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Indonesia Tanpa Pacaran : Movement in Indonesia Encourages Young People to Skip Dating

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Indonesia Movement
FILE - Indonesian couples wait for their turn to wed during a 47-couple mass wedding ceremony in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 2005. VOA
  • The group suggests ta’aruf, the Islamic cultural practice of getting to know prospective spouses, usually through family introductions
  • Indonesia Tanpa Pacaran conducts both online and offline activities
  • Writer Munafar says he believes dating is largely deleterious to young people’s lives

According to followers of a popular Indonesian social movement, the country would be better off without dating.

Writer La Ode Munafar, 26, started Indonesia Tanpa Pacaran (Indonesia Without Courtship) nearly two years ago to encourage young Indonesians to skip dating and go straight to marriage.

The group’s message seems to have touched a nerve, acquiring over 200,000 Facebook likes and over 300,000 Instagram followers to date. Its posts often draw from Islamic culture, mixing in content about hijabs, for instance, with anti-dating graphics.

“I was concerned about the younger generation, who are victims of the doomed culture of courtship,” Munafar said when asked why he started the movement.

While the anti-dating movement has grown here, there have been several high-profile, unusual marriages in local news: one between two middle school students and another between a 16-year-old boy and 71-year-old woman, both in Sumatra.

Though these stories are somewhat sensationalist, child marriage is a big problem in Indonesia. Between 14 percent and 35 percent of Indonesian girls marry before age 18, depending on the province, according to UNICEF. Some child welfare advocates worry that the movement to skip dating in favor of marriage will aggravate this issue.

Burgeoning movement

Munafar says he believes dating is largely deleterious to young people’s lives.

He is 26, married, originally from Southest Sulawesi and currently lives in Yogyakarta. According to his website, he has written 60 books and runs a “quick-write” course that promises to generate a book manuscript with eight hours of training.

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Indonesia Tanpa Pacaran conducts both online and offline activities, he told VOA. Online, it offers consultations to concerned individuals or facilitates discussion on WhatsApp groups, broadcasts relationship advice on Tuesdays and Fridays by “love writers,” and mounts social media campaigns like #TolakValentineDay (Reject Valentine’s Day). Offline, it distributes books, holds “love seminars” and organizes meetups. Members gain access to official WhatsApp channels if they pay a fee of 170,000 rupiah (about $13).

“Dating only wastes time, energy and money for a moment’s pleasure,” said Munafar. “It’s not for serious relationships or building a house.” Munafar claims the movement gains over 1,000 followers on social media every day.

As an alternative to dating, the group suggests ta’aruf, the Islamic cultural practice of getting to know prospective spouses, usually through family introductions.

A religious officer canes an Acehnese youth onstage as punishment for dating outside marriage, which is against Sharia, or Islamic law, outside a mosque in Banda Aceh, Aug. 1, 2016. The strictly Muslim province, Aceh has become increasingly conservative in recent years and is the only one in Indonesia implementing Sharia.
A religious officer canes an Acehnese youth onstage as punishment for dating outside marriage, which is against Sharia, or Islamic law, outside a mosque in Banda Aceh, Aug. 1, 2016. The strictly Muslim province, Aceh has become increasingly conservative in recent years and is the only one in Indonesia implementing Sharia. VOA

Widespread trend

Indonesia Tanpa Pacaran isn’t the only sign of anti-dating sentiment. Other Instagram accounts like @nikahasik (cool marriage) glorify Islamic marriage to 650,000 followers. And there are Twitter accounts like @muliatanpapacaran(nobility without dating) that do the same.

Purwakarta in West Java banned dating in 2015, installing security cameras at public intersections to monitor social interactions.

And last year, conservative politicians proposed banning all extramarital sex. The nation’s highest court has not yet moved forward with discussion on the measure.

Indonesia Tanpa Pacaran has tried to lobby Indonesia’s ulama (religious scholar) council to issue a fatwa against dating, but its members have resisted so far, saying that fatwas ordinarily arise in response to specific incidents.

Child marriage concerns

Indonesia ranks among the 10 countries with the most child brides. By law, girls can marry at age 16, while boys can only marry at 19 with parental permission. But younger girls or couples can often get away on the nikah siri loophole, which refers to marriage performed under Islamic law.

“Overall, the legal loopholes in Indonesia legitimize various forms of child marriage,” said Emilie Minnick, a child protection specialist at UNICEF Indonesia. “Once married through nikah siri, it is extremely easy to then go through formalization of the marriage through the process of isbat, meaning that there is little incentive to go through legal marriage channels. Furthermore, the issue of child marriage in Indonesia is compounded by the fact that many authorities are proceeding on the basis of forged identity documents, which give a false age.”

Child marriage has many negative effects on girls, Minnick said. “Girls who marry before 18 are six times less likely to complete secondary education than girls who marry after 18, poverty makes Indonesian girls four times as likely to be married before age 18 … and globally, complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the second leading cause of death for girls ages 15 to 19,” she said, citing figures from Indonesia’s Central Bureau of Statistics.

Cultural pressure to skip dating is certainly not the only factor in child marriage. Poverty, cultural norms and lack of social services also play a role. But the movement seems to be symptomatic of the cultural environment that produces the practice. (VOA)

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Breaking Stereotypes : Halima Aden, the First Hijab-Wearing Model is Believed to be ‘Truly Representative of who we are as America’

The hijab - one of the most visible signs of Islamic culture - is going mainstream, with advertisers, media giants and fashion firms promoting images of the traditional headscarf in ever more ways

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Halima Aden
Allure magazine's editor-in-chief, Michelle Lee describes Halima Aden as a "normal American teenage girl" on the front cover of the magazine's July issue (VOA)

New York, September 13, 2017 : Roughly one year ago, Denise Wallace, executive co-director of the Miss Minnesota USA pageant, received a phone call from 19-year-old Halima Aden asking if she could compete in the contest wearing her hijab.

“Her photo popped up and I remember distinctly going, ‘Wow, she is beautiful,'” Wallace said.

The Somali-American teen made headlines as the first hijab-and burkini-sporting contestant in the history of the pageant.

The bold move catapulted her career to new heights involving many “firsts,” including being the first hijabi signed by a major modeling agency.

“I wear the hijab everyday,” Aden, who was in New York for Fashion Week, told Reuters.

The hijab – one of the most visible signs of Islamic culture – is going mainstream, with advertisers, media giants and fashion firms promoting images of the traditional headscarf in ever more ways.

Nike announced it is using its prowess in the sports and leisure market to launch a breathable mesh hijab in spring 2018, becoming the first major sports apparel maker to offer a traditional Islamic head scarf designed for competition.

Teen apparel maker American Eagle Outfitters created a denim hijab with Aden as its main model. The youthful headscarf sold out in less than a week online.

Allure magazine’s editor-in-chief, Michelle Lee, is also in the mix, describing Aden as a “normal American teenage girl” on the front cover of the magazine’s July issue.

“She is someone who is so amazingly representative of who we are as America, as a melting pot it totally made sense for us,” Lee said.

hijab
Fashion model and former refugee Halima Aden poses during a shoot at a studio in New York City. (VOA)

Aden, born in Kakuma, a United Nations refugee camp in Kenya, came to the United States at age 7 with her family, initially settling in St. Louis.

She fondly recalled her time at the refugee camp saying, “Different people, different refugees from all over Africa came together in Kakuma. Yet we still found a common ground.”

In America, she was an A-student and homecoming queen. Now, her ultimate goal is to become a role model for American Muslim youth.

“I am doing me and I have no reason to think that other people are against me,” Aden said. “So I just guess I’m oblivious.”

Aden said she is content being a champion for diversity in the modeling industry, but in the future she hopes to return to Kakuma to work with refugee children. (VOA)

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Shi’ite Religious Leaders in Afghanistan Ban Local Musical Festival, Call it “Harram”

As per the Shi’ite religious leaders' council, propagating music with dance and playing Dombra is against Islamic values

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Members of the Zohra orchestra
Members of the Zohra orchestra, an ensemble of 35 women, attend a rehearsal at Afghanistan's National Institute of Music, in Kabul, April 4, 2016. Source: (VOA)
  • Local musical festival in central Afghanistan banned by Shi’ite religious leaders
  • The organizers will perform the two-day Dombra festival anyway
  • It is against Islamic law as per Shi’ite religious leaders

Afghanistan,  July 18, 2017: A council of Shi’ite religious leaders in Bamyan province in central Afghanistan banned a local musical festival, calling it “Harram” or against Islamic law, while many other religious leaders hailed it as art and a cultural event.

Also read: Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

Local officials say that despite the disagreement with religious leaders, the organizers will go ahead with their schedule to perform the two-day Dombra Music Festival, and the statement of the religious council will not affect their cultural festival. The event was scheduled earlier this month.

The Dombra, a lute-like musical instrument, is distinctive in central regions of Afghanistan, although the instrument has different names in various provinces of Afghanistan among varied traditions.

The Shi’ite religious leaders’ council, in its statement, said, “Propagating music with dance and jubilance and playing Dombra is against Islamic values, and local administration must preclude such events that expand immoralities.”

The local administration of information and culture in Bamyan rejected the allegation of the religious council, emphasizing that the musical festival in Bamyan is holding on to the request of residents and the “Dombra musical festival is representing the culture and art of people in Bamyan.”

Bamyan has experienced less violence and insecurity than some provinces over past 15 years. More than 10 art and cultural festivals have been held on different occasions in Bamyan in recent years. In addition, two years ago, a group of women initiated an effort to learn Dombra and established a local band. (VOA)