Friday, May 25, 2007

Readers' Comments on My Article "Merry Xmas from Muslims"

Dear Mr. Mohamad Ali,

My name is Franky Wibowo, lives in Jakarta, I have read your article in The Jakarta Post on Dec 24, 2002 in page 7 with title: Merry Xmas from Muslims: A Lesson in tolerance. Your article is the best writing that I have ever read about religious tolerance between Islam and Christianity, it looks like that you are overwhelming the essential meaning of tolerance.

Anyway, I myself is a Christian and also a minority ethnic in Indonesia, let say: chinese. I am glad that there are good technocrats like you, Abdulrachman Wahid, Azyumardi, Ulil, etc in muslim society, even the numbers are very few, at least compare with the total muslim population in Indonesia. It's a pity that the good technocrats and also the moderate muslim like you are not huge number and I would say that you like ministers in the king's palace who never down-earthed in the common layer. The common layer is consisting of the people who are un-educated and know very little about religious doctrine and poverty overwhelms them forever. They have been easily guided and misused by the other layer for political events and also always sacrifices minority ethnic for blaming as infidel and we must accept that treatment as a second class in Indonesian society. There is a circle of racial riots in Indonesia, maybe every 30 years or faster. Besides that, mass media accounted that so many demolished attempting occurred to the churches in 1999 and strings of church bombing in 2000.

If you were me, what should you feel? Scary for being a minority of the minorities in Indonesia? I don't know How long this unjust treatment always to be done with us. I myself have been discouraging to live any longer in Indonesia since May 1998. I think you must know the phenomenon in our society, that is many of my colleagues now are seeking for a permanent resident in many countries like: Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, United States of America and Canada. Everyone gets approval from embassy, is very happy, happier than receiving a new born baby. Do you know how much money they must pay the lawyer off for permanent resident's approval? For Singapore, they must pay off S$ 1,000.- for Canada, US$ 5,000 all for 1 family. What do you think? Is it a normal phenomenon? Maybe it is a trend, the fact is, 3 out of 5 of my colleagues have their own permanent residency (PR). PR is one of another luxury goods for executive officer in Chinese Indonesia community. I think everyone gets sick and tired. The Braindrain is coming!

It's your duty to give a wake up call for moderate muslim and give your article that you have written in The Jakarta Post to common layer in Indonesia. If your success comes, I have no longer to live in another country, will be?

Good Luck for your duty, Selamat Hari Raya Idul Fitri, Mohon Maaf Lahir dan Batin. Good luck for your study in USA

Sincerely yours,

Franky, also U.S. green card holder
Assalamu'alaikum Wr Wb

Dear Brother Muhammad Ali,I read your article "Merry Xmas from Muslims: A lesson in tolerance" printed in the Jakarta Post and liked it very much.As such, I am distributing it in islaminst yahoogroups mailing list.I have been contacted by scholars such as Dr Giora Eliraz (Visiting Fellow in the Faculty of Asian Studies, Australian National University) and Dr Reuven Paz (The International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism) who are interested in "Islam in Indonesia". I'll appreciate it very much if you could add me to your list of recipients. Thank you.WassalamMoorshidee B A Kassim

Dear Mr. Ali,Merry Christmas to you and your family! I salute your rather bold but honest comments exhorting your fellowMuslim believers about what you think is a more "inclusive" attitudetowards the celebration of Christmas (The Jakarta Post, 12/26/02).People who really understands the agape love that only comes from theAlmighty could say such unselfish concern for his fellow men.Unfortunately, there are still so many who are blinded by their man-made doctrines that continuesly drive our world into perdition. I send you a news clipping that mentions exactly our concerns whichprobably is one that puts us asunder. Again, Merry Christmas! I wish you success in your endeavour. E. GarmaWheaton, IL

December 26, 2002Dear Muhamad,Well said - I read with great interest your essay and enjoyed you perspective and insight. I read the article in the December 24, 2002 edition of "The Jakarta Post".All too often the history and interweaving of Jewish, Muslim and Christian religions and philosophies are neglected. I especially enjoyed your insights into specific instances in the Koran, or other works, where relationships with Christians or Jews were mentioned.I am a Psychological Anthropologist and at the moment I am living in the village of Candidasa on the south east coast of the island of Bali. I work as a college professor in San Francisco, California.If we could encourage more persons to understand the dynamics of our shared prophets and our relating to the same common "book" I think alot of the animosity between peoples would go away.Sometimes I fear the process of moving from a religion of a "life style" philosophical, to a action based western "noun" or thing based world, makes us less understanding about the common thread of life we live as a community and gets us on a competitive bandwagon of a "movement" that we must "win".Instead of relationship we have judgment, separation and movement to chaos. Without the union of atonement (at one ment) we tend to scatter as fish in a school or birds in the sky as they are scared.If there is a book you know that especially highlights the occurrences you have given in you essay I would like to know of it. If there is not such a book I think it would be a great asset to write such a book. Give the people of the world religions some foundation to view their relationship with others in a common context. I would be happy to help facilitate such an undertaking.Terryl Kistler

Readers' Comments on My Article "Promoting Religious Pluralism"

Dear Muhamad --Im' a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor ( and ambased in Jakarta. I read your op-ed with great interest and would like totalk with you, particularly your comments about the denial of an historicalframe of reference for reading the Quran.I'm currently working on a story that is simple in design, difficult inexecution, that asks the following two questions: 1. How many Salafypesantren are there in Indonesia now? 2. Has the number grown? 3. Are suchschools a threat to Indonesia's own Moslem traditions.If you're interested in chatting, let me know when and at what number i cancall you. Best regards, Dan


As a Christian living in Australia I applaud your
recent enlightning article in the Jakarta
about promoting religious pluralism.

My mother, being Indonesian, when we lived in
Hawaii in the 1960's - 70s, used to invite to our
humble house many of the Indonesian students
at the East West Centre for traditional ryst tafel.

She taught me at a very young age the importance
of tolerance. God blessed her with a long and healthy
life, she is now 99, retired in Holland.

The recent tradegy in Bali has hit my Australian
friends very hard, since many of the victims
had very strong local community ties.

Fortunately, because of the strong insistence
of our government and religious leaders, this
has not resulted in revenge attacks here, other
than some minor shows of intolerance by what
I can say are people ignorant of any religion.

I wish you all the best with your endeavours.

Sieuwert Oost

Bapak Muhamad Ali yang terhormat,Perbolehkan saya memperkenalkan diri. Nama saya Ismartono, seorang romokatolik, bekerja pada Komisi Hubungan Antaragama dan Kepercayaan KonferensiWaligereja Indonesia (Komisi HAK-KWI), Jl. Cut Mutiah 10 Jakarta 10340.Saya membaca tulisan Bapak yang berjudul "Promoting religious pluralism".dalam Jakarta Post. Saya senang membaca tulisan itu dan melalui e-mail inisaya mau mengucapkan terima kasih.Akhirnya perbolehkan juga saya mengucapkan Selamat Hari Raya IDUL FITRI 1Syawal 1423 H/2002 M.Dalam mengucapkan selamat ini, saya juga menggabungkan diri dengan ucapan dari Gereja katolik di mana saya berada. Maka bersama ini,saya sampaikanucapan selamat dari Vatikan yang ditandatangangi oleh Uskup Agung MichaelL. Fitzgerald, Ketua Dewan (sejenis Komisi HAK di sana).Rasanya terdapat sebuah semangat pluralisme yang sama yangmelatarbelakanginya. Sekali lagi terima kasih.Teriring salam dan hormat saya,I. Ismartono, SJ

Selamat Idul Fitri, 1 Syawal 1421H,I have read your brief promoting religious pluralism dated December 7,2002 issued by the Jakarta Post. We wish to have in our country a numberof wisemen as you do in order to lead all the believers aspeciallly forour brothers and sisters who have been so called Muslimin and Muslimat.By implementing what you have written in your subject "Promotingreligious pluralism" will lead the believers to the staright way towardsthe salvation.I personally believe that such way each believer will skip out ofmisunderstanding among the religious' believers.Wishing you will be successfully in pursuing your PhD.Wassalam,Jamaluddin Siregar

Halo Pak Muhamad

I read your article in The Jakarta Post,it was nice.I have a question;does it say in the Holy Koran that a Christian/Catholic,Hindu,etc,etc, man can't marry a Muslim woman?The head of KMNU is also a smart and very deep person like you.We need to hear more people like you two,we hear more words from fundamentalists and people like your Vice President,and no words from your President hear in America.You now know and see the news we get.People here see those demos and think people from Indonesia hate them(U.S.A. and the West).But people like me know that in your country I can pay for a demo!As a Black American living in your country,I had friends that were very poor and very rich.They were all the same to me.The people of Pencak Silat thought like you also,they are and will always be my big family.One more thing,what happened to Pak Amien?He has changed very much.Yah,I can understand that it can and is hard to trust the U.S.A.,but he is paranoid.It could be all about 2004,the elections.I guess that's politics.It's the same here,and he did go to school here for a while.How do you like Hawaii?Now that last question was stupid,I know you like it allot.You picked the right place to go to school.Very peaceful and serene.Keep up the good work and study hard!God be with you bro!
See ya!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Some hope in the Middle East Peace Process

from the May 16, 2007 edition -

Israel shows new openness to Saudi peace plan

In Jordan, the Israeli prime minister said he was ready to discuss the Arab Peace Initiative with Mideast neighbors
By Ilene R. Prusher Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert expressed increased interest Tuesday in discussing a Saudi-authored initiative for reaching a comprehensive Middle East peace, inviting the leaders of Arab countries to come to Israel to talk more seriously about the proposal and alternatively offering his own willingness to meet them in any of theirs.
Mr. Olmert's statement of openness to the multinational Arab initiative came in response to pointed questions posed by author Elie Wiesel at a conference in Petra, Jordan, aimed at bringing together Nobel Prize winners and young peace activists in search of new salutations to the region's troubles. And although the meeting, now in its third year, is not usually not a headline-grabber, a flurry of diplomatic activity surrounding the statement suggests that at least some of the region's leaders may be getting a second wind for giving peace talks a fresh chance.
"We heard about the Arab Peace Initiative, and we say come and present it to us. You want to talk to us about it; we are ready to sit down and talk about it carefully," Olmert said. If invited elsewhere to discuss it, he said, "I'm ready to come."
Olmert also met with Jordanian King Abdullah II Tuesday in the port city of Aqaba to have discussions away from the current limelight in Petra, which boasts a complex of ancient Nabatean remains and a plethora of modern hotels. The two did not speak to the press, which has been full of speculative reports about a new initiative afoot, being proposed or at least promoted by the Bush administration.
However, according to the Associated Press, King Abdullah told Olmert during their meeting that Israel first had to take concrete steps to improve relations with the Palestinians. The king stressed that reports of new Israeli settlements and the expansion of existing ones stand in contradiction to Israel's quest for peace, said Amjad Adayleh, spokesman for the Jordanian Royal Palace.
Returning from a two-day trip to Iraq, Vice President Dick Cheney met with the Jordanian king, and told reporters during his stopover in Shannon, Ireland, that the two had discussed the king's sense of urgency that something be done to reverse the stagnation in the peace process, which has largely been frozen since the September 2000 outbreak of the Al Aqsa intifada.
In recent days, Palestinian newspapers have carried reports that a proposal kicking around for many years has resurfaced: the creation of a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation as an answer to the difficulties of creating an independent, viable Palestinian state.
King Abdullah was due to meet Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, known as Abu Mazen, in Ramallah on Sunday, but canceled at the last minute due to inclement weather.
Any signs of life in a peace process come at a particularly historic moment on the calendars of the region.
Israelis are marking Jerusalem Day, celebrating 40 years of what is officially considered to be the reunification of Jerusalem, including the predominantly Arab parts that were part of Jordan until June 1967. Palestinians, for whom East Jerusalem is an occupied territory, held solemn memorials to mark the day of al Nakba, or the Catastrophe, the term used in the Arab world in reference to Israel's creation in 1948.
The complications surrounding any new drive for returning to substantive peace talks worsened Tuesday in Gaza when at least nine members of a Fatah security force were killed in an attack that Fatah blamed on Hamas.
Internal fighting between the two main Palestinian factions has worsened in recent days despite repeated efforts to reach a sustainable truce. On Monday, the Palestinian Authority's interior minister, Hani Qawasmi, resigned, saying that he was fed up with attempts to bring rival security forces to operate under a joint command.
At the conference in Jordan, Yasser Abed Rabbo, the secretary general of Fatah, the mainstream faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), suggested that all parties "stop making excuses" about not having an appropriate peace partner.
"We have an historic opportunity, and we can find all kinds of excuses to miss it. We have an Arab Peace Initiative, and it's a unanimous decision to make peace, a long and lasting peace normalizing relations with Israel, if Israel will agree to withdraw from the Arab occupied territories," Mr. Abed Rabbo said.
He added that after many years of inaction, Palestinians see a renewed push toward "exploring the political horizon" – a catchphrase used by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on her last visit to the region – and that this was another way of referring to the final status talks Israelis and Palestinians were meant to complete seven years ago.
The issues in the talks included solving thorny issues such as Palestinian refugees, borders between Israel and the future Palestinian state, the status of Jerusalem, and water, to name a few.
While these talks should happen under an international umbrella, core issues must be decided by Israelis and Palestinians alone, Abed Rabbo said, evincing concerns that Palestinian decision-making could be overtaken by Arab countries dominant in the Saudi-authored initiative.
"Anyone who thinks that the Arab initiative can replace negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians is dreaming, and it's a bad dream," he said. "The Arabs will not replace the Palestinians ... in making difficult decisions."
Shimon Peres, the vice premier in Olmert's government, lamented that most Palestinians' views do not appear to be in line with those of President Abbas, a moderate with a tenuous hold on authority in the Palestinian territories. "I wish that the policies of Abbas [were] the policies of the Palestinians," Peres said. "Then we [would] have peace in 24 hours."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

the 2 Hours of My Dissertation Defense on May 11, 2007

Clerics versus Politicians

'We trust clerics more than SBY'
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta (May 15, 2007)

Politicians have never been regarded as the most popular of people, and a recent leadership survey by the Islamic and Societal Research Center (PPIM) would seem to suggest that nothing has changed.
The survey, which ran from January through March this year, revealed that Indonesians trusted their religious leaders more than any other individual or institution, including the President.
"Our survey shows that 41 percent of respondents say that they trust the country's religious leaders, while an equal 22 percent of them lay their trust with the President and the Indonesian military," PPIM executive chairman Jajat Burhanuddin told a media conference, as quoted by news portal.
"Another 16 percent say they can trust the police institution, and an equal 11 percent trust the People's Consultative Assembly and the House of Representatives. And only 8 percent of the respondents said they trust the political parties," he added.
The survey questioned 200 respondents between 16 and 70 years of age. Some 42 percent of them lived in the cities, and the remaining 58 percent in villages.
Jajat said the survey showed that religious factors played a more significant role than politics.
Prominent Muslim scholar Azyumardi Azra said the survey also pinpointed the fact that the state institution was weaker than religious ones. "Our state institution is on a declining trend."
He said the National Police's inability to handle the mass riots in 1998 was a symptom of this.
"The police did not have the capacity to deal with the riots, while politicians could not do anything to put an end to them," Azyumardi, former rector of the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University, said.
He suggested that Pancasila, the national ideology, needed to be revived.
"We do not need to change the ideology, but give Pancasila a greater role in solving the problems of the nation," he said, in reference to another aspect of the survey which revealed that Pancasila remains the preferred national ideology.
Jajat said the survey showed that after the fall of president Soeharto people still preferred Pancasila to Islamic sharia, despite the fact that over 80 percent of the country's 220 million people are Muslims.
"Only 22.8 percent of the respondents want Islamic sharia as the state's ideology... The much greater remaining percentage chose Pancasila," Jajat said.
He said respondents had put religion as the most important factor in determining the identity of the nation, with some 41.3 percent of them supporting the idea. Another 24.6 percent chose nationhood as the national identity, while the rest chose occupation, ethnicity, social status and political party membership as their identity.
The survey also showed that 63.9 percent of the respondents agreed on equal distribution of power between Jakarta and the regional administrations nationwide, another 22.8 percent wanted Jakarta to take control of most of the country's government affairs, another 8.3 percent opted for a federation system, 0.8 percent chose to separate from Indonesia and 14.1 percent abstained