Herb Feith Dialogue Series with Professor Arskal Salim

Herb Feith Dialogue Series with Professor Arskal Salim


– The questions about the uniqueness of Indonesian Islamic traditions requires an understanding of the history, and also the culture
of Indonesian Muslims. – Indonesian Islamic tradition is unique, given that Islam came to
Indonesia from the Middle East, through peaceful way. So this is unique compared
to the way Islam penetrate other areas in the world. Those people who came to
Indonesia to introduce Islam were traders, merchants, not warriors. So they came to see Indonesia people, through peaceful means and also in very special way. – Indonesian is a country
which has a long history of it’s own indigenous traditions, so when Islam arrives
there in the 13th century, everywhere in Indonesian,
in the whole archipelago, it encounters local traditions. And part of the interest of the history of Islam in Indonesia, is the way in which
those local traditions, and Islamic forces interact. – They married local people,
they interact with them, they live with the local communities. So that Islam become part
of Indonesian culture. – In some ways, there
are some differences, quite stark differences, between what is practised in
Indonesian Islamic tradition, than in Middle East
tradition, for instance. – The change in the last
30 years has been dramatic. Once the Suharto aspirant
totalitarian state was gone, the Indonesians recognised, in the early years of this century, that the only way to run the
worlds largest archipelago, which of course is a terrible
challenge for a government, is to break it up into small
local government areas. – Each region has a election, right. At the provincial level,
at the district level, even at the national level. – Indonesian governments,
underneath the provincial level, can make quite significant
laws about public order. And in the parts of Indonesia, where the Muslim population is very high, and we’re talking here 97% and above. You find that governments,
in order to please, well, in inverted commas,
please Muslim populations, have made regulations that
have made things difficult for Islamic minorities. For example, it emerges around issues
such as the moral panics that emerge now and again,
in relation to things, like for example, gay and lesbian rights. – There is a line of conservatism that not many people are keen to adjust, or even to accept it, like
a discussion about LGBT. It is not too much welcome in terms of the religious practise. – What of the position of
the sexual orientations in Indonesian public life, this is a hugely divisive
issue in Indonesia, between a generally conservative
populous on one hand, and between activists on
the other, who insist, well these things are
threats to our nations, so that tension is becoming more potent in the recent decade or so. – So it’s actually
become harder and harder to generalise about all of Indonesia. It is a nation of immense
complexity, cultural multiplicity, religious multiplicity,
and very hard to govern. – Where one side, you can
see, democracy emerging, where all electoral democracy
can take place peacefully, on the other side, we still find, let’s say, radicals movements,
terrorism, et cetera. But we need to understand that all this radial
movements considered very few. – Is there a sense of dialogue, or open speech happening in Indonesia now? Absolutely. And it’s not a very edifying
or pleasing dialogue, to be honest. Because one of the problems recently has been the quality of
communication in the media, in particular the social media. – They embrace technology,
they embrace social media. It’s part of their way to
express their perspective. And I think political parties
need to be held accountable, because sometime they are
using also identity politic, on the way they are
gathering their constituents. And this identity politic,
if not managed well, could destroy the harmony of the society, which is comprises of differences in term of religious practise and beliefs. – Social media has a way
of spreading messages, that mightn’t be true, or
fair, or could be prejudicial in a way that the sender’s
not really accountable. – Ideas can be spread
rapidly, immediately, by some very nefarious actors, but equally responses to that
can be spread rapidly too. So there’s a kind of battle
which goes on in that area. – There is always battle
between two camps of ideology. The Islamism, lets say
that, and Nationalism. – I think the key to
diversity in Indonesia, and to maintain the harmony
amongst Indonesian society, is what we call it in
Indonesian term gotong-royong, roughly translated, mutual
cooperation, we help each other. That’s the key for our harmony. And I think Indonesians
should be proud of it. – We are keen to boost our international democratic profile further, and also we want to promote
our educational system as the best way to teach
Islam, to teach religion. – So the government trying to focus more on the Indonesians multicultural,
in the education system, in the culture, so they put it into books from the level of primary school, up to the high level education – We have a programme
called Islam Moderate, Moderation of Islam. So what we want to emphasis
here that as a Muslim, we need to find a middle way. We are religious, but not to that extreme, either to the left wing,
or to the right wing, so we are just in the middle. – Indonesian education system, is well placed to deal with
that, because the strategies, they are not new things in Indonesia, they’re already on the agenda, they’ve been on the agenda
for quite a long time, this idea of an Islamic
education that’s inclusive. – Many scholars are in doubt whether a democracy can be sustained
in a Muslim country, and Indonesian has proven otherwise. – More and more Muslims
scholars from Indonesia now go around the world, even they teach in Western universities, so I think that’s a good start. – We could teach them
how to embrace religions, how to practise religions without undermining other
identities, or other perspectives. – Hafid Seta, at the Monash University invited me to come to
Melbourne, to deliver a talk on political Islam in Indonesia. This topic is of very much interest among many audience here in Australia. Having this kind of
programme, I’m really grateful that I could see students and Professor, and discus with them. So I feel so much I joyful with this. We are optimistic that we can maintain, we can still keep Indonesia
become democratic country and still in moderate way. Now we need to work hard to
prove that though democracy we can also improve our welfare. That’s the most, let’s say something, a mission that we need to fulfil.

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