Learning from success

Posted: June 5, 2012 at 2:12 pm

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At Large By: Rina Jimenez-David Philippine Daily Inquirer

JAKARTAIndonesia has been called the smiling face of Islam. Where the religion spread through much of the Middle East through military conquest, Islam in Indonesia (and in much of Southeast Asia) was brought in by Arab traders, proselytizing even as they were establishing commercial routes.

Which is not to say that Islam in Indonesia is less Islamic. I remember visiting the office of a judge in a Shariah court in Pakistan with women leaders from Southeast Asia. An Indonesian delegate remonstrated with the judge about his rather harsh interpretation of a point of law, and he asked: What country do you come from? Are you even Muslim? Of course I am Muslim, I come from Indonesia! she replied. Oh, Indonesia, said the judge with a smirk, you arent real Muslims!

We all left in a huff, and none was more irate than our Indonesian friend. Indonesia, after all, has the worlds largest Islamic population, and while Indonesian Muslims present to the world a gentle, smiling and tolerant face of Islam, they are no less religious, observant or loyal to their faith.

The women of Asyiyah-Muhammadiyah came to our Womens Edition seminar to talk about the role of this faith-based organization in promoting family planning and reproductive health in Indonesia. Dr. Atikah Zaki, the health and social coordinator of the womens branch of Muhammadiyah, came into the room dressed in a floor-length skirt, long-sleeved blouse and her head and neck covered in a scarf that reached down to her chest. Her two companions were dressed similarly. They were the very picture of Islamic modesty, as were most of the other women speakers.

And yet Zaki in particular was unabashed in her pride at the work that Asyiyah, the womens wing of Muhammadiyah, was doing in promoting family planning among their members. While Muhammadiyah was founded as a faith-based organization by a very influential and famous ulama (Islamic religious leader) in 1912 in Yogyakarta, Asyiyah was founded just five years later, and its work of upholding the status of women and promoting Islamic life has only been enhanced by its promotion of family planning and reproductive health.

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AS EARLY as 1968, just when the BKKBN, the national family planning coordinating board, was established, a national congress of ulama issued a fatwa (decree) declaring that Muslims could practice certain family planning methods without committing offense.

Today, Asyiyah and Muhammadiyah endorse the following family planning methods: the contraceptive pill, the IUD, and withdrawal (although this last is considered a traditional method that is unreliable), while forbidding the promotion of abortion, menstrual regulation and sterilization.

Despite the limitations, Asyiyah effectively promotes family planning through a network of 86 hospitals and hundreds of clinics, while teaching responsible sexual behavior (though I doubt if they use the term) in their network of 87 universities and over 4,000 schools. As part of the associations commitment to look after the welfare of members, local leaders also conduct regular counseling sessions, mediating disputes between a husband and wife and even addressing such sensitive issues as domestic violence and premarital sex.

Learning from success

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June 5th, 2012 at 2:12 pm

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