by. Musdah Mulia

Actually, I am active in a number of organizations including in a number of women organizations. Even though I also pursued a career in government institutions (as a researcher and lecturer within the Ministry of Religious Affairs). This job does not prevent me from being active in various women organizations such as Fatayat NU and Muslimat NU (Islamic Women Organization) and non-government organizations (LSM), and also as an official with the Central Board of the Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI), establishing the LKAJ (The Institute for Religion and Gender Studies), and together with a number of religious leaders establishing an interfaith institute called the ICRP (Indonesia Conference on Religion and Peace).

It is from the latter-mentioned institution, ICRP, that I and other women religious leaders have jointly identified ourselves as women of faith. And our role is directed more towards the efforts to develop awareness of morality and humane responsibility for all. We have built the awareness of morality on the basis of religious texts that have been reinterpreted and reformed, and also on fiqh traditions [traditions concerning Islamic jurisprudence made up of the rulings of Islamic jurists to direct the lives of Muslims and expounds the methodology by which Islamic law is derived from primary and secondary sources] whose context has been subjected to a review. Given this, it is proper to attach the title of ulema [Muslim scholars/ intellectuals], which has so far been monopolized by or reserved only for men.

 I am also very active in various training and advocacy activities on the themes of democracy, justice, human rights, and civil society that are administered at home and abroad. From this position, I am freer to present the voice of women in various issues and cases. In the Ministry of Religious Affairs, I voice the rights of women in state policies concerning marriages and a number of policies related to women.

At the Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI), I fluently represent the voice of women in discussing contemporary issues. At LKAJ, I promote the rights of women through publication, training and a number of programs for the dissemination of the rights of women within religious communities.

 Meanwhile, at the ICRP, I move the potentials of religious circles to take care of human rights, in particular the rights of women, and invites female religious leaders to come to the fore as promoters of peace and reconciliation, and to accompany religious and belief communities who have been discriminated against by the state to demand their rights.

And, more recently, together with pro-democracy and civil society groups she has been actively involved in formulating the Draft Bill on Civil Registry; the Draft Bill on Anti Domestic Violence, the Revision of the Law on Health, the Law on Citizenship, the Law on Labor, the Draft Bill on Anti Trafficking, and so on, which are considered problematic for the effort to build a civil society. I do it all from my position as a [practicing] female Muslim, as a Muslimah reformist (mujaddidah), and as an ulema.

So, in this context, that which I have done is no longer within the framework of demanding one’s rights but more than that, I have taken a further step, by showing something that can be carried out by women with the rights that they have, which, according to me, have been inherently given by Islam.

In this regard, it is not seldom that what I have done invites controversy and puts an end to everything that is taboo in viewing the relationship between Islam and women, such as my ideas on the right of women to interpret Islamic teachings, the right of women to become an ulema, and the right of women to correct religious missions.

It is not few and far between that I express myself linguistically in a very firm and strict-to-the-point manner. And I am very convinced and confident that Islam guarantees women the equality and equity of rights no matter where they are and at what time. By advocating and promoting such rights, I present and position myself as a [female Muslim] reformist, as an ulema, and as an activist that enforce human rights, oppose violence, as well as a leader, as a partner in policy making, and also as a reconciler.

Most recently, this last role has become important and very significant, particularly in the midst of conflicts fraught with religious and ethnic nuances that wreck havoc in my country. Even in a number of conflicts among religious groups, among different sects and religious schools of thought in Islam, women are able to serve as mediators and even pioneers towards reconciliation. In my experience in the Maluku case where women actively took steps towards the crafting of post-conflict rehabilitation and reconciliation with typical women approaches that were far from publication.