The Rice Cake War, The War for Peace…

“There will be no world peace without a religious peace”(Hans Kungs). Thestatement seems completely right, since two thirds of the world population belongs to religion, and religion with its religious values is a strong influencer of the world actors both State and Non-State Actors.

If we talk about culture differences in Indonesia, in each region of Indonesia have at least 5 different religions.  Including in Lombok, in this region also the religion of the citizen are different such as Catholic, Christian, Islam, Hindu, and Buddhist. In this part will be discussed about the interaction between Muslims and Hindus in one of traditional event that held once a year in Lombok. The name of the event is “Perang Topat” (the rice cake war).

The rice cake war is takes place each year at the Pura Lingsar Temple in West Lombok. Celebrated by both Hindus and Muslims together. It is an event preceded by weeks of prayer and preparation, in which the people come together to give thanks for their crops, and offer up cakes, fruit, buffalo and rice. Once the main offering is made, the participants take part in a three-night war, using rice as their main weapon. This “war” is meant to be a celebration of the harmony and friendship that has developed between the two religions in Lombok.[1]

Every year, Lingsar village engages in the Perang Topat at the Lingsar temple complex. The temple was built in 1759, during the reign of King Anak Agung Gede Ngurah, a descendant of the kings of Karangasem, Bali, who once ruled this part of Lombok. The temple complex is located 9 kilometers east of the provincial capital Mataram, and is considered unique. It hosts the aforementioned Gaduh temple and Kemaliq building, and is used for rituals and traditional ceremonies, both Hindu and Muslim. The two buildings stand side by side, and in front of each is a jabe or courtyard. Because of its uniqueness, the Lingsar temple complex has since the 1990s been declared a cultural conservation site.

The village holds its Perang Topat on the 15th day of the seventh month of the Lombok Sasak calendar, or purnama sasih kepitu (the full moon of the seventh month); in the Balinese Hindu calendar, this corresponds to the 15th day of the sixth month, or purnama sasi kenem (the full moon of the sixth month). On this night, Hindus celebrate odalan, or the anniversary of the founding of Lingsar village, by holding their pujawali ceremony.[2]

Meanwhile, the Muslims commemorate the epic journey of Raden Mas Sumilir, a Muslim scholar from Demak, Central Java, who brought Islam to Lombok in the 15th century. Since midday, community members have gathered at the Lingsar temple complex. At Gaduh temple, the Hindus prepare banten, or offerings, for the prayers to pujawali. Over at the Kemaliq, the Muslims prepare kebon odek, offerings in the form of fruit and vegetables. Rather, this tradition, which has been passed down from generation to generation for hundreds of years in Lingsar village in West Lombok regency, is re-enacted to strengthen harmony between Muslim and Hindu communities. Battles are usually synonymous with anger and violence, a physical clash between two parties in dispute. But the Perang Topat in Lombok, which involves hundreds of people from two different religions, is an event that gives no impression at all of being hideous or hateful.[3]

[MSS]

[1] retrieved from: http://www.mydestination.com/lombokandgilis/events/73207741/perang-topat-%28rice-cake-war%29-10-december-2013 (July 17, 2014).

[2] Panca Nugraha, The Jakarta Post, West Lombok | Life | Fri, January 22 2010.

[3] Ibid

A Lessons from Lombok for Indonesia

With its beaches, waterfall, and green volcano crater lake, Lombok is viewed by many peoples as the other world paradise beside Bali. Apart from those beautiful view in Lombok, there is millions of people live from various ethnic groups which display diverse cultures. As what mentioned above that 87 percent of Lombok population is Sasak Muslims (Lombok’s indigenous people). Balinese Hindus are the largest minority ethnic group estimated for about 7 percent. The rest are Sumbawanese, Bugis Javanese, and Chinese. But in this paper we are not going to discuss about all differences in Lombok but only the main ethno-religious groups, the Sasaknese Muslims and Balinese Hindus.

Conflict between Sasaknese Muslims and Balinese Hindus was began since the Balinese conquest almost 300 years ago. Before the Balinese conquest, Lombok was divided into four major regions, each of which was ruled by a Sasak king: Pagesangan, pagutan, Mataram,and Cakranegara. Disunity among the local kingdoms was manipulated by the neighboring Balinese ruler, Anak Agung Ngurah, of East Bali. The Hindu-Balinese kings eventually became the new rulers of Lombok in the late 17th century after defeating the divided Sasak kingdoms. They mainly controlled the West and parts of North and Central Lombok from 1740 to 1894. After Dutch colonial forces toppled them that year, nearly all the remaining Balinese chose to stay in Lombok rather than sail back to their native island.

The 17th-century territorial conquests were not the only time of Balinese migration to Lombok. The eruption of Mount Agung in 1963 drove Balinese refugees from the eastern side of the island to Lombok as a safe haven. Today, Balinese families have been in Lombok for more than five generations and are fluent both Sasak and Balinese languages. They have lived alongside the Sasak for more than 270 years.

The Lombok Balinese predominantly continue to practice Hunduism, while Islam, of course, is the dominant religion of the Sasak. Both groups devote themselves to distinct religious ideas and events held according to their own specific lunar calendars. The Balinese appear to have integrated peacefully with the Sasak despite a violent history between them, and this is affirmed through an annual religious festival at Pura Lingsar Temple named Perang Topat (the Rice Cake War), held to symbolize Hindu – Islam tolerance. Perang Topat literally means a fight marked by the throwing of topat (rice cake wrapped in coconut leaves) between fighters coming from different ethno-religious backgrounds: the Balinese and the Sasak. While Pura Lingsar, which is a half Hindu and a half Sasak Muslim Temple, becomes a shared sacred site during this yearly ceremony, with the Balinese and Sasak affirming their religious partnership by performing the ritual together.

This depicts that “Reconciliation and harmony between Balinese Hindus and indigenous Sasak Muslims on Lombok following a history of conflict comes down to one basic thing: throwing rice cake” is actually a very great example of pluralism as what Indonesia needs. The Lombok’s reconciliation and harmony is supposed to be considered by other regions in Indonesia in order to stitching a new and better Indonesia. Lombok is already evident that Bhineka Tunggal Ika is completely works in the real life. It is not just a motto. But the question is why other regions still so violent, in particular against religious minorities? [MSS]

 

source: Susetyo, Benny.(2012). Stitching Together A New Indonesia. Retrieved from Strategic Review: Indonesia’s search for Pluralism (ed. January-March 2013 vol.1).

 

Material & Symbolic Aspect of Conflict

in the case of The Southern Thailand Conflict or well known as ‘Unrest in Southern Thailand’, just for brief background, that the former Sultanate of Pattani was conquered by the Thais in 1785 and has been governed by them ever since. The Thai ownership was confirmed by the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909. The majority population in the region is Muslim (Malay ethnic). Actually, low level separatist violence has occurred in the region for decades, but the insurgency escalated in 2004, occasionally spilling over into other provinces.

What is the material aspect of the conflict? The material aspect is that, the conflict was caused by the discrimination in terms of political and educational rights towards Malay Muslims. Firstly in terms of political rights, by the late 1990s, Malay Muslims were holding unprecedentedly senior posts in Thai politics, for example with Wan Muhammad Nor Matha (a Malay Muslim from Yala) serving as Chairman of Parliament from 1996 to 2001 and later Interior Minister during the first Thaksin government. Thaksin’s first government (2001–2005) also saw 14 Muslim Members of Parliament (MPs) and several Muslim senators. Muslims dominated provincial legislative assemblies in the border provinces, and several southern municipalities had Malay Muslim mayors. Malay Muslims were able to voice their political grievances more openly and enjoy a much greater degree of religious freedom. However, the Thaksin regime began to dismantle the southern administration organization and replaced it with a notoriously corrupt police force which immediately began widespread crackdowns. Consultation with local community leaders was also abolished. Discontent over the abuses led to growing violence during 2004 and 2005. Muslim politicians and leaders remained silent out of fear of repression, thus eroding their political legitimacy and support. This cost them dearly. In the 2005 general election, all but one of the eleven incumbent Malay Muslim MPs who stood for election were voted out of office. Secondly in term of educational rights, Malay Muslims in the border provinces generally have lower levels of educational attainment compared to their Buddhist neighbors. 69.80% of the Malay Muslim population in the border provinces have only a primary school education, compared to 49.6% of Buddhists in the same provinces. Only 9.20% of Malay Muslims have completed secondary education (including those who graduated from private Islamic schools), compared to 13.20% of Buddhists. Just 1.70% of the Malay Muslim population has a bachelor’s degree, while 9.70% of Buddhists hold undergraduate degrees. However, one must keep in mind that government schools are taught only in Thai, and there is resentment and even outright pulling of children out of Thai-language schools. The lesser educated Malay Muslims also have reduced employment opportunities compared to their Buddhist neighbors. Government officials comprised only 2.4% of all working Malay Muslims in the provinces, compared with 19.2% of all working Buddhists. Jobs in the Thai public sector are difficult to obtain for those Malay Muslims who never fully accepted the Thai language or the Thai education system.[1]

By considering those kinds of discrimination, it is hardly surprising if PULO (Pattani United Liberation Organisation) wants the Malay Muslim-majority southernmost provinces to secede from Thailand or at least will be given some level of regional autonomy.[2]

What is the symbolic aspect of the conflict? The conflict is caused by the discrimination over identity or values of Malay Muslim. As already mentioned and elaborated in the material aspect that Buddhist is more priority than Malay Muslim. This case is such a huge discrimination over identity/ values/ race. Thus, it is not surprisingly if PULO demands an end to perceived discrimination by Thailand, recognition of their unique culture and justice for a litany of alleged abuses by Thai security forces.[3]

What is the relational aspect of the conflict? The conflict happened because of the bad social networks of the leadership. The leaders (in the reign of Thaksin Shinawatra) cannot control his sub-ordinates including his people particularly minority society. His policy even discriminates the minority society in Thailand (the Malay Muslims), “Malay Muslims previously were able to voice their political grievances more openly and enjoy a much greater degree of religious freedom. However, the Thaksin regime began to dismantle the southern administration organization and replaced it with a notoriously corrupt police force which immediately began widespread crackdowns”. This phenomena evident Thaksin hierarchical and heterarchical relations (social network) at the time was really bad which cannot control and maintain states’ stability which resulted in southern insurgency against the government.

But how those three aspects relate or influence each other? The case above actually already shows the connection between those three aspects. The conflict firstly was rooted in the ‘Thaksin bad relations’ with his people.   That bad relations is might be caused by the psychological factors of Thaksin who has desire to diminished the Malay Muslim identity or values involvement in government. Then, the Thaksin regime began to dismantle the southern administration organization and replaced it with a notoriously corrupt police force. That policy evident the main cause of the conflict is about gaining power.

Thus, basically a conflict is caused by material aspects – the desire to get absolute power – which then resulted in the ‘minority identity or values’ discrimination. The discrimination thing, off course, led the destruction over relations between people. [MSS]

 

[1] Wikipedia.org.(February 2013). South Thailand Insurgency. [online]. Available: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Thailand_insurgency

[2] Ndtv.com.(February 28, 2013). The Deep Roots of Thailand’s Southern Insurgency. [online]. Available: http://www.ndtv.com/article/world/the-deep-roots-of-thailand-s-southern-insurgency-336620

[3] Ndtv.com.(February 28, 2013). The Deep Roots of Thailand’s Southern Insurgency. [online]. Available: http://www.ndtv.com/article/world/the-deep-roots-of-thailand-s-southern-insurgency-336620

Why applying cultural understanding and sensitivity ?

Our world is full of diversity including cultural diversity. We all agree that American culture is different with Egyptian as well as Indonesian culture different with Korean, even every region in Indonesia has its own culture. Those facts reveal that our world society is very heterogeneous and high level of plurality. The consequence is that the relation between people is much easier involving in conflict. Thus, cultural understanding and sensitivity in our relations with the other people is really needed in order to avoids conflict and live in harmony.

For instance, in a really simple case – in Russian Federation, vodka drunk without mixture including ice. But, Russian peoples only mix vodka with beer once they want to give a sign that they want to make friends. And if we are offered it to drink, we have to drink it. But if we reject it, it means a humiliation for them.[1]

Concerning this Russian culture, what if a Russian meets with a Religious people (let’s say from Egypt) and give him vodka mixed beer, but the Religious men reject it. So what will happen? Conflict is inevitable, unless the Egyptian has sense of cultural understanding and the Russian has the sense of sensitivity, so that both sides can understand each other – the Egyptian do not need to drink the mixed vodka and the Russian do not need to feel humiliated.

Besides that, not understand and not sensitive to others culture will cause ineffective relations between people. Misunderstanding is so often occur in inter-personal relations which have different culture background.

For instance, in a banquet session, Koreans may eat the meal after all the older people and people who respected already started to eat first. They also should not be raised bowl of rice and soup of the table. They must use a long spoon to pick it up and use chopsticks to pick up side dishes. Precedes parents and raised a bowl on the dining table is considered as rude, also drink by facing older people is not polite. When we offered a drink by parents, we have to accept it with two hands as a respect. Then, turn the other way to sip the drinks without sound.

Concerning this Korean culture, if I go to Korea for the first time without understand the Korean culture, off course it will be a serious problem for me. Let’s say I have invited to have dinner with my Korean friend and his family and unfortunately, my friend forget to inform me the rule of Korean. Suddenly, I just do what I am not supposed to in an innocent way, off course, this moment makes them think that I am not polite at all which will drives them to see me with one eye or even to dislike me.

That kind of misunderstanding is what we need to avoids by understanding others culture and having the sense of sensitive which will makes us more aware about others culture, so that the relationship in friendship and even in business activities can go very well. [MSS]

 

[1] Life.viva.co.id.(September 3, 2012). Etiket Makan Di Berbagai Negara. [online]. Available: http://life.viva.co.id/news/read/348405-etiket-makan-di-berbagai-negara

 

Popular Culture As An Effective Source of Soft Power (?)

Power is the ability to influence the behavior of other, so that they would do what they would otherwise not do. Concerning to ‘soft power’, as what Joseph Nye describes “the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion,” he sees strong relations with allies, economic assistance programs, and vital cultural exchanges as examples of soft power[1]. In addition, Joseph Nye also argued that “the effect of soft power is not down to the action of the expert. It depends on the perception of the audience”.[2]

We may agree that every state has its own culture, but the difference is some state has popular culture. And popular culture assumed can be utilized as an effective source of soft power. In what ways popular culture can be utilized as an effective source of power? In order to answer the question, I would provide two popular culture – the Hallyu and Western culture – and relate it to the theories and definition given above.

The Western culture, as the popular culture, has been become an effective source of soft power for the West particularly the US. Through its Hollywood movie and rock songs, they show their freedom and democracy life off to the world and implicitly, they are trying to change others preferences particularly the communist countries. The popular culture perceived to have melted the hearts of people in communist countries during the Cold War era. This phenomena in accordance with what Joseph Nye argue that “the effect of soft power is depends on the perception of the audience”. The audience welcomed the western culture and conscious or unconsciously, they adore and wanted the messages of the culture to be implemented in their life.

In the case of Western culture above, it shows that the popular culture has been become an affective source of soft power. It was succeed to make other regions to follow their values. It was succeed to shape most of the world corner view including Indonesia, that freedom and democracy is needed to be implemented. And the facts shows that most of the world countries implementing the freedom and democracy system.

That is how popular culture can be utilized as an effective source of soft power. But in the case of the Hallyu, it is quite different. If the case of western culture seems was influence the political or ideological side, but the Hallyu seems more concern on economic side. But it is still debatable whether Hallyu can be categorized as soft power or not.

Back to the basic thing, that power – soft power in particular, is used for achieving national interest including interest in economy. And the phenomena of Hallyu have benefits South Korea a lot. Why is it benefits South Korea a lot? Because Hallyu is so attractive and it is welcomed warmly by its audiences. The phenomena make peoples crazy of Korea.

This benefits the government because through the Hallyu, Korea promotes their product to the world, and off course, those people around the world who are crazy of Korea will buy Korean product. Not only that, the benefit also comes from their film and music industries as well as the foreign tourist who really loves Korea because of its Hallyu. This is how Hallyu become an effective source of soft power in terms of economic benefits. Hallyu makes the economic national interest of South Korea achieved easily.

Before it is become popular, perhaps there is no international people think about the Hallyu, their products customer is small, few international tourists come to their island. But since it became popular and the audiences were excited and welcomed the culture really warm, everything’s change. Most of world’s eyes now see the Hallyu, they adore every single thing about Korea. That is the evident that the Hallyu or the Korean Wave has changed the preferences of others. If before, they do not want to go to South Korea or do not want to buy Korean products, nowadays, they would buy it all.

South Korea’s music industry earned revenue of just US$120.5 million back in 2007, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, a decrease from a year earlier as a previous Korean cultural wave declined from its 2005 peak. But as K-pop’s influence spread, profits increased. Revenue reached US$199.5 million last year, a 65.6 per cent increase on 2007.[3] This huge amount of profit is the evident on how Hallyu or Korean cultural wave can be an effective source of Soft Power particularly in achieving its economic interests.

This phenomena is also in accordance with what describes by Joseph Nye that “soft power is the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion and the effect of soft power is depends on the perception of the audience”.

Thus, there is no doubt that popular culture can be utilized as an effective source of soft power in order to achieve the national interests much more easily. Popular culture can be categorized as soft power, not only once it is influence the other to adopt one ideology, but also in terms of economy, popular culture can influence other to give benefits to the one who owned the culture. ~The ability to influence the behavior of other, so that they would do what they would otherwise not do.~ [MSS]

 

[1] Usforeignpolicy.about.com.(year unknown). Soft Power In US Foreign Policy. [online]. Available:  http://usforeignpolicy.about.com/od/introtoforeignpolicy/a/Soft-Power-In-U-S-Foreign-Policy.htm. (July 15, 2014).

[2] Amy Nip and Christy Cho.(December 2012). How Koran Culture Stormed The World. [online]. Available: http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/article/1094145/how-korean-culture-stormed-world (July 15, 2014).

[3] Amy Nip and Christy Cho.(December 2012). How Koran Culture Stormed The World. [online]. Available: http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/article/1094145/how-korean-culture-stormed-world (July 15, 2014).

 

ISLAM IN INDONESIA: WAGING PEACE THROUGH RELIGIOUS COOPERATION.

Indonesia is famously known as the largest Muslim community in the world. The Indonesian Islam as Culture and political expression has never been a monolithic faith system. Derived from two permanent sources – The Qur’an and Hadits (the examples of the Prophet) – Muslim thinkers, and even politicians  have for decades built up and developed diverse, complicated, and even contradictory interpretations of the two sources in dealing with any religious relations issues.

In the case of Islam in Indonesia, we are fortunate because of the fact that the great majority of Muslims are in favor of waging peace through interfaith dialogue and cooperation. Indeed, a tiny minority of Indonesian Muslims opposes it and argue that endeavor is futile. this sort of attitude happens due to their limited and subjective understanding and interpretations of the same resources. The militant and radical splinter groups from whose wombs terrorists may have bred are actually a new coming dark panorama in Indonesian Islam. Therefore, a lots of outsiders have made a false conclusion as though they are the true representative and the real face of Indonesian Islam. This depicts how is the danger in observing the complex socio-religious phenomena from afar.

Essentially, the Muslim mainstreams in Indonesia are acting as likely as an umbrella and protectors. Since the emergence of Muslim Extremists in Indonesia, churches and other worship places are highly vulnerable to be bombed. But the biggest moderate Islamic Organization in Indonesia called Nahdatul Ulama has embraced all Muslims together protecting others religion worship places in certain big but danger days such as Christmas day and etc. More than that, other important point to note is that believers should not only cooperates among themselves, but should also be ready to coexist with and accommodate the non-believers, and vice versa.

Other facts of action to waging peace has been showed by interfaith leaders when Aceh province – the province applies Islamic Law – was destroyed by the terrible wave of Tsunami in December 2014, Interfaith top figures led by Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja soon made a visit to the area and provided some financial aid to the families affected by the tragedy, including helping to restore a traditional Muslim boarding school called Pesantren that had been wiped out.   (MSS)

source: Hadi,Umar.(2011). Islam In Indonesia. Jakarta Pusat: Directorate of Public Diplomacy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia.