25 June 2013

Al-Hallaj behind Dhani Ahmad

A string of accusations on religious contempt are now being hurled at Dhani Ahmad and his rock band Dewa. Dhani does not deny that his lyrics began with an attempt to open up some kind of a religious discourse. In fact, he admits his fondness for controversial Sufi figures.

It is still early in the morning. The day’s heat has yet to be felt. But not so in the infotainment programme on television. The camera is fixed on one man, and this man is announcing sternly, “A few of the lyrics and the pictures used by Dewa in their album have been taken from a poem by a heretical movement in the Middle East.” On the screen, you could read the caption which identifies them, Pertahanan Ideologi Syariat Islam (Perisai) [The Defence of the Islamic Ideology and Law].

This is not some kind of an innocent prank. Ridwan Saidi, the figure who claims to represent the aforementioned group called Perisai, is going to lodge a complaint on Dewa to the Attorney General. Ridwan is a Betawi cultural activist and prominent community figure. Ridwan has been known for his penchant for politics. During the New Order, he even had a stint with the Partai Persatuan Pembangunan [The Party for the Unity of Development (PPP)], before moving on to Golongan Karya [The Workers’ Group (Golkar)] and subsequently founding the New Masyumi. During the Reformasi era, when Masyumi did not manage to make it through the electoral threshold, Ridwan returned to PPP.

Ridwan is in the opinion that the cover of Dewa’s album, along with its lyrics written by Dhani contain the teachings of a heretical nature. “Not only on the Laskar Cinta (Soldier of Love) album, but also on the previous Dewa release, Mistukus Cinta (The Love Mystic).” Perhaps what he meant is really, the album Cintailah Cinta (Love the Love). Mistikus Cinta is only one of the song titles in the album in question.

Last April, as he was perusing over the cover of Dewa’s albums, Ridwan apparently discovered that many of Dewa’s lyrics like Satu (The One) and Nonsense were derived from heretical poems. It remains unclear if Ridwan has actually scrutinised the lyrics concerned. Ridwan could well assume that the lyrics of Satu as heretical, for instance, since on the cover of Laskar Cinta, one can find the phrase “thanks to Al-Hallaj” written under the text of the lyrics Satu. Al-Hallaj is a controversial figure in Muslim history.

The end of this month of April has certainly been very unfriendly for Dhani Ahmad Prasetyo.

Responding to the accusations in a newspaper, Dhani in fact did not make any references to al-Hallaj when he was discussing the lyrics to Satu. In fact, in the concerned article, Dhani clarified that the lyrics to his songs contain strong expressions of love to the divine. “An appreciation to a hadith [reported words and deeds attributed to the prophet Muhammad] narrated by Imam Bukhari had also inspired this writer to pen down the lyrics to Satu,” he wrote. Dhani not once referred to al-Hallaj in the article which sought to provide clarification after various reporting of the issue.

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