by Siti Ruhanawati and Tanty Djafar
In the context of Indonesian Islam, the presence of women ulama (clerics) throughout the ages has been one of the strongest characteristics differentiating the face of Islam in Indonesia to other Muslim-majority countries. "Indonesians are too modest to sell and share their great experiences to the world", said well-known Malaysian Sisters in Islam activist Zainah Anwar during the first Female Muslim Clerics Congress/ Kongres Ulama Perempuan Indonesia (KUPI) on 25-27 April 2017 in Cirebon. KUPI brought together 800 participants from all Indonesian provinces and international participants from 13 countries. KSI was represented by the Alliance for Policy Research Excellence (ARK-Indonesia), including PUSAD Paramadina, PPIM UIN, and Sajogyo Institute. The theme of the congress was “Amplifying Women Ulama’s Voices, Asserting Values of Islam, Nationhood and Humanity. The 4-day event consists of seminars, discussions on the achievements and discussed stumbling blocks on the work of women ulamahood, and shared framework, strategy of action, and experiences from an international, national, and sub-national context.
Female Ulama have an important role to produce and to reproduce knowledge in their wider role in socio- political and cultural life of the country. They have long contributed to solve social issues on health, education, socio-cultural, conflict, environment etc. Based on data presented during the Congress, for instance, there are close to 300,000 reported cases on violence against women annual and the maternal mortality rate is 305/100.000 live birth and infant mortality 32/1000 live birth. These issues need to be solved by the active participation of women in policymaking.
KSI partners’ participation in this event was to build academic network and to contribute discourses on women’s role in the space of addressing critical knowledge sector issues. Leading up to the event, partners have published and contributed their discourse in the media. KSI partners were involved in two sessions. In the session on “The role of women in dealing with religious radicalism, affirming national values and promoting world peace”, PUSAD Paramadina presented their study on “The Ever-Changing Role of Women in Indonesian Extremist Groups”, which expands the discussion on the trending of women terrorist recruitment on the rise, and on research methodology of fatwa for contemporary issues in women’s perspective, on how to deconstruct the fatwa framework through a GESI sensitive lens. In A second session, on feminist research methodology, was facilitated by KSI consultant Lies Marcoes from Rumah Kitab, and presented the complexity of method and analysis in Islamic textual and contextual approach, as well as its challenge in patriarchal society.
KUPI closing ceremony was led by the Minister of Religious Affair, Lukman Hakim Syaifuddin. He conveyed that KUPI to revitalize the role of women ulama and to affirm moderation of Islam.