Helvy Tiana Rosa: Islamic Literature Activist

During May – July 2015, Helvy Tiana Rosa was busy preparing a film adaptation for her first popular novel “Ketika Mas Gagah Pergi”. Interestingly, Helvy and the production team used a crowd funding method. Helvy aggresively promoted the crowd funding process through social media and various internet platforms until she reached her goal.

This type of activism is Helvy’s personal trait. She is more than a female writer who silently write from inside her room. Safe to say that she is a complete writer who is active in theaters, write and perform her poems and works, an editor of a fiction magazine, an academic and teacher who supports her students through various social media and other internet platforms.

As a writer, there has been more than 50 published books, including novels, collections of short stories, theatrical scripts, literature reviews, and poems. A few of her works have been translated to English languange, Germanic, France, Arabic, Japanese, and Swedish.

Helvy’s specialty lies in her explicit self description as a writer and activist of Islamic Literature. Since 1991, at the same time when she and a few of her colleagues founded an Islamic fiction magazine “Annida”, Helvy confirms this identity of her’s. Annida then grew to become one of the best selling Islamic teen readings, while creating a new market that grew strong at a rapid pace until the 2000 era.

In 1997, Helvy and Asma Nadia, her younger sister, who is also a prominent writer, developed “Forum Lingkar Pena” (FLP), which can be claimed as the largest organization of writers in Indonesia. Through FLP, Helvy and Asma coached new generation of writers from different age and social backgrounds, especially younger writers and are mostly female. There are more than 150 branches of FLP across Indonesia and overseas. One of the most momentuos FLP branch for Helvy and Asma is the one in Hongkong, which majorly consist of Indonesian workers who works as house maids and aspired to become writers.

For Helvy, her activism to disseminate Indonesia’s Islamic literature throughout Indonesia and the rest of the world is more than acts of ideology. In our interview, Helvy states that Islamic literature “portrays humanistic matters”. For her, Islamic literature is the one that “builds positive spirit” for muslims, Indonesians, and even the world. That is why she perceived Kahlil Gibran’s works, the Maronite Christian’s works, as works of Islamic nature.

During the interview, Helvy states that “Islam is benign, Islam is love, Islam is beautiful”