Ayu UTAMI, Writer
Mohamed Najib Bin AHMAD DAWA, Director General, National Art Gallery of Malaysia
SAKAI Takashi, Professor, Graduate Institute of Art History, National Taiwan University
Good morning, everyone. Today’s course is a special event with guests from Malaysia and Indonesia. Both are famous in cultural fields of Malaysia and Indonesia. Professor Najib is now head of National Art Gallery of Malaysia. The institute is located close to Singapore, and hosts a lot of artistic activities, specializing in Batik. And the second guest, Ms. Ayu Utami, is a famous writer in Indonesia. In 1998, at the end of Suharto’s dictator regime, she wrote a famous novel, which was already translated into several different languages.
Mohamed Najib Bin Ahmad Dawa:
Let me first introduce myself. My name is Mohamed Najib. I am from Malaysia. Today I am observing fasting for Ramadan. I am practicing it as a Muslim. So I stopped eating since 5AM in the morning, and I will break fast today sometime in the evening. During this period of time, no drinking, no eating, no smoking, nothing. Today is the last day of Ramadan. Tomorrow is a big day in Malaysia, not only for Muslims, but for all ethnic groups, including Chinese and Indians. We celebrate together, everybody is going home. Like Chinese New Year, the whole nation is closed. This is the community in Malaysia: we celebrate festivals of all races.
I was given this title by Mr. Sakai last week by email. He asked me to give a talk about Malacca, one of the 14 states of Malaysia. It is very important to the history of Southeast Asia. Malacca was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site 2008. Why was it accepted as a World Heritage Site? When we mention heritage, there are many historical sites, like Trowulan, in Indonesia. They belong to the people of Indonesia, like Angkor Wat belongs to the people of Cambodia. But Malacca is quite unique. Malaysia registered several heritages, but no one knows whose heritages they are.
Let me walk you through several dates. When I was in high school, I was asked to memorize all these dates because they are linked to our nation. Malacca is the first state in Southeast Asia visited by people both from the East and West. In 2008, it is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1957 we gained our independence within the region of Malaya. Before that, every state belonged to their own state. They were not within the federation. These 12 states have their own sultans, or kings. Malaysia is rich with kings. In 1824, Malacca, Singapore and Penang are the strait settlements that belonged to the UK. We were occupied by the British and these three states were the most important states to make money. In 1641, VOC, Dutch East India Company, captured and conquered Malaysia. In 1511 Portugal took Malacca. In 1405 Malacca formed an alliance with the Ming Emperor. And in 1400s, Parameswara started the great empire of Malacca.
What I want to share is history. History is actually “his story,” not my story. The history is written by the people in the West. So it’s all “his story,” not our story, not at all- because they did not come to ask about your story, they just wrote. And most of the people in Malaya were illiterate at that time if they are not associated with the royalty. These illiterate people have been traveling around the seas of the Southeast Asia. They are similar to the 14 aboriginal tribes in Taiwan. They ate betel nuts as well. So we share the same thing, same words. We used to be in one nation. This is HIS story. I want to tell you MY story. It’s about writing, and presenting my story. Rewriting, not accepting- that’s what research is about. Search and research.
Slide p4 shows the location of Malacca. The white state is Thailand and beneath is the Malay land; and Malacca is further down the Malay states.
Why is it so important? Malay Peninsula is in the center, very strategically located, between the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. We are between Chinese and Indian. You can see I am not white, I am not black- I am in between. I am the 3rd generation of the Chinese blood, so my hair is straight. At that time, all ships passed through Malacca. So that’s why we say it’s strategically located, and it has been occupied by so many people.
Let me tell you a little bit of background by slide p6. Malacca began from the state of Palembang. There was a person known as, Parameswara, tried to fight against the ruler of Majapahi, but he lost the battle. So he ran away to Temasik, a place that was under the rule of Siam, the old name of Thailand. Temasik is Singapore’s today. Parameswara killed the representative from Thailand, and ran all the way to Malacca. That’s the start of Malacca. Slide p7 shows you the Malacca empire at that time.
When Parameswara reached Malacca, it was just a fishing village. He was resting under Malacca trees, and he saw two hunting dogs chasing a deer. The deer managed to defeat the dogs and kept the dogs away. Parameswara was surprised, thinking that this is the best place where the weaker can beat the stronger. So he named the place Malacca. So from a fishing village, Malacca was transformed from 1400 on.
During Parameswara’s time, Malacca operated as a port of call. Slide p10 is an illustration done by the Portuguese in around 1400. Within this period, the sultans after Parameswara set up a structure of administration as a basis of how it operated and worked. Slide p11 shows the structures within the hierarchy. The top is the Sultan, he rules like the Japanese Emperor. The Sultan is the king; below the king are officers, arranged in 4, 8, 16, 32, and then the citizens and slaves. This is the structure and hierarchy of the Malacca society at that time. It is well structured.
Slide p12 shows the administrative structure. It starts from the four people, the Heads of State, including the Prime Minister. And then the 2nd layer has eight officers and the 3rd layer has 16. Go down and there are 32. The 4, 8, 16, 32 sequence is not just for administration. It is also echoed in architecture. In some vernacular structures, the numbers were also translated into pillars. In the center, there would be four pillars, and by the side are two. The community also followed that kind of structure.
Slide p13 shows the structure. The Sultan is the King, the Bendahara equals to the Prime Minister, Temenggung equals to the Minister of Home Affairs, Penghulu Bendahari equals to Finance Minister and the Laksamana is actually the Defence Minister. Slide p14 shows the situation of the royal court, very similar to Chinese traditional court.
Slide p15 shows Malacca as a business center. The distribution went to India and Southeast Asia, and had communication with China. South Thailand was the supplier of salt at that time. So people went to Siam to get salt and distributed it in Java. Slide p16 is an illustration of the port at around 1400-1511. Slide p17 is the navy that guarded the seas and port of Malacca.
When Malacca prospered, the King converted to Islam. Islam was brought to Malacca by merchants from Saudi Arabia, Arabian Peninsula and from India, and from Malacca, further spread to Southeast Asia, South Philippines and Brunei.
The language and lingua franca of Malacca spread all the way to the west, until Madagascar. And to the east, it reached Taiwan, and further down to south, to the Pacific islands. People of Malacca used to be known for “orang jawi”- calligraphy of the Koran. We used that character, but that character in a way is different from what Arabians were using in the Arab.
Slide p22 shows the expansion of Malacca. People of Malacca, or say people of Southeast Asia, expanded in a very subtle way, mostly through marriage. In Angkor Wat, when it was still an empire, it ruled the whole South Asia. The king who built Angkor Wat was brought from Cambodia to Java, (when he was a child) where he witnessed the building of Prambanan. He then married one of the Java Princesses, and was sent back to Cambodia, where he built Angkor Wat. So there is a similarity between Angkor Wat and Prambanan.
Malacca became very rich. The king was rich and the people were rich, and the corruption started. So in 1500, the empire started to decline. By 1511, Portuguese seized the opportunity and captured Malacca. Slide 24 shows that battle. What was left by the Portuguese to Malacca is a fortress, A Famosa. Slide p26 shows the remnants of the fortress. It was actually built to protect the city from outsiders- because once Malacca fell, other cities would rise up and try to become the ruler of the region.
Malacca had many bridges. And one of the bridges opened up to allow Portuguese ships to cross and cut the supply from one side of the city to the other side.
Since then, the Portuguese took control of Malacca, from 1511 to 1641. And then came the Dutch, fighting against the Portuguese, and captured Malacca in 1641. So what’s left by the Dutch is this, showed in slide p28. It now stands high in Malacca until today known as Studhuys. The red building is the remnant of the Dutch, the East Indian Company.
Then the British came. They did not fight at all. In 1824, they negotiated with the Dutch, and the Dutch surrendered Malacca to the British. The British divided Malacca, and shared Malacca with Dutch until 1957. People in Malacca were colonized for many years.
Slide p31 shows the daily attire of people of Malacca. They are warriors, carrying “kris,”a weapon similar to a dagger, just like a cowboy carries a pistol. Slide p32 shows people of higher ranks in the society. Slide p33 shows a famous warrior. He was mentioned in several books. Slide p34 shows the currencies used during the period. The coin was a mixture of gold and “siputgerus.” Slide p35 shows another kind of currency, Matahari, meaning sun.
Slide p36 shows the palace of Sultan of Malacca. The following slides show more images of the palace. There was a book about a Malay guy, (Henry the Black) captured in Malacca and taken to Portugal. He was sold to a man called Magellan, and Magellan sailed around the world. He was one of Magellan’s navigators. Magellan couldn’t finish the trip, but this man, Henrique, managed to complete the journey and get back to Malacca.
The following slides show Malacca under Portuguese and Dutch rules, and its glorious period. And that’s all. Any question?
I cannot come up with a formal lecture. This is just a sharing. I want to share with you about Malacca. I was an artist in Malaysia once upon a time, and the economy was very bad in 1985. I had no way to go but back to universities, with 2 children, and I did my degree in graphics, because I own a small workshop that makes Malaysian Batik. In 10 years I completed my doctorate, master and degree. With textile, you can dress the history of the region. In the fabrics, we can learn a lot about the region and the location. So it’s like learning history through material objects.
Q1: I am interested in the hierarchy. And the bottom of the hierarchy is “hamba.” Can you say something more about that?
The lowest of the hierarchy is “hamba,”the slave. Slave was common. If you have slave, it means that you are of a higher hierarchy. If you can pay back, you can free yourself. But the Sultans themselves think that slaves are equal to subjects. Sultans would say, my citizens, those are my hamba. The term is the same. They were not like slaves that are captured from the West, from Africa, or those who are working in the cotton field.
Q1: What about “pembesar”?
Pembesar is officers, structured as 4, 8, 16, and 32 in number.
Q1: Which one is the Prime Minister?
The Prime Minister is the top 4. One of them is called “bendahara,” which is the Prime Minister.
Q1:Isn’t bendahara the treasurer?
No. Bendahara covers so many areas. Normally, the temenggung is equivalent to the treasurer, because he controls the taxes from the port.
Is it still like this today? Because in Indonesia, we use bendahara or treasury.
No more in Malaysia. Malaysia government system follows that of Briton.
Q2: Can a commoner in Malacca own a slave?
Yes, like I said, slave can just be a term. But there were actual slaves. If you cannot pay your loan, you become a slave. So everyday, you work for the person who owns you. And pembesar usually have their own slaves.
Q2: What were their rights as a citizen?
If they could survive, they could have food on the table for their family. But they had limited freedom. You cannot judge it from now. In those days, you needed a protector to protect you. So when you become a subject to someone else, it means that you are a slave. It’s similar to the gangsters today. Once you belong to the clan, they will protect you.
Q3: I am also interested in the hierarchy. Is that a concept of hierarchy or descendent- the wealthier family will become wealthier, and poor people remain poor? Is the concept of hierarchy still remains in Malacca today?
If the structure is still there, I could not become a professor, or director-general. Because my father was a very poor person from the village. But education freed me. It’s the same with Malacca. In 1400, education was precious. If you had education, you would become an important person. So education freed people at that time. You could even become preacher of Islam if you were able to read and write. Because before the arrival of Islam, we embraced the same religion of the region, like Hinduism. The structure of Hinduism means that they also have hierarchy in their society. Hinduism is still practiced in some parts in India now, but it is not like that in Malaysia. Hinduism in Malaysia now is carried by Indians coming to Malaysia. Malaysia is now very free.
Both speakers are national guests, guests of Taiwanese government. I want to provide some additional information, telling you my point of view of Malacca.
Historical cities in Southeast Asia now face issues of preservation. For example, Angkor Wat in Cambodia. After long-time civil war, so many pictures are damaged. To rescue such damaged architecture, there is a competition between countries wanting to enter into Angkor Wat, including Indonesia.
Bagan in Myanmar also sees similar situation. But preservation activities in Myanmar are different. For example, slide p12 shows a Buddhist tower, restored from remnants. This was not done by the government, but by Buddhists. Myanmar is a Buddhist country, and contribution to such a work is considered good deeds by Theravada Buddhists. Almost no fee of the restoration came from the government.
Slide p13 shows a watching tower built by a dictator. It was a 19th century construction, totally different from the tower we just saw. For this reason, Bagan cannot be inscribed as a World Heritage.
Slide p14 shows Ayutthaya in Thailand. Slide p16 shows how it looked like after World War I and II, in 1945. Outside of this site, there are almost no existing buildings.
Slide p18 shows a great Buddha, which is very important. The picture was also shot in around 1945. But the building surrounding the Buddha has already been destroyed. It is now changed to the condition showed in the picture in the right, a building contributed by the Myanmar independent government.
Slide p19 shows Malacca from an aerial view. The yellow line shows the coastline in the 15th and 16th centuries. But now outside the yellow line it is land now. So the coastal area is 500 meters away from the line. This is a large change in Malacca. The whole sea area was changed into this new condition.
Slide p20 shows a scenery from the Malacca Hill. The picture in the right was originally sea, and the ship is actually a museum, bearing resemblance to the Portuguese ship that sailed into Malacca port. Now the whole area is land. In that area, many ancient remnants related to Dutch and Portuguese rules have been found, such as the fort. Several walls were also reconstructed, as shown in slide p22. It is a combination of the original construction and newly added one.
Slide p23 shows the Malacca river, a Dutch church, and Dutch city wall. The river was not changed, of course, but the bridge was the most important bridge that connected the right bank and the left bank of the Malacca River. The bridge in the picture is a new one, not the original bridge in the 15th century.
Slide p24 shows a Portuguese museum. The photo on the right shows the new land. The original coastline now is street, and the original area that was outside of the coastline now has very tall buildings. Outside the coastlines, there is no prohibition on construction, so you can see very different architecture images co-exist in the same area. In my view, Melaka is a famous historical city in Malaysia. But we cannot observe the Malacca in the 15th century, because the coastline has changed, and the construction was replaced by modern buildings. I think it is a large damage.
Like Malacca, Penang started its history at around the 19th century. Until today, the core part of Penang still kept its original image of the 19th century. But Malacca is different. These buildings have no relation with Malacca history at all; they are totally new. I think this is very similar to some historical sites in Taiwan. Last week I visited Anping in Tainan, the oldest area in Taiwan’s history. The ancient site was crowded with visitors, but their target is not history- they care only about eating. So Taiwan’s Anping and Malacca is very similar.
Now we will start the second part. Najib said that he is a 3rd generation of Chinese. This kind of mixed origin happens very often in Southeast Asia, including Malaysia. Mix-bred, mixed culture, or multi-culture, is a common condition in Southeast Asia.
Slide p26 shows you Thang Long, an important historical city in Vietnam. The yellow line in the picture shows you the ancient city wall of Thang Long. Inside the walls, all buildings are government buildings and some important administrative buildings. In the same area, Vietnamese already found some remains of the 10th century palace. They found pillar’s position. Some 11-15th century palace, with construction like that showed in slide p27, still remains.
Slide p28 shows the main gate of the palace from the 19th century. Underneath the building is a center entrance for the emperor only. Under the surface, a 15th century road was also discovered. Slide p29 shows the North Gate, which was also constructed in the 19th century. The two holes on the picture on the right are cannon holes caused by French army. When the French army invaded Hanoi, they used cannons. So the gate also wears witness to the French invasion.
Slide p30 shows the Parliament Hall of Vietnam. The old one was constructed in 1950s. In 2002, the Vietnamese government decided to reconstruct this building. At the beginning of the construction, they found something underneath the construction site, and decided they need to search all ancient monuments before the construction. They found large-scale construction of good condition. They registered it as UNESCO World Heritage Site, and UNESCO agreed.
The photo on the right is the new parliament building. Vietnamese government decided that instead of quickly building a new parliament hall, they wanted to start long-term archeological research, and large parts of former sites were preserved. This decision was very important, and was very meaningful, and a good example of ancient site preservation.
To pave the way for Ms. Ayu’s presentation, I need to tell you something about the ancient site of Trowulan in Indonesia. Slide p31 shows you an aerial photo of Trowulan archaeological site. The city was the capital of Majapahit Kingdom, a Kingdom covered that almost all Indonesia. But now the site is mainly composed of agricultural field, except several buildings.
Large part of the city changed into agriculture field, showed in green in the photo, except several buildings.
But building ruins still exist here and there. One of the example is the tower-like entrance shown in Slide p32. Slide p32 shows another one, very similar to Hindu temple. But the one on p32 is separated from the center. This kind of architecture is introduced from Bali island, where separated tower gate can still be found today.
Slide p33 shows you an artificial reservoir, a very important facility for the palace area. This one is still in use in Trowulan.
The site shown in slide p34 is found at the beginning of the 20th century. They are royal chambers, belong to the King or Queen. In the picture there is no water, but originally it’s covered with water. In the picture on the left, you can see the pillar foundation and the photo on the right shows the brick structures of the palace ruins. The Indonesian government now exercises preservation in this area. Other slides also show that these palace ruins are preserved in good condition.
Local manufacturing surrounding the area is still on-going. One of the industries is making bricks. Slide p36 shows a small brick factory. This activity always needs to get raw materials. The workers need to dig 2 meters down under the surface to get the material, deeper than the previous ancient monuments. These local activities are actually destroying ancient monuments and ruins in the surface. Each factory is not large, but there is a total of 100 brick factories. So the ancient monuments are decreasing every day because of local people’s common activities, not large scale development. This is one of the problems of conservation.
Good afternoon. You have heard two beautiful presentations about the material and archeological objects of the history of Malaysia, Indonesia and other parts of Southeast Asia. I am going to show you how this history is always in the making. What you see in Malacca and Trowulan is part of the identity of Indonesia and how it is always in the making.
The title of my presentation is, “From Taboos to Traditional Tolerance.” The more the culture goes to equator, the more it becomes plural, more heterogeneous. Indonesia is also very heterogeneous. Malaysia and Indonesia might have their own ways of dealing with this heterogeneity. Malaysia has a more segregated policy. The government divides the Chinese, Malays and Indians by formal policies.
In Indonesia, there’s no such segregation. So sometimes the dynamics is bigger than that in Malaysia. For example, in Malaysia, if you are a Malay, you must be a Muslim. In Indonesia, you can be whatever you want, except atheism or Judaism. In Indonesia, we officially recognize five religions. Beyond that, it doesn’t have government recognition.
People closer to equator are more heterogeneous. If you read books about Indonesia in the Hindu time, around the 19th or 20th century, you will find very tolerant people. But this tolerance is changing now.
Slide p2 shows you what happened in Aceh last year. These two people were convicted of having homosexual relation. You can pay attention to how people react, how they were eager to record. In Aceh, Sharia Law is practiced, but it is not the real Sharia Law, or else these two would be put to death instead of just caned. In Aceh, if you have relationship outside of wedlock, either homosexual or not homosexual, you will be caned in public. Slide p3 shows you how people are eager to record. You can find online videos showing how people are shouting and excited during this process. Slide p4 shows that women are also eager to see the convicts to pass.
Slide p7 shows a poster saying “LGBT is not Aceh Local Wisdom.” Why did this statement appear? Traditionally, people do not think in gender identity. Some practices, what the modern world would called as homosexual practices, were accepted, but were not considered as homosexual or gay. So homosexual practice might have been on the archipelago for hundreds of years. People didn’t complain, and people didn’t put it in certain identity. Identity is a modern way of thinking. So some would say, “homosexuality has been in Indonesia for a long time.” So this poster was meant to confront that statement. Slide p10 shows the situation in Yogyakata. Yogyakata also used to be a very tolerant city. But it is changed now.
The point I want to make is that anti-LGBT was not heard in Indonesia’s history until the latest 15 years. Let me show you another example of intolerance. Recently, there are more iconoclasm, anti-statute movements. Many statutes are taken down in Indonesia recently. The first iconoclasm incident happened in 1985 by a certain jihadist group.
My thesis is that intolerance in a new phenomenon in Indonesia. But you can always question whether it is true. Is it true that the society didn’t do anything? I tried to find some texts to answer the question.
The incident of anti-heresy was first seen in a Javanese literature in the 16th century. What happened in the 16th century? Two things: the dominance of Islam, and the coming of the Dutch. This is also the start of the modern era of the world, the onset of the modern philosophy, the rationalism. The movement can be traced back to Descartes. The rational thinking of Europe travels with Dutch and arrived Indonesia in the 16th century. The peak of colonial time is parallel to the movement of the rational philosophy. This intolerance started to come together with modernity and the coming of Islam. It’s a modern phenomenon. It’s not an ancient phenomenon.
You can see, nowadays we have anti-LGBT. So intolerance happens only after the introduction of rationalism and modernity, at least it was the case with Indonesia.
Is it true that ancient people of Indonesia were more tolerant? I tried to find some folklores and stories about how people dealt with religious differences. I condensed them into 3 types of approaches.
How many of you have been to Bali? Did you go to see the Barong dance? Slide p23 shows you a kind of Barong dance. The story came from the 11th century story: a witch spread plague into the kingdom. The witch was a decedent from the blue god, a Hindu. At the end, the king sent a Buddhist priest to defeat the witch. The witch died at the end, but like most of the Buddhist story, the death of a certain ogre or malicious monsters or people also means freedom. So killing the beast or giant is part of freeing them to become better creature or have a better next life. So you don’t see witch hunting like that happened in Europe. In Europe, when the witch or the heretic is killed, the teaching is also destroyed. But here the teaching still exists. The teaching can be used to do evil things, but the teaching itself is not necessarily a heresy.
This ritual is used to clean, to clean the negative energy. In the 11th century, we didn’t talk about heresy or rationalism. But we managed to channel the energy. If there were too much negative energy, you cannot settle with rationalism; you must do something to balance the energy.
Slide p24 shows a temple in East Java. You see syncretism of Hinduism and Buddhism at that period. In earlier periods, you would see Buddhist temple and Hinduist temple, separately. But starting from 13th, you will see them in one temple. It’s called Siva-Buddha, a syncretism.
So if the first step is balancing the energy, the second step is syncretism. You mix different energies into one. You don’t care if they are competing or contradicting with each other, you just mix them. This practice continues until the early 20th century. Syncretism is a mechanism for us to keep peace, tolerance and plurality. But the problem with syncretism is that it contains inconsistency. It’s not very solid or logical.
Starting from the 14th century, there were some books on palm leaves, the book looked like a plate of leaves. There were two very important books from this era: one describes how kingdoms are organized at that time, and the other book, Sutasoma, is a Buddhist book, contains spiritual stories. From the spiritual story, we get our national motto, Bhineka Tunggal Ika, which means plural but one, like the motto of the United States. This motto is very important to modern Indonesia.
When we decided to have an independent Indonesia, they found this motto from the 14th century book of Majapahit. It’s very abstract, but it is no longer only syncretism- it is synthesis. With synthesis, you have stronger logic.
I have talked about how the society in the archipelago managed to maintain plurality and tolerance in the past. What happened now?
In the ancient times, we keep peace by ways of synthesis. But what happens today is that modernity, with monotheism, you don’t want to accept syncretism. Many groups don’t want to have syncretism; they want to have a clear line between what is right or wrong. But syncretism is a way to go to synthesis, which is very difficult to get. Before we have synthesis, we maintain balance by mixing things together, even if sometimes they are contradictory. You will still have peace.
In the Javanese literature, we started to see intolerance or heresy only after Islam came. It is a very specific monotheism. Slide p29 shows that there were at least 5 stories about heretics being sentenced to death. There were several cases happened in modern time, from 16th century to now.
Nowadays Indonesia becomes more intolerant, against any kind of sexual expressions. But in fact, in the old temples or literatures, there were explicit sexual expressions. People at that time did not think them as sexual; they consider sexuality in a different way. You can see pictures shown in slide p32 in a temple, very graphic.
Slide p33 is a ritual dance from East Java. The photo was taken in 1970s or 1980s. You can’t find the same ritual dance in this area anymore nowadays. The main dancer is the one who wears the huge mask, and it is very very heavy. The dancer needs to bite the mask. So people believed that the person must have a super natural power to wear it. To have this power, you need to do certain rituals. One of the rituals is not to have sex with women for a certain period. But it did not mention whether you can have sex with a man. So that was a traditional practice that the main dancer did not have sex with a woman, but did have something with a young male dancer. This sexual practice exist in our tradition. It’s just there.
Let me finish with the question on slide p35: Can syncretism works in the modern time as a peace-keeping mechanism? I just want to give you an idea that our history maybe started with the people who built the temple. When we want to find our ideology, we go to seek in the archeology and old texts. For hundreds of years, Indonesia has been a tolerant society. But now we are facing a danger in our tolerance practices.
This is a unique presentation about ancient and modern Indonesia. I am very surprised. My data shows that Trowulan is a holy place for Muslim as well. Trowulan is a conversion from Hinduism to Islam, and there are some very important Islamic tombs still existing in Trowulan. On history, in Trowulan, there was never conflict between Hindus and Muslims. I am impressed by some pictures in the presentation. Any question from the audience?
Q1: There are so many countries try to legalize homosexuality. Does it affect Indonesia?
Of course. We had a political change in 1998. Five to seven years later, we had a euphoria of freedom. Some people organized queer or LGBT film festivals for certain years in an open way. But then there was a backlash from 2006 to 2007. The backlash came from religious groups. But the backlash was a reaction of modern perspective of homosexuality. What modernity wants is similar to monotheism way- they want to divide everything, categorize everything. It’s different from the tradition. I have shown you homosexual- man to man relations- have existed on many islands of Indonesia. It was not been categorized as a certain identity. It’s fluid. You have to think. We lose the fluidity with modernity and monotheism.
The modern discourse wants to have legal homosexual marriage. But the idea of legalization is, again, categorization of identity. Apparently it becomes similar to monotheism. The new approach looks like a threat because they are speaking the same language as categorization. So the fight back was strong- it’s a reaction of the same way of thinking. I don’t think homosexual marriage will be legalized in Indonesia. It’s very difficult.
Q2: There are so many tolerance issues in Indonesia. What do you think of FPI, Front Pembela Islam?
Islamic Defender Front played the role of police in the 1990s. In the beginning, during the 1998, the group was sent by the police to fight against democratic activist. But it developed into its own life. During President Yudhoyono’s time, he made many concessions with the group. And now Joko Widodo must deal with them, because they already become a political power.
Q2: I thought they don’t have political power as well. But they are becoming more aggressive recently, destroying statutes at different places. We have a big intolerance issue in Indonesia now. As Chinese, we have to be careful with ourselves. After Joko Widodo retires, next year, the president will be changed. I am afraid that this kind of intolerance issue will rise to a high level, maybe cost lives. What is your point of view on that?
What we can do is that, first, involve in the political debate. Maybe you can also involve in new political parties that can fight for it. There are many things that we can do.
Q3: Thank you for your lecture. You talked about intolerance in Indonesia. How does it affect the national identity as a whole? Intolerance is affecting religious groups, but how does it affect ethical groups, like Chinese and Indians? How do they react to this? What is your view on how it will affect the overall national identity?
The intolerance is not happening between races. The problem is with religious identity. In the past we have Pancasila indoctrinated at school. Maybe we don’t like it, but it managed to keep the identity. After 1998, some people wanted to loosen up the indoctrination. In Taiwan, maybe you don’t teach Three People’s Principles anymore, right? Pancasila is a kind of Three People’s Principles. But in Taiwan, you don’t have the issue of religion. Having Pancasila, or like your Three People’s Principles, the profit is that it unites Indonesia, even though it’s like an indoctrination. Now we want to get rid of Pancasila. We see the religious identity coming up.
In the past during the military regime, if you asked people, “what is your identity?” People would answer, “I am Indonesian first and Muslim second.” But today it is reversed. So it’s not about ethnicity but religion. For the future, we have a big homework to do. Maybe it’s related to politicization of university students. In the 1970s, after a huge student demonstration, the military government started to depoliticize university students. Students were not allowed to take part in political movements anymore. So they are silenced. And people believed that danger will not come from other places- but now it comes from religious group. We were very open-hearted and believed in religion, and we did not realized that the danger can come from there. Now the danger is there. The big homework is to promote different ways of interpreting religious contexts.
Thank you very much. These are serious issues and are not easy to answer. In this course I only focused on modern time history of culture. Next year I will open more courses, like modern history of Southeast Asia, where I will explain more issues about modern time issues, related to Ayu’s lecture and answers. Thank you very much for the presentation and lecture, and leaving such a deep impression. Thank you very much.