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Indonesian writers share thoughts on Islamic diversity in Brussels

Keshie Hernitaningtyas
Keshie Hernitaningtyas

The Jakarta Post

Brussels, Belgium | Tue, November 21, 2017 | 04:10 pm
Indonesian writers share thoughts on Islamic diversity in Brussels

Lili Yulianti Farid (far left), reads her story accompanied by Intan Paramaditha (second left), Flemish poet and novelist Els Moors‎ (third left) and Ben Sohib (far right) at a literary event titled 'Islamic Diversity in Indonesia' at Festival Center in Brussels, Belgium. (JP/Keshie Hernitaningtyas)

Around 30 people attended a literary event titled "Islamic Diversity in Indonesia" at the Festival Center in the Dynasty Building, Brussels, Belgium, on Monday.

Moderated by Manneke Budiman, who teaches literature and cultural studies at the University of Indonesia, the event featured three Indonesian authors whose work involved the topic of Islam in the social context, namely Lily Yulianti Farid, Ben Sohib and Intan Paramaditha. 

Read also: Intan Paramaditha's 'Gentayangan' crosses many borders

Fiction writer and academic Intan opened the event by reading in the Indonesian language her feminist rewriting of horror and mystery titled Apple and Knife, which highlights the demonization of women in Indonesia within the local interpretation of the story of Yusuf and Zulaikha in the Quran. Lily, a fiction writer, journalist and founder/director of Makassar International Writers Festival, passionately shared her short story of family pathos titled Joyce and the Angel, which was inspired by her personal story of being raised by a non-Muslim nanny from North Sulawesi, which was not common for a Muslim family living in Makassar. Meanwhile, Ben, who took part in the 2015 Frankfurt Book Part, as a member of the Indonesian delegation shared a tale of Hajji Syiah, which follows the humorous encounters of a Muslim who had been on the haj and drunkards living in a kampung in Jakarta.

Read also: Europalia boosts the spirit to revive traditional cultures

Following the readings, the topics of tolerance in a family and the scene of radicalism of Islam in Indonesia were discussed after being brought up by the audience. 

Regarding the latter, Ben said concern about conservatism was actually a global phenomenon as part of the right-wing movement and that it was a global problem, not only for Indonesia and Islam. Intan added that Islam was highly commodified, not only by capitalism but also old forces trying to bring the country back to the days of military rule. "It's getting more conservative cause there are so many players here." Meanwhile Lily highlighted hijab syar'i as part of the hijrah movement in Indonesia, where, for instance, wearing hijab is not enough, "You have to buy the proper hijab."

The literary event was part of the Europalia Arts Festival Indonesia held from Oct. 10 to Jan. 21, which showcases the many arts and cultural richness of the archipelago across Europe.

"All art subjects are being shown here, including literature," said Manneke who, alongside Melani Budianta, serves as curator for Europalia Indonesia literature program and had selected ten figures to feature and share their work and thoughts on Indonesian literature. 

"We want to show that Indonesia's diversity is not only one color. We also want to bring relatively new voices, because we want to highlight new perspectives," he said. (asw)

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