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Siti Ruhaini Dzuhayatin - Research Project
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My project seeks to integrate human rights principles into the Islamic Law curriculum at the State Institute of Islamic Studies in Indonesia. Thus far, the academic curriculum does not include current social issues emerging from the process of democratization and socio-economic development. It is partly because the curriculum was adopted and maintained parallel to the al-Azhar University in Cairo, which is more or less conservative. The dichotomy between Islamic and secular science and education also contributes to the exclusive focus of the Islamic university on Islamic classical traditions. The University curriculum must begin accommodating modern and progressive thought to alleviate these academic gaps. Additionally, my project also addresses the issue of how Islam is taught in Indonesian society, either informally through socialization by parents or formally at school.
Siti Ruhaini Dzuhayatin - Interview

What prompted you to take on this project?
Current social issues, which have emerged in the context of increasing fundamentalism in Indonesia, initiated my research. Fundamentalist groups are no longer marginal but are at the center of the political administration. Surprisingly, many government officials have turned to Shari'a law for managing their public affairs in the provincial and regional levels. As the tendency of implementing Shari'a law expands, the efforts to promote progressive and moderate proliferation (which are compatible with the acknowledgement of fundamental human rights) will be endangered. The moderate Islamist agenda provides the theological grounds for accommodating the social changes that are denied by the fundamentalist groups for cultural and political reason. The Islamic University and, more specifically, the faculty of Islamic law have significant roles to play in shaping the people's understanding of Islam. In addition to their main role of teaching, they are also actively engaged in socio-religious duties in the community, ranging from leading prayer in the local mosques to delivering jum'ah sermons, wedding sermons, and other public lectures.

How has your project evolved or changed based on recent research?
My original proposal was to have a descriptive analysis of women's human rights violations in Indonesia. But after intensively participating in the lecture series by Prof. an-Naim, I have decided to do something broader than women's rights, which has been my focus so far. In my project, I will include the issues of religious and ethnic minorities and children's rights.

What is the general conceptual model for conducting and implementing the research?
Workshops and discussion groups on rights of minorities and majorities will be the forums in which research will be conducted. The project will utilize a participatory research design which will involve respondents in several activities such as documentary analysis, roundtable discussions, and workshops for eliciting the expected results. Research will be used as not just to collect or analyze data, but for improvement. Therefore, it will be crucial to create a risk-free environment and build collective trust with the respondents during the research.

How are you aim to get people within the community to want to participate?
The research will not be carried out in the community at large but rather within the academic community. This project is mainly concerned with the content of the subject matter being taught, the instructional strategies used in the teaching and learning process, and the evaluation of the impact of the learning process on human right issues. Reforming the curriculum and engaging the teaching staff with more current debates on Islam and human rights will help in eventually developing the students' understanding of human rights, since students are in contact with professors and other teaching staff.

What are the broader implications of your project for the community at large?
Besides their teaching duties, faculty members are seen in mosques as leaders, so they are extremely influential. They deal with social issues and have tremendous influence in the community.

What do you envision as final result of your research?
Indonesia should always be a moderate Muslim country where fundamental human rights of religion, gender, race, and ethnicity are valued. Today, fundamentalists have become a significant force in Indonesian society. Religious minorities and women are also suffering at the hands of the fundamentalists. It would be worth it if I could organize similar projects in other Islamic universities throughout the country. I am grateful to be involved in this project, which allows me to participate in promoting human rights within the Muslim community in Indonesia.

Do you foresee any opposition to your work?
Yes, from the conservatives, the fundamentalists, and the Islamic radical groups. They often accuse the advocates of human rights of being agents of Western feminism and liberal democracy, which they see as forces that will shake the foundation of Islam and the nation.

What are some of your future plans for research in the broad arena of human rights?
My plans include establishing a center for Islam and human rights studies in the State Institute of Islamic Studies in Yogyakarta. The center will be a resource that will educate through publications, mass media, and, more importantly, through participatory workshops that would involve a large number of religious communities. These workshops will help to mediate a mutual understanding of being different but equal.

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Siti Ruhaini Dzuhayatin - Research-in-Progress Documents

Presentation - Islam, Patriarchy and the State in Indonesia
Download in MS Word format.

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Images from Presentation - Islam, Patriarchy and the State in Indonesia,
November 28, 2003

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Images credit: Islam and Human Rights Fellowship Program

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