Posts by AlessioStilo:

    The significance of multicultural education and its application: interview with Prof. R Hamdani Harahap

    May 26th, 2017


    Our guest is R Hamdani Harahap, Professor in Social and Political Science at University of North Sumatera, Medan, Indonesia. He has been a lecturer in Department of Anthropology from 1989, now he is a Lecturer in the Faculty of Science. He graduated from University of North Sumatera in the Faculty of Anthropology, Post-graduated from Bogor Agricultural Institute and Ph.D. from University of North Sumatera. He has published 6 books and 14 articles. One of his books, entitled “Ethnography of Coffee”, has been published by USU Press, Medan. Some of his articles have been published in Wawasan Jurnal Ilmu-Ilmu Sosial such as “The Relationship of Intertribal in Phralistic Society” (Vol.8 No.1 in 2001), “Local Initiatives, Decentralization and Regional Development” (Vol.9 No.3 in 2002), and “Boarding School: Education Alternative in Globalization Era” (Vol.10 No.3 in 2003). He has also attended some activities of Scientific Meeting as Asian University President Forum on Transculural Challenges for Innovation in Higher Education at Christian University of Thailand, and FORUM University Malaya – USU in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as a speaker.   


    1. What is the meaning and your perception of multicultural education?

    There are three terms that need to be differentiated, they are plurality, diversity and multicultural. The three expressions do not represent the same things, even though they refer to ‘togetherness’. The concept of plurality shows the existence of ‘the things that are more than one‘ (many). Diversity shows that the existence of ‘the different things that are more than one, heterogeneous, and even cannot be equated’. Compared to the two previous concepts, multiculturalism is actually relatively new. Conceptually, there is a significant difference between plurality, diversity, and multiculturalism. The essence of multiculturalism is the willingness to accept other groups together as a whole, regardless of cultural differences, ethnicity, gender, language, or religion.

    If a plurality only represents pluralism (more than one), multiculturalism confirms that all the differences, they are the same in the public space. Multiculturalism is a sort of a new policy which responses to diversity. In other words, the existence of different communities is not enough; the most important reason is that those communities are treated equally by the state. Therefore, multiculturalism is a movement demanding recognition (politics of recognition) against all the difference as entities in society that its existences should be accepted, respected, protected and guaranteed.

    The initial idea of multiculturalism was the political idea that evolved in other disciplines such as philosophy, sociology, culture and others. The idea is influenced by postulation that culture in society is essentially different, and requires the third thing, namely the recognition of cultural differences by all forms of socio-cultural elements, including the state. Diversity in modern society can mean many things, including differences that naturally are received by individuals or groups and are constructed together and become a kind of common sense. Simply, multiculturalism can be understood as the recognition that a country or society is diverse.

    Multiculturalism Education is a set of special material that is used for learning. Education for multiculturalism recognizes diversity both horizontally – as culture, race, religion, gender and sex, language area, geography – and vertically such as social and economic fabric, housing, employment, and social and cultural level. Multicultural education means learning about a different culture or learning to be two cultures. Multicultural education is an approach that uses a multicultural viewpoint. The curriculum of multicultural education should include subjects such as: tolerance, themes of ethno-cultural differences, and religion; the backwards of discrimination and sectarianism; conflict resolution and mediation; human beings; democracy and plurality; universal humanity and other subjects that are relevant.

    I think multiculturalism in Indonesian education is a necessity, because Indonesia is a plural country. Education of multiculturalism must strive to be implemented in Indonesia, because of the unmanaged differences that would lead to conflict and disintegration.


    1. What do you think is the significance of multicultural education?

    In my view, the benefits of multicultural education are:
    a. Establish peace
    b. Conflict Resolution Alternative
    c. Respect the differences
    d. Eliminate prejudice, stereotype
    e. Sustaine cultural roots
    f. Be the cornerstone of the national curriculum development


    1. What is the nature of students and the learning process, and how should learning experiences and relationships be organized?

    Naturally, the students who come from a homogeneous religious, ethnic, social, and economic stratification, will be comfortable with the learning system which is also exclusive, homogenous, and comes from one ethnicity, religion and race, as well as social stratification and the same economy. For example, students who come from the cultural area of Batak Toba and are Christian, will be comfortable when receiving the learning environment and curriculum lectures that come from Toba Batak Christian too. Similarly, students who come from Javanese and domiciled in Central Java will be difficult to receive the heterogeneous of Medan City. As a result, the learning process follows the conditions of homogeneous local communities, so that the academic climate runs without a lot of criticism and progress.


    1. Could you tell us about the transformations of multicultural educators’ practice—like the sorts of things they should be doing in classrooms?

    Educators in practices should act as below:

    1. Team working promotes appreciation of difference. It means that students in a class are different; they have to work in the same group which will accustom them to appreciate the difference.
    2. Train students should more critical, help each other in different religious activities. The practice of educators in multicultural education should allow the students to be critical but mutual in the fine differences of ethnicity, culture or religion.
    3. Active learning (student-centered). The practice of educators in multicultural education should give attention to active student and activity center is located in student, educator is facilitator only.
    4. Interdisciplinary lifestyle, that is to say living in different environments. The necessity of adopting the curriculum of different disciplines  means that all disciplines are interrelated.
    5. Egalitarian is not feudal. While implementing this strategy, educators must also assume an egalitarian attitude which is not sectarian and feudal so as not to cause the distance between student and educator in the learning process.

    In addition, they should consider other approaches such as:

    1. Historical approach

    This approach assumes that learners are taught to look back to the past. It means that learners have a complete frame up to the past, in order to reflect on the present or future. Thus, the material being taught can be viewed in a critical and dynamic way.

    1. Sociological approach

    This approach presupposes the process of contextualization on what has happened in the past or on the arrival in the past. With this approach, the material being taught can be current, not as far-fetched, but always in accordance with the dynamics. This approach can be combined with the second method, the method of enrichment.

    1. Cultural approach

    This approach emphasizes the authenticity and evolved tradition. The learner can see which traditions are authentic and which are not. Consequently, learners can also find out where the the Arab and Islamic traditions came from, as well as the Javanese tradition.

    1. Psychological approach

    This approach tries to pay attention to psychological situation individually and independently. It means that each learner should be seen as an independent and unique human character. This approach allows a learner to be smart and clever.

    1. Aesthetic approach

    Aesthetic approach basically teaches learners to be polite and courteous, peaceful, friendly. Educators also must love the students as creatures of God, who are different from each other. Thus, this approach needs to appreciate all the symptoms that occur in the community by seeing it as part of the dynamics of the artistic and aesthetic.

    1. Gender approach

    This approach tries to raise awareness to the learners who are not sexist because basically sex is nothing that prevents someone to achieve success. With this approach, all forms of social construction in the school stating that women are under men can be eliminated. This approach can at least understand that what is portrayed by the women and men today is socially constructed.

    These approaches allow the creation of this very multicultural awareness in education and culture. They, of course, do not rule out the possibility of other approaches, in addition to the six approaches above-mentioned, it is possible to apply for the realization of multicultural education in Indonesia.


    1. What are the perceptions of teacher candidates regarding multicultural education?

    The perception of prospective educators to multiculturalism education:

    1. no a priori
    2. receive and
    3. They must have the egalitarian attitude, respect for differences, not racist, not feudal.

    In addition, learners must also have the following characteristics, namely:

    1. Learners are being empowered, self-sufficient and independent meaning that they are in a state of helplessness to use the ability, willingness, and so on.
    2. Learners have a desire to grow toward adulthood.
    3. Learners have different backgrounds.
    4. Learners conduct the exploration of the natural surroundings with the potential of individually-owned basis.
    5. In a multicultural education program, the focus is no longer directed solely to the racial group, religion and the dominant or mainstream culture. In a theoretical context, learning from models of multicultural education that was and is being implemented by the developed countries, known as the five approaches: firstly, education regards cultural diversity or multiculturalism. Secondly, education regards cultural differences or culture understanding. Thirdly, education regards cultural pluralism. Fourthly, double cultural education. Fifthly, multicultural education is a human moral experience.


    1. Please tell us about multicultural education. How did you get involved? Please describe your commitment to multicultural education (racially, culturally, and socioeconomically).

    Multicultural education has a view to recognize that human life has a diverse culture with uniqueness, and that diversity is a necessity that cannot be denied, driven by human rights, globalization and democratization. My involvement began through the study Anthropology at North Sumatra University. As an anthropologist I conduct a study on ethnic communities, the majority community. I appreciate minorities, analyze dominant and non-dominant cultures. Ideology of anthropologists is multiculturalism itself.

    So far, my role is preventing ethnocentrism, xenophobia and and the realization of a monoculture, review and disseminate social capital, local wisdom in order to avoid arbitrariness. Anthropologists are taught to acknowledge differences and it has become a way of living anywhere and anytime.


    1. What are your views about reflections of multicultural education on social life?

    Multicultural education strengthens the Islamic philosophy which appreciates the multiculture, as enshrined in the Holy Qur’an Al-Hujurat verses: 9-13 and Al-Anbiya verse 107 which describe the nature of man created male and female, nations and tribes in order to know and respect each other. Islam is a religion that teaches universal values with the aim to give mercy to the worlds, (rahmatan lil’alamin) so that there are several verses of Quran which teaches about peace, love, respect differences, and so on. In Islam, it is forbidden to be extreme (Ghulaw), oppress (Zhalim), arbitrary and exceed the limit. Conversely, Islam asks people to apply common courtesy, tolerance, forgiveness, and compassion. Similarly, in Rasul hadith which means: “Give to eat (people in need), spread peace, connect to the relationship, do prayers at night, when people are sleeping, you will enter Paradise (Reported by ibn Hibban). Another hadith stated “People who are loving person will be loved by the Merciful. Love everything on earth, then you will be loved by the sky” (HR. Bukhari).


    1. What do you consider to be one of your greatest achievements? Why?

    My greatest effort in a multicultural context is to create a Foundation with regard to the education of multiculturalism. I currently have a foundation on education based on multiculturalism. I gather people, especially students who come from different ethnic, religious and socio-economic groups, because multicultural education is a necessity for the pluralism of Indonesian society, for the heterogeneous province of North Sumatra and for the plurality in the city of Medan. My expectation is that every student who gathers and obtains informal education in the trust will be driving multicultural education elsewhere. Besides establishing my foundation, I also provide teaching on Social Anthropology to students which base material presented is multiculturalism.


          Interviewers: Dr. Alessio Stilo

    IMN Country Representative in Italy


    Dr. Saiful Anwar Matondang

    IMN Country Representative in Indonesia

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    Multiculturalism is dead? Not quite yet

    November 9th, 2016


    By Alessio Stilo.   



    Multicultural approaches and policies vary widely all over the world, ranging from the advocacy of equal respect to the various cultures in a society, to a policy of promoting the maintenance of cultural diversity, to policies in which people of various ethnic and religious groups are addressed by the authorities as defined by the group to which they belong. Two different strategies, as recently pointed out by Ms. Camilla Habsburg-Lothringen, have been developed through different government policies and strategies: The first, often labelled as interculturalism, focuses on interaction and communication between different cultures. The second one, cohabitative multi-culti does center itself on diversity and cultural uniqueness; it sees cultural isolation as a protection of uniqueness of the local culture of a nation or area and also a contribution to global cultural diversity.

    A sort of “third way” between the two above-mentioned strategies has been traditioned and further enhanced by core Asian counties, e.g. Azerbaijan, where state policy has been accompanied, in a complementary way, to a certain activism of intermediate bodies (civil society, universities, think tanks).

    Multiculturalism is a state policy of Azerbaijan and it has become a way of life of the republic ensuring mutual understanding and respect for all identities. The year 2016 has been declared the Year of Multiculturalism in Azerbaijan, as stated by President Ilham Aliyev on January 10. This decision was made taking into account the fact that Azerbaijan brings an important contribution to the traditions of tolerance and intercivilization dialogue.

    Its peculiar location between Eastern Europe and Western Asia and its sociopolitical context – where people of various religions and ethnicities have lived together in mutual respect – have allowed Azerbaijan to adopt a multicultural-led agenda as a strategic tool of foreign policy.

    Despite challenges due to the instability of the area and unresolved armed conflict with neighboring Armenia for the control of Nagorno-Karabakh, Baku has made an effort to create and foster the necessary political and social conditions for developing and strengthening the country’s traditions of multiculturalism and tolerance.

    From a historical perspective, representatives of many ethnic and religious groups have lived together with Azerbaijanis since the era of the Safavids’ empire and during the XIX-XX centuries, including the period of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic incorporated into the Soviet Union.

    Today Azerbaijan, a country which established the first secular democracy in the Muslim world in 1918 and offered women the right to vote in 1919, acts as a model for peaceful coexistence of members of different cultures.

    It hosts one of the oldest mosques in the world, in the city of Shamakhi, dating from 743, and also one of the oldest Christian churches, an Armenian church from the 12-13 century. Not to mention one of the oldest churches in the Caucasus near the city of Sheki – the Church of Caucasian Albania, and a Zoroastrian temple, a temple of fire worshipers, not far from Baku. Azerbaijan has been inhabited by representatives of different religions and cultures throughout history, demonstrating a deep heritage of coexistence among different religions.

    Indeed, currently there are more than 649 registered religious communities in the Republic of Azerbaijan, among which 37 are non-Islamic. It has 13 functioning churches. The building of the Jen Mironosets Church (built by Hadji Zeynalabdin Tagiyev in 1907) was granted to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1991. Aleksi II, Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus’, who was on a visit in Azerbaijan in May 2001, granted the status of church to this temple. Currently there are three Russian Orthodox Churches in Baku, one in Gandja and one in Khachmaz. The Catholic community was registered in Azerbaijan in 1999. A special building for the conduction of religious ceremonies was purchased for the community and it became a church in 2000. According to the agreement between the Azerbaijani Government and Vatican, the Roman Catholic Church has been constructed in 2007 in Baku. It is more than 2500 years that the Jews have settled in Azerbaijan, never suffering religious intolerance or discrimination; currently six Jewish religious communities are registered and seven synagogues are functioning. Azerbaijan contributes also to the world heritage. Restoration of Roman catacombs, Strasbourg Cathedral Church, ancient masterpieces in Versailles (Paris), Capitolini Museum (Roma), Louvre Museum (Paris), Trapezitsa Museum (Bulgaria) etc. by Heydar Aliyev Foundation are typical example of these contribution.

    Development of multiculturalism and tolerance at the level of State policy in Azerbaijan is based on ancient history of statehood of the country and on development of these traditions. Nowadays, thanks to efforts of the government, this political behavior has acquired a form of ideology of statehood and political practice (state policy), whereas the political bases of these concepts have found their reflection in relevant clauses of articles of the Constitution, legal acts, decrees and orders. Regarding one of the facets of this conception – religious freedom –  it is also worth noting that article 48 of Azerbaijani Constitution ensures the liberty of worship, to choose any faith, or to not practice any religion, and to express one’s view on the religion. Moreover, the law of the Republic of Azerbaijan (1992) “On freedom of faith” ensures the right of any human being to determine and express his view on religion and to execute this right. According to paragraphs 1-3 of Article 18 of the Constitution the religion acts separately from the government, each religion is equal before the law and the propaganda of religions, abating human personality and contradicting to the principles of humanism is prohibited. The above-mentioned laws make Azerbaijan a modern de jure secular state, as well as de facto.

    As a consequence of this public support, expressed through material and financial assistance from the budget of Country and Presidential foundation, there are dozens of national-cultural centers functioning at present. They include “Commonwealth” society, Russian community, Slavic cultural center, Azerbaijani-Israeli community, Ukrainian community, Kurdish cultural center “Ronai”, Lezgin national center “Samur”, Azerbaijani-Slavic culture center, Tat cultural center, Azerbaijani-Tatar community, Tatar culture society “Tugan-tel”, Tatar cultural center “Yashlyg”, Crimean Tatars society “Crimea”, Georgian community, humanitarian society of Azerbaijani Georgians, Ingiloyan community, Chechen cultural center, “Vatan” society of Akhyska-Turks, “Sona” society of the women of Akhyska-Turks, Talysh cultural center, Avar society, mountain Jews community, European Jews (Ashkenazi) community, Georgian Jews community, Jewish women humanitarian association, German cultural society “Kapelhaus”, Udin cultural center, Polish cultural center “Polonia”, “Mada” International Talysh Association, “Avesta” Talysh Association, Udin “Orain” Cultural Center, “Budug” Cultural Center, Tsakhur Cultural Center. Not to mention the club-based amateur societies, national and state theatres, amateur associations and interest-focused clubs in areas with compact minority populations. The State also supports dozens of magazines, newspapers, radio and television programs which are expression of language minorities.

    Declaration of the Year of Multiculturalism in Azerbaijan took place against the backdrop of religiously motivated ethnic conflicts in the Middle East. This kind of State-led multiculturalism, which could be considered as a form of soft power, is intended to be introduced as a model of multiculturalism elsewhere, especially to states and societies of the Middle East, where radicalism has spread rapidly over the last 20 years.

    In recent years Baku has hosted numerous international events, starting from the Baku International Humanitarian Forum. The capital of Azerbaijan has hosted this Forum since 2011, which aims to build an authoritative international platform for world scientists and culture figures as well as acclaimed experts to discuss pressing global humanitarian challenges. The Baku International Humanitarian Forum is attended by well-known statesmen, public figures and prominent scientists, including 13 Nobel Prize winners, as well as journalists, representatives of non-governmental organizations and other distinguished guests.

    Since 2011 Baku has hosted the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, in partnership with UNAOC, UNESCO, UN World Tourism Organization, Council of Europe and ISESCO. Through this initiative known as “Baku process”, Azerbaijan acknowledges the power of intercultural dialogue and the possibility to create the conditions for positive intercultural and inclusive relations. At the same time, hosting the first ever European Games in 2015, Azerbaijan will conduct the Islamic Solidarity Games in 2017.

    This year Baku has hosted  the 7th Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (April 25-27), which aims to reach a more peaceful and socially inclusive world, by building mutual respect among people of different cultural and religious identities, and highlighting the will of the world’s majority to reject extremism and embrace diversity.

    With the same purpose, in 2014 was established the Baku International Multiculturalism Center, aimed to preserve ethnic, religious and cultural diversity of the country. It has also been created to introduce Azerbaijan as a centre of multiculturalism to the world, and carried out research into and promoted existing multicultural models of the world. One of the mainstream projects of the Centre is promoting a special University course entitled “Azerbaijani multiculturalism” at local and foreign universities. The promoters already managed to incorporate this course into the teaching programs of some top ranked universities (Sapienza University in Rome, Charles University in Prague, Fribourg University in Switzerland) across Europe, as well as in Russia, Georgia and in Indonesia. The Center has also initiated the publication of a series of books under the title “Sources of Azerbaijani Multiculturalism”.

    Within the framework of the Year of Multiculturalism, Baku International Multiculturalism Centre launched  the Summer School  and Winter School programs  every year for students and researches interested in enhancing and deepening their knowledge in this issue (theoretical and practical knowledge), and explore new topics regarding Azerbaijani multiculturalism. 

    In a recent visit to Baku (October 2016), Pope Francis  praised Azerbaijan as a place of religious tolerance after meeting with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and after a private meeting with Sheikh ul-Islam, the region’s grand mufti, before the two men held an interreligious meeting at the country’s largest mosque with Orthodox Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders.

    A significant activism of civil society in this issue is also demonstrated by many initiatives and projects created by Azerbaijani think tanks and academic groups. One of the most interesting and relevant is the International Multicultural Network (IMN) founded and headed by Dr. Khayala Mammadova, which is “an online presence to connect researchers and practitioners with an interest in multiculturalism, aimed at promoting and disseminating research  on the multifaceted multicultural  agenda and for comprised of scholars, state and community actors specialising in the fields of multiculturalism, intercultural and interreligious relations across diverse disciplines and geographical regions”.

    It connects researchers from all ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Likewise, it appoints Country Representatives, and promotes publications (books, journal articles, research reports), discussions and events in order to advise, educate and inform on subjects related to multiculturalism and cultural  diversity. We can mention, among the most significant international partners of the International Multicultural Network, “The Prisma – The Multicultural Newspaper”, a London-based newspaper which “works for the elimination of racial and cultural prejudices, and is committed to social justice and equality of opportunity”, and is aimed at promoting and defending these values of the multicultural society of the UK, especially in the case of Latin Americans.

    Using its peculiar way to multiculturalism as a strategic tool of foreign policy and defending itself from religious and political extremism, Azerbaijan represents a country’s success story that could give Europe a contribution in its difficult approach to this issue.

    Multiculturalism is a divisive subject of debate in almost all European nations that are associated with a single, national cultural ethos. As the latest datas confirm, European Union is facing unprecedented demographic changes (ageing population, low birth rates, changing family structures and migration) which are likely to change the internal structure of its member states over the next 50 years.

    Despite Europe has always been a mixture of different cultures, unified by the super-position of Imperial Roman Christianity, the ideology of nationalism (XIX-XX century) transformed the way Europeans thought about theirselves and the state. The new nation-states sprang up on the principle that each nation is entitled to its own sovereignty and to engender, protect, and preserve its own unique culture and history. Social unity, according to this ideology, is seen as an essential feature of the nation, understood as unity of descent, unity of culture, unity of language, and often unity of religion. The European nation-state, at least until the mid-twentieth century, constitutes a culturally homogeneous society, although some national movements recognizes regional differences.

    Bearing in mind this context, during the latest decades some of the European countries – especially France – have tried to culturally assimilate the regional minorities, or any other ethnic/linguistic/religious group different from the national majority, while ensuring them every individual and group right.  Nevertheless, after the economic crisis of 2007-2008 and the increasing of migration resulting from riots and civil wars within the Arab-Islamic world, criticism of multiculturalism has become stronger and stronger in the Old Continent. This position questions the ideal of the maintenance of distinct ethnic cultures within a state and sometimes argues against cultural integration of different ethnic and cultural groups to the existing laws and values of the country. Alternatively critics may argue for assimilation of different ethnic and cultural groups to a single national identity.

    Thirty years ago, many Europeans saw multiculturalism as an answer to Europe’s social problems. Today, according to multiculturalism’s critics, it allowed excessive immigration without demanding enough integration, a mismatch that has eroded social cohesion, undermined national identities, and degraded public trust. However, as argued by Kenan Malik on Foreign Affairs, multiculturalism in Europe has become a proxy for other social and political issues: immigration, identity, political disenchantment, working-class decline. “As a political tool, multiculturalism has functioned as not merely a response to diversity but also a means of constraining it”, writes Malik. “And that insight reveals a paradox. Multicultural policies accept as a given that societies are diverse, yet they implicitly assume that such diversity ends at the edges of minority communities”.

    In his luminary book ‘Europe of Sarajevo 100 years later’, prof. Anis Bajrektarevic diagnosed that ‘multiculturalism in not dead but dread in Europe’. “There is a claim constantly circulating the EU: ‘multiculturalism is dead in Europe’. Dead or maybe d(r)ead?… That much comes from a cluster of European nation-states that love to romanticize – in a grand metanarrative of dogmatic universalism – their appearance as of the coherent Union, as if they themselves lived a long, cordial and credible history of multiculturalism. Hence, this claim and its resonating debate is of course false. It is also cynical because it is purposely deceiving. No wonder, as the conglomerate of nation-states/EU has silently handed over one of its most important debates – that of European anti-fascistic identity, or otherness – to the wing-parties. This was repeatedly followed by the selective and contra-productive foreign policy actions of the Union over the last two decades.” – writes prof. Bajrektarevic on the most pressing issue of today’s Europe.

    Thus, as it seems to look for the multiculturalism one has to search beyond Europe.Starting from this theoretical point, the traditional and modern reinvigorated Azerbaijan experience about multiculturalism could teach Europe an important lesson: addressing issues and policies on multiculturalism requires an approach that combines state policies with resourcefulness of civil society and intermediate bodies. An approach which would avoid, on the one hand, the distortion of local peoples and migrants, and on the other hand would waste assimilationism.  In other words, a new “foedus” (pact, alliance) which would preserve rights and culture of minorities, while ensuring the values of the majority of the population.

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