Mohamad Slamet and his table of offerings for sale
Bali’s Moslem Kampung
As Not published in the Jakarta Post due to Philistine Junta
Pemangku priest inside the Pura Sakenan temple . The 15th century coral stone pagoda of the adjacent Pura Dalem Sakenan temple is visible in the background.
In 1974 I adopted a Balinese family in Kepaon, a small rural village halfway between Sanur and Kuta. In the eight years I lived with them I learned a lot about Bali’s first moslem kampung, Kampung Islam Kepaon, which was adjacent our village, to the south.
The moslems in that kampung were nearly all directly descended from a group Madurese palace retainers who, in the mid eighteenth century, had accompanied a Balinese princess home to Pemecutan palace in Denpasar, after the death of her moslem prince husband. Raden Ayu Siti Khotijah had converted to islam as a young bride and had lived for thirty years as a begum in the Sampalan Palace in Madura.The story goes that one night after her return home to Bali she was doing her moslem prayers: one of the palace guards was alarmed — thinking that she was practising witchcraft —— and put her to death with his spear. On hearing of this tragedy, the princess’ brother, the reigning Pemecutan prince, imediately instructed his court to bury his sister according to the islamic tradition in the Denpasar graveyard and to build a kramat, or holy tomb, in the Hindu-Islamic Balinese-Madurese style. The tomb survives to this day, and was recently restored by both the Pemecutan and the Madurese family.
The prince sent his younger brother to Kepaon, to start a vassal village, and to look after the princesses moslem retainers who were granted land nearby. Here Bali’s first mainland mosque was built ( the mosque of the bugis community on Turtle Island may pre-date the Kepaon mosque).
The kampung became famous for its madurese style poney carts or dokar which plied the streets of Kuta and South Bali .
The two communities lived together happily for two centuries until an influx of more fundamentalist Javanese moslems in the 1970s — an influx related to Kuta’s burgeoning tourist industry — prompted a rift. The dokar drivers became taxi drivers, but still plied the same traditional routes. By the 1990s the youths of the two communities of a now suburban Kepaon were at each others throats, resulting in a number of tragic deaths on both sides. A police post was built on the boundary in 1999 and all has been quiet since.
Tragically quite a number of taxi drivers who died the night of the Sari Club bomb were from Kampung Islam Kepaon.
The prince of Kepaon is still one of the royal pangemong — with Kesiman Palace in East Denpasar and the priests of Intaran in Sanur — of the mighty three day Pura Sakenan temple festival on Serangan ( Turtle) Island, which is held once every thirty weeks according to the Balinese wuku calender.
Serangan village, like Kepaon village is a community with a long tradition of Hindu and Balinese moslem interaction.
A Moslem boy watching a Hindu Procession go by in Suwung, near Sanur
10 December 2006: Manis Kuningan, the most golden day in the Balinese calendar.
At 7 a.m. I race to Turtle Island to pray at the mighty 13th century Pura Dalem Sakenan Temple.
50,000 other devotees have the same idea.
It is a beautiful sight in the morning sun – a stadium-load of Balinese in bright temple dress, queuing at water’s edge in front of the giant coral pagoda plaza.
To get quickly to my shrine (and back home for tennis) I take a short-cut – pushing through a flimsy barricade – and park myself in front of the meru shrine to Ratu Agung, the son of the God of Sakenan temple, my personal mentor.
Balinese worshippers from far flung flung villages, unaware of the temple’s ancient intricate protocol, surge eastwards like lemmings, trampling underfoot us more traditional pilgrims as we go about our prayers.
I leave the temple bloodied and bruised.
In search of my car I stumble across a young boy selling bags of offerings. It is a supremely photogenic vignette in the sea of vendors.
“What is your name?” I enquire.
“Mohammad Slamet,” comes the reply (It seems that Bali’s Moslem community are now doing Hindu offering merchandising!).
Mohammad dutifully poses for a few photographs as he explains, in Balinese, his family’s annual effort for this Hindu temple festival.
A few hundred metres on I find an Ivy League parking attendant in Hindu Balinese dress – he is controlling the traffic with two big red batons. His name is John Ellis and he is from the Stanford University Volunteer Programme.
“Did you volunteer to direct the traffic at Turtle Island?”
“No, I live here in Serangan village and I am researching Bali’s Moslem populations,” he replies in perfect Serangan-accented high Balinese, waving his baton at errant pilgrims.
“I’ve just published an article in the Jakarta Post!”
He is dashingly good-looking, like a Titian-red-haired Tyrone Power. He has a scrabble-playing Batak girlfriend I later find out.
Stay tuned for the further adventures of J.P. Ellis and his Simanjuntak Scrabble queen.
Ellis explains how his neighbour , Ni Made Ariani, was born as Edah . In order to marry her Hindu husband she converted from Islam to Hinduism and adopted a Balinese Hindu name, much as her mother before her converted from Hinduism to Islam in order to marry Ni Made’s father. And if Ni Made’s daughter, now a ten year old honors student at one of the island’s primary schools, should later marry a Muslim, she too will convert to Islam from her native Hinduism.
In an Indonesia and world increasingly concerned with sectarian divisions, Ellis continued, Serangan stands as a model of a multi-faith community living in harmony; one of many thousands of similar communities throughout Indonesia.
The history of the founding of kampung Islam Serangan crosses paths with that of kampung Islam kepaon. A protracted war in the seventeenth century between the Balinese Hindu Kingdoms of Badung (Pemecutan) and Mengwi saw the Kingdom of Badung request military assistance from seafaring Bugis fishing communities originally from southern Sulawesi. After several decisive battles the Kingdom of Badung triumphed, and the Bugis were given a parcel of land on present day Serangan Island in a token of the Kingdom’s gratitude for their martial assistance..
Today, the Buginese village and its 350 year-old mosque stand nestled between Hindu banjars near the island’s north-eastern coast.
“Serangan is a very unique place,” expalins Bapak Abdul Rahman, an elder from teh moslem community, and grandfather of young Mohamad Slamat who I had encountered the day before. “For centuries now the Hindu banjars and the Bugis village have existed peacefully. This is because we have structures in place, between the elders of both communities, to talk and avoid conflict. If there is a problem between the youth, we quickly settle it. Emotions are not permitted to rise. We take immediate action to ensure that problems are resolved quickly and collaboratively. I learned this as a child while watching my father, and the young will learn it now from us.”
The gateway to the keramat (tomb) portion of the temple is Javanese Hindu in form but islamic in style. Javanese keramat often have vats of water-lillies flanking the gate, as is the case here. |
The kermat tomb of the Balinese moslem princess, Raden Ayu Siti Khotijah which is maintained by her Hindu Balinese family and the moslem descendents of her Madurese palace retainers, who now live in Kampung Islam, Kepaon |
Inside the Pura Keramat a holy puleh tree, the Hindu-Balinese graveyard tree has grown. The spirits who dwell within this tree within a moslem keramat are afforded Hindu rites.
Monday, 13th December 2006: I join a procession of the Kepaon gods returning from Sakenan temple
Tonight, Pemapagan night, is Kepaon’s big night on the South Bali stage, when they roll out their two buffalo chariot and ferry their gods home, amidst much pomp and ceremony, from a temple near Turtle Island to the main state temple adjacent the Kepaon palace.
I always carry the lead umbrella over the lead diety and am used to drawing gasps from the moslem community who traditionally line the stretch of the route that crosses through their kampung . In this way The Kepaon moslems welcome home their neighbours from their big ceremonial stint on the island.
This year, for the first time, the front yards are bare and all the lights are out in the islamic modern low-rise.
No time to worry about that we sweep into the Kepaon temple forecourt where the barong from Medwi is waiting — gamelan blaring, cymbals crashing — to greet the returned gods. Medwi was once a remote rural community famed for its Silat dancers and Barong but is now swamped by McMansions of the exotic villa variety. But that has not changed the ferocity of its demon-dancers: tonight our village is treated to at least thirty trance dances of the plunging keris -knife kind. Wild-eyed surfies and villa-vendours defend the faith in a display of musical mystical might.
Forget about rifts in neighbouring religious communities...in Bali, the show must go on.
Email correspondences between the author and editor on discontinuation column
From: Jim Read
To: Made Wijaya
CC: “Endy Bayuni”, Putu Semiada
Subject: Discontinuation of ‘Stranger in Paradise’ column
Date: Mon, 8 Jan 2007
I understand you are in California at present; I would have preferred to speak to you directly but under these circumstances I hope you will understand why I have e-mailed you instead.
I am the new editor of Sunday Post (from today), having been transferred from my previous position as features editor. I believe we met in Bali some years ago when your (excellent) book on Balinese architecture was first launched in Ubud.
I am proposing to make a number of changes to the paper; among these, I am planning to discontinue the Stranger in Paradise column, with immediate effect.
This is for a number of reasons: First, I do not think the column is suitable in the kind of paper that I envisage. This sentiment has also been echoed by some of our readers, at least three of whom sent us strongly worded letters of complaint (published on the JP website on Dec. 2, Nov. 4 and June 22 last year).
I understand you may already know the complainants (respectively Robert Cannon, T. Nilsen et al and Mark Forbes); regardless of whether their complaints may or may not have been prompted by personal animosity, their comments are not unreasonable and objectively provide third-party justification for the decision I have taken.
Second, the column has not turned out as we originally envsiaged. Then-deputy editor Chisato Hara originally contacted your office with a view to your having a regular column on Balinese architecture, landscape design, etc, that could feature on the design page of the paper. This is where I believe your strength (and motivation) really lie, especially in view of the outspoken comments you have made extensively (elsewhere) about the use of ersatz Balinese design, particularly by newcomers to the tourist industry.
Third: Stranger in Paradise already exists as a column with similar content in hello bali magazine, if I am not mistaken; I find it odd that a column with exactly the same name should appear in Sunday Post.
Fourth, I would like to make two suggestions on how you might be able to contribute to the paper. We could return to the original concept (on design), which need not be written in a dry style but be full of your customary wit (and pith).
An alternative would be for a gossip column on what is happening in Bali, as I guess much of what’s worth hearing must come your way. Obviously, it would have to be written circumspectly, to avoid charges of libel or other legal difficulties. If successful, it could turn out to be a compelling reason why readers turn to the paper.
I look forward to your reply.
I very much hope we can continue an association with you, as I feel you could still make a very positive contribution to Sunday Post.
With best regards,
Sunday Post Editor
—— Original Message ——
From: Made Wijaya
To: Jim Read
Sent: Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Subject: Re: Discontinuation of ‘Stranger in Paradise’ column
Well of course I am devestated as I thought my team — Pintor Sirait, Putu Semiada, the cartoonists, Agus Ferry — and I were doing a special job. I hope you will print my last column, which is not at all contraversial( submitted last week and handed over to you by Chisato-san( who was always very very supportive of my work) to soften the hurt ( its horrible to be dumped like this). You might put at the end “ This will be the last Stranger in Paradise column in the Jakarta Post.Made Wijaya has thrown himself off the cliff at Uluwatu.
Originally I wanted the column to be called Londo Depok and Kanisius agreed to a full page of regional stories —opinion, travel,otherwise. It was Bp Kanisius who changed it to Stranger in Paradise —the Jakarta Diaries. I didn‘t mind.
I really feel that the real voice or even an alternate voice of Bali ( alternate to the stereotypical tourism drivle) should be heard; I even felt that I had a small but loyal following. Obviously I was wrong.
I would love to keep writing for the best Engish paper in the country I love but I am really just a columnist these days ( new monthly column starts in India Express(Chennai) this month, and Liesure and Travel(BKK) are very happy with my column “Frequent flier on maximum alert” which has been going for the last two issues ( Putu, please send Jim “Lost in Spas”)
Good luck with your new vision jakarta Post,
Salam dari Mexico,
—— Original Message ——
From: Made Wijaya
To: Jim Read
Cc: Pintor Sirait
Sent: Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Subject: Re: Made Wijaya’s comments: Re-Discontinuation of ‘Stranger in Paradise’ column
Jim, its now 24 hours since I got your terrible news and I still feel like a mother who’s lost a child.
You really should have spoken to me first. And a period of adjustment would have been polite .It was wrong for you to send the dismissal notice via my Landscape Design Office ( did Kanisius not give you my email??) as I would have liked to have explained to my team myself. THEY THOUGHT THAT EXPAT PROFESSIONAL JOURNALISTS WOULD BE kinder TO THEIR FELLOW PROFESSIONALS i’M SURE .
I really think newspapers should not fire columnists like this.wE ARE INSIDERS.And editors should defend their columnists(CHisato-san did). It’s Like I’d done something wrong. It makes me look like a fool. And I hope you run my last story with some announcement. But I really hope you’ll reconsider.
Jp never ran any of the letters sent my notables ( bcc to me occasionally).
As this column was new turf I always sent the text in early and asked for editorial guidance. I only got positive comments from Chisatosan.
REREADING YOUR EMAIL in teh light of day ( I got in Mexico at 1 a.m. and could not sleep) I see that a restructuring is possible. The column could go back to its original name LONDO DEPOK and I’d be happy to do one column in four on design and architecture( Chisato-san did often ask for this...but I’m writing a book on this all teh time and am a bit burned out on design!). And take editorial advice.
Was my writing that uninteresting. I thought it was a fun read and that it always carried a pro cultural tourism message.It will be percieved as a victory for the real estate carpetbaggers and the mass tourism merchants if the columnist is summarily dismissed.
My Wijaya WOrds editor/director Pintor Sirait is in Jakarta now and I ask you to contact him ( it was Pintor who landed me the column and who always spoke to Kanis and CHisato-san at crux moments). His cell no. is 081xxxxxxx
FYI: I had a team of advisers — one a top int’l journalist based in Bali, one an ex (23 years) Jakarta resident, one a senior diplomat ( ex Jkt, now working in Bali) — to comment on the column’s content and tone ( As i am not a Jkt resident). Are you not aware of the beauty of the exclusive fotos, many from our unique Indonesia Images archive, and the clever cartoons by Indonesian artists over the 6 months since the column’s inception.
—— Original Message ——
Jim Read <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
I think I made it clear that I would have preferred to have spoken to you directly at first, but that was not feasible.
As I did not have your contact details (neither did the old Sunday desk) it was essential for me to make contact with at least the one person (Putu S.) whose hp number Chisato had as soon as possible, in order to avoid any more abortive work being done. I made it clear to him that I really wanted to speak to you directly, but given the circumstances it was sensible to at least inform him about the discontinuation of the column.
I propose to make a clean break with the column so that will be with immediate effect, as I said before — there is clearly no sense in running it for one week under my editorship and then dropping it. I would not be dropping the column if I thought it made a positive contribution to the paper, either.
I do not wish to run anything titled Londo Depok (or anything of that ilk) but would be very keen to consider a (monthly?) pithily-written column on design (not necessarily in Bali only, as there’s much to comment on in Jakarta and elsewhere, too!). That would certainly deny the Bali tourism Johnnie-come-latelies the victory you fear. Indeed, the sharper focus on design in a revamped column could make them sleep unseasily in their beds ...
I’m also open to the idea of a gossip column, but alas, you may be in such demand elsewhere that you are not in Bali long enough these days to hear much of it ...
—— Original Message ——
Date: Wed, 10 Jan 2007
From: “Made Wijaya”
Subject:Re: Made Wijaya’s comments: Re-Discontinuation of ‘Stranger in Paradise’ column
To: “Jim Read”, “Chisato”, “Kanisius Dursin”, “Pintor Sirait”
You really are tough. That column was a lot of work by my team. We have worked well and hard for the J P for little recompense. I think it would be normal and polite, decent even, under the circumstances, to run that finalcolumn.It was accepted by my past editor at JP .
Also, as I was a regular columnist,it would be polite to tell my readers that this column will be the last.Or they will assumed I was fired dishonourably.
(Did you work at IMIGRASI in a past life?)
You seem not to consider my feelings as a dedicated columnist for JP.
—— Original Message ——
From: Putu Semiada
To: Jim Read
Cc: Kanisius Dursin
Sent: Saturday, January 13, 2007
Subject: Re Discontinuation of ‘Stranger in Paradise’ column
As a Balinese who is proud of his own culture, I am very sorry that you have decided to discontinue the Stranger in Paradise. Personally, I really appreciate what Made has been doing and his dedication to Bali through his SIP pieces. His writings have different angle when talking about Bali compared to the most writers.
You’ve been in Bali and you know about Bali, how we love our culture. And you know also the situation we are facing here where our island has been ruined vastly by those Jakarta developers. And Made is the only one who depends us because nobody else.
You said that one of the reasons of the discontinuation is that his article has brought complainants. I don’t think that it is a strong reason. It seems that you are paranoid to complainants. Well, complainant doesn’t always mean bad, but it often enriches views. Sometimes people complain/criticize other’s piece because they like it. It’s just different way to show their appreciation. And that’s what I think that happens to the SIP. I am sure that Made has a lot of loyal readers, a lot more than a few who protest. And Chisato-san team could manage it well. Why couldn’t you? Or is it because those developers behind you?
I hope you could reconsider your decision.
----- Original Message -----
From: Made Wijaya
To:Agus Setiawan ;Jim Read ; Kanisius Dursin
Cc: Pintor Sirait ; Putu Semiada ; Nyn.Miyoga ; Sri Sudewi
Sent: Thursday, January 18, 2007
Subject: Perilaku nggak senonoh seorang bule brengsek........
Incredibly rude of Jim Read, Kanisius and Sabam to treat us like this after all that pengabdian. It would have been easy to be nice about it, and do the normal professional thing. And to run this column Chisato-san accepted in December. Jim obviously has a bad case of the sentimen pribadi.
Cancel JP subscription. Send back my communion card. Ganyang Malaysia. Copy this to all contributing writers (our friends)
FYI, only Chisato-san dared say she liked our effort. Make small shrine to her memory next to our Saraswati shrine. Sacrifice ayam betina bunglun on new moon for duration.