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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Fundamentalist Secularism

This article started from my old post entitled "My Spiritual Journey" that I reposted in my FB a few days ago. A dear good friend commented jokingly, "what a spiritual snob you are..."
I responded, "I am absolutely not a spiritual snob. An intellectual snob, well, yes you can say that again!"
She replied, "Well, yes, first cognitive then affective ..."
Jokingly I asked her, "Spiritual snob is different from religious snob, isn't it? You know, in our country, there are abundant religious snobs who believe that they are 'ahlul jannah' and the rest are 'ahlun naar'."
However, since she tried to be careful -- offending people in the networking sites can be considered a crime in Indonesia recently, and no longer just a misdemeanor -- she continued discussing this topic via personal message, or more popularly known INBOX on FB. And she introduced me to a (for me) new term, "fundamentalist secular".
My curiosity on this term made me do googling. And ... here is the article I promised her to write.

Term 'fundamentalist secularism' comes from two terms, 'fundamentalism' and 'secularism'. I will start from giving definition of terms 'fundamentalism' and 'secularism.
Wikipedia encyclopedia defines 'fundamentalism' as a belief in a strict adherence to a set of basic principles (often religious in nature), sometimes as a reaction to perceived doctrinal compromises with modern social and political life. The term has been generalized to mean strong adherence to any set of beliefs in the face of criticism or unpopularity, but has by and large retained religious connotations.
Furthermore, Karen Armstrong defines fundamentalist movements as 'embattled forms of spirituality, which have emerged as a response to a perceived crisis" -- namely the fear that modernity will erode or even eradicate their faith and morality. This concern is shared mostly by Fundamentalist Christians, Jews, and Muslims.
Secularism, according to Wikipedia encyclopedia, is the concept that government or other entities should exist separately from religion and/or religious beliefs. In one sense, secularism may assert the right to be free from religious rule and teachings, and freedom from the government imposition of religion upon the people, within a state that is neutral on matters of belief, and gives no state privileges or subsidies to religions. In another sense, it refers to the view that human activities and decisions, especially political ones, should be based on evidence and fact unbiased by religious influence

So, what is fundamentalist secularism?

Tobias Jones, the author of “The Dark Heart of Italy”, in stated that "Secular fundamentalists are the new totalitarians*". He cited an example of the hijab ban in French schools. The government doesn't give any space for their citizens to practice their religion freely. Another example cited by Jones was when the government considered the wearing of crucifix or a veil or a turban as offensive to other faiths.
It reminded me of a topic discussed when I was in college. In 1620 the early immigrants left England and sailed to North America, on the ship 'Mayflower'. In the 'newfoundland' they formed Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts. They did this because they could not practice the religions they adhered to freely in the home country. However, when they succeeded establishing a new 'country', they did the same thing: they forced the settlers to follow the religion of the chosen 'ruler'. When a group of people didn't accept the rule, they had to move to another area, or they would be hanged to death.
Does fundamentalist secularism only exist in the western countries?
I observe that this secularism thrives everywhere, including in Indonesia. Indonesian government is not a secular one. Indonesia is not a Muslim country either although it has MUI that obviously has interfered the citizens' lives by issuing some ‘useless’ fatwas, although some provincial governments have issued some 'unfriendly' (and sadly misogynist) Islamic (or other religious) bylaws. However, I guess there are abundant people (I know via internet) in Indonesia claiming themselves as secular, thinking that the government should separate itself from any religions' teachings, the government should respect citizens' freedom either to adhere a religion or not. Secular people -- I am one example -- do not mix their religious beliefs with their daily routine. They also believe that people must respect each other's religions, no judging that other people will go to hell only because -- let's say -- they are not praying five times a day (for Muslim) or not going to church (for Christians) etc.
Referring to my post "My Spiritual Journey" where the main theme is "there is no such chosen (or best) people (to go to heaven)", I recently have recognized that these secular people -- perhaps I am also included in this case -- start to ridiculously think themselves as the "best" one. They start to laugh at other people who adhere their religions rigidly, they consider people praying together to alleviate their sufferings as fool. They have lost their empathy. They no longer respect other people's faiths.
From some examples above, let me conclude the definition of ‘fundamentalist secularism’. It refers to the concept that government or other entities are separate from religion so rigidly or strictly that until a certain rank it eradicates the existence of religions, or more hostile it regards religions – and their adherents – evil.
As a secular Muslim, I want to end this article by citing one famous verse in Alquran, "lakum dinukum waliyadin" -> your religion is for you, my religion is for me. In a wider sense, it can be interpreted as “whatever faith (that I consider having broader sense than ‘religion’) you have, or even if you are agnostic, deist, nihilist, or atheist, keep remembering that difference is beautiful, respecting other people is necessary, being empathetic to other people is awesome.

Nana Podungge
-- the secular Muslim --
PBIS 12.12 190210

* (Totalitarianism = a form of government in which the state controls all phases of the people's lives. Totalitarianism allows only one party, headed by an absolute leader. He maintains his power over the party and the rest of the people by force and violence. Freedom of religion does not exist. => "The World Book Encyclopedia)

Tuesday, February 02, 2010


The disappointment I got from the religion I have adhered since I was a little kid -- due to the unfair treatment towards women and got the 'answer' from the feminism ideology -- easily made me feel 'awakened' when I came to read articles quoting anthropologists' statement that religion was a mere creation of human beings.

(Have you heard what African American said in the nineteenth century? "We were of opinion that Adam was the first white man in the world. He brought injustice to the Black people." You can relate this statement tot the fact when the White enslaved the Black for centuries in America. Worse still (for Muslim people especially) one lecturer of mine said that the Arab people (in which we can find those people who feel that they are the chosen ones since the three celestial religions were passed down in their areas) were the ones who brought the slavery to American continent. I believe Muslim people still remember the story of Bilal -- the first slave who converted to Islam. It shows that Arab countries had practiced slavery many centuries earlier before America -- the so-called country that always supports equality among human beings -- did this really inhumane act.)

Anthropologists also stated that Adam was NOT the first human being in this world.
I believe that human beings have two contradictory characters in them -- good and evil. What will make a person good or evil depends on whether he or she is able to control those two sides; whether they will listen to their intuition to be good people or their greed to be evil.

Some super genius people realized this and they wanted to 'help' maintain the peace in the world by creating the so-called religion complete with the teachings, including the belief in heaven and hell. The teachings brainwashed people's mind that they will go to heaven if they do good to others meanwhile they don't forget to worship the Almighty. Contradictorily, if they do bad things -- let us say creating bad impacts toward society -- plus keep forgetting to worship God, these people will go to hell. Heaven is portrayed as a place where all comforts exist while hell is on the way around. This makes people -- who are easily brainwashed -- so scared if they will go to hell.

One teaching in Islam (I don't know other religions' teachings, so as one example I took one teaching in Islam, the religion I have adhered since I was a little kid, and I still choose to adhere after I baptized myself as a secular, since if you live in Indonesia, it is a must to adhere one religion to be printed in your identity card LOL) is about praying five times a day. Surah Al-ankabuut verse 45 stated "praying five times a day will prevent human beings from doing evil things." This verse made Muslim people brainwashed that the avoid doing evil things, they NEED to pray five times a day. In another word we can say that they are not really confident that they will not do harmful things to others if they do not pray five times a day regularly. They do not believe in themselves that they will not do evil thing if they do not rely on one teaching in the religion -- PRAY. And they are also brainwashed that those who do not pray five times a day regularly have lower rank because they are believed to be prone to do evil. In other words it can be stated that human beings are not trusted that they can use their common sense and have high self control to do good or bad without applying what is stated in that verse. In Arabic, this is called 'hablum minannas' -- relation among human beings.

In 'hablum minallah' -- relation between human beings and the Almighty -- who needs to pray or to be worshiped? Many Muslim people think that the Almighty created human beings to worship the Almighty. It means that the Almighty is believed to be angry when people in the world do not worship the Almighty. Those people forget that in this case they have humanized the Almighty!!! The Almighty will get offended if human beings do not pray to the Almighty and will ask those people who do not pray to move out of the earth and other planets in the Milky Way.

Surah Al-ankabuut verse 45 is closely related to Surah Al-maa'uun verses 1-7. This can be translated as "those who pray five times a day will be doomed if they do it only for show off, and they are reluctant to help others." It is clearly seen that the Almighty has given more emphasis to 'hablum minannas' than to 'hablum minallah'.

However, we can find more people thinking that this teaching --praying five times a day -- is more to 'hablum minallah', more people do this only because they are scared to be put into hell. And also more people believe that they are the chosen ones because they pray five times a day while they still do evil thing to others. It is because they are brainwashed that their praying five times a day will 'erase' their so-called misdemeanour.

Going back to the main topic of this post. Those super genius people who created religions to help maintain the peace in the world were just creatures who could not always predict what would happen in the future. Many people who learn their Holy Books without trying to find relations among the verses to come to a thorough understanding -- that must control people's negative side and maintain the peace among human beings -- even come to an interpretation that ruin the peace. They believe that their religion is the rightest -- so that they feel that they are the chosen ones -- and they have rights to diminish other people.

Can we control our negative side in ourselves by relying on our common sense without those so-called holy verses who were just created by human beings?

-- Nana Podungge, the agnostic --
PBIS 11.30 02.02.2010

The picture was taken from this link

"This is Ibu Agus ..."

NOTE: In Bahasa Indonesia the word 'Ibu' is a label addressed to respected women regardless their marital status. It is followed women's first names. In my case, for example, it is very common for people to call me 'Ibu Nana'.

A few weeks ago, a female workmate of mine -- her name is Prima Siska -- got married. She took some days off after her wedding day. On the first day she came back to the office, a male workmate of mine greeted her, "Ibu Agus ... how are you today?" The female workmate of mine did not respond it because the other one is known as a playful guy.
Several days ago, I got an email from a good friend. Out of the blue she was wondering if -- as an acclaimed feminist -- I will let other people call me using my husband's name (for example 'Ibu Didi', well at the moment my boyfriend's name is Didi, but at other time it can be any other name LOL) when I get married again later.

I heard that the custom for Indonesian people to adopt the family name of the husband to be mentioned behind a woman's name after getting married was brought to Indonesia by the Dutch colonial government. The so-called 'real' culture of Indonesian people do not recognize the practice of 'annihilating' the existence of women only due to marriage. Even, one lecturer of mine said that in Javanese culture -- or perhaps only in Jogja culture since this lecturer of mine is from Jogja) several decades ago, a new married couple would leave their both maiden names and then they would choose one new name to be used by both of them.
That a colonized country adopts the culture of the colonizer is taken for granted. Even there is a tendence that the colonized country will consider everything from the colonizer better, more modern or more advanced. To adopt the husband's family name behind a woman's name after getting married is included. For those who live in areas where the people do not use family name -- like in Javanese culture -- married women will be called 'Ibu' plus the first name of the husband, such as 'Ibu Agus ..." My female workmate's husband's name is 'Agus Sulistiyo'. (NOTE: 'Sulistiyo' here is NOT a family name.)
I was amused by my mother's experience relating to this addressed name. In 1970s when my family lived in an area where the inhabitants were included into the low class society, neighbors called her own name -- Ida -- plus 'auntie' at the front. (NOTE: In Indonesia, mostly in Javanese culture, it is very common to call the married female neighbors 'auntie' while the married male neighbors 'uncle'.) My mom was popularly-known as 'auntie Ida' in that area. Meanwhile, when she got involved in any gathering held by my dad's office -- attended by the wives -- my mom was called 'Ibu Muien Podungge': my dad's name. Her own name -- Ida -- was not known.
When our family moved to another area in 1981, my mom was also called as 'Ibu Muien'. Then I recognized the 'trigger'. The inhabitants there could be included into the middle class society.
To conclude it, women who belong to the middle class society, they will get the annihilation of self existence after they get married.
This conclusion is supported by what happened in the low class society of American women in the nineteenth century. In her poem entitled "Ain't I a Woman?" Sojourner Truth complained the unfair treatment to low class women, moreover she was black. ((Click ) Besides, Mary Ann Fitch Wescott, the mother of Charlotte Perkins Gilman (one feminist author living in 1860-1935), the author of "The Yellow Wallpaper", chose to stay at home, instead of working outside, because she felt that she belonged to the middle class society, although her husband left her with her two kids, that meant she had to depend on her relatives to support her own life and the kids. In the nineteenth century, "the Cult of True Womanhood" -- one tenet was the domestication of women -- was only for middle class and upper class women.

Going back to the case 'Ibu Agus ...' or 'Ibu Didi ...', I work because I want to work, to actualize myself, as well as to share the knowledge I have with others, not merely because I am a feminist. Nowadays, women working outside the house do not exclusively belong to the low class women. While for nicknames, well, I agree with what Shakespeare said, 'what is in a name?' I respected women who proudly use their husband family name behind their name, and leave their maiden name, as long as it is their own choice. I believe they have their own ways to actualize themselves. Even if they are willing to annihilate their self actualization, I respect it. In other words, I also demand other people to respect my choice if I still want people to know me as 'MS NANA PODUNGGE' or just 'Ibu Nana' when I get married again later.

Nana Podungge
PBIS 14.34 02.02.10

Check my other posts about 'family name'