Indonesia and Timor-Leste

Indonésie et Timor-Leste


Saturday, October 23, 2021


09:00 – 10:45

VenueVenue 3Venue 3


Chair/Président: John Roosa, University of British Columbia

Event poster


Central Javanese Mystic and Syncretic Practices in Modern Islamic Theological Discourse

Agam Syahrial, Ohio University

The dissemination of Islam throughout the archipelagos was different from one island to another island in Indonesia. In most of Java, Islam flourished into a peculiar variant called Agami Jawi or the religion of Java due to its inclination toward mystical Hindhu-Budhist and local belief. A dramatic explosion in the numbers of Javanese Hajjis and Muslim students studying abroad in the Middle East started in 1850, and interactions between Muslim Indonesians to the Islam in Saudi Arabia intensified. Those hands-on experiences and interactions opened doors for new perspectives and gave opportunities to the Muslim society in Indonesia to learn and understand Islam more deeply. Due to those interactions, a reform in Indonesian Islam was born, a reform that put an emphasis on the purification of religious practice to eradicate all of the elements of non-Islamic mysticism, magic, animism, Hinduism, and Buddhism.

Studies on Islam in Java like The Religion of Java by Clifford Geertz present a description of Javanese religious life and offer a plethora of insights in Javanese religious life and practice by discussing the tension between the Abangan, who practice mystic and syncretic practice and the reformists, who promoted a new way of practicing Islam. In addition to that, Fauzan Saleh, in Modern Trends in Islamic Theological Discourse in 20th Century Indonesia: A Critical Survey, explains the reform movement, which introduced a purer Islam through four basic principles: the return to the pristine sources of Islam: the Qur’an and the Sunnah; the encouragement of ijtihad; denouncement of taqlid; and revitalization of Arabic linguistics for properly engaging in ijtihad. However, few studies offer a discussion on Central Javanese perspectives of their mystic or syncretic practices after Islamic reform in the present.

This research paper aims to explain to what extent reformist views in Islam affect Javanese views of their ongoing mystic or syncretic practices (Kejawen) in present day Java. Several interviews were conducted with Javanese in Plumpungan village, Central Java, to find the answer to this question. This presentation starts by giving a historical background on Islam in Central Java, on the Islamic reform that happened in central Java, and on the reaction toward the reform from the Central Javanese. It is discovered that the central Javanese view their Kejawen as identity, Kejawen as complimentary not contradictory to Islam. In addition, they also view the importance of freedom in upholding one’s beliefs and finding relatability of their practice to modernity. This study also contributes to more insights on the already existing discussion on the discourse of mysticism in Islam outside the Arabic context.

Challenge the Wind: Canadian Policy Towards East Timor, 1975–99

David Webster, Bishop’s University

In 1975, Indonesian armed forces invaded East Timor, a small country that had declared independence a few days earlier. During a 24-year military occupation, more than 100,000 Timorese died. Contrary to Ottawa’s claims to be a strong voice for international human rights, the Canadian government consistently supported the Indonesian occupation. Yet at the same time, several activists worked alongside the Timorese people in supporting the right of self-determination.

This paper describes Canadian policy, paying equal attention to the actions of government and non-governmental organizations, and drawing on untapped archives from both government and non-governmental sources. These records reveal a government that began campaigning in support of Indonesia but, over time, changed its position. Canadian politics evolved under pressure from activists based in churches, unions, student groups, and especially organizations in solidarity with Timor. Finally, in 1998, the Canadian government came to support the right to self-determination. The history of Canadian politics on East Timor focuses on the key role of activists in influencing and shaping international relations. The Canadian government is not defending human rights. Yet more and more, it is forced to take note of and respond to pressure from activists.

Indonesian Autonomies: Explaining Divergent Self-Government Outcomes in Aceh and Papua

Shane Barter, Associate Professor, Soka University of America; Hipolitus Wangge, Australian National University

Territorial autonomy is essential for overcoming separatism and protecting minorities. Indonesia provides two cases through which we can better understand what makes autonomy work. In Aceh, autonomy helped to overcome conflict and can be regarded as successful, while in Papua, autonomy has failed, evident in continued unrest. Within the same country, the same institutional response to separatism at the same time has generated varied outcomes. Why has autonomy succeeded in Aceh, but failed in Papua? Utilizing case and temporal comparisons, this paper suggests that the content of autonomy may be less important than the process through which it unfolds and whom it empowers. Early in Aceh and in Papua, autonomy was essentially imposed, empowering corrupt leaders and undermined by political interventions. Aceh’s ultimately successful autonomy did not differ significantly in content, but was negotiated and empowered former rebel groups. Papua’s failed autonomy centres on transfer payments, disbursements that fuel dependence.

CCSEAS Conference 2021 |