THE TEN COMMON-MENTS: Some Experiences From Indonesia

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By Ayu Utami
Published in International Writing Program, The University of Iowa,
May 14, 2008

So Indonesia became a republic that upholds monotheism. It sounds odd, especially when we imagine that these green and lush tropical islands, settled three thousands and some years before Moses, decided to embrace the concept of a single god in the middle of the 20th century. Right after the proclamation of
independence at the end of World War II our founding fathers were faced with a decision concerning a crucial issue: the foundation of the new state. While the Islamists groups advocated the sharia law, at least for the country’s Moslems, the nationalist faction was of the opinion that it was enough to mention
a “ belief in God,” in addition to humanism and social justice, as the state’s foundation. The Christian minority from the eastern islands gave notice of their secession if the sharia was to be mentioned in the principles. As a compromise they decided to add a cluster of adjectives to god. So, the first principle of the state foundation Pancasila [read: Pan-cha-see-la] was formulated roughly like this: The Belief in One and Only God. Thus Indonesia was born, a state which is neither theocratic nor secular. And, please be advised, the new state does not acknowledge Judaism. A prominent writer, Linus Suryadi, was once accused of blasphemy against Islam when he said that circumcision was originally a Jewish practice that was embraced by Islam.

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