Today I read an interesting article online. Reading it fuelled a fire already burning within me on a topic that gets me perfectly agitated. Many say that Religion is an issue that is highly sensitive for most people, and is therefore one that should be avoided. Now, when you add Politics into the fire, you pretty much know you’re going to get burned, and no one gets out of that looking pretty.
I found the article whilst checking a friend’s Twitter Timeline. The caption read “Indonesia Is No Model For Muslim Democracy” and was written by Andreas Harsono, a researcher for theAsiadivision of Human Rights Watch, and published in The New York Time’s Opinion Pages.
It’s a great article. And it speaks a lot of truth about a country and a people, I myself, have on occasion lost faith in. It begins with a quote from Hilary Clinton,
“If you want to know whether Islam, democracy, modernity and women’s rights can coexist, go to Indonesia.”
I used to believe this.
Growing up in London, as an Indonesian Muslim, I prided myself on the tolerant and moderate stance most Indonesian Muslims take. On various occasions I saw my country being referenced by the British media as a model of ‘good’ Islam, one that is not extremist, and one that the Middle East should follow. Activities within the Indonesian community were always well-balanced, all religions and cultures were celebrated. My favourite example will always be one of the Sarjana family, a Balinese Hindu family. Om and Tante (aunty and uncle) Sarjana would open their house to all and celebrate all religious holidays with the entire community, Eid, Christmas or Nyepi, everyone would get together, eat and be merry. Now thatis, for me, the perfect example of Indonesian religious tolerance and celebration. The thing is, from my experience, Indonesians abroad and Indonesians back home are often polar opposites. Unfortunately, I have met very few families like the Sarajanas, in Indonesia, who are as tolerant and as hospitable.
Before moving to Indonesia, I would have agreed entirely with Hilary Clinton. But then I moved to Indonesia…and I was suddenly led along a path of religious destruction hahaha
It’s funny how I had to move to the largest Muslim country in the world to lose faith in my own religion. After 2 years of torturous, non-stop clogs turning in my head on the subject, I have come to the conclusion that, it’s not God that I lost faith in, but my fellow Muslim brethren. And I think, with perfect validity.
I agree with almost everything Andreas Harsono writes in his article. Seeing Muslims in this country makes me sick to my stomach. And seeing the government use Islam as a tool for their own sinister agendas brings a sense of frustration I never thought I would ever feel. I must say before I continue, that of course not allMuslims in this country are like that, I don’t believe that at all, it’s just unfortunate that the media highlights shit Muslims as opposed to good ones.
Religious discrimination is rife in a country whose national constitution is supposed to support religious freedom. Let’s look at the philosophic foundation of the Indonesian state, Pancasila.
- Belief in one God.
- Just and civilised humanity
- The unity of Indonesia
- Democracy guided by the inner wisdom in the unanimity arising out of deliberations amongst representatives
- Social Justice for all of the people of Indonesia
I urge you to read the article, or continue to follow local media reports, and try and see for yourselves which ‘principles’ of Pancasila are actually followed.
A belief in One God is the first principle of Pancasila, yet it appears the government, in their actions and policies, and who also by the way, supports the activities of extremist groups such as FPI (Islamic Defenders Front), are picky about which ‘God’ we’re talking about. If you worship the God of Islam, life is easy for you and you are free to live life in accordance with your religion without trouble. If you are non-Muslim, prepare to have it hard. The continuing saga of the HKBP Filadelphia congregation of the Batak Christian Protestant Church in Bekasi, makes me fucking furious. A few days ago, during worship, they had stones and bags of urine thrown at them by members of FPI, and the police stood by and watched. Is there anything Just or Humane or Civilised about this? Erm, Social Justice? (That’s principles 2 and 5 of Pancasila crossed out then)
I don’t think there’s any point in me trying to break down principle no.4 of Pancasila (Democracy); the comical and ‘no-backbone’ theatrics of our politicians and president speak for themselves. I think it’s possible to say that the fundamental principles that this country built itself on are DEAD.
Not being a fan of politics, although having studied a far bit of it at University, I have little hope of things getting better in Indonesia. During the last presidential election, I even began to think that the Indonesian system is perhaps too democratic, the amount of ‘caleg’ and visible presence of election campaigns across the country was ridiculous to say the least. Every Tom, Dick and Harry suddenly became a ‘caleg’. There’s the term ‘spoilt for choice’, and we were indeed spoiled with SHIT choices.
Sometimes I think my momentary (well it lasted close to 2 years to be honest) loss of faith was a huge blessing. I began to question everything, and there is never anything wrong with questioning things or with a continuous longing to seek knowledge. Knowledge about everything, about all religions, not just those that were prescribed to us at birth. To my knowledge (please do correct me if I am wrong) religion in the Indonesian education system is taught in a segregated fashion, Muslims are taught about Islam, Catholics are taught about Catholicism etc. Perhaps this segregation plays part in the birth of narrow-mindedness, intolerance and blatant religious discrimination in this country.
In London, from an early age, all religions are taught to the entire class. London is a melting-pot of cultures, races and religions, and our religious education represented this. I learnt about Christmas and Easter, about Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and in turn, about my own Prophet Muhammad. An in my adult life, I made it a point to read about other religions, because for me ignorance is not bliss. Being ignorant about anything in this world is for me, a sin, and I have an insatiable thirst to learn about as many things as I can before I leave this world. I credit my open-mindedness about religion to my early exposure to people of all religions in school, but also through my home life. My father’s family is Muslim, my mother’s family is Catholic, but my mother converted to Islam, and I was raised as a Muslim, but I celebrated Christmas, as well as Eid, as a child, but that’s another story I will save for another blog post. What I’m trying to say is that the government, whether intentionally or not is keeping its people ignorant, and ignorance is what fuels the inhumane and uncivilised behaviour or people like the FPI.
FPI or Front Pembela Islam, may as well stand for Front Pembela IGNORANCE.
And with that, I will shut up, and pray (in whatever way I see fit) and urge you to pray (to whatever entity you believe or do not believe in) for a world less cruel, and harmony and humanism as opposed to chaos in our beloved Indonesia.