Friday, June 5, 2020

James Hoesterey's view of Indonesian Muslim

James Hoesterey is an American anthropologist and Indonesianist who focuses on research on Islam. His predecessors were many names such as Ben Anderson, Clifford Geertz and Robert Hefner. James is an associate professor at Emory University in Atlanta.

James's research focus is mainly related to the influence of Aa Gym on the issue of "anxiety and aspirations" of middle-class Muslims in Indonesia. James is very well versed in explaining the phenomenon of Aa Gym from the perspective of religious anthropology.

In the Nusantara Foundation discussion led by Imam Shamsi Ali, James said "gado-gado" (Indonesian-English) on many topics. He for example began with the statement that we must protest to injustice everywhere, in response to the death of a black man, George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.

Injustice is caused by "badness in the heart", said James. If there is evil in one's heart then unity will not arise. This thinking is largely influenced by Aa Gym's "Qolbu Management" (manajemen qolbu) perspective, which focuses on the importance of maintaining a clean heart so that it can spread goodness to many people.

In James's eyes, Aa Gym is a televangelist who is "soothing, pleasant to hear, and easy to digest." What Aa Gym does is part of "public piety" for Indonesia.

In terms of phobia, James explained that it must be faced together, both phobias against the west or Islam. It takes a person who can be a bridge between western thought and the middle east. Here, Indonesians can play an important role, as Imam Shamsi Ali did.

Efforts to become a "middle way" have been carried out by Indonesian Muslim leaders, for example, seen from the vision of "Islam moderat" (moderate Islam by several activists and thinkers), "Islam Nusantara" (Nahdlatul Ulama), "Islam berkemajuan" (progressing Islam by Muhammadiyah), to "Islam wasathiyah" (Wasathiyyah Islam by MUI). Coupled with the word "Islamic smile" as opposed to a strict Islam. It is all part of an effort to show the face of Islam that is peaceful and gives mercy to all.

An important thing that must be possessed by Indonesian Muslims in order to become a global figure is to display the noble character of Islam. James said that before becoming an Apostle, the Prophet Muhammad was known as a noble person. That's what made him accepted by many people - although of course hated by some.

Indonesian scholars in the past were respected by many groups such as in Mecca. They were at the time mediating various quarrels of Islamic thought. Today Muslims need figures who can mediate the west and the middle east.

Another important thing is the matter of "religion as public diplomacy". The United States is aware of that, so various religious diplomacy is also carried out, as in the issue of religious freedom. Australia has also done the same thing, like through AIMEP since the 2002 Bali bombing. Although it is already good, the fact is that the budget provided by the state is still small in the religion-based diplomacy.

There was one other thing that the participants asked, namely about the presence of the Minang language gospel. Imam Shamsi Ali as the moderator explained that in the context of religious freedom indeed everyone is welcome to preach their religion, but the important thing is that every Muslim must strengthen his faith.

If the "Minang-speaking Injil" are forbidden, it could also have an impact on the prohibition of the "English-language Qur'an" in America. That becomes a dilemma. What happened in Minang, said Imam Shamsi, for example, if there is a ban, it will also affect New York.

YANUARDI SYUKUR, President of Rumah Produktif Indonesia, Assistant Professor at Department of Anthropology Universitas Khairun, Ternate and PhD candidate at Department of Antropologi UI.

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