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Sudan Turmoil


Sudan, for the umpteenth time, has again been hit by violence and a major humanitarian crisis. The factions are back at war and are fighting for power. This time, beginning on 15 April, it is the military faction of Abdel Fattah al-Burhan that has ruled since 2021 through a military coup, versus his rival, Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, commander of the Rapid Support Forces/RSF (quwwat adda’m assari’). RSF, a paramilitary organization, has hundreds of thousands of militia members, especially from the Janjawid group, which is suspected to be one of the main actors of violence and crimes against humanity in Darfur, West Sudan.

Inevitably, as a result of this war and violence, hundreds of lives have been wasted again. Property is gone. Thousands more suffered injuries. Khartum and a number of other cities were again in ruins. The war between military factions exacerbated and worsened the situation in Sudan, which has long been experiencing a chronic humanitarian crisis that has claimed millions of lives, far from what happened in Palestine.

History of violence

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates this year at least 15.8 million people in Sudan (more than three times the population of Palestine) are starving and need humanitarian assistance, 3.6 million people have lost their homes and become internally displaced people, 3.1 million experienced gender-based violence, 10.1 million experienced health crises, 4 million were malnourished, 3.7 million were unable to access education and 3.8 million children were neglected.

I do not know exactly how many times Sudan, of which more than 90 percent of the population is Muslim, has been hit by civil wars and heartbreakingly brutal violence. Since independence from the United Kingdom and Egypt in 1956, Sudan has experienced several military coups resulting in war and violence, which have claimed millions of victims. It is almost certain Sudan rulers will assume power through a bloody coup. Jafar Nimeiri, Omar al-Bashir, Ahmed Awad ibn Auf and Abdel Fattah al-Burhan all led following a military coup.

Now, Dagalo is trying his luck in the same way and with the same tactics. Because of this, it is not wrong for Sudan to be called a “coup country”. However, please remember, the war and violence in Sudan did not happen only after independence. Long before independence, Sudan was familiar with war and factional violence. In fact, since the founding of the Kingdom of Kerma in 2500 BC, Sudan has become an arena for power struggles by various groups.

Since then, various religious, political, ideological and ethnic factions have been involved in attacking, killing and taking revenge on each other. Various ethnic groups tried to conquer Sudan: Nubians, Arabs, Turks, British and African ethnicities. Various regimes took turns ruling Sudan: Kush, Nubia, Sennar, Turkic, Mahdi, Anglo-Egyptian and others.

Various ideological and religious groups (Islamism, salafism, Sufism, secularism, communism, socialism, Pan-Arabism, republicanism and others) also try to influence and control Sudan. Likewise activists from political parties, separatist groups and militia/paramilitary groups also clashed and fought for power. All want to rule, control and dominate Sudan.

I do not know when the war and violence will end. Wherever violence occurs, it is the people who are the victims: murder, looting, rape, scorched earth and so on.

Valuable lessons

There are a number of valuable lessons that we can learn from the Sudan case.

First, plurality or diversity, if not managed properly, carefully and prudently, can lead to or turn into disaster and misery. Sudan is very diverse, in terms of ethnicity, clan, religion, politics and ideology. Various major ethnic and tribal groups live in Sudan: Arabs, Nubians, Beja, Fur, Nuba, Dinka and so on.

This is not counting the hundreds of subtribes and clans. The predominant Arab ethnic group in Sudan (more than 70 percent) is also divided into several major factions, such as Jalayin and Juhainah; each is split further into complex sub-clans. Even though Muslims are the majority, they are divided into various groups: Islamists, salafi, Sufi, nationalists, secularists, traditionalists, communists and so on. Tragically, every religious, ideological, political and ethnic or tribal faction wants to be in power.

Second, for the sake of power, leaders (rulers) can change (ideology) like chameleons and join any group (even if they are ideologically opposed) that is seen as advantageous and can maintain/save power. The ruler’s character is pragmatic-opportunist, far from the idealism he campaigns for. Take Nimeiri, for example. Initially a secularist, socialist and pan-Arabist, later, in the early 1980s, he joined a militant Islamist group (supporters of the ideology of Islamism), which led to a protracted civil war. Likewise, Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s longest-serving ruler who managed to rule after the coup of Sadiq al-Mahdi, is also a leader of the Sufi order, al-Ansar.

Third, ideology, religion and whatever dogma the authorities adhere to do not guarantee the state and people will be just, prosperous, safe, peaceful and secure. Secular, socialist, democrat, nationalist, Sufi and Islamist groups have taken turns controlling and governing Sudan. None of them succeeded in making Sudan a prosperous, peaceful and war-free country. That means, whatever identity the authorities adhere to is not always directly proportional to their actions or behavior. What a true leader needs is not a “primordial identity” (religion, ideology, ethnicity) attached to him, but a character and behavior that is clean, honest and just; willingness to work for the public good; commitment to human values; and the maintenance of diversity.

Fourth, whatever political-economic and legal systems are used, including the formal implementation of Islamic law that was imposed by the government since the early 1980s in the era of the Nimeiri regime before being abolished in 2019, are only “political vehicles” for the ruling regime to control assets, the country’s economy and wealth, not for the sake of promoting Islam or ideology as they propagated.

Learning from the Sudanese tragedy, we need to be more vigilant in responding to socioreligious and political phenomena and to be wise in managing a pluralistic nation. If we are negligent, it is not impossible that what happened to Sudan could happen to our country, our beloved Indonesia.

Note: this article was first translated and published by Kompas

Myth of East-West Cultural Dichotomy


It is common knowledge that many Indonesians, both academic and nonacademic, elite and non-elite, create a dichotomy between Western culture and Eastern culture. The word “West” refers to countries in North America (the United States and Canada), Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand. In short, Western culture refers to “Caucasian culture”.

Meanwhile, “East” refers to the Asian region, including East Asia and Southeast Asia (including Indonesia, of course). Western culture is usually defined as being intellectualistic, individualistic, selfish, capitalistic, liberal, secular, atheistic, profit-oriented, and so on. Meanwhile, Eastern culture is characterized as almost the opposite of Western culture, namely spiritualistic, theistic, collectivistic, and so on.

Furthermore, Western culture is often negatively labeled or stigmatized. For example, it is described as not having manners, barbaric, likes going to war and committing acts of violence, having free sex, lacking social solidarity, not caring about local traditions, and so on. Meanwhile, Eastern culture is often labeled positively, such as being friendly, polite, gentle, peaceful, dislikes violence, likes helping others, cares about local traditions, and so on.

Just a myth

In practice, this dichotomy is just a myth. As an Easterner who has lived in the West for a long time, I think that the black-and-white segregation of East-West culture only exists in the imagination. It does not exist in the real world, or is only partly true. Narratives about Western culture being all bad and negative or Eastern culture being all good and positive are completely invalid.

In reality, good/bad and positive/negative exist in both the West and the East. A number of characteristics and stigmas that have been attributed to Western culture also exist in Eastern culture, and vice versa. A number of stereotypical labels and characteristics that have been attached to Eastern culture also exist in the West. For example, the West is not only home to intellectuals, but spiritualists as well. There are many individuals and spiritual groups in Western countries, including branches of Sufism, yogi communities, Buddhist spiritualists, New Age followers, theosophical societies, and so on. On the other hand, the East is not only home to groups of spiritualists and mystics, but also to various groups of intellectuals and scientists.

So, the dichotomy of “Western intellectuality” versus “Eastern spirituality”, for example, is no longer relevant. Even now, countries such as China, Taiwan, Japan, and South Korea are intensively building various world-class education and technology centers and universities that will become the future mecca of intellectual and technological societies. As a result, many universities in Asia have now entered the ranks of the world’s top institutions and have the potential to shift Western dominance.

A number of countries in the Middle East, especially in the Arab Gulf region, such as the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, are also competing to build world-class universities that rely on advanced technology (such as artificial intelligence), scientific research, and the spirit of intellectualism. Saudi Arabia, for example, has built a prestigious international-standard campus, such as the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, which is now led by president Tony F. Chan, a Stanford-trained Chinese-American scientist and former president of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

The assumption that the West is synonymous with secularism, liberalism, or atheism and agnosticism is also not always accurate, because many faith-based conservative militant groups in the West are strongly anti-secular and anti-liberal and condemn various social practices they consider to be nonreligious. For the last several decades, the phenomenon of public religion, the deprivatization of religion in which religion plays a central role in the public sphere, has been infecting some Western countries, especially the US.

This phenomenon prompted the late Peter L. Berger, a renowned sociologist and one of my mentors in Boston, to revise his classic thesis on the secularization of religion in his book, The Desecularization of the World: Resurgent Religion and World Politics. Even though the East (especially the Middle East, India, and China) is the birthplace of various world religions, secularism and liberalism are also present in this region, introduced by various groups, such as academics, scientists, technocrats, politicians, governments, business people, and so on, especially since the end of World War II.

Individualist vs collectivist

Then, characterizing the West as an “individualist society”, which is wrongly assumed to be a society that is selfish and lacks sensitivity, concern, and social solidarity, is also very wrong. In reality, philanthropic groups and charitable organizations for global humanitarian missions are mushrooming in the West.

Western society also regularly raises funds in various ways for various humanitarian programs, education, scholarships, and others, both for people in Western countries and in other countries around the world. For example, the Mennonite Central Committee has a global humanitarian program in almost all countries in the world. Meanwhile, the East, which has been labeled a “collectivist society” and is assumed to like helping others and each other, as well as minimize egoistic and individualistic character and behavior, does not always happen in practice.

Just look at the culture of gotong royong (mutual cooperation) that used to be the character of Indonesian society that has now faded. Many people don’t care about others when queuing for government assistance, distributing basic necessities, or at buffets. From this simple observation, we can see that the characterization of Eastern society as a collectivist culture is not always accurate. Social solidarity, if it occurs, usually happens only in small groups and does not cross religious, ethnic or humanitarian boundaries.

Barbarity vs civility

Another inaccurate characteristic is that it stigmatizes the West as a violent society and the East as a peaceful society or the West is identified with barbarity and the East with civility. The West does have a dark history of violence, such as colonialism, imperialism, war, ethnic cleansing, racism, and “barbarianism” against both local and foreign residents. However, the East is also beset with violence. Colonialism, imperialism, war, ethnic cleansing, racism, and “barbarianism”, are not the monopoly of only the Western world. The East is also the same. Barbarity is not only happening in the West, but also in the East.

If the West had Hitler and Mussolini, the East had Pol Pot and Amangkurat I, who was very cruel and barbaric and killed thousands of clerics, including his own brother and father-in-law. The massacre of millions of human beings in 1965-1966 is also part of the dark history of violence perpetrated by Eastern society. Brutal and barbaric acts of terrorism have also been carried out by Eastern nations.

Where is their conscience? Where is their common sense? Where is their religion that teaches solidarity, peace, mercy, and compassion?

Today, the image of Eastern society as full of love, compassion, peace, friendliness, and tolerance seems to have disappeared from the Motherland [Indonesia] as a result of various incidents and acts of violence that come and go without stopping, such as violent attacks, beatings, persecution, terrorism, expulsion, and murder. Eastern people who are said to be friendly and peaceful can suddenly turn into crazy, cruel, and inhuman people.

Meanwhile, many people, instead of condemning these heinous acts and acts of violence, are applauding, cheering, and bursting out laughing at the barbaric events that unfold before their eyes. Where is their conscience? Where is their common sense? Where is their religion that teaches solidarity, peace, mercy, and compassion?

Big nation

Akhirul kalam [Finally], a great nation is a nation that is willing to take clean, good, and positive things from wherever it originates – West or East, North or South – and eliminate dirty, bad, and negative things wherever they come from, whether from home or abroad. Indonesia will become a great nation if it is able to do this. On the other hand, Indonesia will shrink in stature if it continues to live in a culture of hypocrisy, fostering an East-West dichotomy that exists only in the imagination.

Note: this article was first translated and published by Kompas

Unraveling the Mysteries of Ancient Arabia


Although millions of Muslims around the world visit Saudi Arabia to perform haj and umrah (minor haj) every year, not many of them know the history of Ancient Arabia other than a glimpse in the story of Prophet Ibrahim and his family. Such as the stories about the Kaaba, Zamzam water and so on. They, however, do not know beyond that.

Interestingly, it is not only Muslims who lack knowledge of Ancient Arabia. Historians also seem to ignore, or are less interested in, discussing the past history of Ancient Arabia. As a result, Arabia is not included on the map of the history of mankind’s ancient civilizations. When discussing the ancient civilizations of the Middle East, historians always refer to Egypt, Iran (Persia) or Mesopotamia (a historical region in West Asia located between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers that is now part of Iraq). Arabia is excluded from their observations.

In fact, like Egypt, Persia and Mesopotamia, in Arabia there are also many interesting historical and archaeological relics of the past to be used as material for studying the origins of civilization and ancient culture of mankind in the Middle East. In fact, according to some archaeologists, the historical and cultural traces of Ancient Arabia are older than those of Egypt, Persia or Mesopotamia. So although Arabia is not considered a place of a number of legendary ancient kingdoms such as Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Rome, Byzantium, Persia and so on, it does not mean that Arabia did not have ancient kingdoms of the pre-Islamic era.

What is meant by Ancient Arabia here is the Arabian Peninsula (Arabia) hundreds or thousands of years BC whose territory stretched from the north, which is now part of Jordanian territory to the southern tip, which is now part of Yemeni. The central part of the peninsula is now the territory of Saudi Arabia. The mention of Arabia is to distinguish this area from other “Arab regions” in the Middle East.

Interesting archaeological finds

In the last few months, I have observed various interesting findings from the excavations by archaeologists and physical anthropologists, both from Saudi Arabia and abroad, which can add to or even change the history of the human civilization of the Middle East. This observation is part of a research project on archaeological tourism in Saudi Arabia that I have codirected with Professor Simeon Magliveras from the United States. For example, a group of archaeologists from the Saudi Heritage Authority, King Saud University and the Max Planck Institute found ancient stones (including Archeulean axes) in the Nafud and Tabuk Deserts (Khal Amishan) that were shaped in such a way as to be used as tools/weapons by the “ancient human”.

It could be said that the tools made from these ancient stones (in archeology called eco-facts) are part of the sculptural works created or developed by humankind’s ancestors. Archaeologists estimate the age of these ancient stones to be around 400,000 years old and are by far the oldest archaeological findings in Arabia.

Archaeologists have also found tools made from other ancient stones that are younger (50,000-300,000 years). This means that archaeologists have found not only archaeological remains from the ancient civilization of Archeulea, but also from the younger Middle Paleolithic era. The team of archaeologists also found fossils of several thousands-of-years old animals that indicate the fertility of the ancient Arabian region. The results of these findings were published in detail in Nature magazine.

A team of scientists comprising Iyad Zalmout from the Saudi Geological Survey, Huw Groucutt from the University of Oxford and Michael Petraglia from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History found the middle finger bone of an adult human (from Homo Sapiens), which is estimated to have lived 85,000-90,000 years ago. This is the first fossil hominin (a group of ancient humans and direct ancestors of “modern humans”) to be found in Saudi Arabia and the oldest human fossil ever found outside Africa and the Levant.

Their findings were published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution. No less interesting were the findings of the archaeological research team at the University of Western Australia on ancient burial complexes with age ranges from 4,500-5,000 BC in the Al Ula and Khaibar regions, which published in the Holocene journal. These complexes again show Arabia as one of the locations where ancient humans lived. The ancient humans who inhabited the area of Ancient Arabia were not necessarily ethnic/ethnic Arabs, but human ancestors from other ethnicities/tribes, for example the Nabataeans who had built Petra in Jordan and Hegra in Arabia. In fact, Arab ethnicities/tribes can be said to be “newcomers” in Arabia.

Ancient kingdoms

Scientists (historians and archaeologists) have also found the remains of ancient kingdoms in southern, northern and eastern Arabia. Salma Hawsawi, a historian of Ancient Arabia from King Saud University, said that southern Arabia was once the center of a number of classical kingdoms such as Ma’in, Awsan, Qataban, Sheba, Himyar and so on. North Arabia became the headquarters of a number of ancient kingdoms that were very important in its time such as Dadan, Lihyan, Nabataean, Palmyrene, Tayma, Qidar. East Arabia was also the home of a number of ancient kingdoms such as Dilmun, Magan, Gerrha and Thaj.

Of course, the establishment of an empire anywhere is always accompanied by the birth of a civilization. The establishment of an empire itself is a reflection or manifestation of the progress of civilization at that time, although not all human civilizations, both ancient and contemporary, had an empire. As far as I know, only the central part of Arabia (Najd, Qassim, Buraidah and so on) was historically very “dry” of major empires and civilizations. This was a result of the absence of encounters with other ethnic groups due to its very extreme geographical conditions, filled with mountains and wild dry desert. Even so, in this area the ancient civilizations of al-Magar and Quryat al-Faw were born, although there is no evidence of the establishment of a kingdom in ancient Arabia.

It was this area of central Arabia that later became the center of the emergence of the Wahhabi group and the early Saudi dynasties, so it is not surprising that they were originally a very strict group and followed nomadic patterns. Meanwhile, other Arabian regions – west, north, east and south – were fertile areas, or at least not as dry and barren as central Arabia, so were inhabited by many people from various ethnic groups and religions. In southern Arabia, there are even agricultural and plantation areas where local residents can grow rice, coffee and vegetables.

West Arabia, Jeddah and Mecca

In western Arabia – including Jeddah and Mecca –no traces of archaeological remains of ancient kingdoms have been found as in southern, northern and eastern Arabia. However, West Arabia was an important and strategic area because of its location on the shores of the Red Sea, so it has been inhabited by humans since a long time ago.

Jeddah has long been a coastal trading center and a transit point for traders and travelers from various parts of the world, including Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia, long before Islam was born in the seventh century AD. So has Mecca. As historian James Wynbrandt wrote in his book A Brief History of Saudi Arabia, later Mecca (from the Sabaean language meaning sanctuary or nature reserve), especially since the middle of the first millennium (1 AD), also became a center of commerce, a melting pot of cultures as part of the caravan trade routes from the south (Yemen, Najran) and north (Syria, Jordan, Palestine) as well as the starting point for trade trips to the east such as Iraq and its surroundings.

The protracted war between the Byzantine and the Sasanian Empire caused the destruction of the main trade route from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf (or Arabian Gulf) in eastern Arabia. As a result, alternative trade routes were formed by passing through the west coast of Arabia, which made Jeddah and Mecca strategic areas. Therefore, it would not be an exaggeration to say Mecca/Jeddah later became known as rich caravan cities.

A number of historians note that this trade activity in western Arabia had been going on for a very long time, particularly since 3,000 BC. Arabian traders were also part of an international trading network that stretched as far as Africa, South Asia and the Mediterranean. They also played an important role in bridging India and the Far East on the one hand and Byzantium and the Mediterranean on the other.

Area of human civilization

From the explanation above, it can be seen that since ancient times Arabia has been a very strategic area, so it is not surprising that it has become a meeting point for human beings from various ethnic, tribal and religious groups to conduct commercial transactions, reside or just stop temporarily.

One of the factors that pushed early humans to live in Arabia was because this area was surrounded by seas/rivers such as the Red Sea (Nile), Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea or Gulf of Aden. Where there is water, there is hope for life, and because of that there is a human population. This has been the instinct of mankind since time immemorial, not only in the Middle East, but also in Southeast Asia and other regions.

That is why Egypt, Persia and Mesopotamia became one of the cradles of human civilization because there are the Red Sea/Nile River (for Egypt), the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman (for Persia) and the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers (for Mesopotamia). Recognizing the importance and strategic position of Arabia as a center of “ancient human” civilization as well as a very rich ancient archaeological heritage center, the Saudi government is now investing billions of US dollars to build, promote and “transform” Saudi Arabia into a one of the world’s archeological centers and the main destination of “archaeological tourism” which had been barely touched by the previous administration.

Note: this article was first published and translated by Kompas

Taliban, Afghanistan, dan Indonesia


Sejumlah kelompok agama dan elit politik di Indonesia tampak kegirangan dengan keberhasilan milisi Taliban mengontrol dan mengambil alih kekuasaan. Mereka juga mendorong dan mendesak pemerintah RI untuk segera mendukung rezim Taliban. Entah apa yang ada di benak mereka. Padahal, Taliban memiliki sejarah dan reputasi sangat buruk dalam menjalankan roda kepolitikan dan pemerintahan yang membuat rakyat Afghanistan ketakutan dan hidup dalam penderitaan lahir-batin. Tampilan elit politik-agama Taliban yang santun di ruang publik bertolak belakang dengan apa yang mereka lakukan terhadap masyarakat Afghanistan.

Fakta bahwa ratusan ribu warga Afghanistan mencoba kabur dari negara mereka sejak Taliban mengambil alih kekuasaan menunjukkan apa atau siapa “jati diri” Taliban yang sesungguhnya. Jelas bahwa rakyat Afghanistan trauma terhadap rezim Islamis-fundamentalis Taliban saat lima tahun berkuasa, 1996–2001, yang penuh dengan kebiadaban dan ketidakmanusiawian. Dengan jatuhnya kembali Afghanistan ke tangan Taliban, mimpi buruk dan drama horor terbayang di depan mata mereka.

Jamak diketahui, selama kekuasaan rezim Taliban yang disokong oleh Pakistan dan Al-Qaeda, Afghanistan (yang oleh Taliban diberi nama Emirat Islam Afghanistan) menjelma menjadi “neraka” dunia yang mengerikan. Bahkan Korea Utara jauh lebih baik ketimbang Afghanistan di masa Taliban. Kemiskinan, kelaparan, dan malnutrisi merajalela. Kekerasan demi kekerasan tak pernah berhenti. Perang sipil antarfaksi Islam dan kelompok suku terus berkecamuk.

Pembantaian warga terjadi dimana-mana, bukan hanya terhadap kelompok minirotas etnis dan agama saja (misalnya, kelompok Syiah Hazara) tetapi juga terhadap siapa saja dan kelompok mana saja yang mereka anggap dan cap sebagai rival dan musuh pengganggu kekuasaan. Penting untuk dicatat, rezim Taliban bukan hanya melakukan genosida atas manusia tetapi juga atas produk-produk spiritual-kebudayaan mereka (oleh Raphael Lemkin disebut “cultural genocide”) seperti aneka ragam karya seni, monumen bersejarah, peninggalan kepurbakalaan, atau bahkan bangunan tempat peribadatan karena dicap kafir-sesat, berpotensi menyekutukan Tuhan, tidak religius, atau dianggap menodai kemurnian akidah dan ajaran fundamental Islam yang mereka pegang dan yakini.  

Selama berkuasa, rezim Taliban mengunci atau menggembok Afghanistan dari “dunia luar”. Mereka juga menolak bantuan makanan PBB untuk jutaan warga yang kelaparan. Mereka melarang media dan berbagai aktivitas publik yang dianggap berpotensi mengganggu kekuasaan. Berbagai aktivitas seni-budaya juga diharamkan termasuk musik, fotografi, lukisan, film, tarian, dlsb.

Kaum perempuan menjadi objek yang paling mengenaskan. Mereka harus berpakaian tertutup rapat dari ujung kaki hingga ujung kepala, tidak boleh pergi ke tempat umum sendirian tanpa ditemani muhrim (biasanya anggota keluarga), dilarang bekerja di sektor publik (kecuali dokter atau perawat untuk melayani pasien perempuan karena petugas medis laki-laki tidak boleh menangani pasien perempuan), anak-anak perempuan juga dilarang sekolah. Dan masih banyak lagi kisah-kisah pilu mereka. Jika melanggar aturan, mereka akan dihukum cambuk di hadapan publik.      

Taliban juga menerapkan kebijakan “scorched earth”, yakni sebuah strategi untuk menghancurkan aset apa saja (kawasan, fasilitas publik, sumber-sumber ekonomi, industri, dlsb) yang dipandang memberi manfaat pihak lawan. Karena itu jangan heran kenapa ketika Taliban berkuasa mereka memusnahkan banyak kawasan subur dan membakar rumah-rumah dan perkampungan penduduk.

Ketika kekuasaan rezim Taliban rontok tahun 2001 karena digempur oleh tentara Amerika setelah tragedi terorisme 9/11, aktivitas kekerasan yang mereka lakukan tidak serta merta berhenti. Berbagai aksi pengeboman dan terorisme keji untuk menggoyang pemerintah terus mereka lancarkan tanpa henti selama 20 tahun (2001–2021) yang memakan korban ribuan nyawa (mati atau terluka) dan kerusakan fisik tak terhingga.

Sasaran terorisme (biasanya dalam bentuk aksi bom bunuh diri) bukan hanya aparat keamanan atau kantor pemerintahan saja tetapi juga bisa siapa saja (warga sipil, jurnalis, anak-anak, perempuan, dlsb) dan apa saja (termasuk madrasah dan masjid). Belakangan, mereka disinyalir menjadi pelaku pengeboman di area kerumunan massa yang ingin kabur di kompleks bandara Kabul.


Kenapa Taliban menerapkan politik totalitarian dan membabi buta yang membuat Afghanistan semakin terperosok dan porak poranda? Jawabannya sangat simpel. Karena mereka tidak mengerti bagaimana cara memimpin warga yang majemuk dan memerintah sebuah negara. Mereka tidak memiliki pengetahuan, wawasan, strategi, dan skill untuk memerintah dan mengelola sebuah negara-bangsa. Hanya nafsu kekuasaan yang mereka miliki.

Akhirnya, untuk mengontrol ketaatan publik serta membuat warga tunduk dan patuh pada pemerintah Taliban, yang bisa mereka lakukan hanyalah meneror dan menakut-nakuti warga dengan berbagai peraturan dan hukuman keras atas nama “penegakan syariat Islam”. Jadi Taliban pada dasarnya adalah “para bandit berjubah agama.”

Taliban memang bukan kelompok cerdik-cendikia yang berwawasan luas tentang seluk-beluk ilmu pemerintahan, kepolitikan, perekonomian, atau kebudayaan. Dalam sejarahnya, Taliban adalah sebuah gerakan politik-agama yang terdiri dari kumpulan para murid / alumni madrasah (“taliban” berarti murid / siswa) yang berafiliasi ke sekolah-sekolah Deobandi (tersebar di berbagai daerah di Asia Selatan) yang bercorak literalis-revivalis-koservatif yang sangat ketat, rigid, closed-minded, dan ekstrem dalam memahami, menafsirkan, dan mempraktikkan teks, wacana, dan ajaran keislaman.

Lebih jelasnya, kelompok atau gerakan Taliban adalah kombinasi antara ajaran Islam revivalis-konservatif ala Deobandi, ideologi militan Islamisme ala Al-Qaeda, dan norma sosial Pasthunwali, yakni gaya hidup tradisional masyarakat Pasthun karena mayoritas Taliban memang dari suku/etnik Pasthun.

Pada mulanya, Taliban dibentuk tahun 1994 oleh Muhammad Umar (1960–2013, dikenal dengan sebutan Mullah Umar), seorang mantan siswa madrasah Deobandi dan bekas milisi Mujahidin dalam Perang Afghanistan-Soviet (1979–1989), yang kala itu baru berumur 34 tahun. Taliban berhasil menguasai panggung kekuasaan Afghanistan setelah berhasil memanfaatkan situasi kacau (chaos) dan konflik internal antarfaksi Islam lantaran kegagalan elit politik-agama Afghanistan dalam mencapai kesepakatan pemerintah koalisi nasional pasca hengkangnya “Tentara Merah” Soviet.

Konflik internal antarkelompok Islam dan elit politik-agama itu kemudian menyebabkan meletusnya Perang Sipil yang mahadahsyat yang membuat Afghanistan untuk kesekian kalinya hancur lebur. Sekitar enam faksi Islam (Hizbul Islam Gulbuddin, Jamiat Islami, Ittihad Islam, Harakat Inqilab Islam, Hizbul Wahdat, dan Junbish Milli) saling berebut kekuasaan, saling mengkhianati, saling membunuh, dan saling memerangi. Padahal, kelompok radikal Islamis ini (dengan dukungan Amerika) dulu bersatu-padu sebagai “pejuang mujahidin” melawan tentara Soviet. Begitu Soviet berhasil dipukul mundur, mereka sendiri yang ironisnya saling gempur demi kekuasaan.

Di saat Afghanistan sedang kacau balau dilanda Perang Sipil itulah, milisi Taliban muncul sebagai “kuda hitam” yang berhasil merangsek, mengontrol, dan menguasai 2/3 wilayah Afghanistan dan mendeklarasikan diri pemerintahan baru dengan nama Emirat Islam Afghanistan pada tahun 1996.

Apakah dengan pendeklarasian pemerintah oleh Taliban ini dengan sendirinya Perang Sipil berhenti? Tentu saja tidak. Perang Sipil antarkelompok (termasuk “Aliansi Utara” yang dibentuk oleh warlord Ahmad Shah Massoud yang terdiri dari koalisi sejumlah kelompok etnis seperti Uzbek, Tajik, Hazara, Turki, Pasthun, dlsb) terus berlanjut dan berkecamuk.


Jadi, cerita elit Taliban yang sekarang dianggap mengkhianati klausul atau kesepakatan perjanjian damai dengan pemerintah Afghanistan (dan pemerintah Amerika Serikat) bukan hal baru. Cerita pendongkelan atau pengambilalihan kekuasaan yang kini Taliban lakukan setelah 20 tahun bergerilya juga bukan cerita baru. Ini hanyalah kisah lama yang kembali terulang. 

Siapapun yang mempelajari sejarah Afghanistan mereka akan tahu kalau negeri di kawasan Asia Tengah dan Asia Selatan ini diwarnai dengan konflik, perang, dan perebutan kekuasaan bukan hanya dengan kelompok luar (non-Afghanistan) saja tetapi juga dengan sesama kelompok sosial di Afghanistan. Aksi-aksi saling jegal, saling bunuh, dan saling memerangi antarkelompok masyarakat di Afghanistan, baik kelompok agama, ideologi, etnis, suku, klan, keluarga, maupun daerah (misalnya Afghanistan utara versus selatan) sudah lumrah terjadi. Jauh sebelum munculnya kelompok Islamis di panggung politik Afghanistan, kelompok-kelompok sosial lain sudah saling baku hantam demi kekuasaan.

Pelajaran apa yang bisa dipetik oleh pemerintah dan masyarakat Indonesia dari “drama horor” Afghanistan dan rezim militan Taliban?

Satu hal yang tidak boleh diabaikan: jangan sekali-sekali meremehkan dan membiarkan kelompok agama berhaluan radikal-konservatif. Meskipun pada awalnya kelompok agama ini barang kali hanya bergerak di wilayah non-politik (dakwah-keagamaan, moralitas publik, akidah/teologi, dlsb), jika ada kesempatan, peluang, sokongan, dan dukungan dari pihak luar, mereka bisa menjelma menjadi kelompok militan agama-politik yang sangat kejam, ekstrem, dan radikal dalam menjalankan paham kepolitikan dan keagamaan.

Anggota Taliban mungkin tidak ada di Indonesia. Tetapi umat Islam yang berhaluan, berwawasan, bermental, dan berpola-pikir ala Taliban cukup banyak populasinya. Mereka menyelinap dan tersebar di parpol, ormas, institusi pendidikan, lembaga dakwah, dan bahkan pemerintah. Oleh karena itu, pemerintah dan masyarakat yang peduli dengan masa depan perdamaian, toleransi, dan kebhinekaan bangsa dan negara Indonesia perlu waspada dengan gerak-gerik mereka. Aparat hukum dan aparat keamanan juga jangan sampai lengah. Jika tidak hati-hati dan tidak ditangani dengan tegas dan seksama, bukan tidak mungkin, mereka kelak bisa menjelma menjadi “Taliban Indonesia” dan menyulap negara ini menjadi “Indonistan”.

Keterangan: tulisan ini semula diterbitkan oleh Kompas pada 3 September 2021

Ngobrol Bersama “Romo Vatikan”


Beberapa hari lalu saya mendapat email dari seorang pastor Indonesia yang sudah 14 tahun bertugas di Dewan Kepausan Vatikan untuk bidang dialog antar-umat beragama atau Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Pastor Katolik itu bernama Romo Markus Solo (biasa disapa Padre Marco SVD) yang berasal dari Flores, NTT. Konon, dalam sejarahnya, Romo Markus merupakan satu-satunya pastor dari Indonesia yang menjadi pejabat di Vatikan. Dalam email itu, ia minta kesediaan saya untuk “ngobrol” via Zoom Ajakannya saya iyakan. Maka, ia pun mengirim link Zoom dengan judul, “Vatican and Saudi Arabia in Dialogue through Indonesia.”  

Kami bicara panjang-lebar selama sekitar 1,5 jam tentang banyak hal: tentang sejarah dan geo-kultural Arab Saudi & Arab Teluk (Gulf), situasi keagamaan dan relasi antaragama di Indonesia dan Arab Saudi, hingga program-program yang diadakan oleh lembaganya di Vatikan. Di antara program itu adalah berbagai aktivitas yang berkaitan dengan dialog antaragama maupun pembangunan perdamaian seperti konferensi, seminar, workshop, dlsb.

Salah satu program yang menarik adalah semacam workshop atau “short course” selama kurang lebih 6 bulan di Kota Vatikan yang melibatkan peserta dari berbagai agama di berbagai penjuru dunia. Workshop ini dimaksudkan selain memperkenalkan seluk-beluk agama Katolik juga dalam rangka untuk mempererat jalinan silaturahmi antarumat agama serta meminimalisir kesalahpahaman dan memperkuat kesalingpemahaman antarkelompok agama. Tujuan akhirnya tentu saja terciptanya iklim perdamaian dan harmoni di masyarakat yang dilandasi oleh semangat respek dan toleransi. 

Dalam kesempatan itu, Romo Markus juga meminta kesediaan saya kalau suatu saat diminta menjadi narasumber konferensi, seminar, workshop atau diundang ke Vatikan. Kalau aktvitas yang berkaitan dengan dialog agama-agama atau “peacebuilding” saya oke-oke saja dilibatkan. Belum lama ini saya juga diminta menjadi salah satu “penasehat” sebuah film dokumenter tentang perdamaian Muslim-Kristen yang diprakarsai oleh sekelompok aktivis perdamaian dan sutradara dari Amerika, Kanada, Palestina dan lainnya.

Perjumpaan saya dengan umat Katolik khususnya bukan hal baru. Dulu, saya bersama almarhum Romo Pujo (Pujasumarta), mantan Vikjen & Uskup Semarang, banyak melakukan kegiatan kemanusiaan, diskusi, dan dialog antaragama, baik di keuskupan, seminari, gereja, maupun institusi-institusi publik milik umat Islam: kantor ormas, kampus, masjid, pesantren, dlsb.

Oleh karena itu ketika Romo Pujo wafat saya sangat kehilangan sekali karena sudah seperti “auliya” atau “teman plek” (sohib dekat). Itulah sebabnya dulu saya sempatkan berziarah ke makamnya di Kentungan, Yogyakarta, yang makamnya bersebelahan dengan makam Romo Mangun, seorang romo, aktivis, sarjana, dan penulis cemerlang di zaman Orde Baru, yang juga sahabat karib Gus Dur.

Dalam obrolan dengan Romo Markus itu, saya memperkenalkan temanku dulu saat kuliah di Virginia yang bernama Romo Paul (Paulus) Rahmat yang ternyata Romo Markus juga mengenalnya. Dengan Pak Paul dulu saya juga banyak diskusi. Pak Paul juga sering mengundang saya untuk acara-acara ngobrol dan makan-makan dengan teman-teman Katolik di Virginia.

Tak lupa, Romo Markus juga menanyakan tentang prospek hubungan antaragama di Arab Saudi. Dalam hal relasi antaragama ini ada beberapa perkembangan menarik dan signifikan di Arab Saudi. Tahun 2007, mendiang Raja Abdullah (kakak Raja Salman) melakukan pertemuan bersejarah dengan Paus Benedict XVI. Tahun berikutnya, beliau mengundang berbagai sarjana dan tokoh agama dari berbagai negara untuk melakukan pertemuan antaragama di Makah.

Raja Abdullah, bersama pemimpin dari Austria dan Spanyol, kemudian kelak (pada 2012) turut memprakarsai pendirian King Abdullah International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, sebuah organisasi antarpemerintah yang bermarkas di Vienna, Austria, yang bergerak di bidang dialog dan perdamaian antaragama.

Pada tahun 2017, Raja Salman (dan Putra Mahkota MBS) juga mengadakan pertemuan khusus di Riyadh dengan pemimpin tertinggi Gereja Maronite Lebanon, Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi. Dan pada tahun 2018, Raja Salman juga mengadakan pertemuan di Riyadh dengan Kardinal Jean-Louis Tauran (bersama delegasi), ketua Pontifical Council for Interfaith Dialogue, Vatikan, tempat dimana Romo Markus bekerja. MBS juga banyak melakukan pertemuan dengan para tokoh agama di Inggris, Amerika dan lainnya.

Berbagai pertemuan para elit Saudi dengan tokoh-tokoh agama (khususnya Kristen) tersebut tentu saja akan berdampak cukup penting nantinya dalam hal relasi antarumat agama di Arab Saudi. Pelan tapi pasti, saya memprediksi agama-agama diluar Islam akan mendapat tempat yang layak di Arab Saudi seperti tetangganya di kawasan Teluk: Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, dan Uni Emirat Arab. Syaratnya cuma satu: kelompok bigot fanatikus agama harus “diruwat” dan “disebul” dulu pakai “kemenyan Semar Bodronoyo” karena merekalah, antara lain, yang menjadi sumber dan biang kerok kebencian dan permusuhan dengan umat agama lain. Kita lihat saja seperti apa dinamika dan perkembanganya nanti.

Jalan Terjal “Sang Profesor” dari Batang


Oleh Harjanto Halim (filantropis, pebisnis Tionghoa, CEO PT Marimas Putera Kencana, dan pengurus Perkumpulan Boen Hian Tong)

Tamu Diskusi Tipis-Tipis yang kami (Perkumpulan Boen Hian Tong) adakan kali ini (via Zoom) sungguh sosok fenomenal. Namanya Sumanto Al Qurtuby. Ia seorang anak pelosok desa di sebuah lereng gunung di Kabupaten Batang (Jawa Tengah), penggembala kambing dan kerbau, pencari kayu bakar, anak modin dan petani miskin yang nekad merantau ke kota-kota di Indonesia dan juga Luar Negeri untuk sekolah hingga doktor dan kemudian mengajar di universitas Amerika Serikat dan Arab Saudi, selain peneliti tamu di sebuah kampus di Singapura.  

Kuliah S1-nya di IAIN (Institute Agama Islam Negeri, kini UIN, Semarang) bermodal kambing dan kerbau hasil gembalaannya saat kecil yang terpaksa dijual (dilego), sambil nunut urip di pondok pesantren biar irit (selain kos-kosan murah). Lalu, setelah selesai S1 di bidang Hukum Islam, ia nekad mengambil S2 di UKSW (Universitas Kristen Satya Wacana, Salatiga) karena ingin mempelajari disiplin dan tema-tema baru tidak melulu masalah keislaman seperti di IAIN, pesantren, atau madrasah.

Kemudian, setelah merampungkan studi S2 Sosiologi Agama, ia kembali nekad ke Amerika Serikat (Virginia) untuk mengambil S2 lagi (di bidang Conflict and Peace Studies) dengan bermodal Bahasa Inggris pas-pasan hasil kursus tujuh bulan di Desa Pare (Kediri, Jawa Timur). Kenekadannya terus berlanjut. Sehabis menyelesaikan S2 di Virginia, ia nekad melamar program doktor di Boston University. Setelah selesai S3, ia kemudian menjadi dosen dan visiting scholar di universitas bergengsi di Amerika, dan kini menjadi profesor di King Fahd University di Arab Saudi, selain visiting senior scholar di National University of Singapore.


Hampir setengah jam sang profesor menceritakan kisah masa kecilnya, tentang bapak (kini sudah almarhum) dan simboknya, kambing dan kerbaunya, celengannya, warung simboknya, ketegaran “simbahnya”–demikian ia memanggil bapaknya–yang setiap pagi selalu mengantarnya ke sekolah di kecamatan lain yang dilaluinya jalan kaki setiap hari menyusuri perbukitan, persawahan, dan hutan selama 5 tahun. Ditambah menghadapi nyinyiran dan cemo’ohan para “penggede” dan tetangga kampung: “Ngapain sekolah? Mau jadi apa? Sia-sia…”

Simbah hanya diam dan tak mempedulikan sama sekali suara-suara sumbang dari (sebagian) warga kampung. Ia tetap mengantar anaknya sekolah setiap pagi selepas subuh. Setelah mentari menyembul di ufuk timur, simbah kembali pulang ke rumah sementara sang anak melanjutkan perjalanan ke sekolah seorang diri. SD di kampungnya hanya sampai kelas 4. Maka ia harus melanjutkan sekolah di SD lain di kecamatan lain sampai kelas 6. Setelah itu, ia lanjutkan sekolah di sebuah MTs (Madrasah Tsanawiyah) di tetangga kecamatan.

“Simbah tidak punya apa-apa untuk diwariskan, Le. Wong sawah juga cuman sawah garapan. Simbah cuman bisa mewariskan ilmu.” Si profesor cilik bertubuh ceking, berkulit dekil itu hanya diam saja.

Mengikuti pesan simbahnya, ia pun tekun belajar di MTs (Madrasah Tsanawiyah) di Kecamatan Tulis, pindah ke MAN (Madrasah Aliyah Negeri) di Pekalongan, meneruskan S1 di Semarang, S2 di Salatiga, dan seterusnya.

Ia terus menempa diri dalam kesibukan akademis, mengasah kemampuan menulis, menceburkan diri dalam lautan buku, aktif di organisasi gerakan mahasiswa, mencetak majalah kampus, menerbitkan jurnal non-kampus, menggawangi kegiatan keagamaan, serta menimba ilmu dengan para pakar ulama dan pemikir Islam moderat, termasuk Gus Dur, Kiai Sahal, Cak Nur, dan Kang Jalal (semua sudah almarhum).  

Dan ia pun mulai berpikir dan berkontemplasi: hidup yang keras dan eksklusif tidak akan menyelesaikan masalah kemajemukan. Konservatisme yang terbentuk, khususnya sejak ia sekolah di Madrasah Aliyah dan tinggal di sebuah pesantren di Pekalongan mulai terkikis dan terbuka.

“Dulu aku itu anti film, anti musik, anti non-Muslim, anti perempuan tanpa jilbab dlsb,” aku sang profesor yang laman medsos nya sering dipenuhi tulisan ringannya nan jenaka namun membumi dan mak-jleb tentang keberagaman, toleransi dan pluralisme.


Ia menyelesaikan studi S1-nya hampir 7 tahun. Setelah itu, ia pindah ke UKSW. “Aku bosen belajar tentang Islam dari perspektif ilmu-ilmu keislaman,” ujarnya sambil kemudian menyapa seorang pria yang ikut hadir di acara diskusi, yang ternyata mantan rektor UKSW.

Ia menuntaskan studi S2-nya dengan berdarah-darah. Bahkan ia harus menemui seorang kyai untuk minta petunjuk cara melunasi tunggakan uang kuliah 3 semester. “Coba kamu telpon dua nomer ini,” ujar Mbah Kyai sambil menyodorkan secarik kertas. “Insya Allah, cukup untuk mbayar kuliahmu…”

Ternyata itu nomer telpon dua dermawan yang benar langsung bersedia membantu kuliahnya termasuk memberesi tunggakan uang kuliah.

Sang profesor juga tak lupa berterima kasih kepada pak rektor yang ia panggil ‘Om’ (sebutan “Pak” di Indonesia Timur karena sang rektor berdarah Ambon), yang telah membantunya habis-habisan, moril dan terutama materiil. Bahkan saat hendak mengurus visa ke Amerika, pak rektor ikut menemaninya ke Konsulat Amerika di Surabaya. Nada-nadanya pak rektor was-was, wajah sang profesor nan rak cetha bakal menimbulkan syak wasangka petugas konsulat hehehe.

Setelah melalui proses rumit dan berliku, akhirnya dengan modal doa, tekad bonek, dan urunan teman untuk beli tiket, sang profesor mendarat di bumi Paman Sam. Dan penderitaan belum berakhir. Dari awalnya cuman mengikuti workshop ‘Peacebuilding’ selama 2 minggu, menjadi kursus Bahasa Inggris selama 3 bulan, akhirnya menjadi mahasiswa S2 di Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, Eastern Mennonite University, melalui beasiswa dari Mennonite Central Committee (Amerika Serikat), yang diperjuangkan oleh beberapa senior dan dosennya.


Di tengah menyelesaikan program master, sang profesor mulai galau mencari beasiswa untuk kelanjutan studi doktoralnya. Tanpa beasiswa, tak mungkin ia meneruskan kuliah. Ia pun nekad menghubungi beberapa profesor di beberapa kampus di Amerika.

Sampai akhirnya ia berhasil memancing perhatian seorang profesor di Boston yang kelak mati-matian berusaha membantunya. “Padahal kami belum pernah bertemu dengannya,” ujar sang profesor seraya nyengir.

Jam sudah menunjukkan pukul 21:00 WIB. “Di sana belum buka, Prof?,” tanya saya. Sang profesor kembali nyengir. “Aman, di sini masih jam 5 kok…” Profesor tinggal di Dhahran, Arab Saudi.

“Untuk meyakinkan ketua komite penerima beasiswa doktoral yang merupakan seorang cendekiawan terkenal di Amerika, saya diminta menulis esai tentang sufisme filosofi dalam sejarah Islam dan pengaruhnya di Indonesia,” sang profesor melanjutkan. “Sekitar delapan hingga sepuluh ribu kata dalam waktu tiga hari.” Ia pun siang-malam nglembur menulis.

Tak diduga, ternyata tulisannya gol! “Akhirnya, saya diterima program doktoral di Boston University lewat beasiswa Muslim Studies Fellowship,” ujar sang profesor. Beasiswa ini hanya diberikan pada dua pelamar program doktor setiap tahunnya.

Tapi masalah belum selesai. “Saya diminta memberi Bank Statement, bahwa punya simpanan cukup di bank untuk menjamin kebutuhan anak istri sebab beasiswa hanya untuk saya…”. Lalu sang profesor berterima kasih kepada saya yang sudah lupa pernah membantu membuatkan ‘Bank Statement’ buatnya.

Selama studi program doktoral, sang profesor harus salto dengan gaya irit, medhit, cethil, tingkat dewa. Beasiswa sebesar USD 2.200 per bulan harus dipecah: $1.500 untuk apartemen, sisanya untuk bayar transport, internet, TV cable, buku, dan untuk biaya makan anak-istri. Itupun kudu ditomboki pengumpulan kupon makanan dari pemerintah atau guntingan diskon untuk membeli roti, susu, telor, dan sereal.


Tapi semua jerih-payahnya itu berakhir manis. Semua perjuangan, keringat, darah, air mata, kecapekan mbaca, kurang tidur, ngetik hingga larut malam dan subuh, berbuah manis. Gelar doktor diraih, tawaran mengajar tersaji.

“Ada yang tanya Prof, mengapa dulu pak rektor UKSW mau membantu njenengan?,” saya membacakan pertanyaan peserta. “Apakah karena melihat wajah njenengan yang mesakke?”

Sang profesor ngakak. “Bukan begitu,” Pak rektor menjawab. “Saya melihat seorang Muslim mau belajar di UKSW pasti punya kelebihan dan keberanian…”

Hmm. “Dan saya juga melihat kami memiliki minat yang sama,” imbuh pak rektor. Apa itu? “Studi dekonstruksi teks.” Dan sang profesor hingga kini masih setia mengimani keyakinannya soal keberagaman dan kebebasan menafsir teks.

Lalu kok pindah ke Arab Saudi? Sang profesor dan pak rektor terkekeh, lalu mempersilahkan seorang pendeta dari Ambon menjawab.

“Kita butuh orang yang bisa menarasikan Islam Nusantara, konteks keislaman di Indonesia yang seperti apa, dari Arab Saudi…” Maksudnya? “Lha kalau Profesor Manto tinggal di Amerika dan nulis dari sana, pasti dicap antek Barat. Kalau di Arab lebih gamblang…”

Hmm, bener juga.


Dan saat seorang pengajar dari Belanda mengungkapkan kegalauannnya ketika ia harus ‘membela’ Islam di Indonesia yang kini dianggap sering menyalahgunakan isu penistaan agama, ia mengusulkan apa tidak sebaiknya ulama, ustad, ustadzah, menjalani pendidikan teologi secara formal sehingga pikiran mereka lebih toleran dan terbuka.

“Tidak mudah,” jawab sang profesor. “Karena kelompok non-formal itu yang menguasai wacana dan kehidupan beragama di tanah air.

Bener. “Wong mau didata saja sudah geger,” celetuk sang profesor yang ternyata hobi nonton film kartun atau stand-up komedi dan ndengerin musik Jawa campur sari.

Banyak salah kaprah keberagamaan di Indonesia. Di Arab Timur Tengah, ulama adalah sebutan untuk ilmuwan dan ustad adalah dosen, dari pengikut agama manapun. Di Indonesia, ulama dan ustad dianggap pemuka agama Islam. Lalu, pluralisme acap dicurigai dan dikritisi. Pluralisme dianggap sinkretisme. Padahal pluralisme beda. Pluralisme bukan sinkretisme, bukan pula toleransi.

Pluralisme mengandaikan setiap individu atau umat untuk saling memahami melalui dialog intensif dan kontinu serta keterlibatan secara dekat dan mendalam (engagement) dengan individu atau umat lain. “Jadi misalnya, bukan sekedar mengucapkan ‘Selamat Hari Natal’ atau “Selamat Idul Fitri akan tetapi mampu memahami makna terdalam dari Natal dan Idul Fitri itu.”

Itulah pluralisme. Jelasnya, pluralisme harus ‘engaged’, srawung, dan diajarkan semenjak kecil. Dan pluralisme Islam inilah mungkin model keislaman yang paling cocok buat masyarakat dan bangsa Indonesia yang plural. Mungkin.

Dan sang profesor yang tulisan-tulisannya telah melanglang dunia, yang mahasiswanya tidak hanya orang Arab, tapi juga orang Barat, yang telah berjumpa dengan segala jenis manusia, bertemu orang Yahudi, Nasrani, atheis dlsb, seorang anak desa dari pelosok desa yang nyimpen uang hasil menggembala kambing dalam kaleng yang ia pendam di bawah ranjang (“Kan rumahku masih berlantai tanah,” kilahnya tanpa sendu), anak simbah modin yang meyakini warisan terbaik adalah ilmu, yang nekad merantau ke kota, kuliah, dan akhirnya ia sukses menjadi seorang profesor kelas dunia dan masih menjadi seorang Muslim yang taat berpuasa.


Ia menunjuk dua foto rumah yang terlihat asri. “Ini rumah yang saya buat untuk simbok dan kakak saya. Yang satu sudah meninggal. Rumah yang satu lagi untuk kakak tidak ada di foto ini.”

Ia terdiam sejenak sebelum melanjutkan, “Itu amanah simbah: kalo ada rejeki, tolong rumah ini (rumah simbah dan simbok) dan kedua kakakmu dipugar biar kuat tidak terbuat dari papan kayu dan bambu…” Suaranya tersengguk dalam parau, tersedak dalam haru.

Sang profesor melepas kacamata dan mengusap matanya, sekilas. Tak ada yang melebihi cinta seorang anak kepada orang tuanya yang dulu telah berpeluh-keringat mengantar sekolah setiap hari tanpa kenal lelah dan yang berderit dalam keyakinan untuk memberi warisan yang terbaik.

Wahai profesor, adakah pelukan di punggung bapakmu yang basah kuyup telah memicu dan memacu semangatmu hingga engkau pun menjalani kehidupanmu kuat-kuat?

Religious Violence and Conciliation in Indonesia


Maluku in eastern Indonesia is the home to Muslims, Protestants, and Catholics who had for the most part been living peaceably since the sixteenth century. In 1999, brutal conflicts broke out between local Christians and Muslims, and escalated into large-scale communal violence once the Laskar Jihad, a Java-based armed jihadist Islamic paramilitary group, sent several thousand fighters to Maluku. As a result of this escalated violence, the previously stable Maluku became the site of devastating interreligious wars.

This book focuses on the interreligious violence and conciliation in this region. It examines factors underlying the interreligious violence as well as those shaping post-conflict peace and citizenship in Maluku.

The author shows that religion—both Islam and Christianity—was indeed central and played an ambiguous role in the conflict settings of Maluku, whether in preserving and aggravating the Christian-Muslim conflict or supporting or improving peace and reconciliation.

Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork and interviews as well as historical and comparative research on religious identities, this book is of interest to Indonesia specialists, as well as academics with an interest in anthropology, religious conflict, peace and conflict studies.

clik this link for full acces

The Paradox of Civil Society: The Case of Maluku, Eastern Indonesia


This article discusses the ambiguous role of religiously-marked civil society organisations during the Christian-Muslim communal violence in Maluku, eastern Indonesia, from approximately 1999 to 2004. During the Maluku violence, some social groups supported peace and reconciliation, while others were major backers for the collective conflict.

Using Maluku as the primary case study, this article aims to re-examine a well-established Western concept of civil society that puts emphasis on three key features, as follows.

First, the concept focuses on the constructive role of civil society, while ignoring its destructive contribution in society. Second, the concept focuses on formal organisations, while neglecting informal associations, networks and neighbourhoods. And third, the concept excludes the contributions of government and state institutions in the shape—and influence of—civil society organisations.

The article also examines the growing theme on “alternative forms” of civil society. It studies the plurality of civil societies and investigates that form of civil society association that might help contribute to civic coexistence and which type that encourages social conflict.

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Connecting worlds: Filipino and Indonesian sojourns to Saudi Arabia



This article is a comparative study of Filipino and Indonesian migrant workers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It investigates how these two different transnational communities envisage their lives in the Kingdom. It examines (1) the historical dynamics and contemporary developments of Filipinos and Indonesians in Saudi Arabia, (2) the underlying motives, purposes and rationales of their sojourn and employment in the Kingdom, and (3) their perceptions and insights about their Saudi Arabian experiences. Interviews were conducted with 17 Filipinos and 16 Indonesians living and working in Saudi Arabia. This study suggests that many factors affect these two groups’ perceptions and experiences such as religiosity, employer/employee relations, and/or cultural factors.

The PDF of this article can be read (accessed) in the following link

Cerita Anak Wedok


Setelah beberapa bulan anakku kuliah di sebuah universitas berbahasa Inggris di Indonesia, banyak sekali cerita yang ia dapat dan bagi ke kitah.

Ia cerita kalau Bahasa Indonesia-nya sudah mulai lumayan lancar. Ia cerita kalau pernah naik KA ke bandara, bersama teman-temannya mengantar temannya ke bandara.

Ia cerita kalau sudah punya banyak “teman Indo.” Sebelumnya, teman-teman akrabnya dari Saudi, Yordania, Pakistan, Suriah, Turki, Mesir, Libenon, dlsb.

Ia cerita kalau banyak temannya yang memanggilnya “bule”, bukan karena body dan paras mukanya tetapi karena aksen Bahasa Inggrisnya. Makanya ia sering diminta tampil mewakili kelompoknya.

Ia cerita kalau banyak temannya yang mengira ia Chinese dan Kristen (padahal “wong Jowo” dan keknya sih “muslimah”). Ia juga cerita kalau mulai bisa mencuci pakaian daleman (pakaian lain “dilondriin”).

Ia juga cerita kalau sudah bisa masak mi, jika kepepet Hingga kini ia belum bisa menikmati masakan kantin di asrama. Belum bisa sepenuhnya makan nasi dan sebagian besar masakan ala Indonesia (gudek, pecel, oncom, oreg-oreg, rujak congor). Ia lebih sering beli onlen, makanan yang ia sukai (makanan ala bule, Jepang/Korea, Ngitali, dll).

Yang menarik ia cerita kalau banyak temannya yang pada saat awal bertemu memakai hijab terus tidak memakai lagi. Kampus tempat ia kuliah memang tidak mewajibkan busana tertentu bagi mahasiswa. Mereka dibebaskan memakai busana apa saja (asal sopan). Mau berhijab silakan, nggak juga silakan. Prinsipnya harus saling menghormati: yang tidak berhijab menghormati yang berhijab, yang berhijab menghormati yang tidak berhijab. Bullying dilarang.

Anak wedokku termasuk yang tidak berhijab. Mungkin karena ketularan saat sekolah TK/SD di Amerika dan SMP/SMU di Arab Saudi yang tidak ada aturan memakai hijab sehingga para siswi banyak yang tidak berhijab.

Saya sendiri juga tidak pernah memaksakannya untuk berhijab karena bagiku itu juga tidak penting. Mau berhijab silakan, nggak juga nggak apa-apa. Yang penting respek: baik pada mereka yang berhijab maupun bukan.

Karena itu anakku tak masalah berteman dengan siapa saja dari agama mana saja. Sejak di Amerika temannya dari mana-mana. Bahkan teman sekamarnya di asrama kampus saat ini pemeluk Kristen dari Manado yang sering bantu masakin dan “ngompres” kalau ia sedang sakit. Anak wedokku senang sekali digituin. Maklum ia tu agak manjah gitu kek bapake.

Pilpres 2024


Tidak seperti Pilpres 2014 & 2019 yang begitu “heroik” mendukung Jokowi karena alasan yang saya anggap fundamental saat itu, Pilpres kali ini (Pilpres 2024) saya cenderung pasif dan kurang bergairah.

Saya tahu banyak temanku yang mendukung dan bahkan menjadi “advokat” dan “cheerleaders garis keras”-nya Ganjar-Mahfud, Prabowo-Gibran, atau Anies-Imin.

Silakan saja mau memilih paslon yang mana. Itu hak masing-masing sebagai warga negara. Sebagaimana kalian, saya juga memiliki pilihan: baik memilih memilih atau memilih tidak memilih.

Saya hanya berharap, dalam menyalurkan dukungan tersebut harus “berkelas” dan “beradab”, jangan menggunakan cara-cara kotor dan biadab seperti dalam kontes Pilpres sebelumnya.

Pula, saya berharap para paslon, timses, dan pendukungnya juga menggunakan cara-cara elegan, bukan cara-cara menjijikkan dan memuakkan hanya demi memenangkan kontes Pilpres.

Misalnya: manipulasi suara dan aturan, “memperkosa” ayat dan agama, menyogok sana-sini, provokasi, intimidasi, kampanye hitam, dlsb. Betul-betul “njelehi” alias “menjelehkan.”

Ingat: kepentingan bangsa, negara, dan rakyat banyak harus tetap didahulukan ketimbang kepentingan diri dan kelompok primordial.

Entoh nanti setelah Pilpres, paslon manapun yang menang dan menjadi Pres-Wapres, paslon yang kalah beserta timses-nya akan mendapat jatah sebagai mentri ini-itu, wamen ini-itu, dubes sana-sini, dan jabatan fulitik menggairahken lainnya.

Sementara kaliyen wahai “rakyat jelatah” yang dedel-duel mendukung sampai putus persahabatan dan persodaraan cuma mendapat “kentutnya” doang. Betul-betul mbelgedes kakeane gombal mukiyo pret koprat kapret.

Religious Studies in Higher Education


Can Perguruan Tinggi (PT) Islam (Islamic Higher Education) in Indonesia become a pioneer in studying non-Islamic religions and non-Muslim societies?

It is interesting to question and ponder: why are there so many non-Islamic universities, especially those with Christian and Jewish affiliations, that have study programs, departments, departments or research institutes on Islam and society Muslim?

On the other hand, why is it almost difficult to find Islamic tertiary institutions (or those managed by Muslims) that have study programs, majors, departments, or research institutions on non-Islamic religions and non-Muslim communities, such as Christian studies, Jewish studies, Buddhism, Hinduism, local religions, and the like?

Various HEIs in the West, such as the United States (US), Canada, Australia, or European countries—public or private, large or small campuses, research campuses or teaching colleges, both denominational (affiliated to certain religions/religious groups) and non-denominational—have study programs to study the phenomena of various religions in the world, both local and transnational religions, including Islam.

Not only in Western countries, but in the past few years, universities in East Asia (China, Japan, South Korea, or Taiwan) have also started opening Islamic studies programs. Universities in Singapore, particularly the National University of Singapore, have had Islamic studies programs for a long time.

This Islamic study program is spreading to various departments and majors, especially in the fields of social sciences and humanities (history, anthropology, sociology, political science, archaeology, and so on), not just in religious departments or majors. Even in the law faculty (like at Harvard), they also have a strong Islamic law division.

Denominational campuses in the US, such as those affiliated with Catholicism (University of Notre Dame, Georgetown University, Boston College, etc.), Judaism (such as Brandeis University), Mormonism (such as Brigham Young University), or some “Protestant campuses” (Emory University, Graduate Theological Union, Union Theological Seminary, etc.) have excellent Islamic studies programs.

The alma mater of the author, Boston University, which is affiliated with the Methodist Christian denomination, also has a multitude of Islamic study programs spread across various faculties and departments.

To meet the needs of the Islamic study program, these campuses recruit experts and specialists (lecturers, researchers, orfellows), both “secular scholars” (atheists or agnostics) and scholars from certain religions (including Muslim scholar), who focuses in the field of religious studies Islam or Muslim society.

In other words, not only non-Muslim graduates, but Muslim graduates from several countries (including Indonesia) have also become many educators and researchers about Islam and Muslim communities on Western campuses.

The tradition of Islamic studies in the West

Translation: The tradition of Islamic studies in the West began with groups of orientalists, consisting of scholars and historians who studied various aspects of traditions and “oriental cultures” – meaning Asia and the Middle East (MENASA), including religion, language, literature, philosophy, law, and history in the 18th/19th century CE.

It should be noted that not all orientalists study Islam and Muslim society. However, there are orientalists who are experts in the field of Islamic studies, Muslim society, or the famous Arab/Central Asian region at that time, such as Ignaz Goldziher from Hungary, Theodor Noldeke from Germany, and Christian Snouck Hurgronje from the Netherlands.

By many scholars, this trio of orientalists is considered as pioneers of Islamic studies in the West. Among the three orientalists, Hurgronje is the most popular in Indonesia. Among Muslims, Hurgronje is considered as an “intellectual stooge” of the Dutch, even though he has contributed in the field of Islamic and Muslim studies.

Other renowned Orientalists in the field of Islamic studies, Muslim society, or Timteng’s history and geoculture are Joseph Schacht, Hamilton HR Gibb, Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Philip K Hitti, or Montgomery Watt. They have written many academic works about Islam, Muslims, and/or Timteng.

Social scientists, particularly sociologists and anthropologists, were initially not interested in the study of Islam despite Max Weber, who is considered one of the founding trio of sociology (alongside Emile Durkheim and Karl Marx), mentioning Islam in his works.

As for the founders of Anthropology, such as Franz Boas or Bronislaw Malinowski, they did not touch upon Islam/Muslim at all in their works.

In anthropology, to the best of the writer’s knowledge, British anthropologist Sir Edward Evans-Pritchard began studying Islam and Muslim society through his work, The Sanusi of Cyrenaica (published in 1949), which discusses the Sufi group or Sanusiyah order in Libya.

Following the tradition of Evans-Pritchard, an American anthropologist, the late Clifford Geertz, then researched Islamic communities in Indonesia (Kediri, East Java) and Morocco in the 1950s/1960s.

Aside from Geertz, the late Fredrik Barth of Norway was also a pioneer in the study of Islamic anthropology. Barth conducted extensive research on Muslim communities in Oman, Iran, Pakistan, and Bali.

Islamic studies in the West have experienced a boom since the 9/11 terrorism tragedy in the US. Since then, many universities in the West have opened Islamic study programs or research institutions to research “the Islamic world.”

Religious Studies in the Islamic World

If in the West there are many companies that open Islamic studies, in the Islamic world on the contrary, it’s difficult to find Islamic companies or “public companies” managed by Muslims that have study programs or research institutions that focus on non-Islamic studies and non-Muslim societies.

In general, HEIs owned by Muslims focus on the field of study of Islamic sciences (for example Islamic law, tafsir, hadith, etc.) or secular sciences (exact sciences, engineering, information technology, economics, business, computers, artificial intelligence (artificial intelligence), and so on).

This trend is not only in central Indonesia but also in other Islamic regions, such as North Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.

What is interesting, especially in the context of Central Indonesia, is that Jewish-affiliated companies in Israel (such as The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, The University of Haifa, and so on), as well as Christian universities in Palestine (such as Jerusalem University College) or Lebanon (such as Saint Joseph University of Beirut), also offer Islamic studies programs, in addition to language, literature, and Arab/Central Indonesian culture.

However, not a single Islamic affiliated institution offers study programs on Judaism, Christianity, or Hebrew language.

Companies in Indonesia, especially those with Islamic affiliations or managed by Muslims, do not have any programs that offer non-Islamic religious studies or cater to non-Muslim communities. There are several universities and research centers that have programs or research centers for Central and Eastern Indonesia, but they are predominantly focused on Islam.

Despite being known as a Muslim community, Timteng also serves as a shelter for Christians, Jews, Yazidis, Druzes, Khaldeans, Baha’is, Hindus, and so on.

Can PT Islam Indonesia emulate the intellectual work ethic and academic spirit of Abu Raihan al-Biruni (973-1048), a Persian Muslim scholar from the 10th/11th century CE who was dubbed the “Father of Comparative Religion” for his study of non-Islamic religions (including Hinduism) and their languages (including Sanskrit)?

A number of fundamental factors

In addition to being driven by political motivations (such as colonialism or to study politics and Islamic/Muslim radicalism), Islamic studies in Western universities are also based on a scientific spirit, academic ethos, and a strong desire to understand the intricacies of Islam and the Muslim world.

Therefore, the tradition of Islamic studies in the West, to borrow a term from Mahmood Mamdani, former professor at Columbia University, can produce unfriendly orientalists (who are biased and less friendly towards Islam/Muslims) and friendly orientalists (which is fair and friendly to Islam/Muslims).

Despite varying motives and objectives, the tradition of Islamic studies in the West has produced many non-Muslim scholars (especially Christians, Jews, or secular) who are experts in the field of Islamic religion and Muslim society.

Meanwhile, the lack of Islamic universities that offer non-Islamic/ Muslim community religious studies programs has resulted in a scarcity of Islamic scholars knowledgeable in the study of other religions and non-Muslim communities.

There are several fundamental factors that cause the lack or even absence of Islamic PT (or those managed by Muslims) that open non-Islamic religious or non-Muslim community study programs. For example, the low or nonexistent interest and academic and research interests among Muslims to study and learn about the religion and communities of other religions.

However, studying and learning about religions and other religious communities can improve knowledge of different religions, enrich religious perspectives, minimize misunderstandings about other religions, and strengthen interfaith relations.

Can PT Islam in Indonesia become a pioneer in studying non-Islamic religions and non-Muslim societies?

Can PT Islam Indonesia emulate the intellectual work ethic and academic spirit of Abu Raihan al-Biruni (973-1048), a Persian Muslim scholar from the 10th/11th century CE who was dubbed the “Father of Comparative Religion” for his study of non-Islamic religions (including Hinduism) and their languages (including Sanskrit)?

Note: this article was published by Kompas (27 October 2023) and was translated by using both Microsoft Azure Open AI and Google Translation AI.

Religious Tolerance in the United Arab Emirates


The UAE is now known as a very tolerant country. An important lesson that can be drawn from the UAE is that in order to maintain and care for cultural pluralism and socio-religious harmony, it is not enough to make rules and policies.

Among the countries in the Middle East that have a majority Muslim population, United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one that is very interesting to observe. Although the UAE’s governance is considered authoritarian and conservative, the country is one of the most liberal when it comes to cultural expression and building social relations, as well as the most tolerant when it comes to religion and community. Women’s participation in the public sector is also considered phenomenal.

Some indicators of social and religious tolerance can be seen below. For example, unlike most countries in the Middle East – except for Morocco or Bahrain – which are still “shy” in socializing with Jewish communities, this small country with a population of 9.2 million and rich in the Arab Gulf region has recently dared to express harmony with Jewish citizens.

This is demonstrated in, among other things, becoming the host of Jewish wedding parties, which are attended by a number of government officials, or by allowing Jewish business ventures and the establishment of Jewish mass organizations (ormas).

Although not large in number, Jews also exist in the UAE. According to Rabbi Marc Schneier of the Foundation of Ethnic Understanding, their current number is around 3,000 people. In 2020, the UAE became the first country in the Persian Gulf region to establish diplomatic relations with Israel, which was later followed by its neighbor, Bahrain.

Tolerance for cultural and artistic diversity

The UAE is also known for being very tolerant of artistic and cultural diversity. The government guarantees the expression of celebration of the diverse artistic and cultural backgrounds of its citizens, thus making the UAE very colorful in terms of art and culture in general (whether it be traditional or non-traditional culture).

From the aspect of arts and culture expression, this semi-constitutional federal kingdom can be said to be the most diverse in the Middle East as it is home to a variety of domestic and foreign cultures.

The diversity of culture can be understood because the UAE has become a home to people of various tribes, ethnicities, nations and countries. Even the local Arab population (Emiratis) is only around 11 percent, and the rest (89 percent) are foreign residents (immigrants).

The majority of foreign residents who reside in the UAE come from South Asia (India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh). Among the South Asian countries, India has the most representation (about 38 percent) due to its long-standing history of occupying the UAE, since it was a colony of England. It was England that originally brought Indian residents to the UAE to work across various sectors.

Meanwhile, among the Middle Eastern countries, Egyptian citizens are the most dominant in the UAE; while from Southeast Asia, Filipinos occupy the highest population in the UAE. This diversity in society certainly has an impact on cultural and religious diversity.

Interreligious harmony

In terms of religion and religious life, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is also known for its high degree of tolerance. It is no stranger that the UAE, which is now led by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, is home to a variety of religions and Islamic sects such as Sunni, Shia, Ibadi, and others.

Sunni has become the dominant sect of Islam, while the population of Shia citizens (including Arab Shias, Persian Shias, and others) is around 15-20 percent.

Although the relationship between the governments of UAE and Iran is not very harmonious due to conflicts over several islands in the Persian/Arabian Gulf region, it does not affect the good relationship between Sunni and Shia citizens. Sufi groups also continue to proliferate in the UAE.

The non-Muslim population is also significant in the UAE due to the large immigrant community. Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Bahais, Jains, and others breed and live peacefully alongside each other in the UAE.

Among non-Muslim communities, Christians (especially Roman Catholic and Protestant) are the most dominant (around 13 percent). They come not only from Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, or Latin America, but also from Eastern Christian communities, especially from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine.

Until the year 2020, there were approximately 54 Christian churches of various denominations in the UAE and even the Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia from the Catholic church is headquartered in Dubai. The second largest religious minority after Christianity is Hindu (about 7 percent), followed by Buddhists (2 percent) and other communities.

Like the Christian community, they also have houses of worship that are guaranteed by the government.

The harmonious and tolerant relations between religious groups in UAE are proven by the absence of communal violence between religious groups (both inter-factional violence within Islam and Muslim versus non-Muslim violence) as well as structural violence against certain religious groups that are supported or sponsored (directly or indirectly) by the government and security forces.

The central role of government

The social-cultural-religious harmony that takes place in the UAE certainly cannot be separated from the central role of the government in managing the diversity of its citizens. There are quite a number of UAE government policies that aim to create social harmony on one hand, and to avoid social conflicts or tensions on the other hand.

For example, the UAE government has established a ministry that specifically deals with promoting tolerance and peaceful coexistence within society. The government has also provided land for the construction of non-Muslim places of worship, including churches and temples.

The government also fully protects the freedom of non-Muslim worshippers, thereby making Christians and other worshippers feel comfortable in carrying out their religious worship activities and celebrating their important religious holidays.

In 2019, the government designed the “Abraham Family House” (baiat al-ailat lil ibrahimiyah), namely a complex or area on Saadiyat Island (Abu Dhabi) built three places of worship for Muslims (mosques), Christians (church), and Judaism (synagogue), as a symbol of harmony between religions from the Semitic family.

In this area, Imam Al-Tayeb Mosque, St. Francis Church, and Moses Ben Maimon Synagogue were built. The construction of this complex was inspired by the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, a joint statement between Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb (Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Egypt) on behalf of Muslims, and Pope Francis on behalf of Catholics.

The document was signed in Abu Dhabi, hence it is also referred to as the “Abu Dhabi Declaration”.

In 2016, the government launched the “National Tolerance Program” initiated by Sheikha Lubna binti Khalid Al Qasimi, State Minister for Tolerance.

According to Sheikha Lubna, the main goal of this program is to build a climate of tolerance, spirit of peace, multiculturalism practices, and a culture of acceptance towards others while firmly rejecting any acts of racism, radicalism, intolerance, discrimination, and hatred towards individuals and other groups.

The UAE does not tolerate any form of (physical or verbal) intolerance and radicalism.

The impact of government policy and firm stance

The government’s firm stance will certainly have an impact on the creation of a cool atmosphere and harmonious relations between groups in society in the UAE.

Furthermore, this policy “forces” radical-intolerant groups to be quiet. Hardline Salafi groups also exist in the UAE, but they “don’t cause much trouble” by forbidding various artistic and cultural products that are deemed to be contradictory to their beliefs and religious practices, or by declaring other religious groups and Islamic sects to be infidels and attacking them.

They also do not express hatred towards non-Muslims or other Islamic sects. It can be assured that if they were to do so, they would be quickly silenced and frozen by the government for being considered disruptive to diversity and potentially creating social chaos and disharmony among different groups of society.

Similarly, followers of Hizbut Tahrir can also be found in the UAE. However, like the Salafi group, they remain silent and are afraid to delegitimize or “taghut” the government, even though the UAE’s system, form, and mechanisms of government contradict the concept of a khilafah-style government which is depicted and idealized by Hizbut Tahrir. If they dared to do so, it is certain that they would be “dragged” by the government and its officials.

Thus, that is a glimpse of the story and “good news” from the United Arab Emirates. An important lesson that can be taken from the UAE is that in order to preserve and nurture cultural diversity and social-religious harmony, making rules and policies alone is not enough.

There is a need for firm action against lawbreakers, those who damage cultural and religious diversity, as well as those who disrupt social harmony in society. Can the Indonesian government set an example for this?

Note: this article was published by Kompas (9 September 2023) and was translated by using both Microsoft Azure Open AI and Google Translation AI.

Middle East, Religion and Religiosity


Why do some people in the Middle East become atheists? The phenomenon of atheism in the Middle East is actually the same as the phenomenon of theism in the US. Both are nothing strange because both are common social phenomena.

The virtual world has recently been busy talking about the phenomenon atheism in Middle East, especially in countries -Arabic countries. This follows a media report citing the results of opinion polls, surveys, and reports from a number of institutions regarding the phenomenon of the declining population of religious people on the one hand, and the growing trend of atheism, agnosticism or non-religious groups on the other.

The flurry of public response is not separate from the assumption that the Middle East is an “Islamic district” and its inhabitants are devout and even fanatical followers of the religion.

Although of course there are many residents of Central Timor who are religious, identifying them with righteousness and religious obedience is not always accurate because there are many residents who do not strictly follow religious teachings.

Furthermore, identifying them solely with Islam is not accurate since there are millions of followers of religions other than Islam, including Christians. Central Java is also not only home to Arab ethnic groups, but also to other ethnic groups such as Persians, Kurds, Yazidis, Druze, Jews, and Amazigh.

Survey findings

From the 40,000 surveyed respondents in Iran by The Group for Analyzing and Measuring in Iran in 2020, 47 percent stated that they have converted from religion to atheism (or at least not being affiliated with any religion).

The results of the 2019 BBC International survey show a similar trend, namely an increase in the percentage of non-religious people in Central and East Timor in general, from 8 percent in 2013 to 13 percent in 2019. The International Religious Freedom Reports (2022) published by the US government also show a trend of increasing percentages of non-religious people, especially among Arab communities.

In a report released by The Arab Barometer, a prominent polling agency in Lebanon, from a survey of 25,000 local residents, 43 percent stated experiencing “individual religiosity decline” or feeling no longer religious.

In 2012, WIN/Gallup International also released a surprising report: out of 500 Saudi Arabian citizens who were surveyed and interviewed, 19 percent stated that they were “not religious” and 5 percent declared themselves as atheists.

This report has evoked various responses from the government and community leaders. Some equate atheism with terrorism and believe it should be severely punished.

However, there are also those who offer a path of dialogue, such as Professor Yusuf al-Ghamdi from Umm al-Qura University, who considers atheism as an “intellectual phenomenon”, not a “behavioral phenomenon” like radicalism, and therefore needs to be addressed intellectually.

To respond to the phenomenon of the emergence of atheism, the Islamic University of Madinah reportedly established a special counseling center or institution to handle cases of individuals who are doubtful about their religion.

Why do some people in the Middle East community become atheists? This question is actually quite strange because atheism, like theism, is essentially a universal phenomenon that can happen to anyone and any ethnicity in the world.

The phenomenon of atheism in central-eastern Indonesia is actually the same as the phenomenon of theism in the United States. Neither is unusual because they are both ordinary social phenomena, in addition to being part of the normal individual transformation process that can happen to anyone.

A number of factors

Brian Whitaker in his book, “Arabs Without God: Atheism and Freedom of Belief in the Middle East,” identifies a number of factors that led to the emergence of atheism in the Middle East (and North Africa). These factors include (1) the discrepancy between the normative teachings of religion and the practices of its adherents in daily life; (2) violence and violations of civil rights that are widespread in society; (3) the process of modernization and secularization that has penetrated the Middle East/North Africa region since several decades ago.

In addition, (4) internet and social media technologies have made it easier for people to access various sources of information from anywhere without censorship from the government or religious groups, while also allowing interaction with anyone regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, or religion.

Some are accusing modernization and democracy as the cause of the emergence of atheism and the decline of religiosity in society. Others are pointing fingers at the Western education system for educating the East and Southeast Asian society to become liberal-secular.

The process of change or transformation from theism to atheism can be due to a loss of trust in religion after seeing various bad and inhumane actions committed by (some) religious groups (radicalism, terrorism, vandalism, dehumanism, and so on). ).

However, it could also be due to the process of intellectualization and rationalization of religious texts, teachings, doctrines and discourses that are seen as incompatible (or contradictory) with the spirit of science, common sense, knowledge, modernity and changing times. Saturation in carrying out a pile of religious dogmas that are not directly proportional to fate and life experiences can also be a cause for the emergence of atheism.

Historical roots

If we look at the history of Central Java, atheism is actually not something new that has recently emerged due to infiltration or invasion of foreign (Western) culture through democracy, modernization, or secularization projects as alleged by some parties.

The phenomenon of ilhad, which can be interpreted as atheism, apostasy (apostasy), or zindik, is very old in the history of the Middle East. Sarah Stroumsa in Freethinkers of Medieval Islam writes that in the 9th century there was a Shia Zaidiyah theologian from the Arabian Peninsula, Al-Qasim bin Ibrahim al-Rassi, who wrote a work (Radd ‘ala al-Mulhid ) who attack counter-religious groups, namely atheists, non-theists, and zindik (heretics).

Two scholars from the Middle East (9/10th century) who are often associated with the idea of ​​atheism are Ibn al-Rawandi and Abu Bakr al-Razi. Both are known as “first-class” critics of religious doctrines, the concept of revelation, or prophetic ideas (prophecy) while advocating the optimization of the mind in understanding the socio-cultural phenomena around us.

Despite being challenged here and there by various religious and political groups, the ideas and practices of atheism have continued in the modern era of Middle East. For example, in the 1930s, Egypt was shocked by the appearance of Ismail Adham who wrote the book Limadza ana Mulhid (Why Am I an Atheist?). Inevitably this book stirred up the public and elicited heated reactions from various religious groups.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Arabian public was also shocked by the emergence of Abdullah al-Qassimi (1907-1996), a controversial writer-intellectual and staunch defender of atheism. Interestingly, he was born in Buraidah, which is one of the strongholds of the Wahhabi group. Prior to his conversion to atheism, he was known for his avid advocacy of Salafism.

Future prospects

Will atheism continue to exist in Timteng in the future? As part of individual dynamics, intellectual processes, and social changes of humanity, atheism (as well as theism) will always exist within society. Atheism will not die even though theistic groups try to kill and bury it. Similarly, theism will not go extinct even though atheist groups try to attack and demolish it.

Theism and atheism will always exist in any society, including in Central Sulawesi, although their relationship is rarely harmonious and often play “hide and seek”.

In societies dominated by theistic groups (like in Central Java and Indonesia), many atheist groups hide their identities because otherwise they would face serious punishment from political and religious authorities. Conversely, in societies dominated by atheist groups, theistic individuals usually do not openly display their identities in public spaces.

Can they both live together peacefully and harmoniously in the future, full of respect and tolerance without fear and suspicion or negating each other? Yes, if the country adopts the principle of secularism that does not consider religious or non-religious groups or theism and atheism as a problem. Another alternative is based on humanity, where the country provides political and legal guarantees/protections for the atheist/theist groups. However, in the context of the Middle East, it seems difficult to achieve this.

Note: this article was published by Kompas (17 June 2023) and was translated by using both Microsoft Azure Open AI and Google Translation AI.

Studi Agama di Perguruan Tinggi


Menarik untuk dipertanyakan dan direnungkan: mengapa ada banyak perguruan tinggi (PT) non-Islam, khususnya yang berafiliasi Kristen dan Yahudi, yang memiliki program studi (progdi), jurusan, departemen, atau lembaga riset tentang Islam dan masyarakat muslim?

Sebaliknya, kenapa nyaris susah didapatkan PT Islam (atau yang dikelola oleh umat Islam) yang memiliki progdi, jurusan, departemen, atau lembaga riset tentang agama non-Islam dan masyarakat non-muslim (misalnya, studi kekristenan, keyahudian, Buddhisme, Hinduisme, agama lokal, dlsb)?

Berbagai PT di Barat seperti Amerika Serikat, Kanada, Australia, atau negara-negara Eropa–baik yang negeri maupun swasta, baik kampus besar maupun kecil, baik kampus riset maupun teaching college, baik yang denominasional (berafiliasi ke agama/kelompok agama tertentu) maupun yang non-denominasional–mempunyai progdi untuk mempelajari fenomena berbagai agama di dunia, baik agama lokal maupun transnasional, tak terkecuali Islam.

Bukan hanya di negara-negara Barat, sejak beberapa tahun terakhir, kampus-kampus di Asia Timur (China, Jepang, Korsel, atau Taiwan) juga mulai membuka progdi Islam. PT di Singapura, khususnya National University of Singapore, juga sudah lama memiliki progdi Islam. 

Progdi Islam ini menyebar di berbagai departemen dan jurusan, khususnya bidang ilmu sosial dan humaniora (sejarah, antropologi, sosiologi, ilmu politik, arkeologi, dlsb), bukan hanya di departemen atau jurusan agama. Bahkan di Fakultas Hukum (seperti di Harvard) memiliki divisi Hukum Islam yang kuat.

Kampus-kampus denominasional di Amerika, misalnya yang berafiliasi ke Katolik (seperti University of Notre Dame, Georgetown University, Boston College, dlsb), Yahudi (seperti Brandeis University), Mormon (seperti Brigham Young University), atau berbagai “kampus Protestan” (misalnya Emory University, Graduate Theological Union, Union Theological Seminary, dlsb) mempunyai progdi Islam yang baik. Almamater saya, Boston University, yang berafiliasi ke Kristen Methodis juga mempunyai banyak sekali progdi Islam yang tersebar di berbagai fakultas dan departemen.

Untuk memenuhi keperluan progdi Islam ini, kampus-kampus tersebut merekrut para ahli dan spesialis (dosen, periset, atau fellow), baik “sarjana sekuler” (ateis atau agnostik) maupun sarjana dari agama tertentu (termasuk sarjana muslim), yang fokus di bidang studi agama Islam atau masyarakat muslim. Dengan kata lain, bukan hanya sarjana non-muslim, para sarjana muslim dari berbagai negara (termasuk dari Indonesia) juga sudah banyak menjadi tenaga pengajar dan peneliti tentang Islam dan masyarakat muslim di kampus-kampus Barat.

Tradisi Studi Islam di Barat

Tradisi studi Islam di Barat dimulai dari kelompok Orientalis, yakni sekelompok sarjana dan sejarawan yang mempelajari berbagai aspek tradisi dan “budaya Oriental” (maksudnya, Asia dan Timur Tengah) termasuk agama, bahasa, sastra, filosofi, hukum, dan sejarah, di abad ke-18/19 M.

Perlu diingat, tidak semua Orientalis mempelajari Islam dan masyarakat muslim. Adapun Orientalis yang ahli di bidang studi/kajian Islam, masyarakat muslim, atau Arab/Timteng yang masyhur kala itu termasuk Ignaz Goldziher dari Hungaria, Theodor Noldeke dari Jerman, dan Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje dari Belanda.

Oleh banyak sarjana, trio Orientalis ini dianggap sebagai pionir studi Islam di Barat. Dari ketiga Orientalis ini, Snouck Hurgronje yang paling populer di Indonesia. Oleh umat Islam, Snouck Hurgronje dianggap sebagai “antek intelektual” Belanda, meskipun ia telah berkontribusi di bidang kajian keislaman dan kemusliman.

Para Orienstalis lain yang masyhur di bidang kajian Islam, masyarakat muslim, atau sejarah dan geokultural Timteng, adalah Joseph Schacht, Hamilton H.R. Gibb, Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Philip K. Hitti, atau Montgomery Watt. Mereka telah menulis banyak karya akademik tentang Islam, muslim, dan/atau Timteng.       

Para ilmuwan sosial–khususnya sosiolog dan antropolog–pada mulanya tidak tertarik dengan studi Islam, meskipun Max Weber yang dianggap sebagai salah satu trio pendiri sosiologi (bersama Emile Durkheim dan Karl Marx) pernah menyinggung tentang Islam dalam karya-karyanya. Adapun para pendiri antropologi seperti Franz Boas atau Bronislaw Malinowski sama sekali tidak menyinggung Islam/muslim dalam karya-karya mereka.

Dalam antropologi, sependek pengetahuan saya, antropolog Inggris Sir Edward Evans-Pritchard yang memulai mempelajari Islam dan masyarakat muslim lewat karyanya, The Sanusi of Cyrenaica (terbit tahun 1949), yang membahas kelompok Sufi atau tarekat Sanusiyah di Libia. Mengikuti tradisi Evans-Pritchard, antropolog Amerika mendiang Clifford Geertz kemudian meneliti masyarakat Islam di Indonesia (Kediri, Jatim) dan Maroko pada tahun 1950an/1960an.

Selain Geertz, ada mendiang Fredrik Barth dari Norwegia yang juga menjadi pionir studi antropologi masyarakat Islam. Barth banyak meneliti masyarakat muslim di Oman, Iran, Pakistan, dan juga Bali. Studi Islam di Barat mengalami “booming” sejak tragedi terorisme 9/11 di Amerika. Sejak itu, banyak PT di Barat yang membuka progdi Islam atau lembaga riset guna meneliti “dunia Islam.”

Studi Agama di PT Timteng dan Dunia Islam

Jika di Barat banyak PT yang membuka studi Islam, di dunia Islam justru sebaliknya. Nyaris susah mendapatkan PT Islam atau “PT umum” yang dikelola oleh umat Islam yang mempunyai progdi atau lembaga penelitian yang fokus di bidang kajian non-Islam dan masyarakat non-muslim. Pada umumnya PT milik umat Islam fokus di bidang studi ilmu-ilmu keislaman (misalnya hukum Islam, ilmu tafsir, ilmu hadis, dlsb) atau ilmu-ilmu sekuler (ilmu eksakta, teknik, teknologi informatika, ekonomi, bisnis, komputer, AI, dlsb). Tren ini bukan hanya di Timteng saja tetapi juga di kawasan Islam lain seperti Afrika Utara, Asia Tengah, Asia Selatan, dan Asia Tenggara.

Yang menarik, khususnya dalam konteks Timteng, PT yang berafiliasi Yahudi di Israel (misalnya The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv University, the University of Haifa, dlsb) atau Kristen di Palestina (misalnya Jerusalem University College) atau Libanon (misalnya, Saint Joseph University of Beirut) juga membuka progdi Islam (selain bahasa, sastra, dan budaya  Arab/Timteng). Akan tetapi tidak ada satupun PT yang berafiliasi Islam yang membuka progdi agama Yahudi, Kristen, atau bahasa Ibrani (Hebrew).  

PT di Indonesia, khususnya yang berafiliasi Islam atau yang dikelola umat Islam, juga tidak ada yang membuka progdi agama non-Islam dan masyarakat non-muslim. Ada beberapa universitas yang membuka progdi atau pusat penelitian Timteng tetapi isinya juga “Timteng yang Islam.” Padahal Timteng bukan hanya menjadi rumah umat Islam tetapi juga Kristen, Yahudi, Yazidi, Druze, Khaldean, Baha’i, Hindu, dlsb.

Sejumlah Faktor Mendasar

Selain didorong oleh motivasi politik (misalnya kolonialisme atau untuk mempelajari politik dan radikalisme Islam/muslim), studi Islam di kampus-kampus Barat juga dilandasi oleh spirit ilmiah, etos akademik, dan keingintauan yang kuat untuk mengetahui seluk-beluk agama Islam dan dunia muslim. Karena itu tradisi studi Islam di Barat, meminjam istilah Mahmood Mamdani, mantan profesor di Columbia University, dapat menghasilkan “unfriendly Orientalists” (yang bias dan kurang bersahabat dengan Islam/muslim) dan “friendly Orientalists” (yang fair dan bersahabat dengan Islam/muslim).

Terlepas dari motif dan tujuan yang beragam, tradisi studi Islam di Barat telah melahirkan banyak sarjana non-muslim (khususnya Kristen, Yahudi, atau sekuler) yang ahli di bidang studi agama Islam dan masyarakat muslim. 

Sementara itu, minimnya PT Islam yang mempunyai progdi agama non-Islam/masyarakat muslim menyebabkan minimnya para sarjana Islam yang ahli di bidang kajian agama-agama lain dan masyarakat non-muslim. Ada sejumlah faktor mendasar yang menyebabkan minimnya atau bahkan tidak adanya PT Islam (atau yang dikelola umat Islam) yang membuka progdi studi agama non-Islam atau masyarakat non-muslim. Misalnya, rendahnya atau tidak adanya ketertarikan serta minat akademik dan riset di kalangan umat Islam untuk meneliti dan mempelajari agama dan umat agama lain.

Padahal dengan meneliti dan mempelajari agama dan umat agama lain dapat meningkatkan pengetahuan tentang agama-agama, memperkaya wawasan keagamaan, meminimalisir kesalahpahaman terhadap agama lain, dan memperkuat relasi antaragama.

Bisakah PT Islam di Indonesia menjadi pionir studi agama non-Islam dan masyarakat non-muslim? Mampukah PT Islam Indonesia mencontoh etos intelektual dan spirit akademik Abu Raihan al-Biruni (973-1048), seorang ulama muslim Persia di abad ke-10/11 M yang dijuluki Bapak Perbandingan Agama karena menekuni agama-agama non-Islam (termasuk Hinduisme) serta mempelajari bahasa mereka (termasuk Sansekerta)?

Keterangan: artikel ini semula diterbitkan di Kompas (27 Oktober 2023)

Toleransi Agama di Uni Emirat Arab


Di antara negara-negara di Timur Tengah (Timteng) yang mayoritas berpenduduk muslim, Uni Emirat Arab (UEA) termasuk yang sangat menarik untuk dicermati. Meskipun dari aspek pemerintahan UEA tergolong otoriter dan konservatif, negara ini menjadi salah satu yang paling liberal dalam hal ekspresi kebudayaan dan membangun relasi sosial serta paling toleran dalam beragama dan bermasyarakat. Dalam hal partisipasi perempuan di sektor publik juga tergolong fenomenal.

Beberapa indikator toleransi sosial-agama dapat dilihat berikut ini. Misalnya, tidak seperti umumnya negara-negara di Timteng (kecuali Maroko atau Bahrain) yang masih “malu-malu” dalam menjalin hubungan sosial dengan umat Yahudi, negara mini berpenduduk 9,2 juta yang kaya di kawasan Teluk Arab ini belakangan berani “buka-bukaan” mengekspresikan harmonisasi dengan warga Yahudi (antara lain, menjadi tuan rumah pesta pernikahan mereka yang dihadiri oleh sejumlah petinggi pemerintah atau membolehkan usaha bisnis dan pendirian ormas Yahudi).

Meskipun tidak besar, umat Yahudi juga eksis di UEA yang menurut Rabbi Marc Schneier dari Foundation of Ethnic Understanding ada sekitar 3000 jiwa. Tahun 2020, UEA menjadi negara pertama di kawasan Teluk Arab (atau Teluk Persi) yang membangun hubungan diplomatik dengan Israel, yang kemudian disusul negara tetangganya, Bahrain.

Toleransi Kemajemukan Seni-Budaya

UEA juga dikenal sangat toleran dengan keragaman seni-budaya. Pemerintah juga menggaransi ekspresi selebrasi kemajemukan seni-budaya penduduknya sehingga membuat UEA, dari aspek kesenian atau kebudayaan secara umum (baik kebudayaan bendawi maupun nonbendawi) sangat warna-warni.

Dari aspek ekspresi seni dan budaya, negara kerajaan semi-konstitusional berbentuk federal ini bisa dikatakan yang paling majemuk di Timteng lantaran menjadi rumah bagi aneka ragam kebudayaan dalam dan luar negeri. Keragaman budaya itu bisa dimaklumi karena UEA menjadi rumah umat manusia dari berbagai suku, etnis, bangsa, dan negara. Bahkan penduduk Arab lokal (Emirati) hanya sekitar 11 persen, selebihnya (89 persen) merupakan warga asing (imigran).

Warga asing terbanyak yang menempati UEA berasal dari Asia Selatan (India, Pakistan, dan Bangladesh). Di antara negara-negara di Asia Selatan, India yang paling banyak (sekitar 38 persen) karena sudah lama menempati UEA, yakni sejak menjadi “koloni” Inggris. Inggrislah dulu yang mula-mula mendatangkan warga India ke UEA untuk dipekerjakan di berbagai sektor. Sementara itu di antara negara-negara Timteng, Mesir yang paling dominan, sedangkan dari Asia Tenggara, warga Filipina yang paling banyak menempati UEA. Keragaman masyarakat tersebut tentu saja berdampak pada keragaman budaya dan juga agama.

Harmoni Antaragama

Dalam hal keagamaan dan kehidupan beragama, UEA juga dikenal sangat toleran. Sudah tidak asing lagi, UEA yang kini dipimpin oleh Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan menjadi rumah bagi aneka ragam agama dan sekte Islam seperti Sunni, Syiah, Ibadi, dan lainnya. Sunni menjadi sekte Islam dominan, sedangkan populasi warga Syiah (baik Syiah Arab, Syiah Persi, dan lainnya) sekitar 15-20 persen. Meskipun relasi pemerintah UEA dan Iran kurang harmonis karena konflik atas sejumlah pulau di kawasan Teluk Arab/Persi tetapi itu tidak mempengaruhi hubungan baik antarwarga Sunni dan Syiah. Kelompok Sufi juga berkembang biak di UEA.

Populasi non-muslim juga signifikan di UEA sebagai dampak dari besarnya kelompok imigran. Kristen, Yahudi, Hindu, Buddha, Sikh, Bahai, Jain, dan lain-lain berkembang biak dan hidup berdampiangan secara damai di UEA. Di antara umat non-muslim, umat Kristen (khususnya Katolik Roma dan Protestan) yang paling dominan (sekitar 13 persen). Mereka bukan hanya berasal dari Asia, Afrika, Eropa, Amerika Utara, atau Amerika Latin saja tetapi juga umat Kristen Timteng, khususnya dari Mesir, Libanon, Suriah, Yordania, dan Palestina.

Hingga tahun 2020, tercatat ada sekitar 54 gereja Kristen dari berbagai denominasi di UEA, dan bahkan Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia dari gereja Katolik bermarkas di Dubai. Minoritas agama terbesar kedua setelah Kristen adalah Hindu (sekitar 7 persen) kemudian diikuti Buddha (2 persen) dan umat lainnya. Sebagaimana umat Kristen, mereka juga memiliki tempat ibadah yang digaransi oleh pemerintah.  

Relasi harmoni dan toleran antarkelompok agama di UEA dibuktikan dengan tidak adanya kekerasan komunal antarkelompok agama (baik kekerasan antarfaksi dalam Islam maupun muslim versus non-muslim) maupun kekerasan struktural terhadap kelompok agama tertentu yang didukung atau disponsori (baik langsung maupun tidak langsung) oleh pemerintah dan aparat keamanan.

Peran Sentral Pemerintah

Harmoni sosial-budaya-agama yang berlangsung di UEA tersebut tentu saja tidak lepas dari peran sentral pemerintah dalam mengelola kemajemukan warganya. Ada cukup banyak kebijakan pemerintah UEA yang bertujuan menciptakan harmoni sosial di satu sisi serta menghindari konflik atau ketegangan sosial di pihak lain.

Misalnya, pemerintah UEA membentuk kementerian yang khusus bertugas mengurusi toleransi dan koeksistensi damai di masyarakat. Pemerintah juga menyediakan lahan untuk pembangunan tempat-tempat ibadah non-muslim termasuk gereja dan kuil. Selain itu, pemerintah juga melindungi penuh kebebasan beribadah umat non-muslim sehngga membuat umat Kristen dan lainnya merasa nyaman dalam melakukan aktivitas kebaktian agama serta perayaan hari-hari penting agama mereka.

Tahun 2019, pemerintah mendesain “Abraham Family House” (baiat al-ailat lil ibrahimiyah), yakni sebuah komplek atau area di Pulau Saadiyat (Abu Dhabi) yang dibangun tiga tempat ibadah umat Islam (masjid), Kristen (gereja), dan Yahudi (sinagog), sebagai simbol harmoni sesama agama dari rumpun Semit. Di kawasan ini dibangun Masjid Imam Al-Tayeb, Gereja St. Francis, dan Sinagog Moses Ben Maimon.

Pembangunan kompleks ini diinspirasi oleh Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, sebuah pernyataan bersama antara Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb (Imam Besar Al-Azhar, Mesir) atas nama umat Islam dan Paus Fransiskus atas nama umat Katolik, yang ditandatangi di Abu Dhabi (karena itu dokumen ini juga dsebut “Deklarasi Abu Dhabi”). 

Kemudian tahun 2016, pemerintah meluncurkan “Program Toleransi Nasional” yang digagas oleh Sheikha Lubna binti Khalid Al Qasimi (Menteri Negara urusan Toleransi). Menurut Sheikha Lubna, tujuan utama dari program ini adalah untuk membangun iklim toleransi, spirit perdamaian, praktik multikulturalisme, dan kultur penerimaan terhadap yang lain serta menolak tegas segala tindakan rasisme, radikalisme, intoleransi, diskriminasi, dan kebencian terhadap individu dan kelompok lain. UEA memang tidak memberi ruang secuilpun pada tindakan (fisik maupun verbal) intoleransi dan radikalisme.

Dampak Kebijakan dan Sikap Tegas Pemerintah

Sikap tegas pemerintah ini berdampak pada terciptanya iklim sejuk dan relasi harmoni antarkelompok masyarakat. Pula, kebijakan ini “memaksa” kelompok radikal-intoleran untuk bungkam. Perlu diketahui, kelompok Salafi garis keras juga eksis di UEA tetapi mereka “tidak banyak tingkah” dengan mengharamkan berbagai produk seni-budaya yang dianggap bertentangan dengan akidah dan praktik keagamaan mereka atau dengan mengafirkan dan menggeruduk kelompok agama dan sekte Islam lain. Mereka juga tidak melontarkan ujaran-ujaran kebencian terhadap non-muslim maupun sekte-sekte Islam lain. Bisa dipastikan jika mereka melakukan hal itu segera “dibungkam” dan “dibekukan” oleh pemerintah karena dianggap mengganggu kemajemukan serta berpotensi menciptakan kekacauan sosial dan relasi tidak harmonis antarkelompok masyarakat.

Begitu pula, pengikut Hizbut Tahrir juga ada di UEA tetapi sama seperti kelompok Salafi, mereka juga diam tidak berani mendelegitimasi atau “mengtaghutkan” pemerintah meskipun sistem, bentuk, dan mekanisme pemerintahan UEA bertentangan dengan konsep pemerintahan model Khilafah yang digambarkan dan diidealkan oleh Hizbut Tahrir. Jika mereka berani melakukan itu, bisa dipastikan akan “digelandang” oleh pemerintah dan aparat.

Demikianlah sekelumit cerita dan “kabar gembira” dari UEA. Pelajaran penting yang bisa diambil dari UEA adalah demi atau untuk menjaga dan merawat kemajemukan budaya dan harmoni sosial-keagamaan, membuat aturan dan kebijakan saja tidak cukup. Perlu tindakan tegas bagi para pelanggar hukum, perusak kemajemukan budaya dan agama, serta pengganggu keharmonisan sosial di masyarakat. Bisakah pemerintah Indonesia mencontohnya?

Keterangan: tulisan ini semula diterbitkan di Kompas (9 September 2023) dengan judul “Toleransi Agama di Timur Tengah.”

Ateisme di Timteng?


Jagat maya Indonesia belakangan ramai membicarakan fenomena ateisme di Timur Tengah (Timteng), khususnya negara-negara Arab, karena laporan sebuah media yang mengutip hasil polling, survei, dan laporan sejumlah lembaga (seperti pemerintah Amerika Serikat, The Group for Analyzing and Measuring in Iran, BBC International, dan The Arab Barometer) tentang fenomena menurunnya populasi umat beragama di satu sisi serta tren berkembangannya kelompok ateisme, agnotisisme, atau non-agama di pihak lain.

Ramainya respon publik tersebut tidak lepas dari asumsi bahwa Timteng merupakan “kawasan Islam” dan penghuninya merupakan pengikut agama yang taat dan bahkan fanatik. Meskipun tentu saja ada banyak masyarakat Timteng yang religius, mengidentikkan mereka dengan kesalehan dan ketaatan beragama tidak selamanya akurat karena memang ada banyak masyarakat yang tidak saleh dan agamis (baca, tidak menjalankan ajaran agama secara ketat).

Pula, mengidentikkan mereka dengan Islam saja juga tidak akurat karena ada jutaan pengikut agama selain Islam, termasuk umat kristiani. Timteng juga bukan hanya rumah bagi suku-bangsa Arab saja tetapi juga suku-bangsa lainnya seperti Persi, Kurdi, Yazidi, Druze, Yahudi, Amazigh, dlsb. 

Temuan Survei

Di antara hasil temuan survei tersebut, antara lain, 47 persen dari 40,000 responden penduduk Iran yang disurvei oleh The Group for Analyzing and Measuring in Iran tahun 2020 menyatakan telah beralih dari beragama ke ateis (atau minimal tidak beragama). Hasil survei dari BBC International (2019) juga menunjukkan tren serupa, yakni peningkatan persentase umat non-agama di Timteng secara umum dari 8 persen (tahun 2013) menjadi 13 persen (tahun 2019).

Hasil temuan International Religious Freedom Reports (2022) yang dirilis oleh pemerintah Amerika juga menunjukkan tren peningkatan persentase umat non-agama, khususnya di kalangan masyarakat Arab. Kemudian, dalam laporan yang dikeluarkan oleh The Arab Barometer (sebuah lembaga polling ternama di Libanon) belakangan ini disebutkan bahwa, berdasarkan survei terhadap 25,000 warga setempat, 43 persen dari responden menyatakan mengalami “kemerosotan kesalehan individu” alias merasa tidak religius lagi.

Pada tahun 2012, WIN/Gallup International juga pernah mengeluarkan laporan mengejutkan: dari sekitar 500an warga Arab Saudi yang disurvei dan wawancarai, 19 persen menyatakan “tidak religius” dan 5 persen menyatakan sebagai ateis. Laporan ini menimbulkan respon yang beragam dari pemerintah maupun tokoh masyarakat.

Ada yang menghukumi ateisme dengan terorisme yang harus dihukum berat tetapi ada pula yang menawarkan jalan dialog (misalnya Profesor Yusuf Al-Ghamdi dari Universitas Umm al-Qura) karena menganggap ateisme sebagai “fenomena intelektual” bukan “fenomena perilaku” seperti radikalisme sehingga perlu dihadapi secara intelektual. Guna merespon fenomena munculnya ateisme, Universitas Islam Madinah dikabarkan pernah membuat lembaga atau pusat konsultasi yang khusus menangani masyarakat yang ragu dengan agama mereka (baca, Islam).  

Sejumlah Faktor

Kenapa sebagian masyarakat Timteng menjadi ateis? Pertanyaan ini sebetulnya cukup aneh karena ateisme, sebagaimana teisme, sejatinya merupakan fenomena universal yang bisa terjadi pada siapa saja dan etnik mana saja di dunia ini. Fenomena ateisme di Timteng sebetulnya sama dengan fenomena teisme di Amerika. Keduanya tidak ada yang aneh karena sama-sama sebagai sebuah fenomena sosial yang lumrah, selain sebagai bagian dari proses perubahan individu yang biasa dan bisa terjadi pada siapa saja.

Brian Whitaker dalam bukunya Arabs Without God: Atheism and Freedom of Belief in the Middle East mengidentifikasi sejumlah faktor yang menyebabkan munculnya ateisme di Timteng (dan Afrika Utara), antara lain, (1) ketidaksinkronan antara ajaran normatif agama dan praktik pemeluknya dalam kehidupan sehari-hari, (2) kekerasan dan pelanggaran hak-hak sipil yang marak di masyarakat, (3) proses modernisasi dan sekularisasi yang merambah kawasan Timteng/Afrika Utara sejak beberapa dekade silam, dan (4) teknologi internet dan media sosial yang memudahkan masyarakat untuk mencari berbagai sumber informasi dari mana saja tanpa censorship dari pemerintah maupun kelompok agama sekaligus berinteraksi dengan siapa saja tanpa batas negara, etnis, dan agama.

Sebagian menuding westernisasi dan demokrasi sebagai penyebab munculnya ateisme dan menurunnya religiusitas masyarakat. Yang lain mengarahkan jari telunjuk ke dunia pendidikan Barat yang telah mendidik masyarakat Timteng menjadi liberal-sekuler.

Apapun faktor penyebabnya, saya melihat ateisme di Timteng dan dimanapun, termasuk di Indonesia, sebagai fenomena sosial dan individual yang wajar yang bisa menimpa siapa saja dan kapan saja. Proses perubahan atau transformasi dari teisme ke ateisme bisa disebabkan karena hilangnya kepercayaan (trust) terhadap agama setelah melihat berbagai tindakan buruk dan tidak manusiawi yang dilakukan oleh (sebagian) kelompok agama (radikalisme, terorisme, vandalisme, dehumanisme, dlsb).

Tetapi bisa juga karena proses intelektualisasi dan rasionalisasi atas teks, ajaran, doktrin, dan diskursus agama yang dipandang tidak sesuai (atau bertentangan) dengan spirit sains, common sense, pengetahuan, kemodernan, dan perubahan zaman. Kejenuhan dalam menjalankan tumpukan dogma agama yang tidak berbanding lurus dengan nasib dan pengalaman hidup juga bisa menjadi penyebab munculnya ateisme.

Akar Sejarah

Jika melihat sejarah Timteng, ateisme sebetulnya bukan sesuatu yang baru yang muncul belakangan akibat infiltrasi (penyusupan) atau penyerbuan budaya asing (Barat) melalui proyek demokrasi, modernisasi, atau sekularisasi seperti dituduhkan sejumlah pihak. Fenomena ilhad yang bisa dimaknai sebagai ateisme, apostasi (pemurtadan), atau zindik sudah sangat tua dalam sejarah Timteng. Sarah Stroumsa dalam Freethinkers of Medieval Islam, menulis kalau pada abad ke-9 ada seorang teolog Syiah Zaidiyah dari Semenanjung Arab bernama Al-Qasim bin Ibrahim al-Rassi yang menulis sebuah karya (Radd ‘ala al-Mulhid) yang menyerang kelompok kontra-agama, yakni ateis, non-teis, dan zindik (heretics).

Dua sarjana Timteng masa lampau (abad ke-9/10) yang sering dikaitkan dengan gagasan ateisme adalah Ibnu al-Rawandi dan Abu Bakar al-Razi. Keduanya dikenal sebagai pengkritik nomer wahid atas doktrin-doktrin keagamaan, konsep wahyu, atau gagasan kenabian (prophecy) seraya menganjurkan optimalisasi akal-pikiran dalam memahami fenomena sosial-kultural di sekeliling kita.

Meskipun mendapat tantangan sana-sini dari berbagai kelompok agama dan politik, gagasan dan praktik ateisme terus berlanjut di era modern Timteng. Misalnya, pada tahun 1930an, Mesir pernah dikejutkan dengan munculnya Ismail Adham yang menulis buku berjudul Limadza ana Mulhid (Mengapa Saya Ateis?).

Tak pelak buku ini menggegerkan publik dan memunculkan reaksi panas dari berbagai kelompok agama. Sementara itu publik Arab Saudi juga dikejutkan dengan munculnya Abdullah al-Qassimi (1907-1996), salah satu penulis-intelektual kontroversial dan pembela gigih ateisme yang menariknya lahir di Buraidah, salah satu pusat (sarang) kelompok Wahabi. Sebelum pindah haluan menjadi ateis, ia sempat menjadi advokat Salafisme paling getol.

Prospek Masa Depan

Apakah ateisme di Timteng akan terus eksis di masa depan? Sebagai bagian dari dinamika individual, proses intelektual, dan perubahan sosial umat manusia, ateisme (sebagaimana teisme) akan selalu ada di tengah masyarakat. Ateisme tak akan mati meskipun kelompok teis berusaha membunuh dan menguburnya. Demikian pula sebaliknya, teisme tak akan punah meskipun kelompok ateis berusaha menyerang dan melumatkannya.

Teisme-ateisme akan selalu hadir di masyarakat manapun, termasuk Timteng, meskipun relasi keduanya jarang harmonis dan sering main “petak umpet.” Di masyarakat yang didominasi kaum teis (seperti Timteng dan Indonesia), banyak kelompok ateis yang menyembunyikan identitas mereka karena, jika tidak, akan mendapat hukuman serius dari penguasa politik dan agama. Sebaliknya, di masyarakat yang didominasi oleh kelompok ateis, kaum teis biasanya juga tidak menunjukkan identitas mereka secara vulgar di ruang publik.

Mampukah di masa depan keduanya hidup berdampingan secara damai dan harmoni penuh respek dan toleransi tanpa diiringi rasa takut dan curiga atau saling menegasikan satu sama lainnya? Keduanya sebetulnya bisa hidup berdampingan secara damai jika negara mengadopsi prinsip sekularisme yang tidak mempermasalahkan kelompok agama maupun non-agama atau teisme dan ateisme. Alternatif lain, atas dasar perikemanusiaan, negara memberi jaminan/perlindungan politik dan hukum terhadap kelompok ateis/teis. Tetapi dalam konteks Timteng, sepertinya ide ini sulit terwujud alias hal yang mustahil, kecuali jika terjadi keajaiban yang entah kapan hadirnya. 

Keterangan: artikel ini semula terbit di Kompas dengan judul “Timur Tengah, Agama, dan Religiositas” pada 17 Juni 2023

Beyond Liberal Peace: Religious Violence and Tactical Peacebuilding in Indonesia



Since the downfall of Suharto’s authoritarian government in 1998, Indonesia has witnessed a variety of violent conflicts, intergroup tensions and Islamist radicalism, which in turn pose threats to the country’s security, safety and peace. This article examines various forms of religious violence, particularly Islamist violence, and ways of overcoming them tactically or strategically in post-Suharto Indonesia. This article underscores the need to go beyond the liberal peace framework, underlines the significance of the implementation of tactical peacebuilding and highlights the central roles of domestic religious actors in the peace and reconciliation processes. This article suggests that tactical peacebuilding requires multiple approaches that utilise various sources, including religion and culture, and needs a strategic collaboration among manifold actors—religious and secular, state and society, domestic and foreign. The Indonesian case shows that religion is not only a source of conflict, violence and ‘violence-building’ but also a useful resource for reconciliation, conflict resolution and peacebuilding.

The PDF of this article can be read (accessed) in the following link

Potret Dunia Islam; Kumpulan Esai


Bagaimana potret “dunia Islam” sekarang? Yang dimaksud dengan “dunia Islam” di buku ini bukan sebuah belahan dunia khusus yang dihuni oleh umat Islam melainkan situasi dan kondisi umat Islam di dunia ini dimanapun mereka tinggal, baik di negara (country) atau kawasan (region) yang mayoritas berpenduduk muslim maupun bukan. Karena itu di dalam buku ini juga berisi uraian tentang situasi-kondisi umat Islam di negara/kawasan dimana muslim bukan penduduk mayoritas seperti Amerika Serikat atau Myanmar.

Selain itu, kata “dunia Islam” juga mengacu pada situasi-kondisi negara/kawasan yang populasinya, dari aspek kuantitatif, didominasi oleh umat Islam. Ada banyak negara di dunia ini yang penduduknya mayoritas muslim seperti negara-negara di Timur Tengah (selain Israel), Afrika Utara, Asia Tengah (kecuali Mongolia), atau Asia Selatan (misalnya Afganistan, Pakistan, dan Bangladesh). Sejumlah negara di Asia Tenggara juga mayoritas berpenduduk muslim seperti Indonesia, Malaysia, dan Brunei Darussalam.


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Rumitnya Hadis


Dibanding dengan Al-Qur’an, seluk-beluk, sejarah, konten, dan pluralitas Hadis (perkataan Nabi Muhammad) jauh lebih rumit. Hadis itu cem-macem. Berbeda dengan Al-Qur’an, ada banyak buku tentang koleksi hadis ini. Setiap mazhab atau aliran teologi memiliki koleksi hadis sendiri-sendiri yang tidak jarang saling bertentangan dan saling-menegasikan otentisitas hadis yang dikoleksi, dipegangi, dan dipedomani oleh mazhab lain. Apa yang diklaim sebagai hadis oleh pengikut mazhab tertentu belum tentu dianggap hadis oleh pengikut mazhab lain.

Hadis yang dianggap sahih oleh kelompok Islam tertentu, belum tentu dianggap sahih dan valid oleh kelompok Islam lain. Begitu seterusnya. Kalau Al-Qur’an, masing-masing mazhab, termasuk Syiah, memiliki kitab yang sama, meskipun kitab tafsir Al-Qur’annya berbeda-beda. Perbedaan dalam memandang dan memahami hadis itu sudah terjadi sejak era awal perkembangan Islam, misalnya ditunjukkan dengan adanya perseteruan antara “faksi tradisional” dan “faksi rasional” atau antara kubu “ahlul hadis” dan kubu “ahlu ra’yi.” 


Misalnya, kaum Muslim dari Mazhab Sunni yang merupakan mayoritas memedomani enam kitab-kitab hadis utama yang dijadikan sebagai rujukan dalam pengambilan hukum Islam atau pedoman dalam kehidupan sosial-keagamaan sehari-hari setelah Al-Qur’an, yaitu:

(1) Sahih Bukhari atau Bukhari Syarif yang ditulis oleh Abu Abdullah Muhammad Al-Bukhari (w. 870), seorang sarjana Muslim Persi kelahiran Bukhara (kini Uzbekistan). Koleksi hadis Imam Bukhari ini juga dipakai oleh kaum Muslim Syiah aliran Zaidiyah. Oleh Sunni, Kitab Sahih Bukhari ini dianggap yang paling valid atau sahih.

(2) Kitab Sahih Muslim yang ditulis oleh Muslim al-Hajjaj (w. 875), yang juga seorang sarjana Muslim Persi (kelahiran Nishapur, Iran). Oleh Sunni, kitab ini dianggap sebagai yang tersahih kedua setelah Kitab Sahih Bukhari. Kitab Sahih Muslim ini juga dipakai oleh Syiah Zaidiyah atau Zaidi (mayoritas di Yaman utara).

(3) Kitab Sunan Abu Dawud (ditulis oleh Abu Dawud al-Sijistani, w. 889, yang juga sarjana Persia kelahiran Sistan, Iran).

(4) Kitab Sunan al-Tirmidhi atau Jamiut Tirmidhi (ditulis oleh Abu Isa Muhammad al-Tirmidhi, w. 892. Beliau juga sarjana Persia).

(5) Kitab Sunan Nasai atau Al-Sunan al-Sughra (dituis oleh Imam Nasai, w. 915. Beliau kelahiran Nasa, Turkmenistan).

(6) Kitab Sunan Ibnu Majah, ditulis oleh Imam Ibnu Majah, seorang sarjana Persi yang wafat sekitar 887 M. Khusus pengikut Sunni Mazhab Maliki, mereka menolak otoritas Kitab Sunan Ibnu Majah dan menggantinya dengan Kitab Muwatta, karya Imam Malik, pendiri Mazhab Maliki.

Menariknya dari 6 Kitab Hadis yang dipedomani atau dijadikan rujukan oleh kaum Sunni, tidak ada satupun yang ditulis oleh sarjana Muslim Arab! Hampir semuanya beretnis Persi.

Kemudian kelompok Syiah Itsna Ats’ariyah atau Syiah Imamiyah yang merupakan Syiah mayoritas memiliki 4 kitab koleksi hadis yang dijadikan sebagai rujukan utama, yaitu (1) Kitab al-Kafi (ditulis oleh Muhammad bin Ya’kub al-Kulaini), (2) Kitab Man La Yahdhuru al-Faqih (ditulis oleh Abu Ja’far Muhammad al-Qummi atau Ibnu Babawaih), (3) Kitab Tahdhib al-Ahkam (ditulis oleh Abu Ja’far Muhammad Tusi atau Syaikh Tusi), dan (4) Kitab Al-Ibtisar yang juga ditulis oleh Syaikh Tusi. Kitab Al-Ibtisar adalah ringkasan dari Kitab Tahdhib al-Ahkam. Mereka semua adalah ilmuwan Hadis dari Persi.

Sementara itu kaum Muslim aliran Ibadiyah (Ibadi) memiliki dua kitab hadis utama, yaitu Jami al-Shahih (ditulis oleh al-Rabi bin Habib al-Farahidhi) dan Kitab Tartib al-Musnad (dikoleksi oleh Abu Ya’qub al-Warjilani).

Lalu, umat Syiah Ismaliyah, kitab hadis yang dijadikan rujukan adalah Kitab Daim al-Islam yang ditulis oleh al-Qadi al-Nu’man.

Itu hanya sekelumit contoh saja tentang sejumlah kitab hadis yang dijadikan sebagai rujukan dan pedoman oleh berbagai kelompok umat Islam.

Selanjutnya, setiap mazhab dan kelompok keislaman juga memiliki tokoh-tokoh idola yang kitab-kitab kumpulan hadisnya dipercaya sebagai yang paling valid. Bukan hanya itu saja, setiap mazhab juga mempunyai tokoh-tokoh idola yang dipercayai dan dijadikan sebagai rujukan utama dalam periwayatan hadis. Misalnya, kaum Alawi di Suriah dan Libanon mempercayai tokoh Sulaiman Al-Farisi sebagai yang paling sahih. Sementara kaum Ibadi mempercayai hadis yang diriwayatkan oleh Jabir bin Zaid. Begitu seterusnya.


Kemajemukan hadis itu, antara lain, disebabkan oleh tidak adanya orang (sahabat Nabi) yang ditunjuk secara spesifik untuk menulis, mengarsip atau mendokumentasikan perkataan Nabi Muhammad sewaktu beliau masih hidup. Hal itu terjadi mungkin karena umat Islam mula-mula sibuk mengurusi eksistensi mereka dari serbuan orang-orang dan kelompok suku yang memusuhi Nabi Muhammad dan pengikutnya. Atau, ada sebagian riwayat yang mengatakan, Nabi Muhammad sendiri konon melarang perkataannya ditulis agar tidak “jumbuh” atau bertabrakan dengan ayat-ayat Al-Qur’an yang bisa membingungkan umat: mana ayat Al-Qur’an, mana Hadis Nabi.

Sependek pengetahuanku (tolong dikoreksi kalau keliru), upaya pendokumentasian hadis tertua secara “agak profesional” dilakukan oleh Imam Malik bin Anas (711-795) dalam Kitab Al-Muwatta, lebih dari seabad pasca wafatnya Nabi Muhammad (w. 632). Konon Hafsah atau Aisyah juga pernah mengoleksi sejumlah perkataan nabi tapi tidak seprofesional Imam Malik. Imam Maliki ini dikenal sebagai pendiri Mazhab Maliki yang berpengaruh di sejumlah kawasan umat Islam khususnya di negara-negara di Afrika Utara dan Afrika Barat. Konon beliau membutuhkan waktu selama 40 tahun untuk mengoleksi hadis ini.

Meski begitu, beliau cuma “mengoleksi” (sebagian) hadis saja, belum melakukan sistematisasi dan kanonisasi hadis secara metodologis-sistematis yang baru dilakukan sekitar abad ke-9 (sekitar 200 tahun setelah wafatnya Nabi), era ketika dunia Islam mengalami surplus para ilmuwan, termasuk ilmuwan hadis yang keren-beken seperti saya sebutkan di atas.

Lalu, apakah ada kelompok umat Islam yang menolak otoritas hadis sama sekali? Ada. Namanya Qur’aniyyun, yaitu kelompok mazhab Qur’aniyyah (didirikan oleh Ibrahim al-Nadham). Kelompok ini semacam gerakan Karaite di Yahudi atau Sola Scriptura di Protestan. Kapan-kapan saja jelaskan tentang kelompok ini. Jadi, jelasnya memahami hadis itu sangat kompleks sekali. Karena itu, boleh saja “mendalil hadis” tapi santai dan terbuka saja tak perlu ngotot: “Hadisnya begini…” apalagi sambil bawa golok, clurit, atau keris. Karena hadismu belum tentu hadis bagi yang lain [SQ]  

Seni di Arab Saudi dan Indonesia: Sejarah dan Perkembangan Kontemporer


Buku ini mengkaji dinamika sejarah dan perkembangan kontemporer dunia seni di Arab Saudi dan Indonesia. Di saat dunia seni di Indonesia sedang “lesu darah”, kesenian di Arab Saudi justru sedang bergairah. Kenapa bisa demikian?

Membandingkan dunia kesenian di Arab Saudi dan Indonesia ini menarik karena keduanya memiliki bentuk dan corak sistem politik-pemerintahan, struktur masyarakat, kompleksitas religiusitas, atau geo-kultural berlainan yang turut membentuk dan mempengaruhi sejarah dan perkembangan kesenian di kedua negara.

Sejumlah pertanyaan yang ingin digali dalam studi ini, antara lain, bagaimana asal mula munculnya kesenian di Arab Saudi dan Indonesia? Bagaimana nasib aneka ragam kesenian di kedua negara itu saat ini? Apa faktor penyebab perkembangan, kemerosotan, atau kebangkitan kembali dunia seni di kedua negara ini?

Bukan hanya mengkaji sejarah dan perkembangan mutakhir, studi ini juga untuk menjaring opini publik masyarakat Arab Saudi dan Indonesia tentang pandangan mereka terhadap dunia seni serta cara atau strategi merawat, melestarikan, menghidupkan, memperjuangkan, dan memajukan aneka ragam kesenian tersebut supaya tetap eksis dan lestari sepanjang masa.

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Studying Secular Sciences in the Middle East


For most Indonesians, education in the Middle East, especially higher education, is associated with “Islamic education”. What is meant by “Islamic education” here is education to study Islamic sciences, such as fiqh (Islamic law), ushuluddin (philosophy), tafsir (interpretation) and hadith science. That assumption could be because they think that the Middle East is an “Islamic region”.

Another factor is the role, influence and dominance of Middle East alumni. For the past few decades, many Indonesian students have studied Islamic sciences at a number of universities in the Middle East, including their branch campuses in Indonesia, such as the Institute for Islamic and Arabic Language Sciences (LIPIA). This does not include those who study Islamic sciences in a number of noncollege Islamic educational institutions, particularly in Yemen and also Saudi Arabia.

After completing their studies, they then set up foundations, madrasas, Islamic boarding schools, Islamic centers or recitation groups and spread certain styles, teachings, insights, discourses, understandings or Islamic ideologies in Indonesia, either through online or offline methods.

In fact, the reality is that education in secular science subjects is actually more dominant in the Middle East. What is meant by secular science study here is non-Islamic sciences, such as “hard sciences” (physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology, etc.), “soft” sciences (social sciences and humanities) and other fields of study (eg computer science, business, management, engineering science, medicine and nursing, geoscience, petroleum science, agricultural science, information systems and technology and so on).

Now, various well-known universities in Middle East are aggressively opening study programs in the field of smart technology to welcome the era of the fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0, the Digital Revolution), such as artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), robotics and blockchains. In order to welcome this era of the Digital Revolution, my campus has also opened more than 30 new study programs, in addition to dozens of research institutes and various courses related to smart technology.

Trends in secular sciences

The results of my research show that the trend of education in secular sciences is not only dominant in the Gulf Arab countries, which are regarded as wealthy regions, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman, but also in other countries, such as Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and so on.

In Saudi Arabia, for example, only three universities were originally or historically designed specifically to study Islamic sciences, namely the Islamic University (Medina), Umm al-Qura University (Mecca) and Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University (Riyadh). The rest, the main focus of campuses in Saudi Arabia, are in the field of secular sciences. Indeed, these campuses offer Islamic studies, but they are very minor and complementary.

Since the 1970s or 1980s, Indonesian students have generally studied Islamic sciences at these three campuses, including LIPIA in Indonesia, which is the branch campus of the Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University. Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University has done the same thing.

Interestingly, as time passes, the three universities have also opened faculties or study programs in the field of secular sciences. For example, the Islamic University of Medina has opened faculties of engineering, computers and science (such as the exact sciences). At Umm al-Qura University, more new faculties have been opened, such as the faculties of medicine, pharmacy, nursing, engineering, computer and information systems, applied sciences, business administration and social sciences. Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University has done the same thing.

The King Abdullah Scholarship Program, a government scholarship program for Saudi sons and daughters who wish to study at top campuses abroad (especially the United States, Canada, Australia, countries in Western Europe and Scandinavia, or China, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore) also focuses on the study of secular sciences.

Why do universities (and the government) in Saudi Arabia (as well as other Middle Eastern Arab countries) focus on the study of secular sciences, with even three universities that were initially “designed” specifically for the study of Islamic sciences also changing and “reforming” themselves?

Market and job demand

One of the main factors is because of the needs of the times and the demands of the job market. Alumni of Islamic sciences education find it difficult to find jobs in accordance with their scientific disciplines due to limited market share and job vacancies. The professions usually filled by alumni of the Islamic sciences are takmir (mosque preachers), judges, sharia police or Islamic studies teachers at schools. Everything is limited. Schools also teach a lot of secular sciences. They also cannot arbitrarily create their own schools/madrasas or recitation institutions because the state’s pattern is “king-centric”, while the sharia police have been disbanded.

The jobs that are most abundant are in the industrial and other sectors that require expertise in non-Islamic sciences. Because of this factor, high school alumni in Saudi Arabia compete to enter public universities to study secular sciences. The favorite campuses that are sought after by students to study secular sciences are King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals, King Abdulaziz University, King Saud University, and so on. This trend, once again, is not only happening in Saudi Arabia, but also in other countries in the Middle East.

Islamic education and radicalism

The next factor that is no less important is that Islamic science studies, if they are mismanaged, have the potential to produce alumni who are conservative, militant, rigid, close-minded and even extreme radicals who are opposed to modernity, the changing of eras, technological progress and socio-cultural development. This can hinder the government’s efforts to realize Saudi Arabia as a developed, modern, inclusive, moderate and advanced technology-based country, as proclaimed in Saudi Vision 2030.

Saudi Arabia has proven and experienced this. The radical-conservative Islamic education model that was designed by the hardline Wahhabi faction and the Muslim Brotherhood militant group from Egypt and Syria who fled to (and were accommodated by) Saudi Arabia have given birth to a new variant of Islam. “Hybrid Islam” with militant-extreme characteristics, such as the Sahwa group, which is anti-modernity and culture.

Why study secular sciences?

As with the trends in Middle Eastern Arab society, Indonesian people, if they want to study at a Middle Eastern university, would find it better and more beneficial to study secular sciences, such as petroleum studies, economics and business, and social sciences. The Indonesian government scholarships managed by a number of ministries should also be directed to this field of non-Islamic studies. The teaching staff also come from various ethnic groups and countries, including Western countries, China and elsewhere.

There are several basic reasons. First, there are many quality, standardized and international-quality campuses in the Middle East that have a global reputation and are recognized by a number of world campus ranking institutions, such as Quacquarelli Symonds and Times Higher Education. Many of these campuses use English as a teaching-learning instrument (or a mixture of English and Arabic). The teaching staff also come from various ethnic groups and countries, including Western countries, China and elsewhere.

For example, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Saudi Arabia), the American University of Beirut (Lebanon), the American University in Cairo (Egypt), King Abdulaziz University (Saudi Arabia), Qatar University (Qatar), the University of Jordan (Jordan) and so on. My campus has also in recent years become the best university in the Middle East region, indeed its Petroleum Engineering study program is ranked seventh in the world.

In addition, quite a number of top Western campuses have established branch campuses in the Gulf countries. They can also be a study alternative, for example, New York University, Georgetown University, Texas A&M University, Northwestern University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Sorbonne University, HEC Paris, and many more.

The second reason is that the secular sciences study program is much more beneficial for the people, nation and state of Indonesia. The alumni are expected to be able to contribute to advancing the development of the economy, science, technology, culture and so on.

Third, Indonesia now has a surplus of higher education institutions, both public and private, which focus on Islamic studies. Basically, studying Islamic studies everywhere is the same because the basis is reading and studying texts. Even now, Islamic studies in Indonesian universities appear to be far more advanced than the Middle East because they use a variety of research and scientific approach models as well as varied reading references and across schools of thought.

Fourth, to reduce the production of “militant Islam” and the spread of religious radicalism that endangers the cultural, national and state structure of Indonesia.

I have noticed that many alumni of Islamic education in the Middle East are aggressively declaring the archipelago’s local traditions and culture to be heretical, introducing and imposing religious practices of the “Arabic Islamic model” that are not in accordance with the context, traditions and culture of Indonesian society (for example, forcing the wearing of the veil for schoolchildren). Or even inciting people to challenge the existence and authority of the government system and state foundations (such as the 1945 Constitution and the state ideology of Pancasila) which they regard as “un-Islamic”, “not syar’i” and “infidel products.”

Of course, not all Middle East Islamic education alumni do this. Also, it is not only the alumni of the Middle East Islamic education who do this. The point is that studying secular sciences at Middle Eastern universities will be much more beneficial for the benefit, progress and prosperity of the Indonesian nation and state in the future, as well as to avoid the possibility of a bigger negative impact on society. Therefore, the government and elements of society should consider this matter.

Note: this article was translated and published by Kompas

Taliban, Afghanistan, and Indonesia


A number of religious groups and members of the political elite in Indonesia seem to be rejoicing at the success of the Taliban military organization in reclaiming power in Afghanistan. They are also urging the Indonesian government to act immediately to show its support for the Taliban regime. I don’t understand what is in their minds. In actual fact, the Taliban have a notorious history in geopolitics and governance that has plunged the Afghan people into fear and suffering. The fact that hundreds of thousands of Afghans have been struggling to flee the country since the Taliban took power shows what or who the Taliban really are.

It is evident that the Afghan people remain traumatized by the previous rule of the Islamist-fundamentalist Taliban regime from 1996 to 2001, which was awash with barbarism and inhumanity. With Afghanistan falling back into the hands of the Taliban, the people are watching the nightmare and horror unfolding before their eyes.

During the previous Taliban rule, with had the support of Pakistan and Al Qaeda, Afghanistan (the Taliban named it the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan after the 1996 fall of Kabul) turned into a horrifying “hell on earth”. Massacres occurred everywhere, not only against ethnic and religious minorities like the Hazara Shia minority, but also any group, rivals and enemies the Taliban considered a threat to their power.

Even North Korea was much better back then than Afghanistan under the Taliban. Poverty, famine and malnutrition were rife while violence continued unabated. Civil war among Islamic factions and tribal groups raged. Massacres occurred everywhere, not only against ethnic and religious minorities like the Hazara Shia minority, but also any group, rivals and enemies the Taliban considered a threat to their power.

It is important to note that the Taliban regime not only committed human genocide, but also wiped out their spiritual and cultural heritage (Raphael Lemkin referred to this as “cultural genocide”) such as works of art, historical monuments and archaeological remains. They also aimed their wrath at the houses of worship they accused of being the houses of “heretic infidels”, unreligious and erosive to the purity of the creed and fundamental teachings of the type of Islam they held to and believed in.

Under their reign, Afghanistan was cut off from the world. The Taliban regime also shut out UN food aid for millions of starving citizens. They barred the media and prohibited public activities that they deemed potentially interfering with their power. Various cultural activities were labeled as haram, including music, photography, painting, film, and dance.

Women received the brunt of the impacts of the regime’s atrocities. They were forced to wear full-body burkas, barred from going out in public without being escorted by a muhrim (a male relative they may not marry under religious laws), and banned from working in the public sector. Health workers such as doctors and nurses were the only exceptions because male workers were not allowed to attend to female patients. Girls were denied access to school. And there were many more tragic stories. If they violated the rules, women would be flogged publicly.

The Taliban implemented scorched-earth warfare, a strategy to win a war by destroying infrastructure that favored the opposing side. The Taliban also destroyed farmland and burned residential areas. As a result, widespread destruction was inevitable across public facilities, economic resources and industry centers in all regions. The Taliban also destroyed farmland and burned residential areas.

The regime collapsed in 2001 due to the US military offensive following the 9/11 terror attacks, but did not stop the Taliban from waging violence. They incessantly carried out terror bombings and heinous acts in a bid to destabilize the government for the past 20 years (2001-2021), which claimed thousands of lives and caused enormous damage to the country’s infrastructure.

Their terror attacks, usually in the form of suicide bombings, targeted not just security forces or government officials, but also anyone (civilians, journalists, children, women, etc.) and anything (including madrasas and mosques). They were also suspected of being behind the recent attack on the crowds of people flocking to the Kabul airport compound in a desperate attempt to escape the regime.

Greedy for power

Why did the Taliban implement totalitarian and indiscriminate politics that plunged Afghanistan into the depths of suffering and chaos? It is simply because they don\’t understand how to manage a pluralistic population and govern a country.

They lack the knowledge, insight, strategy, and skills to govern and manage the nation and state. They only reveal a lust for power. In an attempt to instill public compliance and make citizens submissive and obedient, what they do is terrorize and threaten the people with harsh regulations and punishments under the pretext of enforcing sharia law. Thus, the Taliban are essentially “bandits in religious robes”.

The Taliban is not a group of intellectuals with broad insights on governance, politics, economics or culture. Historically, the Taliban was a political-religious movement consisting of a group of madrassa students. The schools are typically very strict, rigid, closed-minded, and extreme in their understanding, interpretation and practice of Islamic teachings and tenets.

Taliban means “students” and refers to those affiliated to the Deobandi schools, which are found in many areas in South Asia known to be the bedrock of literalist-revivalist conservatives. The schools are typically very strict, rigid, closed-minded, and extreme in their understanding, interpretation and practice of Islamic teachings and tenets.

The Taliban is a movement that combines the Deobandi schools’ typical revival-conservative Islamic teachings, Al Qaeda-style militant Islamist ideology, and Pasthunwali social norms, the traditional customs of the Pasthun ethnic community from which the majority of the Taliban hail. The Taliban as a movement was formed in 1994 by Muhammad Umar (1960-2013). Known as Mullah Umar, the former Deobandi madrassa student was only 34 years old at the time and a member of the Mujahideen militia in the Afghan-Soviet war (1979-1989).

The Taliban managed to take over Afghanistan by exploiting the domestic chaos that resulted from bickering among Islamic factions, as a result of the failure of the Afghan political-religious elite in reaching an agreement over the national government in the aftermath of the pullout of the Soviet’s Red Army.

The internal conflict between Islamic groups and the political-religious elite then drew Afghanistan back into a massive and devastating civil war. Six Islamic factions (Hizbul Islam Gulbuddin, Jamiat Islami, Ittihad Islam, Harakat Inqilab Islam, Hizbul Wahdat, and Junbish Milli) vied for power even as they were embroiled in accusing each other of betrayal and killings.

In fact, these Islamic radical groups, with US support, had united as mujahideen fighters against the Soviet invasion. Once the Soviets had been repulsed, they started fighting amongst themselves for power. After the civil war left Afghanistan in chaos, the Taliban emerged as the “dark horse” that succeeded in pushing their forces to control two-thirds of the Afghan enclaves, declaring the new government of the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan in 1996.

Did their declaration bring an immediate halt to civil war? Of course not. Civil war continued to rage between the rival groups, including the “Northern Alliance” formed by warlord Ahmad Shah Massoud that consisted of ethnic communities like the Uzbeks, Tajiks, Hazaras, Turks, and Pasthuns.

Beware of “Indonistan”

So the story of the Taliban elite violating a clause of the peace agreement with the then Afghanistan government (and the US), as observers have suggested, is not new. The ongoing power takeover by the Taliban after 20 years of guerrilla warfare is just a repeat of the old story.

Anyone who has studied the history of Afghanistan will know that this country that spans Central and South Asia is rife with conflicts, wars, and power struggles against not only external (non-Afghan) groups, but also fellow citizens of different Afghan communities. Ambushes, killings, fighting between groups, whether religious, ideological, ethnical or tribal, and infighting among familial clans (for example, northern vs. southern Afghanistan) are common. Long before Islamic groups emerged on the Afghan political scene, communal conflict over power was deeply ingrained.

What lessons can we learn from the “horror drama” of Afghanistan and the militant Taliban regime? One thing that should not be ignored is that we must not underestimate radical-conservative religious groups. These groups may initially operate only in non-political areas such as preaching religious morality and creeds, but when the opportunity arises with the support from outsiders, they can turn into a violent religious-political militant group that are extremely savage and radical in their political and religious approaches.

Taliban members may not exist in Indonesia. However, there is quite a large group of Muslims that lean towards a Taliban-like mindset. They are insidious towards political parties, mass organizations, educational institutions, and religious institutions, even the government. The government and those people who are concerned about the future of peace, tolerance, and the diversity of the Indonesian nation and state need to be vigilant over their movements. Members of law enforcement and security forces should not lapse in their vigilance. If this Taliban-leaning group is not handled prudently and thoroughly, it could transform into an “Indonesian Taliban” and turn this country into “Indonistan”.

Note: this article was translated and published by Kompas