By Lailatul Fitriyah
April 10, 2017
The xenophobic, anti-Christian, politically driven but religiously masked Indonesian Muslim hard-line populist movement went to a new low these past couple weeks when it employed the colonialist narrative of pribumi (native) to marginalize Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama and his supporters. This latest stunt came after a failed campaign to prohibit mosques from facilitating obligatory Islamic rituals for the remains of Muslims who allegedly supported Ahok during their lifetime.
Various posts on social media took notice of how these people who stuck pribumi stickers on cars, and who flaunted pribumi posters while protesting again in downtown Jakarta, wore Arabic-style clothing and supported the rival gubernatorial candidate known to be of Arab descent.
The idea of transforming Indonesia into a “sharia-based country” (whatever that means), which is being promoted by these groups, cannot be deemed an Indonesian idea. However, what is missing from these observations is that “tracing back authenticity” is not only futile but also dangerous for those arbitrarily excluded from the circle of “the indigenous.”
Not to mention that Islam as a civilization has always been characterized by multiculturalism, rather than by nativism. A fact that is true even for pathological groups such as the Islamic State (IS) movement.
Why is the pursuit of “authenticity” dangerous? There are three major answers to this. First, the search for authenticity and its ideology, nativism, comprises a never-ending chase for supremacy based on chronology.
Hence, the only winner of the race for authenticity in human civilization is Adam, if you believe in any of the Semitic major religious traditions, and Homo habilis (2.8 million years ago), if you hold on to theories of human evolution. Other than those two, we all are — to some extent — hybrids.
Second, just like any other ideology, such as racism and sexism, that uses physiological differences to distinguish “us” and “them,” nativism is arbitrarily built by those who make the indigenous claim based on their short-term, mostly economic, political and cultural interests.
Just like white supremacy in the United States and a part of Europe, or the Hindu nationalist movement in India, the indigenous claim made by Indonesian Muslim hard-line populist groups is dedicated to preserving their power relations with violent political and economic structures. The case is explicit in the support given by Hary Tanoesoedibjo to Jakarta gubernatorial candidate pair Anies Baswedan and Sandiaga Uno, and the latest episode of the partnership between Rizieq Shihab, leader of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and Hutomo “Tommy” Mandala Putra, the son of former president Soeharto.
Last, the race to “authenticity” is also fatalistic. It leaves no room for any pluralistic claim due to its binary-based ideology. Within this perspective, there cannot be two groups of pribumi. One is either pribumi or non-pribumi, and if one is the latter then the other is targeted for extinguishment from the system, hence the inhumane rejection of the bodies of those who allegedly supported the nonpribumi candidate.
The pribumi claim by the Muslim hard-line populist groups, presented in a religious framework, is ahistorical. Since the early days of Islam, Prophet Muhammad dedicated Islam not only as an affirmation to absolute monotheism but also to the formation of body politics that transcended the nativism and tribal relations of seventh century Arabia.
Everyone who has studied the history of Islam will find that since the days of the leaderships of the four righteous caliphs — the common symbol of a perfect shariabased political order for its proponents — to the days of the Abbasid caliphate, Islamic dynasties have incorporated much political influence from the pre-Islamic Persian and Byzantine empires.
There is nothing “absolutely Islamic” about the political orders in the days of early and medieval Islam. Therefore, the indigenous claim over Indonesian identity associated with the establishment of a sharia-based political order in Indonesia is as fake as a soap opera, and as incoherent as the mumbles of a toddler.
When a claim cannot be justified from every aspect that it is comprised of, then the claim is invalid and thus cannot be accorded any legitimacy. This is the case for the claim of pribumi recently employed by the followers of serial protests of aksi bela Islam (actions to defend Islam). Historically speaking, what they stand for, Anies as the rightful governor of Jakarta, is not a native of Indonesia, but instead a governor of Arab descent.
Religiously speaking, their dream of a sharia-based Indonesia and a political order that mimics the time of the righteous caliphs is also not an absolutely Islamic construct. What is left from the claim of pribumi is the pragmatist political and economic interests of the leaders of the aksi bela Islam movement that has nothing to do with religion, nor with the authenticity of “the Indonesian identity.”
One thing we all know well is how easy such nativist claims can be turned into legitimacy for violence, and that within multicultural and multireligious Indonesia, none of us reserve the right to present our respective identities as “the true Indonesia.”