Friday, June 22, 2007

Islamic Doris Duke Arts in Honolulu

Clash of Civilizations: Real or Imagined?

Clash of civilizations: Real or imagined?

Juwono Sudarsono, the Jakarta Post, June, 23, 2007

I have been asked to address the topic presented for this meeting: "Clash of Civilizations: Real or Imagined?" I have come to the conclusion that the clash is both real as well as imagined, simply because "facts", or reality, are often inseparable from perceptions, or the "imagined". The more so because much of the debate has been exacerbated and distorted by the media.
Western media have used such expressions as "Islamic fundamentalism", "Islamic terrorism", "Islamic jihadists" and even "Islamic fascists". Some television and radio stations, as well as trash tabloids, are prone to using these terms. They feed on one another so that "fact" becomes fiction, and fiction "ignites" facts.
The Muslim world as a whole has suffered from this massive media manipulation. It has given rise to many different sets of perceptions about "clashes within civilizations", including among Muslims in the Middle East, Asia and Southeast Asia. You can also say that it is a clash of ideas about civilizations across all continents.
The notion of a "clash of civilizations" was first publicly raised in 1993 in an article written in Foreign Affairs magazine by Professor Samuel Huntington, and it is useful to remind ourselves of the context of when and why the question of a clash of civilizations was brought up.
First, it appeared in the wake of the "victory" of liberal capitalism over communism, symbolized by the unification of the two Germanys in October 1991 and the dismantling of the Soviet Union in December. The 1991 Gulf War over Kuwait added to the sense of western triumphalism. American hegemony was at its peak.
Second, the crises in the Middle East and the rise of militant Islamist movements against Western interests throughout the world in the mid-1980s began to be perceived by many in the West as "radical Islam" supplanting Communism as the principal challenge in the global ideological contest. Bombings against western interests in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Gulf region resulted in the rise of faith-based neo-conservatism.
Thereafter, the events of Sept. 11, 2001, confirmed the notion in the West that there would be a global contest between the liberal capitalist world led by the United States and the Islamic world led by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda movement.
While there may be superficial truth about this worldwide contest for ideological supremacy, the fact of the matter is that there were even more serious clashes within civilizations, both in "the West" and even more so in the "Muslim world". Within the Western world, there began a series of cleavages between Christian fundamentalists and progressive schools, both in the Protestant as well as Catholic churches, in North America, Europe as well as in Latin America.
In the U.S., the role of the Christian right representing various church denominations became powerful in influencing both domestic and foreign policy debates. From prayer in schools, abortion, gay marriages and stem cell research, to preaching Christian civilization and pushing western-style "democracy" abroad, these self-righteous views influenced the perception that the current American administration has been subtly influenced by the right-wing constituencies.
In Europe, crises of identity among Muslims within each of the European democracies in part have been compounded by worries over illegal immigration.
Contrary to popular opinion both in the West and within the Muslim world itself, there began serious clashes about civilization in the Islamic world itself. While a tiny minority may have been attracted to the notion of a "worldwide caliphate" imbued by Islamic values, as propounded by Osama Bin Laden, there have been different "realities " at the ground level.
Serious differences of the interpretation of Islam in Africa, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia began to proliferate. Differing interpretations of the practical application of Muslim values are present in the Middle East among and within each Arab state, between Arab states and Iran, between the larger Middle East and Turkey, between Muslims in Pakistan and Muslims in India. And indeed, among Muslims within Malaysia and Indonesia.
At the end of the day, it is the clash of local political interests that define and divide the conflict in the Middle East. Much of the root causes of these conflicts ultimately rest on tribal rivalry and clan contests for access to status, group privilege, personal power or a combination of the three.
The Palestine Authority is divided by factionalism between Fatah and Hamas, which, ironically, has little to do with Islamic values. In contemporary Iraq, violent clashes occur between Sunnis and Shiites, as well as among Sunni parochial groups. And then there are the criminals and thugs who profit from incessant chaos. The issue of anti-Americanism is marginal to all of these situations.
Historically, the Muslim world in the Middle East has been marginalized by the structural juxtaposition of three issues:
First, the Palestine-Israel conflict going back to the early 20th century,
Second, the nexus of energy dependence and strategic military projection of the West going back to the 1930s.
Third, the conflicting claims by Islam, Christianity and Judaism over the heritage of the holy sites in the region. There has to date been no international initiative that has been able to sustain the painstaking tribal and clan accords that are imperative to make any progress viable. Thus far, all manner of agreements have unraveled by these micro-dimensions of clashes of civilization.
Indonesia has often been seen as a model "moderate" Muslim country which can play a significant contributing role to the peace process in the Middle East. But we all realize that the realities of the Muslim world in the Middle East are strikingly different from the situation in Southeast Asia.
We must not be too tempted to preach, much less transpose, our version of Islam on the situation in the Arab world in particular and the Middle East in general.
Within Indonesia itself, there is much work to be done in the days, months and years ahead to prevent clashes within our own micro-civilizations at the ground level.
Only then can we be vindicated by our common commitment to not only promote dialogue and cooperation among Indonesians of all faiths, but provide real-world practical solutions on the ground that replenish the true traditions of pluralism, tolerance and openness within the widening embrace of Indonesian-ness. Let us conduct dialogue and work cooperatively. Let us all practice what we preach.
The writer is Indonesia's Defense Minister. This article is based on a presentation given at the launch of the Center for Dialogue and Cooperation among Civilizations, in Jakarta on June 15

Some Pressing Interfaith Issues

Asia-Europe interfaith talks urge new attitude

Ati Nurbaiti, The Jakarta Post, Nanjing, China

Participants in the latest round of interfaith talks in the region have spoken of the need to reach out to all communities across the world.
The Nanjing Statement on Interfaith Dialog issued Thursday stressed "the need to create more possibilities and favorable conditions for deepening interfaith and intercultural dialog, especially at the grassroots level."
Religious leaders and observers had separately raised the urgent need for such dialogs to move beyond government officials, religious leaders and academics, although a number of civil society groups already participate in similar events.
Recent interfaith talks have been held in the Philippines and in New Zealand.
The Nanjing talks from June 19 to 21 were a follow up to similar talks held at the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Larnaca, Cyprus in January, and earlier in Bali in 2005.
The statement added that the favorable conditions for more dialogs at the grassroots would need at a national level an "environment of understanding and mutual respect in which all people, be they religious or non-religious, shall be living in peace, practice and communicate their faiths and convictions."
A working group on social cohesion had raised the need to also include people who do not adhere to any faith.
The host country China, which is officially communist, claims among its 1.3 billion population 100 million followers of Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Taoism and Islam, its five state-sanctioned faiths.
Although the constitution protects the right to religious beliefs, members of several unrecognized faiths claim to have been harassed. The most known to the outside world, Falun Gong, is banned.
The assistant minister of foreign affairs, Cui Tian Kai, said the government would "seriously and earnestly implement all our commitments enshrined in the statement", in following up the statement's appeal for Asian and European countries to "respect freedom of religion or belief, diversity in social system..."
However, "as to the evil cult which you referred to, that is of course an anti-humanity and anti-social cult and it runs counter to the tenets of all religions."
"And evil cults like this will have to banned in every country," he said.
Among other issues touched on in the statement were the recognition of the migrant communities that had increased ethnic, religious and cultural diversity in Asian and Europe countries.
The statement raised the need to adopt the best policies possible "to help legal migrants while respecting and preserving as much as possible their original faith and cultural traditions so as to promote social cohesion and peaceful co-existence."
Tension between largely Muslim migrant communities and recipient countries such as the United Kingdom and France has particularly drawn attention in the past years.
Government officials from European countries explained their policies in the talks, with tiny Singapore also sharing its policies of ensuring that representatives of all groups including "hard liners" join top-to-bottom intergroup-level dialogs in each community to overcome any misunderstanding.
The talks were attended by representatives of 35 of the 45 country "partners" of ASEM.
Indonesian moderator Din Syamsuddin, leader of the Muhammadiyah Islamic organization, said to be effective interfaith dialogs needed "a new formula, a new approach".
He said his proposals "to include the excluded" posed a dilemma when referring to groups that are considered "hard-line" or "extremist". Attempts to reach out to these groups must be continued in Indonesia, he said.
One of the Indonesian speakers, Komaruddin Hidayat, said a "more personal approach" would be needed regarding "hard-line groups".
"Who really wants to live a life hunted by the police and isolated by society?" he said. Violent religious expressions were far from sanctioned by communities, he said

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Being Instructor at Islam and Southeast Asia Workshop

Global Village Initiative

A Partnership with the Department of Education, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and the Honolulu Academy of Arts
Funded by the Freeman Foundation

2007-2008 Theme: Islam and Southeast Asia

We look forward to Year II of the Global Village Initiative.
Guided by Dr. Barbara Andaya, Director of Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Hawai`i, our Global Village Year II will include:
Annual June Workshop, June 12 - 16, 2007
Four Professional Development Workshops
June Workshop

This one-week workshop will provide rich content on Islam including an historical understanding (spread of Islam, key figures, major belief and value systems), Islam and economic networks, cultural and art traditions, impact of colonialism on the Islamic world, modern Islam in response to internationalism, and human rights issues and what does it mean to be Muslim? We will explore the Islamic diaspora to include Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East, and China.The workshop will be led by Muhamad Ali, doctoral candidate at the University of Hawaii in the Department of History. Born in Indonesia, Muhamad Ali attended Islamic schools his entire life. Before his graduate studies at the University of Hawaii and the East-West Center, he was an Assistant Lecturer in the Faculty of Religious Thought at Syarif Hidayattulah State Islamic University in Jakarta.Joining the teaching faculty will be Amy Landau, Curator for Shangri-La, the Honolulu home of Doris Duke which houses an impressive collection of Islamic art.The one-week workshop will also feature a teacher excursion to Shangri-La and the viewing of the Malaysian film, Sepet, an award winning love story about a Chinese boy and a Malay Muslim girl separated by religious and racial difference.
Download a pdf file of the Workshop Syllabus
Workshop Outcomes
Teachers will work collaboratively to co-create statewide model curriculum. Rubrics will be developed to assess teacher learning before and after workshop.
Extended Learning Opportunities
Four Professional Development workshops will focus on writing curriculum with DOE master teachers and on rubrics for assessment of student learning:
September 22, 2007December 8, 2007March 7, 2008May 3, 2008
PD 3-credit option;
School visits to the Honolulu Academy of Arts to view Islamic art galleries;
Student art work created as an outcome of the Global Village Initiative exhibited at the Honolulu Academy of Arts
Possible cultural performances