Neng Dara Affiah, Her jihad against Muslims schizophrenia

Neng Dara Affiah, Her jihad against Muslims schizophrenia

By Julia Suryakusuma. 

Schizophrenia. We’ve all heard of this disorder, right? This is the short, non-medical definition I found in a dictionary: “A mentality or approach characterized by inconsistent or contradictory elements.” Some would call it, hypocrisy.

We all know people like that, don’t we? What if I said that Muslims are currently suffering from this mental illness? It falls into the category that some scholars call “cultural schizophrenia,” whereby an entity is “crushed between two or more cultures, disabling them from balancing the dictations of the cultures.”

In the case of Islam, in Indonesia as well as elsewhere, it’s the failure of conservative and fundamentalist Muslims to reconcile Islamic teachings and values with modernity and the principles of human rights and democracy. It has a lot to do with the negative patriarchal values that imbue conservative Islam which sees women and “the other” (minorities, non-Muslims, etc., in short, others different from their prescribed brand of Islam) as being inferior, and subject to their judgment, dictates and control.

It’s this deep disillusionment and dismay not just at conservative Islam, but mainstream Islam in Indonesia that has led Neng Dara Affiah to be involved in decades of activism as well as scholarship. She feels it has strayed from the true tenets of a religion that is about peace, tolerance and mutual support.

Neng Dara, currently a lecturer at Nahdlatul Ulama University and former commissioner of the National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan), recently launched two books at the National Library of Indonesia, both published by Obor Foundation.

The first book, entitled Portrait of Progressive Indonesian Muslim Women, is based on her PhD dissertation, a detailed and systematic account of progressive Muslim women’s movements in the New Order and Reform Era.

The second is tantalizingly called Islam, Women’s Leadership and Sexuality, an anthology that tackles issues deemed sensitive in Islam: women’s leadership, polygamy, the hijab, virginity, child marriage and sexuality. She also writes about radicalism, sectarianism and Muslim feminist movements as a means to restore Islam’s true values.

The four panelists discussing the books were as highly qualified, interesting and unique as Neng Dara. The first was KH Iman Nashkei, one of a growing number of male feminist Muslim scholars and a commissioner at Komnas Perempuan. He said Neng’s writings could supplant or at least supplement the kitab kun-ing (traditional Islamic texts used in pesantren or Islamic boarding schools). Pretty bold statement! Islam enters all areas of life, even the most private areas such as the bedroom and toilet, so how come it’s mostly men who write religious texts?

Septemmy E. Lakawa, the second speaker, is a priest who teaches mission studies, contextual theologies and feminist constructive theology at the Jakarta Theological Seminary. She said Neng’s writings are radical and the kind of Islam that Indonesia needs. Neng offers a reinterpretation of Islam within the context of the social and political developments of Indonesia’s history. She proves that Islam is multidimensional and makes clear that it is compatible with modernity, and certainly not the antithesis of democracy as Muslim fundamentalists claim.

Feminist Muslim scholars like Neng Dara bring the womb, and sexuality into the public realm, which is important as women’s bodies are the contested site of various ideological battles that serve the broader purpose of extending conservative Muslim influence into the social and political spheres.

Yuniyanti Chuzaifah, the third speaker, is currently one of the two vice chairpersons of Komnas Perempuan. She feels that Neng should be a feminist version of Quraish Shibab, a highly regarded moderate Islamic scholar, to address the current irrationality of Islam. Neng is hardly an ivory tower scholar, as an academic and activist, she engages in praxis and tries to ground Islam through women’s experiences.

Last but not least was Tsamara Amany, an impressive, smart, knowledgeable, articulate, gutsy 21-year-old politician who dares to take on crusty male politicians like Fahri Hamzah, accusing him of being sesat (misguided) on various controversial issues such as corruption, publicly ridiculing him on YouTube and Twitter. Tsamara is a member of the Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), a new political party set up in 2014, headed by Grace Natalie, 35, a former television presenter who limits PSI membership to the age of 45. Yeah sista, time for regeneration of the old corrupt coterie of male politicians! Can I join even if I am 63? I am very young at heart and have long written about what you fight for!

Tsamara feels empowered by Neng Dara’s books as she feels it addresses her anger at the way men look down on women and also because Neng shows that feminism can be based on Islamic values. Tsamara is also very concerned about the phenomenon of hijrah, the spread of conservatism among young, educated Muslims, including celebrities who trade their dugem (night-life, bar-hopping) ways for a conservative, Muslim garbed, preachy lifestyle. Tsamara feels the need to spread the ideas that Neng promotes in a more digestible, bite-sized version for the younger generation who were weaned on social media.

The attendees at the launch were a reflection of what an ideal, tolerant, pluralistic Indonesia would look like: Inter-generation-al (from 80s to 20s!), inter-class, inter-religious, with members of LGBT community also present.

Neng Dara is not the first progressive Muslim feminist scholar. Before her there was Musdah Mulia, a professor of politics at the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University, Jakarta and co-founder of the Indonesian Conference of Religion and Peace that promotes religious pluralism. If Musdah was considered controversial, especially for her defense of sexual minority rights, which Neng also advocates, in the current climate in Indonesia that is more volatile, Neng will also have her share of haters.

I for one felt the launch to be an oasis in what now seems to be an increasingly barren desert of religious intolerance in Indonesia. In 2017,the Congress of Women Ulema (KUPI), the first event of its kind in the world, was held in Cirebon. It was revolutionary in many ways and Neng Dara’s books certainly continue to carry the torch for an enlightened Islamic revival in Indonesia, led by Muslim feminists.

Neng Dara, and all her feminist compatriots, are trying to heal Islam and Muslims in Indonesia who are trapped in this self-imposed cultural schizophrenia that poses a real danger for the unity-in-diversity spirit that makes Indonesia. After all, we want to live up to our reputation of being a moderate Muslim country, right?

The writer is the author of Julia’s Jihad


The Jakarta Post | Wednesday, January 24 2018

PSI encourages entrepreneurship among millennials

PSI encourages entrepreneurship among millennials

The Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI) held an event in Central Jakarta on Sunday entitled “The Mighty Generations: The Future Is In Your Hands,” seeking to promote entrepreneurship among young people.

The event featured, among others, JakCloth co-founder Andro Rohmana Putera, KokBisa YouTube channel co-founder Gerald Sebastian and Giring Ganesha, lead vocalist of popular pop band Nidji, who shared their experiences in starting businesses through digital avenues.

PSI chairwoman Grace Natalie said that the party wanted to help millennials to take advantage of the “high-tech era.”

“That’s why we invited these successful young people who have creative mentalities and aren’t afraid to fail,” she said.

Grace further said PSI wanted to differentiate itself from other political parties by holding more events such as this.

“We want to share knowledge not just distribute sembako [staple foodstuffs],” she said, referring to a common tactic used by political parties to gain votes.

“We are lucky to live in a time where we don’t need that much capital to start our own business,” said PSI central executive board head Tsamara Amany.

The audience consisted of young people from universities and youth community groups, many of whom were interested in starting their own business.

Rado, a fresh graduate and North Sumatra native, said he wanted to open a business back in his hometown.

“My hometown is near Lake Toba, which has now become a major tourist destination. I think that there’s a great opportunity for tourist businesses like homestays.” He hoped he could use what he learned at the event to pursue his goal. (kmt/ebf)

The Jakarta Post
Make Way for The New
Blog Solidaritas Opini

Make Way for The New

Indonesia’s political landscape is changing, time for the youths to have a say.

In recent years, Indonesia’s political stage is far from quite, corruption rages on in the parliament, political scandals, and leadership disputes inside local parties, medias have been covering about this non-stop. For young generations, so exposed to social medias and news, it’s a worrying sign, it made a perception, that politicians are not to be trusted, and local parties are the symbol of that.

Those perceptions are by no means unproven, according to Indonesian Corruption Watch, from 2005-2015 KPK (Corruption Eradication Commission) has apprehended 82 members of local parties, most of which are parliamentary members.

Both local parties and parliamentary members has been dubbed the most untrusting political body in Indonesia, according to SMRC, a think-tank. Perceptions seemed to cloud the minds of our generations so that they are better off working at a cubicle rather than doing politics.

Indonesia, a country where younger generation is a majority, need to make amends to this situation. Rather than creating a pessimistic culture towards politics, it needs to create an opportunistic one.

With the recent corruption crackdowns orchestrated by KPK and other justice institutions, it is an opportunity for younger generations to finally have a say in Indonesia’s political stage. The corrupt governing officials are being caught, parliamentary seats are opening up for youngsters craving change.

The political wind is beginning to change also, favoring the young ones. The Indonesian Solidarity Party (ISP), the only new party that went through the selection of legal entities by the ministry of justice and human rights after 2014 presidential elections is expecting change in Indonesia’s political landscape.

It claims to fill the party with youths, most of its party members are only 20-30 years old, championing virtue and diversity. This party represents a symbol of the younger generations that is tired and worn out by the current political situation in the country.

The recent political movement in France, the rise of En Marche! a centre-left party run by the newly-elected president of France, Emmanuel Macron (39) is the perfect example of a successful youth political movement.

During the 2017 presidential election, their party embraced diversity and younger educated voters, served as a platform for youths that is tired by the old established parties that has dominated the country’s political landscape (Parti socialiste and Les Républicains). In result, the party won 66 percent of the vote and have a majority seat in the parliament. Indonesians must take note and follow suit, for its upcoming 2019 presidential election, expecting to have this core of young voters dominating the election.

Those changes, means nothing if Indonesia’s youngsters could not change the way they think. One of the first step on changing the perception of politics is to get them to care first, the government needs to get involve. The minimum voter’s age is 17 years old, it is around high school or college in Indonesia’s average educational age, frankly, at this time of age, the young voters are not informed enough on the country’s political stage, this lack of information occurred because they have simply become ignorant on politics, this is a worrying sign.

The government needs to apply some basic political exercises on Indonesia’s educational system, it is on the time of 15-17 years old (High School) where they need to engage on more mature political discussions and argument, to find their political voice, this can be done by, for example, essays or on-class discussions about recent world or national events.

Hopefully by this way, they are “forced” to care on the importance of politics. This basic understanding of politics will ignite arguments, critical thinking, and ideas among Indonesia’s young generations across the archipelago, and among other things, create a willingness for them to join and make a change on Indonesia’s political scene.

For all the times that democracy ever existed, young generation formed the backbone of the system. They represent fresh ideas, hopefully representing the will of the people.

Indonesia’s youth generation (15-54), representing the biggest percentage of the population, is a big opportunity for the country to revolutionized the political scene into a more modern, tolerant and subsequently less-corrupted one. This needs some extra effort from the government and the youths themselves, time for Indonesia to make way for the new.

Pramudya Wicaksono

Mahasiswa di Universiteit van Amsterdam jurusan Business Administration.Suka menulis iseng-iseng di bidang politik dan ekonomi.