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Islam, a Force for Change


By Graham F Fuller

In the West the words Islamic fundamentalism conjure up images of bearded men with turbans and women covered in black shrouds. And some Islamist movements do indeed contain reactionary and violent elements. But we should not let stereotypes blind us to the fact that there are also powerful modernising forces at work within these movements. Political Islam is about change. In this sense, modern. Islamist movements may be the main vehicle for bringing about change in the Muslim world and the break-up of the old “dinosaur” regimes. What will come in their place is less clear.

For an Islamist, religion cannot be limited strictly to the realm of personal faith and private life: Islam has things to say about society and what it sees as the just political order that have strong implications for contemporary politics. Unlike Christianity, Islam was concerned with politics and governance from the start: the Muslim rule that developed in the lifetime of the Prophet required attention to principles of community life, justice, administration, relations with non-Muslims, defence and foreign policy. A vision of what constitutes good governance, law and a just society were among the principal new ideas. The Prophet came not to protect the status quo, but to reform and change. Women, for instance, were given legal status (where they had none before) and concrete legal protection within society.

Islamists look at the status quo in the Muslim world today and do not like it.

In place of good governance, they see authoritarianism, repression, corruption, incompetence, social and economic hardship – an unacceptable situation that calls out for change. But change based on what? The norms of Western government derive from the British Magna Carta, the French Revolution, or the principles of the American Declaration of Independence; but in Islam they are derived from ideas in the Koran and the sayings and the doings of the Prophet (hadith). It is therefore quite normal for Islamists to speak in non-Western terms. They look to the past as a philosophical model, not as a mode of daily life to be emulated today. And they differ about what to do, other than honour the basic principles of Islam.

How to understand what those principles mean in contemporary life? One can debate, for example, the relationship between democracy and Islam. But the real question is: what is the relationship between Muslims and democracy, what do Muslims want? Ideas of democracy are gaining ever greater prominence among large numbers of Islamist thinkers. But they do not advocate uncritical acceptance of Western systems. Instead, they seek to derive democratic principles from Muslim concepts of shura (consultation) – the idea that government must reflect the wishes of the people, to whom God has given the gift of reason.

Most Islamists are active in promoting opposition to today’s failed, incompetent or repressive regimes. They demand the right to criticise governments and a voice in the governing process. As a result, they are often the chief targets of the security services of repressive and failing regimes. In those cases where Islamist extremists advocate and even practice violence against the state, as in Egypt or Algeria, they have often been denied access to the political system and subjected to state violence.

Islamists are currently among the most active forces in the Muslim world in calling for democracy and human rights – things they are habitually denied. But if Islamists come to power, will they practice these ideals? It is unclear. In any society where traditions of democracy have shallow roots or are non-existent, its practice will be precarious. The political culture of each country has direct impact on future conduct. Islamists do not really differ from other political players.

Islamists are also modern is their heavy emphasis on grass roots organisation. Their parties are in close touch with the neighbourhood and are closely attuned to local interests. Many Islamist parties run local social welfare programmes independently of governments, and provide social services such as clinics, especially for women, housing for students who have come from the village to the big city, recreational facilities for youth, legal advice, educational help, and other forms of social assistance. These activities – often far more responsive than the state to social needs in the neighbourhood – are generally funded from religious donations or from large Islamist-run banks and businesses. As a result, Islamists are closer to the needs of poorer neighbourhoods than their political rivals.

Islam is solidly rooted in traditions of mercantilism and private enterprise. The Prophet was a merchant, as was his first wife. Islam does not glorify the role of the state in the economy, or in general. If the state plays an important role in Iran, it is mainly a legacy from the days of the Shah. In principle, however, Islam is quite compatible with modern ideas of a limited state role in the economy. It has regularly opposed the introduction of socialist measures in the Muslim world and expresses its preference for market principles, as long as they are consistent with “social justice”. The Islamists’ attack on “capitalism” is usually a reference to “consumerism” or intense materialism that they see as a negative characteristic of the West. Islamists want less borders among Muslim states and see the European Union as a potential model.

The role of women is one of the features most frequently criticised in the West, sometimes with good reason. For instance, the Taliban view on women in Afghanistan is particularly primitive and is rejected as non-Islamic by many Muslims, who are currently engaged in a great debate about the role of women in society. They have a conservative vision that places emphasis on the special place of women as guardians of the home, rearing the children and transmitting moral values. There is a fear of the perceived corruption of Western societies in which women turn into “sexual objects” or are commercially exploited, leading to a breakdown of social and family values. It is only in Afghanistan, however, that women are not permitted to work. In fact millions of Muslim women are today being brought into politics through the women’s branches of Islamist parties.

Part of the dilemma of women’s positions in Muslim society stems not so much

from the principles of Islam itself, but from extremely conservative interpretations of Islam or from the practice of traditional customs considered to be “Islamic”. A new breed of Islamist femininist is emerging in many countries, including Iran, that demands “real” Islam, not tradition. Women are studying the Koran and Islamic law in order to challenge conservative, male-dominated interpretations, reject tradition and demand application of true Islamic norms.

Where does it say in the Koran that women cannot drive cars, as in Saudi Arabia? Or that women’s faces must be covered? Or they may not work? Muslim women are boldly challenging these traditions in many parts of the Muslim world, provoking a split between Islamic modernists and traditionalists on their place in society.

In fact, a struggle has developed between conservative clerics, who defend the establishment, and radical Islamists, who believe that Islam’s present mission is to change a Middle East that lags behind most of the rest of the world. Traditional clerics have generally supported monarchs, sultans, generals and emperors throughout history, bowing to the reality of power. They argued that Muslims should not rebel against the unjust ruler, that injustice is better than chaos or anarchy. Partly under the influence of Western political philosophy, many Islamists have now turned this concept on its head, stating that when governance is not just, there is a positive obligation for Muslims to condemn it and replace it. This thinking leads to confrontation with most contemporary regimes in the Middle East.

In one sense, fundamentalism can mean getting back to the root meaning of Islam. Islamist modernists say that what matters is not the text but the context: many laws from the time of the Prophet were appropriate for those times, and to understand Islamic law, one must look at the context in which they were formed. Today, they say, one must reinterpret those laws and rulings in light of contemporary circumstances.

Interestingly, one of the key centres of Islamic modernism is in the West itself where Muslims now have complete freedom for the first time to research and discuss a whole variety of ideas about Islam and propagate them via books, television, conferences and Internet – all impossible or forbidden at home. Today’s Islamist leaders are not usually clerics; often they are Western-educated engineers and doctors whose vision of an Islam-oriented future includes modernism and technology.

A reformation of Islam is underway and there is much lively debate. There is no agreement about what an Islamic state really means or what it should look like. But Islamists are determined to derive meaning for contemporary society from Islamic texts and law. Islamists often have good critiques of their own societies, and even of the West. So far they are better at criticism than at developing new models. They are sensitive about what they see as Western domination of the new global order in which Muslims have little voice or power. They are nationalist in their desire to protect their own culture and strengthen the Muslim world vis-a-vis the West. They will make many mistakes along the way, but they are learning. They will sometimes be difficult to deal with, but their basic goal is not to be anti-Western but to reform their own societies.

Islamic reformation will be a long-term process, but in today’s accelerated world it will not take as long as the West’s own Reformation. Islamist thinking today is not about preserving the status quo, but about change. The debate is about what kind of change, and how to bring it about. Visions of what Islam means in contemporary life often differ sharply. Different Islamists seek different goals via different means. No one has a monopoly on Islam and what it means. But the chances are that the Islamic framework of the debate will be with us for a long time to come and few Muslim states will remain outside that debate.


* Former Vice Chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA, and author of a forthcoming book on Islamist movements in the 21st century.


November 4, 2008 Posted by | Artikel | Tinggalkan komentar


Oleh Afrizal Anoda

Nashar adalah seorang pelukis, sudah lama Almarhum. Menurutnya, sebidang kanvas adalah sebidang ruang kosong dan harus diisi dengan apa-apa yang ada dalam kepala. Tapi tidak semua yang ada di dalam kepala bisa ditumpahkan ke atas ruang itu. Kalau semuanya  ditumpahkan ke atasnya, hasilnya bukan lagi sebuah lukisan, bisa jadi sampah ide-ide. Karena itu banyak pelukis pemula, menumpahkan seluruh yang ada di dalam kepalanya ke sebidang kanvas dan kemudian memujinya sebagai sebuah lukisan ekspresif, bebas aliran, dan merasa sukses melawan kemapanan pelukis-pelukis tua.

Padahal, bebas berbuat apa saja, bukan berarti bebas menumpahkan semua yang ada di dalam kepala ke suatu bidang ruang. Karena setiap ruang ada fungsinya. Setiap ruang ada manfaatnya.  Setiap ruang mengundang tempo dan irama. Setiap ruang ada warna. Setiap ruang memiliki estetika. Setiap ruang punya garis imajiner  yang tidak boleh dilangkahi. Karena itu, tidak semua ruang bisa diisi dengan apa saja, meski ruang itu bebas untuk diisi.  Sebagai contoh, Anda tidak boleh berak di ruang resepsi pernikahan, dan — tentu saja —  tidak mungkin juga menggelar resepsi pernikahan di kakus. Tidak ada aturan tertulis hitam di atas putih,  tapi ada etika dan estetika yang menuntut  untuk menghormati ruang dan bidang yang ada. Tidak melangkahi garis imajiner, tidak melanggar batas yang sudah dimaklumi. Itulah,  kebebasan memiliki estetika, ada aturan, dan etikanya.

Tentang kebebasan ini, saya ingat  pada suatu peristiwa dalam Dialog Budaya di Studio Mini IKJ awal 1980-an. Ada dua budayawan besar yang hadir di depan. Yaitu Goenawan Mohamad (pasti sampai kini masih banyak wartawan dan penulis muda yang mengidolakannya) dan Mochtar Loebis (sekarang sudah Almarhum). Mereka bicara soal kebebasan menulis dan berkreasi. Setiap halaman di majalah Horison boleh ditulis apa saja dan oleh siapa saja. Tidak harus puisi, cerpen, esai, masalah politik juga boleh.  Tapi dialog  soal kebebasan itu berakhir  ribut. Keduanya saling memaki.  Pasalnya, yang satu menilai  bebas itu bebas berbuat apa saja. Yang satu lagi mengatakan,  Amerika Serikat yang membebaskan rakyatnya berbuat apa saja ternyata juga tidak bisa bebas seenaknya. Bebas untuk Indonesia tidak sama dengan bebas di Amerika Serikat. Halaman yang bebas diisi apa saja tidak harus bebas seperti tidak terarah. Harus ada batasan-batasan. Harus ada etika dan estetika. Kedua budayawan itu pada akhirnya menunjukkan, keduanya tidak berbudaya dalam mendiskusikan soal kebebasan menulis.

Nah, bagaimana bila tiba-tiba kebebasan diberikan kepada masyarakat yang pernah lama hidup dalam ketidakbebasan? Puisi saya tentang itu pernah diterbitkan Sinar Harapan tahun 1977, ketika saya dan teman-teman eks Malari diburu-buru Laksus; DI GUA INI TIDAK ADA NYANYIAN/ KARENA PENGHUNINYA DILARANG MENYANYI/// KETIKA DARI LUAR TERDENGAR SUARA NYANYIAN/ PENDUDUK GUA INI JUGA INGIN MENYANYI/// SEWAKTU MEREKA MENCOBA UNTUK MENYANYI/ TIBA-TIBA DINDING-DINDING GUA RUNTUH/ KARENA MEREKA SUDAH LUPA BAGAIMANA CARA BERNYANYI///

Kembali pada ruang  (space) dan kebebasan (freedom). Sebuah ruang yang digelar untuk diisi, bukan berarti ada kebebasan untuk mengisinya dengan apa saja. Ruang kelas ya untuk belajar, bukan untuk jualan. Ruang di panggung sandiwara pun dibagi atas sembilan bidang dan setiap bidang memiliki arti  tertentu. Untuk memahami makna sebuah ruang, seseorang yang pernah mengikuti pelajaran Nirmana Ruang (Sense of Space), akan diminta berjalan bebas di suatu tempat imajiner; seperti pasar, galeri lukisan, hingga padang pasir. Peserta bebas melangkah, tapi setiap langkah disesuaikan dengan ruang yang dilalui.  Jika berjalan di pasar tentu berbeda dengan berjalan di galeri lukisan. Tentu akan berbeda pula jika ia melangkah di padang pasir yang panas. Dan untuk mengerti makna ruang itu, tidak diperlukan seorang moderator. Yang dibutuhkan hanya “rasa”. Dengan menguasai rasa, seseorang pun menjadi paham di mana ia berjalan, dan bagaimana mengisi sebidang ruang.

Seekor kodok yang ada di bawah batok kelapa, tentu akan lebih banyak mengetahui ruang yang ada di sekitar batok kelapa. Dan ia tentu saja hanya tahu dan sangat memahami setiap sisi ruangan di bawah batok kelapa itu.  Tapi bagi bebek yang sering berjalan ke berbagai tempat, tentu menilai alam yang ditempati kodok adalah ruang yang sempit.  Bebek menilai kodok sebagai makhluk yang hanya tahu dunia di bawah batok kelapa. Apa bebek betul-betul tahu dunia yang ditempati kodok? Padahal,  ruang yang sudah dan pernah diisi sang bebek di setiap perjalanannya, masih ruangan terbatas dalam pandangan  mata telanjang  seekor elang. Bagi elang, ruang yang diisi bebek jauh lebih  sempit dibanding ruang yang telah diterbanginya.  Sebetulnya, ruang yang diisi  kodok maupun bebek sama; berada dalam satu bidang tapi keduanya tidak mau melihatnya sebagai bidang yang sama. Dan sebetulnya lagi,  baik kodok, bebek, maupun elang, sama-sama merupakan unsur yang mendukung eksistensi isian ruang. Semuanya  bisa dan dapat  bergerak bebas di setiap ruang. Untuk mengisi ruang itu tidak diperlukan moderator. Karena setiap unsur sudah paham bagaimana mengisi ruang secara bebas tanpa merusak kandungan ruang. Kotak sepatu untuk sepatu, kotak cerutu untuk cerutu, lemari pakaian untuk baju. Sekali-sekali boleh berimprovisasi, kotak sepatu diisi kelereng, kotak cerutu untuk menyimpan surat-surat pacar, dan lemari pakaian diisi uang.   

Kebebasan mengisi sebidang ruang, tidak sama dengan memenuhi bidang ruangan itu dengan apa saja asal ruang berisi. Sebuah gelas di atas meja, tetap merupakan gelas bagi peminum. Tapi bagi seorang pematung, gelas di atas meja adalah isi ruang dan  harus dihargai sebagai patung. Namun, ketika gelas itu diangkat dari tempatnya, maka meja itulah yang harus dinilai sebagai sebuah patung. Komunikasi yang terbentuk saat itu, gelas dan meja sama-sama mengisi ruang dan sama-sama berkohesi terhadap ruang. Artinya, setiap ruang ada peruntukannya dan setiap isi ruang ada maksudnya. Karena itu sangat  tidak bijak bila membiarkan ruang yang sudah terbentuk menjadi ruang yang tidak berbentuk. Apalagi menjadikan ruang yang tersedia ke bentuk yang  bukan untuk peruntukannya. 

November 4, 2008 Posted by | Esai | Tinggalkan komentar

Puisi Puisi Afrizal Anoda

Puisi No. 271204
(Nanggroe II)
Mungkin inilah arti gurindam yang dinyanyikan Cut Qori’ah
ketika kita kecil-kecil dulu,
tentang ombak hitam dan lumpur menyapu tanah,
tentang daging yang melepuh dihisap laut,
tentang payau tidak lagi jadi sarang ikan,

tentang Ibu yang tidak lagi melahirkan,
Tangan wanita kurus hitam manis itu melenggok-lenggok,
jari-jemarinya mengangkang meraup wajah kita.
           (Ibu ada di sana
menghitung beras yang tumpah ke tanah
Ayah diam di pojok beranda
menunggu angin Utara mengusir kantuknya.)
Cut Qori’ah yang kempot terus meracaukan gurindam
tentang burung terlambat terbang
tentang bau pasir bernanah
sambil menggoyang-goyang badannya yang kering
dan kedua kakinya
digari di pokok kelapa.
Minggu seusai pesta semalam,
di ujung laut burung Camar berebut angin,
matahari membelah ke atas ke bawah,
angin malas bergerak
sedangkan perahu tenggelam
di kaki Nanggroe.
Mungkin inilah arti gurindam yang dinyanyikan Cut Qori’ah ketika kita kecil-kecil dulu,
tentang lematang yang tak lagi bikin gatal ,
sewaktu mata ulun masih hitam di tengah putih
buih Andaman jadikan sesak raga peraga.
Puisi No. 080105
(Nangroe III)
Tak tampak Idah di ladang payau,
di kakinya ada anting-anting perak, selalu gemerincing parak siang
Serata tanah hanya ada tiang-tiang dan lumpur busuk
Tempat Idah dulu mengejar bayang-bayang.
Tak ada Inong di teratak bambu,
tempatnya menerawang, menghitung setiap lumpur luruh di kaki
Separuh umurnya dibalut luka rahim 
kotor dan bau seperti ombak krueng singgah
di singkap jendela rumah panggung
Di batu hari,
ujung-ujung tangan saling mengacung ke langit
bayang-bayangnya saling bertelekan
teronggok serata tanah
                                    (ketika menguping radio tadi siang, aku mendengar ada tembakan dari balik bukit ke arah teratak bambu Inong. Lalu beberapa panser meluncur ke sana, melindas serpihan-serpihan daging yang dikirim ombak tiga belas hari lalu.)
Angin pun mati
ketika singgah di rumah kami
waktu malam turun
Puisi No. 110405
(Umur Berumur)
Kali ini kita bicara tentang turunan di rumah-rumah petak,
sambil menghitung anak-anak tangga,
dan biarkan gerimis menghapus jejak,
toh tak jauh lagi sampai ke ujung,
siapa yang perduli pada nama,
apalagi tulang yang pernah terbeliut pada tungkai,
kita terus turun, biarkan punggung basah keringat.
Ingat kita pada dawai di lidah,
getarannya hanya sedikit,
bikin sesak di tenggorokan.
pada tanjakan yang pernah kita langkahi.
Pernahkah kita saling menjemput ketika ada yang lupa
waktu sengat matahari masih pedih ke kulit,
apa ada peduli masa itu?
Itulah sebabnya kita basuh semua nama di mulut,
yang pernah terucapkan dalam hati,
yang pernah terpaku dalam-dalam,
supaya kelak turunan ini jadi terlangkahi,
kita hanya berdua. Tak ada siapa-siapa.
Turunan ini betul terhampar bersih di muka,
ada bayang-bayang tapi biarkanlah, itu hanya canda anak-anak.
Kita hitung di antara rumah ke rumah,
seperti dulu waktu angin membantu kita
menepis angka.

November 2, 2008 Posted by | Puisi | Tinggalkan komentar