How A Japanese Man Think About Islam

The book write by Hisanori Kato

This is the story about Hisanori Kato, a Japanese man who studied Islam. 

Kato is interested in Islam. He cannot hide that Islam, especialy in Indonesia, is unique in spite of the negative-pitched world views he has always heard, including in his country. So he learned about Islam from some central figures in Indonesia starting from the Nadhatul Ulama (NU), the Liberal Islamic Network (JIL), to the fundamentalist group led by Abu Bakar Ba'asyir.

Although it has long been in contact with Muslims in Indonesia and understands how Muslims live side by side with other people, he has not yet decided whether Islam will become his religion or not. He, who has succeeded in meeting various Islamic leaders inherited a book to Muslims, especially Indonesia, about how he views Japan as Islam. Because so far Japanese people don't know much about Islam.

His curiosity about Islam began when he saw a mismatch between Islamic societies in Indonesia, which he was familiar with in the news about Islam which tended to make Islam a religion of terror. As a Japanese -Non Muslim-who is large in international society, who has a lot of contact with Muslim communities, he decided to explore Islam from Islamic leaders in Indonesia.

He often reads news about criticism of the relatively radical Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), about moderate Gusdur, about the Liberal Islam Network (JIL), and about Abu Bakar Ba'asyir which is associated with several terrorist events in Indonesia. He was very curious as to why Islam had a different face and he wanted to know whether Islam in the view of some of these figures had to do with the book of Muslims, the Qur'an. As a researcher, Kato began to find out.

At first Kato met with Bismar Siregar, a legal expert and also a former Chief Justice in the Soeharto era. Kato learned a lot about Suharto's 32-year ruler and how Bismar interpreted 'Forgiveness' in Islam in upholding the law and dealing with humans. Then Kato met Mohamad Sobary, a Sociologist, columnist, cultural observer, lecturer and researcher at LIPI (The Indonesian Insitute of Science). Kato got a lot of information about how Islam influenced both of politics and culture in Indonesia, one of which was marked by the existence of the ICMI (The Indonesian Association of Muslim Intellectuals) organization.
When Kato met Gus Dur

From Sobary, Kato learned that so far in Indonesia Islam had become one with culture so that people could live harmoniously despite still experiencing friction on several sides.

Kato then met Ulil from JIL and discussed why there was JIL in Indonesia. Ulil who learned a lot from Gus Dur inspired JIL a lot about how Islam should not be used for political purposes. Ulil is one of those who disagrees with the establishment of an Islamic state and emphasizes moderate and easy Islam so that Islam is not seen as conservative and frightening, especially after the events of September 11.

Then Kato also met Lily Munir, one of the Islamic leaders who always fought for women righats. She rejects the patriarchal view of men who always interpret verses about women without understanding culture and time, making it difficult for Muslim women to develop and get their place in Islamic society. Kato learned that the position of women in Islam was very noble, but it was men with wrong interpretations that made Muslim women confined and retarded.

Then he met Fadli Zon, a controversial figure in the Gerindra Party who turned out to be the figure behind the Soeharto era's SDSB challenge. Fadli Zon is a person who considers the importance of combining Islam and politics in order to realize the ideals of the Indonesian people. But unfortunately, Islam is used more by political figures for certain interests.

From Fadli Zon, Kato began to understand that many young Indonesian Muslim leaders were involved in politics and the importance of the involvement of Muslim scholars in political positions in government in order to realize a prosperous society according to Islamic guidance and Pancasila.

Kato also met Ba'asyir, a fundamentalist Islamic leader of the Indonesian Mujahidin Council (MMI). Ba'asyir is a figure who disagrees with the separation of religious and state issues, or secularism. He also regretted the actions of the Soeharto government which imprisoned many fundamental Islamic activists who were actually moving to make the ummah return to a straight, genuine Islam. He saw Ba'asyir and his students were Muslims who were obedient to practicing Islam. They are very careful in interpreting the verses of the Qur'an so that they are not wrong.

While his meeting with Abdurrahman gave its own color about Islam in Indonesia which coexisted well with other religious people. Even Islam which was preached through cultural events seemed to have merged with Indonesia's own buada. From Gus Dur, Kato learned that Islam in Indonesia was beautiful, peaceful, harmonious and not as bad as it was reported in the media that the world read, including those read by Japanese society.

Hinasori Kato is a Japanese Sociologist who in his Master's study in Australia researched Islam in Indonesia. The first time he was touched by Islam was when he saw children marching on the night of Eid al-Fitr in 1991 when he arrived in Jakarta from America. For Japanese Muslims it is very foreign. Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha are unknown in Japan as Christmas is widely known and deeply rooted and has the support of the state. He was also surprised by Muslims who prayed five times a day, fasting a full month during Ramadan and not drinking liquor.

Also regarding the prohibition of gambling, one of the momentum is strong protest over SDSB gambling which in the 1990s attracted a lot of people. At that time Muslim students marched to Senayan so that the Soeharto government dissolved the SDSB program. Kato was even more curious about Islam. Then he decided to do a study of Islam at the University of Sydney. He made Indonesian Islam the topic of his research. For a Japanese Buddhist, researching about Islam is certainly interesting.

Jakarta, 2 May  2019

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