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Monday, February 13, 2012

Religion and Local Culture: A Pinch of Lesson from Pelauw's Case

The bloody fight erupted in Negri Pelauw few days ago suddenly emerges critical question among Malukan. During “normal” condition for some years there are several internal violent riots both in Christian (Sarane) communities and Muslim (Salam) communities. The conflict triggered by various factors but mostly by quarrel of internal groups within the communities such as land border, interfamily’s dispute, conflicting adat’s point of view, etc.

As far I knew, there were not clearly solutions initiated by local communities themselves. Many were intervened by the government and police/military so that it seems more formally than culturally conflict resolutions. For sure, I do not neglect that strategy but somehow Malukan needs more aware that not all internal conflict can be resolved by formal approaches. We should take an important lesson from our previous conflict experience that essentially Malukan has local wisdom to accommodate potential conflict and resolving internal conflict among themselves. Still, whatever it will be the reason Malukan should aware about the root of conflict inside as well outside.

What about the Pelauw riot? Some media (printed and online) reported that it was triggered by the adat ritual which is usually conducts before Idhul Adha ceremony. But the media did not explain – or probably they deliberately keep the information – about the main factor of riot. I was trying to search information via internet and phone to get confirmation about the cause of Pelauw’s riot but failed, until my colleague sent me a pinch of information.

My colleague said that usually before Idhul Adha the Pelauw people conducts an adat ritual. They have been conducting the adat ritual for centuries since their ancestry life. The adat ritual is included in series of preparation ritual for celebrating Idhul Adha. Pelauw people have no serious problem to accommodate local tradition into Islamic ceremony as they view that adat and Islam has been their cultural identity (cf. the concept of intermingling identity of Malay and Islam in Malaysia). Their understanding about Islamic teaching colored the local tradition and vice versa: their local tradition is used as religious expression. The dynamic interpenetration between Islam and adat resulted on what well-known in Pelauw as “Islam syariah” and “Islam adat”. They do accept these two typologies.

However, it is interesting that currently there are prominent influences from modernist or fundamentalist groups of Islam which endeavor to purify such tradition by abolishing such an adat ritual. They are mostly Pelauw people who perceived different Islamic teaching from outside. It is not clear enough about the identification of outside here. The modernist groups totally reject the execution of adat ritual as a way to distort Islamic purity (kafir). They regard it as not Islam so that they endeavor to conduct dakwah vastly as religious mission to purify Islam – as they understood it – against adat . On the other hand, mostly Pelauw people who devoted to adat assert that they are true Muslims as well while respecting adat as existential realm in their Islamic religiosity. Islam for them only could be comprehended if Islam colors the local culture of Pelauw. Islam, therefore, is part of Pelauw’s cultural identity, not merely a religion.

The recently Pelauw case – and some others – reminds me to M.C. Ricklefs’ book Polarising Javanese Society: Islamic and other visions (c. 1830-1930). Ricklefs depicts that the interpenetration of religion (Islam) and society (Javanese) eventually resulted on the ambiguous identity of Javanese people. By doing historical analysis he displays that tension between Islam and Javanese tradition incrementally invented latent conflicting identity and involved power contestation of these bulwarks. The so-called “mystic synthesis” he used to identify Islam in Javanese society and it was driven by political power of Sultan Agung and Pakubuwana II who succeeded to accommodate Islam and Javanese tradition. Sociologically, Ricklefs’ analysis found that the interpretive tension between Islam and Javanese tradition then emerged new social construction, i.e. putihan (pious Muslim), abangan (nominal Muslim), and priyayi who opposed Islam openly, not by embracing Christianity, but returning to Java’s pre-Islamic past.

By writing this shortly note, I would like to provide only my socio-cultural reflection about the phenomena of religion and culture dynamic interrelationship. We actually should learn much from our own history to construct our own distinguished historical narrative. We cannot evade that our religiosity in Maluku (or elsewhere in Indonesia) is very affected by our local cultures. Also, our cultural expressions are much constructed by our religious interpretations. What we can do, in my view, is not to refuse totally both but perceiving them critically and further trying to contextualize them as we live in changing contemporary eras. The important aim is we learn relentless from the dark-side of our history to create our new history for Malukan next generations. I have no perfect conclusion or suggestion. I just offer peaceful possibility as a part of our cultural big puzzling picture. 

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One Earth, Many Faces

One Earth, Many Faces