni Susetyo, said that as a public official, Tifatul Sembiring should not compare a pornography scandal to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, because it could hurt the feelings of believers. “There is no connection between pornography and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ at all,” he told The Jakarta Post.

He criticized the minister for showing a lack of appreciation for beliefs other than his own in such a diverse country as Indonesia.

This is the second time that Tifatul has sparked a controversy on Twitter. In April, he tweeted a quote from Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. He wrote, “The union between two children, when both of them complete each other, this is magic – Adolf Hitler”.

This posting drew the ire of many members of the public, who complained the minister had shown a lack of respect for the millions of people killed in the genocide perpetrated under Nazi leadership during World War II. (the Jakarta post)