Abdurrahman Baswedan, widely known as A.R. Baswedan, really is a man we missed so much nowadays. An Arab descendants and grandfather of Anies Baswedan, he is way ahead of his time. Born in Surabaya more than century ago, 9 September 1908, his life remains a relevant example for us today.
Skinny man with glasses, he sets up Indonesia Arab Party (Partai Indonesia Arab) in 1934, time when Dutch divide at impera still linger strongly. At that time, Dutch law called Indishe Staatsregeling, divided peoples into three groups: European in the highest, Vreemde Oosterlingen or East Asia such as India, China, and Arab, and the lowest was inlanders orbumiputera.
Surprisingly, he led a movement—using Harry Tjan Silalahi terms—jump over the wall. He didn’t want to submit unto Dutch discriminative law. Contrary, he makes a good acquaintance of Chinese descendant and fight his way to became “Indonesia”, daring things at that time.
Not only that, he is also fighting the discrimination inside his own culture. Adopting South Yemen way, Arab descendant is divided into 4 groups: first, descendants from prophet, called sayid or habib (just like Rizieq Shihab claims), second is gabili or the warrior, third is syech or ulama, which include merchant, and the lowest is farmers and labor. Its quiet similar with Hindu’s caste. He urge Arab descendant in Indonesia to unite and affirm the ius soli doctrine: where I was born, there is my country.
He also fighting for equality between man and woman, make friendship with Catholic, Chinese, Bumiputera, even Communist. Things that drew criticism toward him. But he never looks back. There is a story about influential Pastor in Jogja, Dick Hartoko, who asked the congregations to pray for Baswedan who reportedly attacked by stroke. All proves his consistency to pluralism and respecting differences.
With all due respect, i hope Rizieq Shihab, who claims he is a Habib, can learn to act like one instead of igniting hatred among people. And if he found it difficult, i suggest he learn from AR Baswedan. And for us in 2011, who faces similar challenge, with all discriminative law and anti-pluralism behavior, can also learn a lot from man a century behind us.
April 17th, 2011