Adi Safri *)

Home and Away

According to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, a refugee is a person who is outside their country of origin, have a fear based around reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group, and because of this fear, they cannot or are unwilling to return to their country.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that at the end of February this year, about 152,570 refugees and asylum seekers are in Malaysia. They include about 141,570 from Myanmar, 3970 from Sri Lanka, 1200 from Pakistan, 1100 from Somalia, 960 from Syria, 850 from Iraq, 550 from Iran, 430 from Palestine and others.

What made me interested to doing this project is that I want to know about their lives deeper, by knowing what valuable and memorable items they have brought with them during the journey to Malaysia to seek refuge.

The main challenge I faced was how to get closer to them. I needed to spend time with them so that they will feel comfortable with me and share their lives and begin to show their belongings to me. Another challenge is to identify the location of their settlements and the limited communication is a bit complicated to progress my project.

























Salimah Gafu, ethnic of Rakhine, 36 years old with her 9 years old daughter cloth. Her daughter lives in Myanmar with her relative.














Somali women, Filsan Jama Muse holding her son. During her escape, she was pregnant with her son and gave birth in Malaysia.
















Laila Amiruddin, 17 years old, ethnic Rohingya, Myanmar with her school bag.















Osman Bilal, 31 years old, ethnic of Rakhine, Myanmar, with his engagement picture (second from right is his fiancee). His fiancee is now living in Myanmar.














Tawhidah Mohd Ghafar, 18 years old, ethnic Rakhine, Myanmar, holding a plate of Thanaka (a traditional herb talc) that she brought from Myanmar and is for the used for the whole family before she came to Malaysia.















Abdul Basik, 18 years old, with his slingshot. This is his favorite slingshot he brought from Myanmar.














Osman Mohamad, 37 years old, ethnic of Rohingya, holding a Hadith book (collections of texts purported to quote what the prophet Muhammad said verbatim on any matter). He brought from Myanmar and always with him.















Mohd Ghafar Malik, 39 years old, ethnic of Rakhine, Myanmar, holding a picture of his kids. One of his sons is now in Myanmar and taken care of by his aunt.















Mohamad Haniff Hussain, Ethnic of Rakhine, Myanmar holding his last 200 Kyat note when he arrived in Malaysia.















Somali boy, Bishar Abdisalam, 12, holding his shoes given by his father. Until now his father is believed to be lost due to the war.















A Somali boy, Ali Abdisalam, 15 years old, wearing ‘Goa Shall’, a traditional Somali cloth. This cloth was giving by his father. Until now his father is believed to be lost due to war.















A Somali child, Khafid Ahmed Khaif, 4 years old holding a toy that was taken by her mother during the escape to Malaysia. This toy is the only thing he loved, brought here.















Somali women, Hawo Mohamed Abubakari, 32 years old, with her son, her only child.















Shaban Amiruddin, 18 years old, ethnic of Rohingya, Myanmar with her slippers that she woreear to escape to Malaysia




Adi Safri is a photographer based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He studied Photography at a local University before working at a local newspaper and production house. He has covered a range of stories on Malaysian festivals and events. He currently works at The New Straits Times Press as an entertainment photographer.

Adi is took part in Exposure+5 and was mentored by Snow Ng.

*) Sumber:

Indonesia Enlists Female Clerics in the Fight Against Extremism *)

Written By: Priyanka Borpujari

As more women become involved in violent extremism, Indonesia has embraced a new weapon in the fight against radicalization: its first recognized cohort of female Muslim clerics.

JAKARTA, INDONESIA – “Who was washing the underpants of men who had joined fundamentalist groups when they were on the run? It was the wife!” So observes Lies Marcoes, a Muslim feminist and researcher in Indonesia, who is training women to help prevent violent extremism.

She says it’s time to explore the role of women in violent extremism in Indonesia, both in fomenting and preventing it.

In recent years, Indonesia has seen a number of men join radical Islamist groups, declaring themselves to be jihadists. Some have traveled to Syria to join the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), many with the support of the women in their lives.

Women are also joining the fight more directly. Since August 2015, several Indonesian women have been arrested for their roles in spreading jihadism and their intent to carry out terrorist acts. Dian Yulia Novi was arrested in December 2016, the night before she intended to blow herself up at Indonesia’s presidential palace. Another woman, Ika Puspitasari, was picked up a few days later in the ensuing investigation for planning a suicide attack in Bali. Indonesian women have also acted as fundraisers and online network organizers for ISIS.

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population and prides itself on its secularism. As the threat of violent extremism has drawn more and more attention over recent years, new ideas have flourished about how to counter it. One of these is using female Islamic clerics to spread the message.

Now may be the best time to do so. Until recently, the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI) refused to recognize women as clerics, or “ulama,” a position conferred based on a person’s knowledge of the Quran and the Book of Hadith, a collection of the Prophet Mohammad’s teachings. But that changed last month, when women ulama from across Indonesia gathered to assert their erudition and advance women’s rights through a renewed interpretation of the religious texts.

Ideologies held by women are crucial to understanding the actions of men. Many young women join extremist movements – or support their husbands in joining – because they care deeply about inequality and injustice.

Nor Rofiah, a lecturer at Institute of Koranic Studies in Jakarta and an ulama, says women often get involved in extremism because of skewed gender relations within families. “Women are expected to obey the male authority within their families; they are expected to be subservient to the husband.”

“Any disobedience is seen as not being a good Muslim, and radicalism is targeting this feeling of not being Muslim enough,” she says.

A report from the Indonesia-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict recently argued women in Indonesia who marry ISIS fighters do so in order to “reinforce social hierarchies [and] satisfy the ‘biological needs’ of prisoners.” But women also see opportunities in radicalization that allow them to break out of these hierarchies.

In 2014, Marcoes’ research organization Rumah Kita Bersama interviewed 20 Indonesian women who were in, or had been involved with, fundamentalist groups.

She found they had a wide range of reasons for joining fundamentalist groups, but one stand-out was the need to feel recognized as equal human beings on par with men, beyond their mere reproductive roles. “They want to learn to make a bomb, and put to use their intelligence,” she says.

In both cases, Rofiah and Marcoes assert that women ulama have an advantage that their male counterparts don’t: the experience of being a woman, trying to establish herself in a patriarchal world. Used right, this common thread of subjugation can be the catalyst in changing the narrative to counter radicalism.

The Asian Muslims Action Network in Indonesia is currently working to identify women ulama who would be able to speak to their communities about the devastating impacts of extremism, in the name of Islam.

Dwi Rubiyanti Kholifah is the network’s country director for Indonesia. “Not all women ulama are comfortable discussing this issue, as it seems sensitive,” she says.

“We have to start with what they are comfortable with: the Quran and the Hadiths, and understanding the concept of jihad. We need to emphasize that radicalism is not something that is taking place elsewhere,” she explains.

Marcoes, who has been a mentor to women ulama like Rofiah on gender issues, argues that clerics need to be given an understanding of violent extremism from the perspective of those behind it, and plans to do so through Rumah Kita Bersama.

“We will select women ulama from areas where men have been arrested for their radical links,” she says.

“We will develop a curriculum so that they are later able to work with the families of those whose male members are in jail,” she explains.

A key factor, adds Kholifah, is to ensure that the next generation of men is not consumed by revenge when they see their fathers are arrested for extremism.

While for some women, dedicating their wombs and their roles as wives and mothers to “soldiers of God” is their identity, the same idea can be flipped towards convincing women to use that same role to prevent the men in their lives from taking up arms.

“Women ulama have their religious knowledge, and agency over the communities,” Marcoes says.

“Violent extremism is not just in a man’s world.”


Female Ulama voice a vision for Indonesia’s future *)

By: Kathryn Robinson **)

Islam, the religion of the vast majority of Indonesian citizens, is a site of contestation in envisioning Indonesia’s future. Gender equity as a democratic value has been a strong claim since the fall of Suharto. Recent international focus has been on the Jakarta gubernatorial elections and the campaign against Chinese background Christian governor Ahok by hard-line Islamists, ending in his blasphemy trial and conviction (and electoral loss). While his Islamist opponents—apparently allied with crony capitalists—have seized media attention, their vision of Indonesia’s future under sharia law is not uncontested.

In April, Indonesian religious scholars and activists hosted a world first: a convention of female religious authorities (ulama). The conference title, KUPI (Kongres Ulama Perempuan Indonesia), played with a dual meaning: female religious authorities, and scholars (male and female) whose interpretations of the Qur’an and Hadith proclaim gender equity (kesetaraan jender) as a fundamental principle of Islam. Over three days, speakers and delegates discussed the history of female religious authority in Indonesia—a claim that is highly contentious to hard line groups who argue that male authority, as prayer leaders and hence as political leaders, is a fundamental Islamic principle. They also discussed the more abstract concepts of social justice and human rights, as fundamental Islamic values focusing on issues like sexual and domestic violence and child marriage.

Day one was an international seminar (pictured above) where female speakers from other majority Muslim nations, including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, The Sudan and Kenya (which has a substantial Muslim minority) joined leading Indonesian female ulama. Many of the international speakers commented that it would be unthinkable to have such a convention in their countries, and in particular they would not get official support, as this convention did. A representative of the Minister of Religious Affairs (which regulates Islamic affairs including education and marriage) and the local district head (bupati) both spoke at the opening ceremony, and the Minister of Religious Affairs, Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, closed the conference on the third day. The first day ended in a pageant where seven women ulama from across the country enacted the sources that would be used in developing the fatwa that would outline the main findings of the conference: these included the Qur’an; Hadith (Prophet traditions); Kitab Kuning (‘Yellow Books’—the books of religious instruction used in Islamic schools [pesantren]); the Indonesian Constitution and international instruments like the UN Declaration on Human Rights.

The mention of the constitution as a source of principles for Indonesia’s Muslims is a direct challenge to the Islamist desire to have sharia law as the basis of Indonesia’s legal system. Further, the emphasis on international instruments challenges the attack by hardliners on what they see as ‘alien’ and ‘liberal’ values. The women also held up small trees representing the environment, indicating the role of Islamic values in stopping rapacious destruction of the environment as another key issue.

The international speakers outlined that while gender equity is a struggle in all the countries represented, in many places they face struggles already won by women in Indonesia. For example, the speaker from Saudi Arabia discussed the campaign ‘I am my own wali’ (guardian): Saudi women need their male guardians’ permission to marry (and travel abroad or have medical treatment) whereas for Indonesian women, the issue is the discrepancy in the minimum age of free choice of marriage for female Indonesian citizens between different legal instruments. The speakers from Pakistan, The Sudan and Nigeria discussed the sensitive issue of how women educators combat radicalism through working with young people and with mothers of radicalised youth.

Siti Ruhaini Dzuhayatin, a notable Indonesian female cleric who currently heads the Independent Human Rights Commission of Organization of Islamic Co-operation (IOC) was another international speaker. She argued for Islamic values protecting human rights and that the Qur’an basically pushes for monogamy, accommodating and humanising polygamy which was a pre-Islamic practice and not part of Islamic teaching. Another instance of international co-operation in promoting women-friendly Islamic values was reported by Zainah Anwar, a founder of Sisters in Islam in 1998 which has now developed an international organisation Musawah, a ‘global movement for justice and equity in the Muslim family’. She praised Indonesia’s record on gender equity, while acknowledging the challenges still to be faced.

The congress attracted nearly 2000 registrants—more women than men, and a mix of scholars and activists, of all ages. There were delegates from all over Indonesia. It was held at the State Islamic Institute and also on the campus of the pesantren (religious boarding school) Kebon Jambu Al-Islamy in Cirebon, West Java, which is headed by a woman scholar, Nyai Hj. Masriyah Amva. The congress site had a carnivalesque atmosphere, with small stalls selling clothes and food, banners lining the entrance road, a tent erected for the opening ceremony and some plenary discussions, and cultural and music performances, including many performances of Shalawat Keadilan, or joyous songs in praise of the Prophet with a theme of equity. These popular renderings of Islamic values have been promoted by the groups that organised the congress as a way of bringing their interpretation to a wide audience.


Violence against women and women’s rights within marriage and the family were key issues. The Cirebon cleric Kiyai Haji Hussein Muhammad, who has been a pioneer of interpretations of the Qur’an that promote gender equity, and who has served in the National Commission on Violence against women (Komnas Perempuan), is well known for problematising polygamy as an Islamic practice. Hussein has been a leading figure arguing against textualism (interpretations of the Qur’an and Hadith that do not take account of social and cultural context), which is seen as a source of hard line Islam.

The Kiyai received a rousing cheer from the audience when the session chair identified him from the podium. Polygyny (poligami) has long been contentious in Indonesia, with the 1974 marriage law restricting it and putting it under the authority of the religious courts with strict rules for approval. One judicial challenge to the polygamy restriction on the grounds that it is a restriction on religious freedom was unsuccessful, but another is in preparation.

The second day of the conference began with the women ulama meeting to discuss the doctrinal issues related to the three core issues of the congress: sexual violence against women, child marriage and environmental protection as a gender issue. These topics were picked up in workshops in the afternoon, to discuss the religious textual foundation, social research, and action to combat the identified problems.

I attended the workshop on child marriage, another issue that has recently been highlighted through the practices of emerging hardline groups. Supporters of legal reform challenge to the minimum age of marriage for girls in the marriage law (16) had mounted a judicial challenge in the Constitutional Court. They argued that it was at variance with the age of marriage specified in the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child to which Indonesia is a signatory. The Constitutional Court rejected the appeal, and used Islamic texts in its decision. The workshop, led by several young male kiyai, reviewed the textual justifications for banning child marriage, arguing the focus of the Court decision had been too narrow. From the textual basis they moved to report on research on practices and impact of child marriage while working on strategies, including a further legal challenge that would present a broader set of texts, and the research results.

The vision of Indonesia’s Islamic future that the convention presented was that associated with Indonesia’s major mass organisation, NU (Nahdlatul Ulama). This promotes the view of Indonesian Islam as tolerant, fundamentally democratic and supportive of religious harmony; and promotes what Islamic scholar Azyumadi Azra calls Indonesia‘s ‘colourful’ Islam as variable and adaptive to local cultures. The movement for women-friendly interpretation of Islam has been occurring since the 1990s, especially associated with Kiyai Hussein and the groups Rahima and Fahima, that were instrumental in organising this congress. It was supported by women’s organisations of the major Islamic movements in Indonesia, NU and Muhammadiyah, both of whose members number in the millions. By contrast, the women’s wings of the emergent Islamist groups, such as Hizbut Tahrir, oppose gender equity on the grounds that it is a Western, liberal, agenda and support the regulation of gender relations through conservative application of sharia.

The congress ended with a declaration of three fatwa, reinforcing the value of female religious authority. The first fatwa argued for a minimum age of marriage of 18; the second, that sexual violence against women, including within marriage, is haram (forbidden). The third fatwa picked up the theme of environmental protection: environmental destruction is haram as it can trigger social and economic imbalances and place burdens on women. The congress called on the government to stop allowing the destruction of natural resources for ‘development’. Congress attendees have strong links into the community, and the organisers hold significant institutional positions, respect and support from government. This movement has been slowly building for a long time and is a significant voice in defining the future of Indonesia.[]


**) Kathryn Robinson is Emeritus Professor in the School of Culture, History & Language, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.