The Liberal Islam of Indonesia–Jaringan, by J.D. Meyer, mainly based on Ulil Abshar-Abdalla

Now it’s time to look at the liberal Islam of Indonesia at http://www.islamlib.com, also known as Jaringan Islam. What could be a better religious antidote to fanatic Muslim extremism than a faction of Islam that values reason?

Ulil Abshar-Abdalla read, “Upheaval in Islamic Thinking,” the journal of Ahmad Wahib, another Indonesian. Ahmad stated, “God is not a land forbidden to thought. God exists not in order for his existence to be un-thought. God takes shape not in order to hide from the light of the critique. He doesn’t want to be fixed in one place.” “Religion is a living organism that makes us feel enthusiasm.” Doesn’t that remind you of process theology? The Sufi go as far as to say that God created humans so he could be recognized.

The Mu’tazilah is a branch of Islam as major as the vastly better-known Sunni and Shiite. The Mu’tazilah asserts that through reason we can determine the limits of good and evil , undertake our own evolution and grow to be mature. Human reason is an active participant in interpreting the divine notions. We don’t have a brutish world; furthermore, revelation is not cruel but life-restoring.

A liberal Islam woman named Nong read the works of Fatima Mernissi, a Moroccan Muslim feminist. Fatima believed the wearing of the veil nowadays simply serves the political interests of men. But long ago, the tradition was necessary because Muslim women were harassed just to both Mohammed himself. Fatima and Nong feel that this veil tradition is outdated. Fatima feels that Moslem women should simply wear modest clothes that don’t attract attention. Turkey’s founder, Attaturk, forbade the veil tradition as he wanted some distance between religion and state.

A physicist, Imanuddin Abdurrahim, asserted, “If Moslems want to progress, they can’t depend only on religious texts produced in a certain social and historical context. Social law is not static.” If you don’t install lightning rods on a mosque, natural law could hurt you.

Ulil sees the roots of Moslem fundamentalism as born from a sense of desperation and disappointment. Muslims once knew a golden age, and now they feel degraded. Political fragmentation has hurt; they’ve been left behind in science and economics. They’re spectators of injustice by the West. The Muslim fundamentalist question can be, “Has God left us out?” A pretty shocking theory, but haven’t we seen people behave in a fashion that reminds us of the football proverb, “The best defense is a strong offense”? There’s no religion for those without reason, according to Ulil.

What is a Liberal Muslim description of sin? Sin incites the twitchy and turmoil in your heart, and you don’t like other people see you do it.
So what can religion do for us when our civilization has declined? It should uplift the humanitarian dignity more than worship of a fixed object.

This paragraph comes from Muhammad Ali, not the boxer. Extremists want to see a clash, so religious leaders ordained and lay need to build dialogue. The interrelatedness of sacred texts in the three Abrahamaic religions forms a starting point. Unequal power relations make it difficult. The West appears insensitive and arrogant while the Muslim world seems insecure and defensive. Constructive criticism leads to accountability. Yet the boundary leaders, those who operate on the borders of their community by reaching out to others, need support since it’s psychologically taxing. Ali warns of biblioidolatry, when one worships a religious text taken out of its historical context.

“Ulil’s (Abshar-Abdalla) Controversial Article in English”
We’ll close our survey of the Liberal Islam of Indonesia with a summary of Ulil Abshar-Abdalla’s article in English. Ulil begins by declaring, “Islam is first and foremost a living organism, a religion that evolves in accordance with the pulse of humankind’s development. The tendency to make an unchanging monument of Islam is very prominent at present and the time has come to combat this tendency.”

Ulil fashions a very structured article, starting with four key points: (1) Islam shouldn’t be literalistic; it needs to stay in step with an ever-changing civilization. (2) Local culture must be separate from values; we’re not obligated to follow Arab culture. (3) Muslims shouldn’t view themselves as cut off from other groups. The Quran never banned interreligious marriage. People are on the same level regardless of religion. (4) Social structure needs to distinguish between political power and religious power. Religion is a private matter while the ordering of public life is through the community reaching agreement through democratic deliberation. Now isn’t it refreshing to hear a statement in favor of democracy from a Moslem thinker?

Islamic law should protect the values of “religious freedom, reason, property, the family and honor.” “How these are translated into any given historical and social context is something the Muslims must work out for themselves through “ijtihad” (intellectual endeavor).

Muhammad (Peace be unto Him.) is “a historical figure that should be the object of critical study” and “not just an always-admired mythological figure by ignoring his human qualities and possible weaknesses.” Yet still he must be a model to be followed. Muhammad’s success at Medina was a negotiation between universal values and the social constraints at Medina.

Yet all works of human creativity regardless of religion have something to offer Moslems. Value can be concealed behind the form, according to Ulil. That reminds me of problems with office politics or the tension between the establishment and avant-garde. The enemy of all religions is injustice. Justice is not just a sermon but must be realized in the rules of the game, law, and deeds, according to Ulil.
Moslems must develop the capacity to face problems rationally. Muhammad said whoever wants to overcome the problems of the world and attain happiness should do it with science. Each field has its own principles and rules, but justice is paramount. Claiming the law of God appears as laziness and a form of escapism to Ulil, as well as the reason for the decline of Islam.

Dogmatism is the most dangerous enemy of Islam because it ignores civilization as an “accumulation of achievements supported by all nations.” Dogmatism builds a wall between them and us. The truth of God is greater than the Quran. Islam is better regarded as process more than institution. The prime criteria of goodness in religion should be the benefit of humankind.

“Skillful Teaching through Facilitating Discussion—Teaching skills is an essential pillar of a competent CHW and CHWI,” a lecture by Dr. Shannon Cox-Kelley, summarized by J.D. Meyer

This was the first lecture at the 2018 Community Health Workers Conference for the NE TX CHW Coalition, July 13, 2018.

The NE TX CHW Coalition Conference featured two main lectures and three breakout sessions. The first main lecture was by Dr. Shannon Cox-Kelley –Dean of Health Science–who teaches in the Community & Public Health degree program at NE TX Community College. She received all of her degrees at Texas A&M at Commerce and is a noted online distance educator.

Dr. Cox-Kelly cited four occasions to use discussion: (1) Evaluate evidence. (2) Formulate application of principles. (3) Foster motivation for further learning. (4) Articulate what has been already learned—theory behind the discussion.

Memory is linked to how deeply we think about something. A research interest cited in Dr. Cox-Kelley’s biography really clicked with me: “the impact of educational attainment on health outcomes in diverse communities.” My disabling condition is COPD, but as a Master’s degree holder and former all-level teacher (mainly Developmental English/Writing: the Pre-College Composition course), I’ve learned to study my conditions. (Yes, I have other health issues). I write Word Press articles on health and make binders full of info on medicine, ER reports, and journal articles.

Returning to Dr. Cox-Kelley, she notes that relationships are key, and we have a need to know why and how information is needed. The CHW Instructor could start with controversy like a “devil’s advocate,” but one should announce it in advance to maintain trust. Uncertainty arouses curiosity; switch sides. Focus on solving problems rather than the solution.

Many students are passive and quiet since we’re taught to memorize in secondary education. An increasingly popular practice is to flip the class and have the lecture at night on You Tube or something like it. Then the classroom becomes a place for total discussion. This flip improved passing rates at Dr. Cox-Kelley’s junior college. Think, don’t memorize.

How to start with questions means to start with desired outcomes. Factual questions increase problem-solving. Application and interpretation questions find connections. Problem questions can induce critical thinking. Comparison questions can evaluate readings.

Dr. Cox-Kelley cites principles behind case studies: (1) Increase focus. (2) Break cases into sub-problems. (3) Socratic questioning, and (4) Lead students toward intended outcomes. Once again, passive students can be a possible barrier, as well as failure for students to see value.

Dr. Cox-Kelley cited Discussions as a Way of Teaching, by S.D. Brookfield and S. Breskill (1999) as a fine relevant book. Students can experience a fear of looking stupid and the inability to consider alternative sides because of emotional attachment. Are they trying to find a correct answer or explore? Helping emotional reactions includes asserting the value of discussion and keeping opinions and verbalization in perspective. To conclude, collaboration is better than competition.

“Skillful Teaching through Facilitating Discussion” lived up to its subtitle of teaching skills being an essential pillar of both the Community Health Worker (CHW) and CHW Instructor (CHWI). Furthermore, Dr. Cox-Kelley’s lecture reached out to teachers looking for a second career or a stimulating cause in retirement.