Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Multiculturalism in Southeast Asia

Multiculturalism in Southeast Asia
Muhamad Ali, Jakarta | Fri, 12/09/2011 10:25 AM
A | A | A |

The condition of being culturally diverse is neither uniquely modern nor Western, but as an approach, multiculturalism is quite a modern concept (born in mid-20th century). In Southeast Asia, multiculturalism has become constructed and contested in state and society.

Some refer to the pre-colonial time when cities were a pluralistic melting point of peoples from all over Southeast Asia, depicting the archipelago as one of the crossroads of world civilizations. During the colonial time, British scholar, J.S. Furnivall used “plural societies” to describe Southeast Asian societies, “two or more elements or social orders which live side by side, yet without mingling, in one political unit”.

The colonial policies of assimilation, segregation, transmigration, ethnic categorization, adat-recht (customary law) codification, politics of Islam and regulations have impacted on post-colonial multiculturalism. But networks of Islamic reformism, Hinduization, Buddhist Mahayani and later Theravada propagation, Christianization, Chinese migration and assimilation and other processes have shaped the way in which multiculturalism has taken different forms.

Some of the post-colonial legacies include the category of pribumi (indigenous) and non-pribumi (particularly, Chinese peranakan and totok). The indigenous peoples became masyarakat adat (cultural society), and their religions became “kepercayaan” (belief). Organizational plurality (Sarekat Islam, Nahdlatul Ulama, Muhammadiyah and so forth) emerged in response to global Islam (including Wahhabism), but also to colonial politics and domestic conditions in Muslim societies.

Throughout the Old Order and the New Order, ideological and cultural rivalries developed. Pancasila, Bhineka Tunggal Ika (unity in diversity), the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia and the 1945 Constitution have become ties that bind Indonesian citizens across the multicultural spectrum. In terms of language, the use of the Indonesian national language and ethnic languages take turns in terms of priority and usage among some 300 ethnic groups.

In contemporary times, ethno-religious conflicts, religious radicalism and extremism, gender discrimination, globalized theories of clash of civilizations and Westernized assumptions of multiculturalism have become factors for thinking of multiculturalism as a problem, an approach or a solution. In Indonesia, the Free Aceh Movement and its colonial and New Order histories, made Aceh an autonomous region, along with its aspiration for the implementation of Islamic law of its own.

At the same time, regional autonomy gives rise to Islamic bylaws supported by few Islamist parties and secular politicians wanting people’s votes. The problem of Ahmadiyah didn’t exist until there was an Islamic revival involving the established ulema council (MUI) who sought to maintain orthodoxy in response to both internal and external threats, along with secularism, pluralism and liberalism.

The notion of heresy became popularized. The status of lesbians and homosexuals has become controversial too. Multiculturalism became an approach to address attitudes and policies deemed intolerant, discriminatory and unjust to the “marginalized”.

In Malaysia, multiculturalism as an approach and policy is also shaped by pre-colonial and colonial experiences. Ethnicity and religions are mixed (a Malay is one who professes Islam and behaves like a Malay). Islam is the state’s religion while ambiguously allowing religious freedom.

Political parties were constructed along ethnic lines. In response to the Malay-Chinese riots of 1969, The National Front conducted affirmative action through NEP (National Economic Plan) to equalize “backward Malays” so that they could catch up with the Chinese and other educated classes. Malays enjoy constitutional advantages over non-
Malay citizens.

At the same time, Islam remains revivalist, but the UMNO seeks to modernize its character (as in Islam Hadhari). Now the government is promoting OneMalaysia, but tensions remain between ethnicity, religion and citizenship. Progressive movements, such as Sisters in Islam, attempt to be critical of both UMNO and PAS Islamization projects. Others are critical of multiculturalism in the state. In Malaysia, multiculturalism is almost always framed along ethnic lines, with class, gender and religion sometimes present to complicate things.

In Singapore, multiculturalism is defined and promoted in the city-state through a decidedly secular constitution, although religious and communal factors have become increasingly realized by the predominantly Chinese ruling party. Languages (Malay, Chinese, Tamil, English) constitute the primary marker of multicultural policy. The state’s housing policy aims to mix all ethnic groups, but all these are brought into a wider “national, Singaporean culture”. The question “Chinese First” or “Singaporean First” comes to the fore.

The People Action’s Party (PAP)’s ruling prefers “ideological consensus” to boost economic pragmatism, through such policies as “the Religious Harmony Act” (1990), forbidding the use of religion for political ends with penalties for “extremism”, and later through the promotion of basic “Religious Knowledge” (RK) allowing citizens to choose (from seven religions).

These religious policies had the goal of creating interracial harmony. In later developments, realizing the unintended consequences of religious differences in the public sphere, the National Ideology Committee created “shared values”: nation above society, society above self.

Some argue that the shared values are Asian/Eastern values, in opposition to Western values, although such values remain capitalistic. The question remains a tension between individualism and communalism, between West and East, and between multiculturalism and national cohesion.

Thus, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore are highly diverse nations, ethnically, linguistically, religiously, culturally, socially, and politically, but they are diverse in different ways and cope with diversity in different ways.

Multiculturalism is a new way of understanding culture. Culture is not static, so multiculturalism should not imply those diverse cultures are fixed. “Multiculturalism”, as William Connoly states, “embodies within itself a quarrel between the national protection of diverse cultural minorities in the same territory and the pluralization of multiple possibilities of being within and across states.”

There is tension between multiculturalism and universal humanism, between what Charles Taylor calls “Politics of Recognition”, emphasizing the unique identity of an individual or a group (against assimilation), and “Politics of Universalism”, emphasizing the equal dignity of all citizens (no first-class no second-class citizens).

Does the belief that all human beings have dignity necessarily mean that particular cultural identities are suppressed or negated? Can people reconcile between shared values and particular values?

Empirical studies could be important to assess if multicultural discourses and practices are based on solid social premises, not faulty ones. Does support for ethnic diversity foster individual well-being and inter-ethnic cohesion or does it foster tension and conflict? Is multiculturalism understood as the imposition of some cultures on others? Can different peoples have a shared goal of multiculturalism? Is it for the sake of recognition of the diverse values and expressions for their own sake or for the enhancement of the quality of life and learning among all? Does multiculturalism reinforce racial superiority, religious supremacy, and ethno-triumphalism?

Strategies, structural and cultural, can be formulated in each country and they could learn from each other to see the best practices of multiculturalism, considering both commonalities and differences. Multiculturalism operates in both private and public spheres (family, the state, civil society, including NGOs, media and learning institutions).

Multiculturalism concerns how the self relates to others, real or imagined. As an approach, multiculturalism implies willingness to accept possible ways of being and becoming, regardless of ethnicity, race, sexuality, gender and religion, in efforts at creating respectful and critical societies.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Recent Publications per September 2011


A. Book Chapters
1. Ali, M. 2011. The Internet, Cyber-Religion and Authority: The Case of the Indonesian Liberal Islam Network. Islam and Popular Culture in Indonesia and Malaysia. Editors: Andrew Weinstraub, Andrew Weinstraub, Andrew Weinstraub, Andrew Weinstraub, Andrew Weinstraub. Routledge. London. p.101-122. (Refereed, Invited)
2. Ali, M., Murodi , M. 2010. History (of Islam). Pengantar Studi Islam (Introduction to Islamic Studies). Editors: Prof.Mulyadhi Kartanegara, Prof.Mulyadhi Kartanegara, Prof.Mulyadhi Kartanegara. UIN Press. Jakarta. p.1-28. (Partially Refereed, Not Invited)
3. Ali, M. 2009. Kebebasan Beragama (Religious Freedom). Merayakan Kebebasan Beragama (Celebrating Religious Freedom). Editors: Elza Peldi Taher, Elza Peldi Taher, Elza Peldi Taher, Elza Peldi Taher, Elza Peldi Taher. Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace & KOMPAS. Jakarta. p.314-334. (Non-Refereed, Invited)
4. Ali, M. 2008. Islam i Sydostasien (Islam in Southeast Asia). Politikens Bog Om Islam. Editors: Jorgen Baek Simonsen, Jorgen Baek Simonsen, Jorgen Baek Simonsen, Jorgen Baek Simonsen, Jorgen Baek Simonsen. Politikens Forlag. Denmark. p.315-347. (Refereed, Invited)
5. Ali, M. 2007. Makna dan Tujuan Dialog Peradaban (The Meanings and Aims of Intercivilizational Dialogue). Muhammadiyah Progressif: Manifesto Pemikiran Kaum Muda (Progressive Muhammadiyah: The Thought of The Young Generation). Editors: Abdul Rahim al-Ghazali, Abdul Rahim al-Ghazali, Abdul Rahim al-Ghazali, Abdul Rahim al-Ghazali, Abdul Rahim al-Ghazali. Jaringan Intelektual Muda Muhammadiyah & Lembaga Studi Filsafat Islam. Jakarta. p.331-52. (Non-Refereed, Invited)
6. Ali, M. 2006. "Mengapa Membumikan Kemajemukan dan Kebebasan Beragama di Indonesia?” (Why Promoting Religious Pluralism and Freedom in Indonesia?). Bayang-Bayang Fanatisisme: Esai-esai untuk Mengenang Nurcholish Madjid (The Shadows of Fanaticism: Remembering Nurcholish Madjid). Editors: Abd Hakim, Abd Hakim, Yudi Latif, Yudi Latif, Abd Hakim, Abd Hakim, Abd Hakim, Yudi Latif, Yudi Latif, Yudi Latif. Paramadina University. Jakarta. p.244-81. (Non-Refereed, Invited)
7. Ali, M. 2006. "Gerakan Islam Moderat di Indonesia Kontemporer” (Moderate Islamic Movements in Indonesia). Gerakan & Pemikiran Islam Indonesia Kontemporer (The Islamic Movements and Ideas in Contemporary Indonesia). Editors: Rizal Sukma, Rizal Sukma, Clara Joewono, Clara Joewono, Rizal Sukma, Rizal Sukma, Rizal Sukma, Clara Joewono, Clara Joewono, Clara Joewono. Center for Strategic and International Studies. Jakarta. p.202-240. (Non-Refereed, Invited)
7-A. Ali, M. 2007. Moderate Islamic Movements in Contemporary Indonesia. Islamic Thought and Movements in Contemporary Indonesia. Editors: Rizal Sukma, Rizal Sukma, Clara Joewono, Clara Joewono. Center for Strategic and International Studies. Jakarta, Indonesia. p.195-236. (Refereed, Invited)
1. Ali, M. Islamic Liberalism in Indonesia: A Critical Analysis. Liberal Islam in Indonesia. Editors: Haidar Bagir , Haidar Bagir , Muhammad Deden Ridwan, Muhammad Deden RidwanMizan. Bandung, Indonesia . Submitted to Editors on 09/25/2011. (Submitted 09/15/2011. 30 manuscript pages.) (Refereed, Invited)
2. Ali, M. Far from Mecca: Modern Islam in Southeast Asia. Islam in the Modern World. Editors: Ebrahim Moosa , Ebrahim Moosa , Jeffrey Kenney, Jeffrey KenneyRoutledge. Oxon, U.K. Submitted to Editors on . (Submitted 07/06/2011. 20 manuscript pages.) (Refereed, Invited)
B. Book Reviews
1. Ali, M. Information about the book that was reviewed: Perfection Makes Practice: Learning, Emotion, and the Recited Qur’an in Indonesia. Ed. 2004. Anna M. Gade. University of Hawaii Press: 348p. Information about the book review itself: Perfection Makes Practice: Learning, Emotion, and the Recited Qur'an in Indonesia. Published on 10/07/2006. American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences. Vol. 23:3: p.86-91. (Refereed, Not Invited)
2. Ali, M. Information about the book that was reviewed: Jihad in Paradise: Islam and Politics in Southeast Asia . Ed. 2004. Mike Millard. M.E. Sharpe, Inc: 155p. Information about the book review itself: Jihad in Paradise: Islam and Politics in Southeast Asia. Published on 10/07/2006. American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences. Vol. 23:3: p.100-103. (Refereed, Not Invited)
3. Ali, M. Information about the book that was reviewed: Islam in Indonesia: Modernism, Radicalism, and the Middle East Dimension. Ed. 2004. Giora Eliraz. Sussex Academic Press: 142p. Information about the book review itself: Islam in Indonesia: Modernism, Radicalism, and the Middle East Dimension. Published on 10/07/2005. American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences. Vol. 22:3: p.136-139. (Refereed, Not Invited)
4. Ali, M. Information about the book that was reviewed: Malay Muslims: the History and Challenge of Resurgent Islam in Southeast Asia. Ed. 2002. Robert Day McAmis. William B. Eerdmans Publishing: 173p. Information about the book review itself: Malay Muslims: The History and Challenge of Resurgent Islam in Southeast Asia. Published on 11/10/2003. Journal of Asian Studies. Vol. 62:4: p.1130-1132. (Refereed, Not Invited)
C. Books
1. Ali, M. 2009. Bridging Islam and the West: An Indonesian View. Ushul Press, Faculty of Ushuluddin, the State Islamic University. Jakarta . 190p. (, Not Invited)
2. Ali, M. 2003. Teologi Pluralis-Multikultural: (Multicultural-Pluralist Theology). Penerbit Buku Kompas. Jakarta. 298p. (Refereed, Not Invited)
D. JournalArticles
1. Ali, M. 2011. Eclecticism of Modern Islam: Islam Hadhari in Malaysia. Studia Islamika. Vol. 18: 1 p.1-30. (Refereed, Not Invited)
2. Ali, M. 2010. Religion, Imperialism, and Resistance in the Nineteenth Century's Netherlands Indies and Spanish Philippines. Jurnal Kajian Wilayah (The Indonesian Journal of Area Studies). Vol. No. 1: No. 1 p.119-140. (Refereed, Not Invited)
3. Ali, M. 2010. "They are not All Alike": Indonesian Intellectuals Perception of Judaism and Jews. Indonesia and the Malay World. Vol. 38: 112 p.329-347. (Refereed, Not Invited)
4. Ali, M. 2007. "Categorizing Muslims in Postcolonial Indonesia". Moussons. Vol. 11: 2007 p.33-62. (Refereed, Not Invited)
5. Ali, M. 2007. Confrontation and Reconciliation: Muslim Voices of Maluku Conflict (1999-2002). Journal of Indonesian Islam. Vol. 1/2: 2007 p.379-402. (Refereed, Invited)
6. Ali, M. 2007. "Chinese Muslims in Indonesia: A Post-Diasporic Experience". Explorations. Vol. 7/2: 2007 p.1-22. (Refereed, Not Invited)
7. Ali, M. 2006. "Menengok Barat, Mengembangkan Tradisi Ilmiah di Indonesia" (Learning from the West, Developing Scientific Tradition in Indonesia). Mimbar Agama dan Budaya (Pulpit of Religion and Culture). Vol. 23/1: p.25-41. (Refereed, Not Invited)
8. Ali, M. 2006. "Transmission of Islamic Knowledge in Kelantan". The Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. Vol. 79: 2 p.39-58. (Refereed, Not Invited)
9. Ali, M. 2005. "The Rise of the Liberal Islamic Network (JIL) in Contemporary Indonesia". American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences. Vol. 22:1: p.1-27. (Refereed, Not Invited)
10. Ali, M. 2004. "Honoring Religions". Peace & Policy. Vol. 9: p.86-89. (Refereed, Not Invited)
11. Ali, M. 2003. "Dialogue Amongst Civilizations". Resonansi. Vol. 1:2: p.1-7. (Non-Refereed, Invited)
12. Ali, M. 2002. "The Concept of Umma and teh Reality of the Nation-Sate: A Western and Muslim Discourse". Kultur: The Indonesian Journal of Muslim Cultures. Vol. 2/1: p.46-59. (Refereed, Not Invited)
13. Ali, M. 2002. "The Fatwas on Interfaith Marriage in Indonesia". Studia Islamika. Vol. 9:3: p.1-25. (Refereed, Not Invited)
E. Other
1. Ali, M. 2004. Information about the publication that was reviewed: (Working Paper) "Islam and Economic Development in New Order's Indonesia" 1967-1998. East-West Center Working Papers. p. 1-24. Vol. 12. (Non-Refereed, Not Invited)

F. Reference Entries
1. Ali, M. 2004. "Jihad: East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Australia". Brill Academic Publishers. Leiden. The Encyclopedia of Women and Islamic Culture. p.231-234. (Non-Refereed, Not Invited)
1. Ali, M. Islamic Liberalism in Southeast Asia. Editor(s): Robert Repino. Imtiyaz Yusuf . Oxford University Press. New York. Oxford Islamic Studies Online. (Submission 09/15/2011. 15 manuscript pages.) (Refereed, Electronic, Not Invited)
2. Ali, M. Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia (the Party of Liberation Indonesia). Editor(s): Henry Schwarz. Blackwell. Blackwell Encyclopedia of Postcolonial Studies. (Submission 05/26/2011. 12 manuscript pages.) (Refereed, Not Invited)
G. Review Essays
1. Ali, M. 2009. . . . Pages reviewed: p. . . p.409-415. (Refereed, Not Invited)
H. Textbooks

1. Ali, M. Religion: A Clinical Guide to Religion. . Jones & Bartlett. Burlington, MA . (Submitted 08/10/2011. 8 manuscript pages.) (Refereed, Not Invited)

Semitechnical Publications
A. JournalArticles
1. Ali, M. 2005. Religious Pluralism in the United States. Syir'ah. Vol. 1: 2004 15p. (Refereed, Not Invited)
2. Ali, M. 2004. Indonesia's Tradition of Moderation. Elections Today. Vol. 12: 2004 2p. (Refereed, Invited)

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Global Islam: between Images and Reality

Global Islam: Between images and reality
Muhamad Ali, Riverside, California | Mon, 12/20/2010 3:03 PM | Review & Outlook
A | A | A |

Globalization has made the world of Islam more heterogeneous than homogeneous. It continues to shape Islam identities and moralities, imagined or real, at both global and local levels. What is conceptually homogenous is Islam itself, but what it means differs.

Globalization in its broadest sense is not new, and early Islam normatively preached trans-racial, trans-ethnic solidarity of the community of the believers, although information technology today has made them even more aware of the world.

Islam emerged as a local path of Prophet Muhammad and his followers, but with the power of the Koran and Arabic, Islam has ever since become increasingly global, crossing non-Arabic Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas. From early times, Muslims have been politically divided into the Shiite and the Sunni, the Khawarij, the Murji’a, the Mu’tazila, and so forth, although the efforts to unify them have never ceased.

Of course, Muslims read the Koran, commanding them to be united in the rope of God, not to be divided into sects, but there is neither linear nor teleological history of Islam, as if all Muslims are progressing from the chaos to the orderly.

Elements of the old and the new, the normative and the practical, the just and the unjust, have interacted in ways that vary from people to people and from time to time. There is no one direction of Islam today, as was the case in the past.

The lack of one global leadership of Islam has been felt as a challenge to the unity by some of the believers reviving the caliphate when this same deficiency is cherished by most other Muslims scattered in and working through their nation-states, ethnicities, social or political organizations.

The phrase “the Muslim world” itself is problematic if it means there is real, effective, face-to-face unity among most Muslims in the world today.

Of course, in Islamic sermons and publications, prayers are recited for Muslims in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and other conflict areas where Muslims suffer from war.

But when people talk about global or transnational Islam, or Islamic revivalism, they refer to the fundamentalist, “Islamist”, “jihadist”, very little to the progressive, sometimes liberal orientations and expressions that exist.

Being socially and modernly constructed, the labels are felt necessary in people’s attempt at simplifying complex realities, but the perception of Islamic fundamentalism as the main player in global discourse and politics has not become weaker.

Thus, people today are not used to pointing to the Turkish Fethullah Gulan Movement, the Indonesian Muhammadiyah or the Nahdlatul Ulama, progressive Muslim networks, which have become increasingly no less global than hard-liners such as al-Qaeda, Jamaah Islamiyah, or the more diverse Muslim Brotherhood.

At the same time, much ignorance and instant information about Islam and Muslim societies: with so much information and variables available in TV programs, films, novels and the Internet, Muslims and non-Muslims alike do not necessarily have the knowledge to comprehend the complexity. Thus it may be easier to find a claim that Islam is an intolerant religion among the Islamophobic societies or to read another that claims it is a tolerant, peaceful religion among the devout preachers and committed leaders.

With other religious and secular leaders, Muslim leaders from Indonesia, Iran, Egypt, Turkey and other countries have been promoting global tolerance, balance of power and peace, searching for a common ground, although still limited to the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, albeit still exclusive of other faiths.

Within the global religious markets, Muslim leaders and scholars, often along with non-Muslim counterparts, have thus been more preoccupied with correcting the images or what they call misperceptions about Islam and Muslims, but they generally are not interested in acknowledging the degree of diversity and complexity of Islam and Muslims. There is an obsession with image-correction.

The conspiracy or global makar theory, neo-imperialism, clash of civilizations and cosmic war have remained crucial parts of global public discourse.

But it is more difficult to find individuals and people who seek to understand both the complexity of Islam and the complexity of other religions and faiths, including secularism and liberalism.

Global Islam is the world of diversification, democratization and polarization of religious information and authority; no group represents or has the authority to orient all the Muslims across the globe, toward a real, unified community of believers.

The homogenization of the world of Islam has always been prayed for and preferred by many leaders, driven by both scriptures and real disunity, but problems and issues have endlessly polarized Muslims everywhere, not always as Muslims but as members of particular ethnic, national or political groups. Their immediate concerns are far more urgent for them to be addressed in their localities.

As minorities, some Muslims have just started to debate how to be French Muslims, American Muslims, Australian Muslims and so forth, and as majorities, many Muslims continue to negotiate their place in an increasingly pluralistic society. Even within the nation-states and provinces, Muslims are divided into various factions, political or non-political.

At the national and local levels, it is not so obvious for global citizens to recognize that many Muslim networks and organizations locally have contributed to addressing not so much Islamic problems but shared problems, such as governmental corruption, poverty, illiteracy, injustice, health, environment and violence.

Such local efforts in dealing with immediate problems with or without collaboration among Muslims, or between Muslims and non-Muslims, strengthen the diversification of Islam, rather than unifying it into a single global management.

There is no global or local, social or political engineering that would be effective enough to homogenize the world of local Muslim societies everywhere. Muslims have long been active participants in localizing their “universal” worldview, thereby pluralizing the world. Perhaps it is God alone who knows best the mystery of human unity and diversity.

The writer, author of Bridging Islam and the West: An Indonesian View (2009), is an assistant professor in religious studies, University of California, Riverside.