25 June 2013

Truth or Consequence

By Imam Shofwan
She is said to have been breathtakingly beautiful, and even now, decades later, there are traces of what had made her so attractive to men: an oval face, cleft chin, eyes that slant upwards just so, and hair that is thick and wavy. When she was younger, her skin was also a smooth golden brown, her body slim yet full in the right places. 

These days there are wrinkles around her eyes, but it is the weariness in her face and the slump in her shoulders that betray her age of 50 years – and what she has been through. Then again Lalerek Mutin, a small community east of the Timor Leste capital, isn’t known as “widow’s village” for nothing. 

“My husband was kidnapped and killed by three soldiers when I was four months pregnant,” she tells me. “My child died of hunger. Now I raise my two kids from two of the three soldiers who committed sexual acts on me.”

I had picked her out at random from among the 8,000 witnesses who testified before the Commission of Acceptance, Truth, and Reconciliation of Timor Leste or CAVR, its acronym in Portuguese. The testimonies were given voluntarily. Later, these were compiled in a 2,500-paged book entitled “Chega!” or “Enough!” in Portuguese, where the identities of the witnesses and their alleged abusers were concealed behind code names. 

The woman I would meet in Lalerek Mutin went by the code name “MI” in the book, which lists crimes against humanity committed in East Timor from August 1974, more than a year before the invasion and occupation of Timor Leste by Indonesia, to 1999, when the Indonesian forces departed after the U.N.-sponsored referendum.

The witnesses came from the 13 districts across Timor Leste. They told of the human-rights violations they experienced or had seen, where and when these happened, who were involved. The atrocities enumerated in Chega! range from detention to torture, to rape and sexual slavery, to murder. In all, some 183,000 people are estimated to have died in East Timor during the 25 years of Indonesian occupation.

Most of the victims were East Timorese. Some of the alleged perpetrators, meanwhile, were from militia formed by local political parties like Frente Revolucionaria de Timor-Leste Independente (Fretilin), Uniao Democrattica Timorense (UDT), and Associacao Popular Democratica (Apodeti). 

But majority of those said to have committed the crimes belonged to the Indonesian Armed Forces and the militia they themselves had formed. I felt scared when I learned that most of the crimes were being blamed on members of the Indonesian military, which had also been a constant presence while I was growing up in Rembang, studying in Semarang, and later working in Jakarta.


Shariah Advocates Must Put Into Practice Its History of Tolerance

Imam Shofwan

In August 2002, a number of Islam-based political parties demanded the Jakarta Charter be included in the Constitution, which would mean that Muslims in Indonesia would have the obligation to live according to the prescriptions of Shariah law. 

The effort was supported by a large number of — mainly hard-line — Islamic organizations, but nevertheless failed to pass through the House of Representatives, in part due to opposition from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) and the — also Islam-based — National Awakening Party (PKB). 

The Islamists had to change strategy. In 2004 a new law on regional autonomy gave them the opportunity they had been hoping for. They set about implementing “Shariah from below” by advocating across the archipelago local Shariah laws, which often included rules such as women being required to wear the hijab, and couples wanting to marry needing to read the Koran. 

Islamic groups have long argued that their brand of “Shariah from below” need not alarm any skeptics. The reality, however, is that attacks on religious minorities have been frequent and even deadly in a number of regions were such laws have been implemented. 

One proponent of Shariah, M.S. Kaban of the Crescent Star Party (PBB), has said that: “If Shariah is applied, the benefit is not just for the unity of Indonesia but also for a fair and cultural humanity, and for social justice for the whole of society.” Ma’ruf Amin of the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) and Ismail Yusanto of the Liberation Party of Indonesia (HTI) echoed this sentiment. There was nothing to fear, they all said. 

Hidayat Nur Wahid of the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) has argued, in a slightly different vein, that minority rights could be protected under a social contract similar to one that existed on the Arabian peninsular in the 7th century and formed the basis of the first Islamic caliphate: the Charter of Medina. It was an agreement between the Muslim, Jewish, Christian and pagan tribes of Medina, where the Prophet Muhammad first came to power. “Not only Muslims have the obligation to implement the Islamic Shariah; other groups [Jews and Christians in Medina] were given the authority to implement their religious orders,” Hidayat said. 

There have been successes at the national level for the Shariah proponents, like the 2008 Law on Pornography. And there are restrictions on the building of houses of worship issued in 2006 and a joint ministerial decree severely limiting the activities of the minority Ahmadiyah sect. But the “Shariah from below” program runs particularly smoothly. Nowadays, at least 151 local Shariah bylaws have been adopted across Java, Sulawesi, Sumatra and West Nusa Tenggara. 

In those areas, are adherents of minority religions sufficiently protected from persecution? 

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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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Write to Forget

Human right cases in Indonesia are never complete. Time and again fact–finding teams are formed and evidences is found. But the court have never successed in convicting those responsible. At most it is those in the field who get punished, while top brass remains untouchable, unaffected. It was goodly. Perperators of many human right in heavy weight instead taken look like immune.

The preperators of the 1965 massacres, for example, have even still never been named, let alone brought to trial. This despite the fact that Sarwo Edhie Wibowo—President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s father-in-law—has claimed that more than three milion people were killed in the at the time. Sarwo Edhie made this claim to Permadi, a legislator with Indonesian Democrat Party of Struggle (Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan, PDI-P). Sarwo Edhie himself led the communist ”cleansing” operations in Java and Bali as ordered by Presiden Suharto. But it was not only communists who were killed in these operations, but also common people with little involvement in or understanding of politics whatever. This tragedy represents one of the greatest genocides witnessed in human history.

Lately demands circulate quite widely for Suharto to be held responsible for his wrongdoing, yet the 1965 massacre almost never gets mentioned in this context; instead it is the more commonplace charge of corruption that is so obsessively discussed. The genocide of 1965 remains a shadow in our national history our history. Never mind the fact that only recently President SBY requested Justice Agung Abdurraahman Saleh put aside even the corruption charges against Suharto.

What happens in the case of other humans rights violations? Most are equally disappointing. Every one of the military defendants on trial for the gross human rights abuses in Timor Lorosa’e, as well as all the military officers involved in the Tanjung Priok case have been freed, and this has had a dramatic impact as well on people’s faith in the the court system as well as the government.

Even the most basic internationally-acknowledged rights of victims are systematically ignored by the Indonesian state and legal apparatus. In fact, there are three fundamental rights which must maintain in the cases of victims of gross human rights violation. First, every victim is entitled to know the facts of the incident as thoroughly as possible. The government is thus responsible for investigation, protection of witnesses as well as victims, and for assuring access to all archival material related to the human-rights incident.

Second, the victim has a right to justice. This involves two further principles, viz people protection from reconciliation effort dan forgive effort who intent on preserve impunity also state duty for doing court administration.

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