Freedom from Ignorance

Oct 20th, 2009, in News, by

State imposed religiosity and conformity, or freedom from woeful ignorance of holy texts.

Some areas in the country that are deliberating laws to require knowledge of the Quran and ability to read it.

Bangkalan & Sumenep, Madura

Two towns in Madura, East Java, are considering whether to require primary and junior high school students to not only be able to read the Quran but also to memorise.

A local parliamentarian in Bangkalan, Safiuddin Asmoro, however says requiring memorisation is going too far, and that simply being able to read the book is the best option.

Not all children in the city attend madrassas, says Safiuddin Asmoro, and it is unreasonable to expect them to memorise the Quran. suaramerdeka

We appreciate the suggestions regarding memorisation but now is not the right time.

Lubuklinggau, South Sumatra

The local parliament of Lubuklinggau is preparing a similar law, but one that will apply to all residents of the town from school age children up, a "free of ignorance of the Quran" bill, says a local government official.

Citizens will, theoretically at least, be required to be able to read the Quran from childhood until old age, so that social ills can be combated through increased awareness of religious values, especially considering the fact that teenagers these days were given to drug use, free sex, disobedience, and truancy, all proof that religious values needed to be reinforced by law. antara

Gorontalo

While in the city of Gorontalo, Sulawesi, an existing law that requires all Muslim city public servants to attend Quranic study sessions on Fridays, is said by mayor Adhan Dambea to have not been a huge success:

There are still Muslim employees who can't read the Quran.

The law would be applied with renewed vigour said the mayor, and no-one would be allowed to get out of their Quran reading obligations on Friday afternoons. If necessary teachers would be called in to give special instruction for those who still struggled with the Arabic tongue, he said. antara

A similar law in Depok, near Jakarta, requires reading and writing ability in Arabic, also.


41 Comments on “Freedom from Ignorance”

  1. avatar Ross says:

    Pathetic!
    In what possible way does reading the Koran improve the quality of service to the Gorontalo tax-payers? Better to give them classes in English or Chinese or Japanese, or even Arabic, or computer skills. Or customer service!
    If they are doing this stuff when they should be serving the public, it’s an outrageous misuse of public funds. If they are being forced to use their lunch breaks or come in early, it’s an outrageous abuse of their individual rights.
    Incidentally, I’ve noticed that the nice girls on the staff of BNI are all now draped in the wretched jilbab. Up until earlier this year, only a few of them wore it.
    Any info on management pressure in this case, or others, so I can switch accounts if need be?

  2. avatar Oigal says:

    Aww come on Ross,where’s your sense of humour. You have to laugh and it ensures blokes like me will always have a nice little earner of a job here. Not too many technical manuals written in Arabic.

    Why the UN Report on Arab Social Development (written by Dr. Rima Khalaf Hunaidi a former Jordanian minister of planning) declared that

    total number of books translated into Arabic during the 1,000 years since the age of Caliph Al-Ma’moun [a ninth-century Arab ruler who was a patron of cultural interaction between Arab, Persian, and Greek scholars—WPR] to this day is less than those translated in Spain in one year.

    So once they learn arabic, its not like there is a lot more reading to be done. If some wish to import the culture, they might as well go the whole hog so to speak.

    As the good doctor said..

    The oil wealth is matched by social backwardness, and the only other region of the world with an income level lower than ours is sub-Saharan Africa. Productivity is decreasing, scientific research is virtually nonexistent, the region is suffering a brain drain, and illiteracy afflicts half of Arab women.

    Seems a worthy model to follow don’t you think?

  3. avatar Cukurungan says:

    Pathetic!
    In what possible way does reading the Koran improve the quality of service to the Gorontalo tax-payers? Better to give them classes in English or Chinese or Japanese, or even Arabic, or computer skills. Or customer service

    Of course quite possible, when Arab had read Quran only, they were able to close down Persian and Romanian Empire, however, when Arab was taking and reading too many books from the Greek philosophers the Arabic was easily slaughtered by Mongolian

  4. avatar Lairedion says:

    No wonder why many Gorontalo people want to move to Manado after the province became separated. Gorontalo is run by a bunch of dumbasses while Sulawesi Utara continues to move forward as probably the most modern and wealthy province of Indonesia.

  5. avatar trane says:

    I find myself… agreeing with Ross…!

  6. avatar fanglong says:

    … total number of books translated into Arabic during the 1,000 years since the age of Caliph Al-Ma’moun [a ninth-century Arab ruler who was a patron of cultural interaction between Arab, Persian, and Greek scholars—WPR] to this day is less than those translated in Spain in one year. (…)

    Of course quite possible, when Arab had read Quran only, they were able to close down Persian and Romanian Empire, however, when Arab was taking and reading too many books from the Greek philosophers the Arabic was easily slaughtered by Mongolian…

    Two interesting quotes !

  7. avatar Burung Koel says:

    Two interesting quotes

    How the Battle of Tours Was Lost (probably):

    Ali: Hey dude, get you nose out of that novel, and let’s go and invade France!

    Wali: But I’m just up to an interesting part. You go, I’ll finish this first.

  8. avatar fanglong says:

    Hey, Mr Koel, who knows ?

    Pertempuran Tours (10 Oktober 732) atau Pertempuran Poitiers atau ????? ???? ??????? (ma‘arakat Balâ? ash-Shuhadâ’) Pertempuran Bangsal Syuhada terjadi di dekat Tours, sekitar perbatasan kekuasaan Frank dan Aquitaine merdeka. Dalam pertempuran ini, Bangsa Frank dan Burgundi pimpinan Charles Martel, penguasa Austrasia melawan tentara Umayyah pimpinan Abdurrahman Al-Ghafiqi, gubernur Al-Andalus. Pertempuran ini berakhir dengan kemenangan bangsa Frank, terbunuhnya Al-Ghafiqi, serta perluasan kekuasaan Martel ke selatan. Rincian dari pertempuran ini, termasuk lokasi persis dan jumlah tentara yang bertarung dalam pertempuran ini tidak dapat diketahui, namun menurut legenda pasukan Frank bertempur tanpa menggunakan kavaleri.

    Kemenangan Frank dalam pertempuran ini merupakan awal berdirinya Kekaisaran Karolingia dan dominasi bangsa Frank atas Eropa, dan menurut sebagian sejarawan, kemenangan ini telah menyelamatkan Agama Kristen dan menahan penaklukan umat Islam di Eropa. “Pendirian kekuasaan Frank di Eropa barat menentukan takdir benua tersebut, dan Pertempuran Tours memastikan kekuasaan tersebut.”

  9. avatar silvestre says:

    funny how the most important thing is to read it and not to actually understand the language. This country is going backwards, i can totally feel it.

  10. avatar fanglong says:

    Reading Arabic is relatively easy. Someone who can read the Latin alphabet can learn Alif ba ta tha quite quickly. Moreover, the Qur’an has vowels : where’s the problem ? But there is still the whole grammar + vocabulary to learn, and that can take months or years. Then, there is the meaning, the context, etc. to learn & understand : this may lead to centuries of study.

    Yes, I think it is useless to be able “just to read” the Qur’an (from qara’a, “to read”…;-). Valuing that as such is mere magical crap. It’s just a way to imprison pegawai dll. in a private club like trend : backwards is the right word for that kind of nonsense.

  11. avatar Ross says:

    Ya, Oigal, I do laugh, because so much of it is absurd, but then I think of the people who are coerced into this on pain of disciplinary action or dismissal, and then it loses its charm as a source of merriment.
    When is SBY, with his huge popular mandate, going to crack down on these Islamist dimwits and block silly sharia style local laws?

  12. avatar silvestre says:

    That’s one thing SBY lacks, but I think it’s a tough decision to make too. He doesn’t want to make a fuss when it comes to religion. As long as they don’t disturb the peace of other religions, he would let it all be as they wish.

  13. avatar Ross says:

    But that’s the big ‘as long as.’ Events in Lombok, Kuningan (Java) and in Depok, among many others, show that these people ARE disturbing the peace and freedom to worship of others. And I’m encouraged by those villagers who rejected the terr funerals to hope that there is indeed a potentially large body of support for traditional Indonesian religious tolerance.

  14. avatar BrotherMouzone says:

    @Burung Koel

    Ali: Hey dude, get you nose out of that novel, and let’s go and invade France!

    Wali: But I’m just up to an interesting part. You go, I’ll finish this first.

    Hilarious 🙂

    Any government or organisation enforcing religious dress/prayer/classes is simply daft. Even the strictest adherent to Islam recognizes that wearing the Hijab, praying, or reading Arabic is meaningless if it is forced.

  15. avatar Chris says:

    Just because Indonesians have “Islam” written as the religion on the KTP/ID card, does not make them a Muslim; they can’t have no religion on it, even if that’s practically true.

    People will learn to read/memorise the Quran if they want to, not because they have to.

    Ross, maybe another “cloud with a silver lining”; perhaps making it compulsory will result in people wanting to rebel and not do it.

  16. avatar diego says:

    How the Battle of Tours Was Lost (probably):

    Ali: Hey dude, get you nose out of that novel, and let’s go and invade France!

    Wali: But I’m just up to an interesting part. You go, I’ll finish this first.

    Why nose? Why not eyes or whatever? Is it because of the peculiar shape of their nose? Uh oh…, was it a racist remark?

  17. avatar timdog says:

    fanglong said:

    Reading Arabic is relatively easy.

    Absolutely. I can; but I essentially can’t speak a word of the stuff. Actually a fairly surprising number of Indonesians, including by-no-means religious-minded ones, can already kind of pick out the sounds of Arabic writing (like me). One of the easiest ways for me to impress on non-English speaking Indonesians the pronunciation difference between my name and the word “team” is to write the two in Arabic script…

    Now, here’s a random thought to toss out there – would genuine Arabic literacy amongst Indonesian Muslims necessarily be a bad thing? It would allow them independent individual access to their own sacred text without relying on dubious translations (I don’t actually know about the situation in Indonesia re translated Korans, but globally Saudi-produced translations into various languages, which err very much on the side of fieriness, are a definite problem), or relying on the equally dubious “interpretation” of some minimally qualified “scholar”…

    I think I may have related this story before, but as I was just talking to the same guy who first told it to me, and who just told it to me again, I’ll also repeat it. A dominant characteristic of the footsoldiers of the chaos that seems currently to be engulfing downcountry Pakistan is spectacular ignorance of their own religion. Very few of them can read Arabic; large numbers of them can’t read at all… Here’s the story: in one of the major mosques in Gilgit in Northern Pakistan the beligerant Imam was given to making sermons in which he deliberately misled his ignorant, largely illiterate (and certainly Arabic illiterate) congregation into believing that he was quoting from the Koran – sort of “Bismillah ar-rahman ar-rahim, and say, go forth and slay the Americans and the Israelis wherever you shall find them, al-hamdullillah, rab al-Alamin, and kill them with machine guns and dynamite, or if not with the imported chinese meat cleavers available from my uncle’s shop mulk yawm-ud-Din…. etc etc”
    My friend who told me this story, who though a very serious Muslim refuses now to have anything to do with formal congregational religion because of things like this, would attempt to point out to people that this wasn’t actually from the Koran. They laughed at him and told him to respect the Imam…
    Now though I don’t think there is ignorance of quite this extent in Indonesia, if all Indonesian Muslims were able to read and fully comprehend the Koran in the original, it would surely free them from the possibility of being influenced by such malign practices…
    This is, I should point out, merely a half-formed idea on my part, rather than a standpoint which I am prepared passionately to defend – in case you get angry with it…

  18. avatar David says:

    The language thing though might be key to cultural and religious adherence. For example I was reading the other day

    the shift from Syraic dialects to Arabic among the Christian populations of the Levant and Mesopotamia was the tipping point in terms of conversion to Islam.

    Of course people in Gorontalo are already Muslim but learning Arabic may serve to cement or strengthen their affiliation, that is likely the whole point….

    Some other randomish observations, it’s long been said that christianity in Europe only half established itself, and that was because the early church allowed the europeans to keep one foot in their pagan pasts, and that is one reason the religion has largely collapsed there so easily. Ancedote – a Prussian village in the 19th century who’d lost their pastor and hadn’t gotten a replacement for a long time started burying bulls at auspicious times/places or something, that is they soon reverted to pagan traditions once the authority of the church had disappeared. Possibly language has got something to do with it overall, the Europeans kept speaking the languages they had spoken since pagan times, Latin never replaced those languages at least in the north and then it faded away entirely, even in the Catholic church. Protestantism may not have disintegrated so easily in Europe after only a few centuries if it had had its own sacred language, etc….

    There’s also the Thomas Szasz observation – I’m sure others have made it but Szasz (Hungarian immigrant to America) is where I read it – for an immigrant to fully become part of a new culture he must utterly immerse himself in the language and abandon the old…better I quote

    People think that they live in their bodies. Now I submit to you—and this is not a new idea either—that in fact people live in their languages, and you learn this the hard way if you are an immigrant, because if you really want to become integrated in the society into which you have emigrated, you have to lose your old language. And anybody who listens to this knows that this is true and the only way to avoid it is by holding on to your old language

    So… trying to inculcate people with Arabic may be the smart thing to do from the propagationist angle.

  19. avatar Ross says:

    Dude, you are correct in assuming that forced studying will cause resentment, human nature being what it is, but the terrible deference here to ‘authority’ is a problem. It’s not ‘sopan’ to argue back with ‘superiors.’
    It may well be that this attitude is eroding gradually, especially among the young. But we may have to wait a bit for a Muslim Luther to bring forward his 39 or 390 articles! Especially since anytime reformation thinking surfaces, this government tries to smother it, viz. that guy who wanted to interpret Islam in the vernacular but got convicted by the courts, or anyone who says a new prophet is on the scene – they get stuffed by that absurd body which monitors ‘mystical beliefs.’ With full state enforcement!

  20. avatar pjbali says:

    TD

    Just for comparison didn’t the publication of the bible into the vernacular (by Gutenberg) give rise to a bunch of new christian denominations as now everyman could read the bible for themselves and make their own opinions? If every muslim could read original (7th century) arabic would not a similar outcome be expected?

  21. avatar Oigal says:

    Just for comparison didn’t the publication of the bible into the vernacular (by Gutenberg) give rise to a bunch of new christian denominations as now everyman could read the bible for themselves and make their own opinions? If every muslim could read original (7th century) arabic would not a similar outcome be expected?

    PJ, by that statement are we not falling for the myth that Islam is a coherent “ONE” instead of the fractured bunch sects that is the reality?
    Of course, its not as big a furphy as the one about the Koran being unchanged since first written.

  22. avatar Burung Koel says:

    Just for comparison didn’t the publication of the bible into the vernacular (by Gutenberg) give rise to a bunch of new christian denominations as now everyman could read the bible for themselves and make their own opinions? If every muslim could read original (7th century) arabic would not a similar outcome be expected?

    Not to take away from your point, but the Gutenberg Bible was printed in the Latin Vulgate, which was the language of the Western church (Catholic, Rome etc). The invention of movable type by Gutenberg meant that books were able to be produced in volume, and access to the Bible no longer depended on having hand written copies made by monks. Of course the original books of the Bible were written in Hebrew (Old Testament, Judaism) and forms of Greek like Aramaic (parts of the OT, the New Testament) which were the lingua franca of the Eastern Empire, and this form of Greek has been used continuously by the Eastern Church.

    Luther first translated the Bible into German, and Tyndale translated it into English – often using the original Greek as well as the Latin Vulgate as the basis. So, yes, the use of language did help the reformation and the subsequent splintering of the Church, as people read the Bible for themselves. The royal politics of western Europe, and economic and mercantile changes including the decline of the feudal system were probably more significant factors, however, in driving the Reformation. Both Luther and Tyndale were persecuted for their efforts, it’s worth noting.

    I’m not a believer, but still think the King James Version (along with the Book of Common Prayer) contains some of the most magnificent examples of how the English language can be written and spoken, no matter how accurate the actual translation might be.

  23. avatar pjbali says:

    Oigal

    Actually I was aware that Islam is not a monolithic entity any more than Christianity is. I suppose my point was that the more people can understand what is being said the more like they are to understand/debate it. I find the idea that God speaks only Arabic and Latin rather odd.
    Are you by chance referring to that copy of a Koran found in Yemen a few years back? Interested to hear more…maybe a link or two if you have it.

    BK

    Thanks for the correction. Its what comes of posting before coffee.

  24. avatar fanglong says:

    It would be out of the matter to try to read the Bible in Hebrew, Aramaic and Ancient Greek for a Frenchman like me : I would loose my precious time in philological matters instead of going to the “life sustaining” meaning of the text. The thing in reading is to forget the book, the paper ans everything to get absorbed in the meaning. And this can really bebest done in one’s mother language. I promess from experience. I’m atranslator of Buddhist texts from the Tibetan and the Chinese : I think I can read quite easily both classical languages (for instance I use not that oftent a dictionary, or if necessary a specialised one) but my reading and understanding is never as clear as when I’ve put it into my mother language(French) : there I begin to think and feel what the “authors” say. My chance of mistaking the meaning is still there, but so more obviously : nothing to compare between groping my way in the original and doubting a concept in my own “heart language”. So, I mean that even reading & knowing some (even much) classical Arabic cannot really help a non-Arabic speaker to go in depth into the ayat suci. This learning by heart thing is just another device, another trick in the obsessional sectarian trip, a means of power and control over other (lower) people : a pseudo-“mystical” approach under threat… But it’s true that the English and German “venacular” Bibles have contributed to, and implied lots in the reformation-evolution of thought in “Christian” countries. The Coran read in Arabic shoul remain a matter of specialists, more for ulama than imams (those have to express clearly God’s words into intelligible language according to situation). And, last, the story of God speaking in Arabic, Hebrew, Latin, and Buddha in Tibetan (for Tibetans), Sanskrit (for certain “Indians” (and Western philologists) or Chinese (if not Japanese or Mongolian) is just picturesque, unless it is mere ignorant anthropocentrism.

  25. avatar Oigal says:

    I suppose my point was that the more people can understand what is being said the more like they are to understand/debate it.

    Hi Pj, that’s very interesting take and probably the opposite from the knee jerk stand I would normally take (although jumping to conclusions forms a significant part of my daily excercise routine). Would it lead to more understanding or a further fracturing of the existing culture..mmmm

    Sorry wasn’t meant to sound like a correction as such..just an additional point to ponder

  26. avatar Burung Koel says:

    The Coran read in Arabic shoul remain a matter of specialists, more for ulama than imams (those have to express clearly God’s words into intelligible language according to situation). And, last, the story of God speaking in Arabic, Hebrew, Latin, and Buddha in Tibetan (for Tibetans), Sanskrit (for certain “Indians” (and Western philologists) or Chinese (if not Japanese or Mongolian) is just picturesque, unless it is mere ignorant anthropocentrism.

    Indeed. The amazing uncertainty of language and the subsequent subjective interpretations must be one of the strongest arguments against any ‘literal’ interpretation of holy books, of whatever faith. Further, the changes in languages over hundreds of years must also play a part in this uncertainty – how can we ever be sure of the exact meaning and context in which the words were first recorded or written?

    Just pick up Chaucer or Beowulf and you get the idea. Or you don’t, which is the point I guess.

  27. avatar Deta says:

    Here’s the story: in one of the major mosques in Gilgit in Northern Pakistan the beligerant Imam was given to making sermons in which he deliberately misled his ignorant, largely illiterate (and certainly Arabic illiterate) congregation into believing that he was quoting from the Koran – sort of “Bismillah ar-rahman ar-rahim, and say, go forth and slay the Americans and the Israelis wherever you shall find them, al-hamdullillah, rab al-Alamin, and kill them with machine guns and dynamite, or if not with the imported chinese meat cleavers available from my uncle’s shop mulk yawm-ud-Din…. etc etc”

    A very extreme story (I don’t know if it is for real?), makes me laugh a little bit.

    Understanding a holy book is a very long and tough process since that means you have to translate GOD’s words accurately into your language, not just a translation between two languages (gee, what a hard job to do).

    However, IMO, learning a religion doesn’t only need literacy ability but it requires you to use your feeling to go into depth into a statement, and the ability to find the context it has with other statements which construct the holy book as a whole. A bit subjectivity is involved here. So if you think that something’s wrong in a statement which makes it shifted away from the “big picture” of that religion, yet you haven’t known the actual meaning caused by the limitation of your language ability, let your heart lead the way……….sounds a bit stupid but certainly better then endlessly debating a certain issue based on our ignorance as human beings.

  28. avatar timdog says:

    Patung – fundamentally, I agree with what you say in you above post entirely. But in my pondering I was actually thinking from an entirely other angle, one much further down the line – which you allude to with “Of course people in Gorontalo are already Muslim”… That’s just it – the people who would be the object of “Koranic literacy drives” in Indonesia would already be Muslims of some sort…
    Now it does indeed seem likely that increased Koranic literacy would only aid the process of “Islamisation”, but is it not apparent that “Islamisation” is proceding apace in plenty of countries the world over (not least the one where I am now) without any palpable advace of Koranic literacy (or of any other kind of literacy for that matter)…
    So if Islamisation is already a given, something that already is there, like it or not, wouldn’t it be better for those “Islamised” people to then have authentic, independent, personal access to their religion without requiring the use of Saudi-funded translations in which the most aggressive phrase is always chosen where there’s an ambiguity, and in which even more beligerant “notes” are sometimes provided, and therefore also to be less suceptible to the malignant influence of “learned men”?
    I stress again that this is only a half-formed opinion on my part. Come up with something convincing and I’ll drop it…

    Random aside: The key reason identified for the death of the Cornish language was that the Cornish were refused a bible or prayerbook in their mother tongue. They had to make do with English. This meant that Cornish never really became a written language, never developed a body of literature, and so as people began to become literate through the 17th and 18th centuries they became literate in English, not in Cornish, and so the language died…
    Not sure what that’s got to do with anything, but still…

  29. avatar timdog says:

    Deta – yes it is true. Obviously I played for laughs a little in my imagining of what exactly the Imam might have said, but he was apparently routinely dressing up references to modern political entities – Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel and America – with exhortations in regards to those places, as the Koran. If you know something about the general level of illiteracy (mother-tongue illiteracy, not Arabic illiteracy), and general lack of education and awareness of the world amongst a very large swathe of Pakistani society, you would probably have less trouble believing this.

    However, IMO, learning a religion doesn’t only need literacy ability but it requires you to use your feeling to go into depth into a statement

    That’s not what I’m talking about; I’m not saying you need to be able to read and comprehend Arabic to be a “good Muslim” (and I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in discussing what a “good Muslim” is either). What I am saying however, is that if you are a less than fully educated, less than entirely worldly person, then surely comprehension of Arabic would offer a certain level of inoculation against the poisonous influence of people like the Imam I described (and there are certainly plenty of such people the world over)…

  30. avatar Rob says:

    Don’t Indonesians have a constitutional and democratic right to be ignorant of certain things if they want to be?

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