Never say dye: Chinese batik claim angers Indonesian netizens

Batik is a technique of hand-dyeing fabrics with removable wax. (Supplied)
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Updated 18 July 2020

Never say dye: Chinese batik claim angers Indonesian netizens

  • Online critics take aim at Beijing over ‘cultural appropriation’

JAKARTA: When Chinese state news agency Xinhua posted a video clip last week claiming batik as a traditional Chinese art form, some Indonesians responded with fury on social media, with several accusing Beijing of “cultural appropriation.”

In the July 12 tweet, the news agency reported that batik – a technique of hand-dyeing fabrics with removable wax – was a “traditional craft common among ethnic groups in China,” and had evolved in modern times, and was practiced by ethnic minority groups in Guizhou and Yunnan.

The tweet ended with the hashtag #AmazingChina and a 49-second clip demonstrating how patterns on the fabric are processed. It has been retweeted and liked thousands of times.

However, experts say the claims are far from the truth.

“Batik is a terminology typical to Indonesia. In terms of etymology, I don’t think there are words and pronunciation like batik in Chinese dialects,” Agni Malagina, a researcher on Indonesia-China affairs, told Arab News on Saturday.

Following the tweet, netizens took to the social media website to “educate China” on the origin of the word batik. Several said it was coined from the Javanese words “amba” and “tik,” which means to mark or draw dots. A user named Kiki urged China to be “a country with pride, not just to copy and claim the property of other nations.”

In a harsh statement, Twitter user @mpuanon said: “This is truly a counterfeit batik. The design is very basic and simple. The only original thing that came of out China is COVID-19, the China virus.”

The batik process also includes drawing on spots, followed by an application of wax on the cloth using canting.

“The canting itself is a tool typical of Indonesia,” said Malagina, who added that although the technique to hand-dye on fabric using wax is also found in other cultures, batik as a piece of cloth is used extensively in various social contexts and rites of passage in Indonesia — from birth and marriage to death.

It is common in Indonesia to cover a dead body in batik while waiting for it to be bathed. It is then wrapped with a burial shroud before the funeral.

Malagina said some motifs carry a philosophical meaning and are worn for special occasions, including marriage.

“For example, the truntum motif represents unconditional and long-lasting love. It is worn by parents of the bride and the groom during a marriage ceremony, as a symbol of eternal love for their children,” Malagina said, adding that different motifs also represent different regions.

Batik produced by regions on the northern coast of Java — where Chinese and other foreign migrants arrived in ancient times — tend to have vibrant colors, with red representing the Chinese influence and blue representing a European influence.

In contrast, batik produced from inland regions, the ancient home of Javanese kingdoms, tend to have earthy colors.

“This is what makes batik an Indonesian cultural heritage,” Malagina said.

Recognizing the cultural value of the art, UNESCO designated the Indonesian batik as a “Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” on Oct. 2, 2009, with the date celebrated as National Batik Day ever since.

After the uproar over Xinhua’s claim, the Indonesian foreign ministry ended the controversy with two tweets on July 13, explaining that batik is “an ancestral heritage and treasured in Indonesians’ daily lives.”

Xinhua later tweeted a revision.

The agency said: “The ancient Chinese craft of wax printing is highly skilled and time-consuming. The craft is also known as batik, a word of Indonesian origin which refers to a wax-resist dyeing technique practiced in many parts of the world.”


Macron hails French Muslim charter against extremism

Updated 12 min 6 sec ago

Macron hails French Muslim charter against extremism

  • “This is a clear, decisive and precise commitment in favor of the republic,” Macron said
  • He hailed the text saying it is “a truly foundational text for relations between the state and Islam in France”

PARIS:President Emmanuel Macron praised French Muslim leaders on Monday after they agreed on a “charter of principles” aimed at combatting sectarianism and radicalized teachings blamed for a surge in jihadist attacks in France in recent years.
The charter offers “a clarification of how the Muslim community is organized,” Macron said after a meeting with representatives of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), his office said.
It will also provide a framework for a new National Council of Imams that will be responsible for vetting imams practicing in the country.
“This is a clear, decisive and precise commitment in favor of the republic,” Macron said, hailing “a truly foundational text for relations between the state and Islam in France.”
Macron had urged the council to act against “political Islam” in November after the killing of Samuel Paty, a teacher who was beheaded outside his school after showing controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohamed as part of a free-speech lesson.
The attack prompted a crackdown against extremist mosques and Islamist associations, along with a vigorous defense of French secularism.
The new 10-point charter “states clearly that the principles of the Muslim faith are perfectly compatible with the principles of the republic,” CFCM president Mohammed Moussaoui told journalists after the meeting.
The accord was hammered out Saturday during a meeting with Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin after weeks of resistance from some CFCM members who objected to a “restructuring” of Islam to make it compatible with French law and values.
Moussaoui said all eight of the CFCM’s federations, representing various strands of Islam, approved the charter, but three had yet to sign the accord because “they need a bit more time to explain what it means to their followers,” an Elysee official said.
Hakim El Karoui, an author and expert on Islam in France, called the intention of the charter “praiseworthy,” but said it also shone a harsh light on internal tensions at the CFCM which he said consists of “five federations financed by foreign countries and three federations that are Islamist.”
El Karoui said “the charter was adopted by people whose interests clash with the text.”
Franck Fregosi, an Islam expert at research institute CNRS, said no other country, and no other religion in France, had a comparable charter.
“I’m not certain that this text, even once it gets signed, will get wide backing from Islam on the ground,” he said.
The imam of the mosque in the southwestern city of Bordeaux, Tariq Oubrou, said the charter had been developed back-to-front.
“It should be Muslim scholars and theologians who write a text and then submit it to the CFCM, not the other way around,” he said.
The charter rejects “instrumentalising” Islam for political ends and affirms equality between men and women, while denouncing practices such as female circumcision, forced marriages and “virginity certificates” for brides.
“No religious conviction whatsoever can be invoked as an exemption from the duties of citizens,” it states.
It also explicitly rejects racism and anti-Semitism, and warns that mosques “are not created for the spreading of nationalist speech defending foreign regimes.”
Macron has also said that authorities plan to expel the roughly 300 imams in France sent to teach from Turkey, Morocco and Algeria.
The charter accord comes as a parliamentary commission began debate Monday over a new draft law to fight “pernicious” Islamist radicalism with measures to ensure France’s strict separation of religious bodies and state in the public sphere.
The legislation would tighten rules on issues from religious-based education to polygamy, though Macron has insisted the goal is to protect all French citizens without stigmatising the country’s estimated four to five million Muslims, the largest number in Europe.