Saturday, January 13, 2007

Textualism, Islamism, and Religious Violence

from the Liberal Islam Network (Indonesia):
Published: 7/8/2006
A textualist Muslim will perceive the permission of beating wives and children rather than the deeper essence behind the sacred text, which is to educate them. Textual religious understanding may endorse violence, although religion should not be misunderstood as the source of violence
By: Jajang Jahroni

Violence occurs in all religions including Islam, Catholic, Protestant, Hinduism, Buddhism, or Jew. This article focused on numerous violent acts occurred within Indonesian Muslim society lately. The terms of religious violence used to describe any phenomenon resulted by the intersection of violence and religious doctrine. It may includes:
(1) individual or collective violence against individual or group of the same religion or not, endorsed by religious doctrine;
(2) individual or collective violence by isolating, intimidating, or expelling group of other religious belief which is presumed to be deviant; and
(3) violence like destruction or defamation of religious object or symbol such as holy book, prophet, and worshipping place.

Based on the above definition, religious violence has various forms, from the “smallest” and “simplest” one like beating children in order to obey their parent based on sacred text, up to fighting against the enemy of Islam. Religious violence may occur both in domestic sphere like beating “disobedient” children and wives and in the public sphere like destroying places regarded as the centre of sinful acts.
Survey Findings
The survey held by Center for Islamic and Social Studies (PPIM) in 2006 indicates that religious violence has positive correlation with textual religious understanding. Religious doctrines on violence in Quran such as permission of beating “disobedient” wife (Q.S. Annisaa:34-35), or Sunnah that children must offer five times prayers when they are seven years old, and may be beaten (if they did not) at ten, are few examples of Islamic teaching on the need of violence.

A textualist Muslim will perceive the permission of beating wives and children rather than the deeper essence behind the sacred text, which is to educate them. Textual religious understanding may endorse violence, although religion should not be misunderstood as the source of violence. It depends on one’s understanding of religion. The non-textual religious understanding does not encourage religious violence. There are other factors besides religious understanding. Perception that Islam covers every aspect of human life may encourage the acts of violence. This conviction is called as Islamism, and the actor is an Islamist. An Islamist, according to survey, has bigger tendency of using violence rather than non-Islamist. An Islamist, due to his or her ideological understanding of religion, who perceived religion as a complete set of value to achieve the Islamic glory in the world, will be trapped in a set of value build through violence. The data showed both level of participation (involvement) and willingness (decision) in using religious violence.
The survey found a high level of participation for domestic violence. 46,6 percent of respondents say they pinch the children to obey them, 22 percent hit their ten years old children for leaving the obligatory prayers, and 7,8 percent beat their disobedient wives. Meanwhile, public violence has lower level of participation. 0,1 percent of respondents admitting their involvement in demolishing or arson of churches constructed without official permits, 0,6 percent driven the Ahmadis away, 0,3 percent fought against threatening non-Muslim groups, 1 percent attacked house of prostitution, 1 percent destroyed alcoholic drink store, 1,3 percent threatened those blaspheming Islam, 0,4 percent went for jihad in Afghanistan and Iraq, and 0,3 percent went for Jihad in Ambon and Poso. On the other hand, the level of willingness of using violence is higher. Indeed, there is always a distance between willingness and participation/involvement in using violence. Although there are other considerations that lead one to cancel his intention, this is still a serious threat since the potency may actualize in a real form.
Survey found that 14,7 percent of respondents were ready to demolish churches built without official permit, 28,7 percent were ready to expel the Ahmadis, 23,2 percent approved stoning to death for adultery, 43,5 percent were ready to wage war on threatening non-Muslim groups, 38,4 percent would attack or destroy the alcoholic drink store, 40,7 percent would intimidate those they considered had blasphemed Islam, 23,1 percent were ready for jihad in Afghanistan and Iraq and 25,2 percent for jihad in Ambon and Poso. Meanwhile, the willingness of using domestic violence: 22 percent would pinch their naughty children, 40,7 percent would hit children to offer prayers, 16,3 percent would beat their “disobedient” wives. However, not all kind of religious violence can refer to the textual religious understanding and Islamism. Yet, although there are other variables contributing to the acts of religious violence, textualism and Islamism were the most significant variables to encourage religious violence. Both variables also have positive correlation with general acts of violence. On one hand, a textualist and Islamist tend to take the law into his/her own hands (main hakim sendiri) like beating thief in the streets and supporting government policy to ban a sect or group they considered as deviant. On the other hand, a textualist and Islamist tend to be gender biased and tend to have intolerant religious and political attitude. Although the economic factor has positive contribution upon the acts of religious violence, it has no significant correlation.

This finding is interesting since many have considered economic factor as the cause of violence acts. Among several factors, education has a significant negative correlation with violence acts. The more educated someone is, the less possibility he or she has to be involved in violence. On the contrary, the less educated someone is, the more possibility he or she has to be involved in violence.[]

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