Arab or Indonesian?

Mar 11th, 2006, in Society, by

A good article in Tempo magazine appeared recently on the matter of the anti-pornography and indecency bill that framed the question in terms of a conflict between Arab cultural imperialism (Islam) and native Indonesian culture.

Republished in Indonesian at zamanku the writer, Goenawan Mohamad, first recounts a story of a pair of Indonesian women who were walking along a street in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Despite the fact that they were covered head to toe they still managed to attract a carful of lustful young men trying their luck. Moral – however women are dressed they will still be treated as sex objects by some men.

A fatwa of the Indonesian Ulema Council of 2001 says:

That which arouses lust is forbidden. (Yang dapat membangkitkan nafsu berahi adalah haram.)

For the Council the source of lust is what is seen rather than those who see. What is seen includes magazines, films, books, – and women, while those who see are men. (Apparently last February the religious police of Aceh barged into a hotel in Banda Aceh, where a conference was going on in which three local women, unscarved, were participating, and one them screamed at a woman “The way you are dressed makes my penis erect”.)

The pornography bill is like the fatwa in that it places responsibility on objects (women) of action rather than subjects (men) of action. This attitude, and the fear of the arousal of sexual desire, is an aspect of Arab culture, specifcally the Wahabi brand of Islam, and is being imported into Indonesia under the names of “Islam” and “morality”.

The proposed law is a battle for the future of Indonesia. Will the country of 17000 islands with a mixture of religions and traditions be overcome by one opinion emanating from Saudi Arabia? Is it fair if the opinions of one group are imposed on the rest?

The views to be found in the bill are not representative of the majority of Indonesians, nor even a majority of Muslims. Not all Indonesian Muslims are prepared to see their country become a version of Saudi Arabia. Some people may accept the Wahabi type of Islam – but there are others who accept Confucianism, others still like to go diving, others like listening to rock music. Are Indonesians willing to allow pluralism?

In article 25 of the bill public “indecency” is forbidden except in the case of attire or behaviour which is part of a traditional groups way of life but only as long as this is connected with the performance of a religious rite or belief.

So how about jogging in the morning in the park?

There’s more. Every person who writes something, makes a recording, film, song, poem, picture, photo, and/or painting which exploits the sensual nature of the adult human body is also subject to fines or imprisonment.

If this is accepted the arts of Indonesia will decline.

Finally the writer offers two choices for Indonesia.

A. The Indonesia we know, a republic of unfathomable diversity, or

B A new nation, the result of the anti-porn law, one which resembles a wasteland, dry, monotonous, without creativity.

One Comment on “Arab or Indonesian?”

  1. Jakób Skrzypski says:

    Rightly said. By the way, the arts of Indonesia tend to decline since c.a. 500 years. Tbanks to Monotheisms.

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