Jakarta People & Cultures

Jul 1st, 2008, in Society, by

A Betawi figure worries that many immigrants to Jakarta are too narrow in their cultural perspective.

Writer and historian Ridwan Saidi says many newcomers to Jakarta bring with them a “homogeneous” culture, perhaps meaning inflexible or narrow, and when they come into contact with the diversity and chaos of the capital city become shocked, and sometimes attempt to force their worldview onto others.

Forgive me for saying this, but Jakarta is suffering from migrants who are mono-cultural. I’m Betawi, born and bred here, but from my childhood I could see and feel that Jakarta was culturally heterogeneous.

Jakarta was a meeting point for people from all sorts of backgrounds, religions, ethnic groups, and cultures, he said, but increasingly the social relations of the city were being disturbed by people who reacted harshly against this diversity.

The conflicts are usually caused when these people try to force their view onto others.

Ridwan Saidi was speaking on 22nd June, the anniversary of Jakarta’s foundation, and said that as an Islamic politician he was very pleased that this day coincided with the proclamation of the Jakarta Charter, which included the “seven words” that would have required Muslims to live by sharia law, had they not been omitted from the final draft of the 1945 constitution, but that using force and intimidation was something different.

Ridwan Saidi
Ridwan Saidi

He recommended that people who lived in Jakarta better understand the history of the city, so that the potential for conflict be reduced. antara

It’s true there are multiple versions of Jakarta’s history, I can’t always reconcile them, but for me and some other Betawi people Jakarta has to be preserved as it is. It’s our capital city, it has to be our priority.


4 Comments on “Jakarta People & Cultures”

  1. berlian biru says:

    Is there such a race (if that’s not the wrong word) as “Betawi”?

    My understanding was that the betawi were similar to the natives of that other great Dutch colonial port, Cape Town, the “Cape Coloureds” (forgive me for using the ugly apartheid term but as I understand it that is how they self identify); a mix of local people with the descendants of Dutch, Portuguese, Arab, Chinese, Indian, Malay, African, British all thrown into the melting pot.

    Their slightly paranoid sense of special identity is also somewhat similar to the Cockneys and Scousers of London and Liverpool who bang on about their ‘special’ identity despite their rather obvious ‘mongrel’ ancestry.

  2. M says:

    @berlian biru: there is.

    Betawians are urban indegenous. Betawi pinggir, which mostly still hold ‘pure’ local blood are people whose descendants lived in Jakarta area since ‘forever’. then when the Arabic came, some got married with the Arabs and they became what is now known as Betawi Arab. Some mixed with Chinese and known as Betawi Cina, few mixed with the Dutch/Portuguese/British.

    Each have slightly different accent. Easiest to recognize is the betawi pinggir, who used to say gua instead of gue.

    Paranoid sense of special identity? My Goodness, what are you talking about? some people enjoy international status, belong to no specific land, but others like to have religious, spiritual, special engagement with their native land, ancestry, tradition, etc. It’s so human.

  3. berlian biru says:

    That’s me told.

  4. zecky says:

    Whilst it hasn’t been mentioned here, is Ridwan subtly talking about the Islamic fundamentalists?

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