Pan Mohamad Faiz is a visionary blogger and a man-of-principle personality, so to speak. He knows what he wants to do. When the first time I met him in my last-year stay in India in 2007 he asked me how to make a blog. At the same time he insisted that he wanted to have a niche blog on law, his specialty, not a personal blog. He knows that a niche blog will not get a good traffic instantly but he is sure it will create faithful readers and, thus credibility to the blogger concerned. He wants his blog to emphasize on specific quality content. I couldn’t agree more with him.
Many new bloggers just want to make a blog with instant high traffic and many comments–like old timers. The absence of which will make them discouraged and then quit blogging. That’s why we saw many “drop-out” bloggers every now and then.
Faiz, as I used to call him, is the kind of blogger who care less to traffic of his blog or to the amount of comments he receives. He focuses more on how to write a good content vigorously. He doesn’t expect many comments nor many visitors, though he’ll be grateful if any. These are the keys for any blogger to survive and endure a long blogging experience without which you’ll find your blogging passion dissipates in a short span of time.
To know Faiz’s blog content is simple. Read his profile, and you’d immediately know what it is all about:
Pan Mohamad Faiz was born in Jakarta, Indonesia. After getting his Bachelor of Law (LL.B.) degree from Faculty of Law, University of Indonesia, he received a Full Scholarship from ICCR to continue his advance study at Faculty of Law, University of Delhi. On July 2008, he successfully graduated from University of Delhi (First Division Rank) with degree in Master of Comparative Laws (M.C.L.) specializing on Comparative Constitutional Law.
Presently he is a legal and constitutional law observer as well as an active op-ed writer in many National Newspapers and Journals. Moreover, he is appointed as a Judicial Administrative Assistance to Constitutional Justice at Constitutional Court of Indonesia. This Blawg (Law Blog) describes his strong thought about Law and other Social Sciences.
So, it’s clear that Faiz’s niche blog is about law. Both Indonesia and international law. This is what he wants to achieve: whenever you want to know about law, visit his blog. And whenever you want to talk about it, talk to Faiz. This is the advantage of having a niche blog and of being a “niche” blogger. 
“Like many Indonesians, Lolo followed a brand of Islam that could make room for the remnants of more ancient animist and Hindu faiths. He explained that a man took on the powers of whatever he ate: One day soon, he promised, he would bring home a piece of tiger meat for us to share.” – Barack Obama
Everybody everywhere tends to take a standpoint where it will socially have an advantage, not a liability. Take, for example, the case of a controversial word “secular” and its variants as far as Islamic and political discourse go.
In Indonesia, the word “secular” is a liability. If you’re a Muslim and are called secularist then it may imply that you’re not a “muslim” enough. It’s true especially among Muslim conservative or traditionalist; not to say the Islamist. In India, however, the situation quite the opposite. Claiming a secular is quite an advantage. Being a secular in India means that you are a modern and a pluralist.
That’s said, once may wonder what does the term “secular” and “secularization” actually mean? The question and the answer are equally important because not all common Muslim understand or even care about this.
It’s in this regard that Imdad Robbani’s article about Secular and Secularization has a certain point where a wider auidence needs to know.
… it is a category by which we define the entirety of contemporary Western civilization, that is, from theologico-philosophical, legal-political, and cultural-anthropological aspect of it.
… Secularization is generally regarded as a process of differentiation between “religious” and “secular”. We can speak of it, utilizing categories made by Jose Casanova, through three perspectives; theologico-philosophical, cultural-anthropological, and legal-political. From the first angle, Al-Attas say that secularization is liberation of human reason and language from control of something religious and metaphysical; and turning human attention from the world beyond into this world.
Another approach to understand secularization is through cultural-anthropological perspective, which is, in many cases, more apparent. Culturally it means “the disappearance of religious determination of the symbols of cultural integration”. In Arab context, it is “the marginalization of Islam or its exclusion from the process of re-structuring society during both the colonial and post-independence periods”. This suggests that Islam is excluded as much as possible from shaping the society.
It is also differentiation of things “secular”; like economy, science, art, entertainment, health, and welfare; from those “religious”; such as ecclesiastical institution and church’s activities. It also means “the transfer of activities from religious to secular institutions, such as a shift in provision of social services from churches to the government.” We may conclude that secularization culturally and socially is the disappearance of religious symbols, omission of religion’s role in shaping society, differentiation between what is secular, i.e., related to this world only and what is religious, i.e., related to the world beyond, and moving social activities from religious to secular institutions.
Imdad Robbani’s post on this matter has not finished yet. While it’s worth waiting for the whole piece, his readers may look around some other interesting articles written previously from serious topic such as Religious Pluralism, Sufism, Greek Philosophy, etc to some topic which is not so serious and “cultural contemplation” in nature. Look for example at such post as Intercultural Marriage, A reflection of how hard it’s to socially break a taken-for-granted tradition, marriage in this case, without being labelled as socially, even religiously, “unethical”.
Another interesting post is concerning parents-children relationship and his implicit question the parents need to answer: how far should a parents in a traditional family exercise and impose their authority towards their children and in what matters and how far can children disobey them in a manner which is not construed as a disrespect gesture?
A young man like him needs to write more on this conflict of cultural gap to represent what other young generation think of themselves and about their previous generation particularly their parents. In which way it’s hoped it will open a smooth dialog and wider understanding between the elder and the younger one. Not many young men, living in a traditional family like him, are able to speak up their mind before their parents. This blogging technology, if used properly, should break that barrier.
 Lolo is Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian, Barack Obama’s step father. The second husband of his mother and the father of Maya Soetoro, Obama’s half sister.
 Quoted from Barack Obama’s Dreams from my Father, Three Rivers Press, (New York:1995), pp. 37.
 The term conservative and traditionalist Muslim have similiar meaning in the sense they usually refer to those practicing Muslims–who follow the basic standard of Islamic teaching, but not necessarily involve or campaign for an Islamic state. In short, they are purely religious, not political. Hence, they are practically secular in Western sense of the term. The non-practicing Muslim are called abangan in Indonesia as implicitly mentioned by Barack Obama quoted above.
 Those Muslims who campaign for the establishment of Islamic state in scientific discourse or in actual political activity.
mulia nurhasanAs far as Muslim women is concerned, there’s nothing more controversial than a piece of cloth called headscarf or veil. Popularly known here in Indonesia as jilbab. The simplicity of jilbab or head scarf doesn’t make the effects simpler. In reality, jilbab pros and cons that comes around it as though represents a symbolism of opposing thought and attitude between practicing and non-practicing Muslim as a whole.
And thus, contentious opinions that surrounds it which comes beyond gender zone– from male and male corner –become a matter of continuing heated discourse. Among some non-Muslims, especially in the West, jilbab is considered as a symbol of many bad things: women oppression by men typical in a developing and patriarchal society; backwardness, outdated, old fashioned on the part of the Muslim women themselves, you name it. There’s a case in Indonesia, where a woman named Sandrina Malakiano a presenter in Metro TV–Indonesia’s CNN–has been fired from her jobs after she convert to Islam and decided to wear jilbab.
For so long, all heated and lengthy debates are mosly voiced by men or by Muslim women who never wore or decided not to wear it any more. Heard-scarf Muslim women barely engage in such debate themselves. It’s refreshing therefore, that such voices on behalf of those who wear jilbab start to be heard in the blogsophere. Muslim women with Western education such as Mulia Nurhasan  and others start sharing their own experience and the raison d’etre behind their decision to wear jilbab or headscarf. In one of her post she writes:
Graduated from University, I worked in Tanggerang for few months before I moved to Germany for the rest of the year. In Germany I lived in a very small village where everybody knows everybody (though they don’t always talk to each other-it’s Germany-not so much different from Norway). It was my first time living abroad and I kept my headscarf with me. I realized that in this totally different culture village, I don’t necessarily need my headscarf to protect my dignity. People here don’t care about what I was wearing. They perhaps noticed me about my extra fabric on my head, but never really say anything.
I could take off my head scarf if I wanted to, as it was irrelevant to wear it for the reason of protecting my dignity as a woman anymore. But there I learned, that I used it because it identifies me as a Muslim and it reflects my believe, my faith. From then, I choose to wear it because I manifest my faith in this way.
On her headscarf experience during her stay in Europe:
It’s funny but, honestly I am a least conscious person when it comes to physical appearance. I don’t look at my self in front of the mirror all the time. It’s people who see me wearing head scarf. Unless people ask me about my head scarf, I rarely feel different. I don’t think people treat me differently. Is it because it’s Norway? Or because I am not sensitive? I don’t know. But many people said that Tromso is a very tolerant city. I think it’s true. But overall, i feel the same just like every body else here.
When people ask me why am i wearing it, I must confess that i am not always answering it well. Sometimes i simply say “My religion told me to. It’s dogmatic. I need dogma to live my life” hehehe :D . This is the kind of answer I sometimes give to people whom i think would debate my answer, and when i am just too lazy to debate, this would be a good escape answer. Sorry.
On her wish that headscarf is not a big deal and should be dealt with accordingly:
I learn that people manifest believe in different ways. And because I put head scarf on my head, doesn’t mean I have managed well to headscarf-ed my heart. I have met many Muslimah who are not wearing head scarf but have such wonderful heart. I think it’s very unfair to judge people from what they are wearing. You may, for example think one person has peculiar style from their fashion.
…the head scarf is just part of my manifest to my faith, my connection, my way of communication with my God. It has becoming more spiritual tool rather than religious ritual symbol. Head scarf is just one part of me among many other things that makes me the way i am.
Mulya also asked her Muslim friends to share their experience with jilbab they are wearing and opinions about it which can be found here. There’re some interesting article, especially the one written by Amalia Sanusi, another young Muslim woman who’d been in Australia and among one of the early Blogger Indonesia of the Weeks. It gains appreciation from her Dutch reader named Colson who happens to be an agnostic:
I’m afraid I’m not in the best position to comment – old, male, agnost. And yet I try.
That’s because I want to let you know I think this is a very sympathetic post. And for sure it helps me understand the decision of Muslim women to wear a veil. At least of one Muslima.
As you may expect “understanding” does not mean I share all of your arguments. But I do agree with your call for mutual respect.
 Jilbab is popular termn in Indonesia, hijab is in Middle East, purdah in South Asia (Pakistan, India, Bangladesh), kerudung in Malaysia and Brunei. Headscarf or veil in the West.
 As her blog URL is no longer active, I remove all links directed to it.