Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Origins of Poco-poco: Jamaican, Christian or just Indonesian?

Origins of Poco-poco: Jamaican, Christian or just Indonesian?

by ZURAIRI AR on APRIL 4, 2011

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The declaration of poco-poco as haram was a simple case of bad research, paranoia and one man’s crusade

Perak Mufti Harussani Zakaria has taken it upon himself to declare the poco-poco dance haram in his state, with the convenient excuse that the dance has Christian roots.

Here is a copy of the alleged letter of declaration by Harussani’s office, circulated to various bodies in Perak:

Poco-poco haram mufti letterFrom this letter, we can surmise that poco-poco is deemed haram by Harussani because:

  1. It has elements of spirit worship
  2. It is widely practised in Jamaica
  3. It has Christian elements

Let us say that by the end of this article, we can prove that all three assertions are total bullshit.

What is poco-poco?

To those who have never heard of the word before this, we present to you poco-poco:

In a Malaysian context, it is a dance usually incorporated in exercise routines. It is also popular dance in celebrations, events and parties, notably by middle-aged women.

The reason for this might be because it is so easy to learn, and undoubtedly bloody fun when performed in a crowd.

When it is performed, it is almost always accompanied by the same song in the video above, which tells of a man’s admiration for a woman.

Why is poco-poco Christian?

Seriously, who the hell knows? However, Harussani insists that the dance is haram since its movements make a cross when you step right then step left, move to the front and to the back…

Well, that’s what you do when you do a fucking line dance, which essentially what poco-poco is.

If moving in a certain way could magically transform someone into a Christian, then perhaps a lot of other crosses should be banned too, as testified by many #fatwaaprifools we have gathered.

The issue of poco-poco being Christian is not a new one. A Bruneian, Eva Wanda, noted in 2009 that she received a chain email claiming that the dance was from the Philippines, and widely danced by the Christians there.

If you remember correctly, just before that in 2008 there was also a furore on the banning of yoga for its supposed Hindu elements.

Perhaps after two years of misplaced concern of Muslims over claims such as the one in the chain email, the Perak Mufti decided to play it safe, and banned the dance outright, after being misled by his research.

What is the origin of poco-poco?

Many would agree that the exact origin of poco-poco is undetermined, but it is clear the dance was made popular in East Indonesia, specifically Ambon in Moluccas (Maluku Islands).

A Minahasan website chronicles the three popular community dances in Indonesia: poco-poco, tebe-tebe and sajojo. In it an interview reveals that the dances spread throughout the country after the army brought them back from East Indonesia:

Poco-poco, Tebe-tebe and Sajojo, are popular since the 1990s. In the beginning with the military who had served in Timor, the Moluccas and Irian. “They learned these specific dances in their leisure time. When they returned to Java it became common in Java an elsewhere” said Jery, teacher of community and ballroom dances with the AAU (airforce), Kodim (Military Commandos) and Polda (Police) in Yogya.

How is poco-poco spirit worship and Jamaican?

This assertions would not be so hilarious if it wasn’t such a silly case of misinterpretation. In researching the term “poco-poco”, Harussani (or his incompetent researchers) might have stumbled upon the Jamaican slang “poco”.

We present to you an excerpt from the Dictionary of Jamaican English (Cassidy and Le Page; 2002):

In it, “poco” is an abbreviation of “pocomania”, which is defined as such:

…of which dances wildly performed under possession by ‘ancestral spirits’ , and induced catalepsy, are the two prominent features

The phrase “poco-poco” is also used as a reply to a greeting, meaning roughly “so-so” — “not too bad” or “not too good”.

Now, herein lies the kicker: in both use, the words are pronounced ‘pou-ko’ or ‘po-ko’.

If you are familiar with poco-poco dance, you would know that it is pronounced ‘po-cho’.

Not only there is NO documented cases of the same poco-poco dance ever being performed in Jamaica, the words are even pronounced differently over there, with even far different meanings.

Meanings which had gravely misled Harussani into linking poco-poco with Jamaica, and even more ridiculous, spirit worship.

What use is a fatwa then?

By now we have seen that the spirit worshipping part of poco-poco was a result of a shoddy research by the Perak Mufti office, and instead of Jamaica, the dance was originally from Ambon, Indonesia. We can see that the dance is only as Christian as going through a crossroad, which is a big “fuck no”.

The fact that people are allowing a man to decide the way some of us live our lives down to what we can or can not dance is just revolting. A fatwa is not only inconsistent between states, it is also commanded by a man whom the people never agreed to representing them, and has a power to decide based on his and his views alone, based on his interpretation of some holy texts.

The arrogance of a mufti such as Harussani is evident in the way he handles criticism against him. As reported by The Malaysian Insider, he will not even back down if the National Fatwa Council (NFC) declares otherwise:

“It is haram. Why should we withdraw? Haram is haram and practising it can cause syirik (ascribing partners to Allah). Even if the whole of Malaysia rejects my stand, I will still say it is haram.

“I said it is haram because it originates from non-Muslim traditions. Whatever is the purpose of doing it, including exercise, it is still haram,” said the outspoken scholar.

The Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) director-general said the poco-poco fatwa would be discussed along with other issues at the meeting.

But Harussani said that “even if the NFC says it is not haram, I will not withdraw the fatwa.”

“On what basis can they say it is not haram? It is danced in church. Why can’t we have zapin or drills like with the military? You just need 30 minutes and you’ll be sweating, just like back in school,” he added.

Added to that, many — including Perak Mentri Besar Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Islamic affairs, Jamil Khir Baharom — are urging Muslims to not question a fatwa, despite its batshit craziness.

I say this to the Muslims: how many of you then, would dare to question for what’s right?

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