Indonesia’s Spoiled Majority

MUI (Indonesia’s clerical council) has released a decree that prohibits employers from forcing Muslim employees to wear Christmas attires. It receives opposition from many members of the public, especially the non-Muslims.

Many of us are irritated by their complains. We think they’re disrespecting our Islamic way of life. We think they’re shoving their views down our throats. We think the decree only affects the lives of Muslims.

If you believe that, you’re ignorant about the religious life in Indonesia.

FPI (the Islamic defender front), following the recklessly-constructed decree, raided a few shopping malls in Surabaya. To hell with the Christians! There should be no Christmas celebration! That’s just one example. Without the FPI, Indonesians would still be “respected” anyway.

Don’t get me wrong. I do believe that the majority can suffer from discrimination, like black people under Apartheid South Africa and the Shias in Iraq whose government was controlled by the Sunnis. But, that’s not happening to Indonesian Muslims.

Events that are also attended by non-Muslims include Islamic prayers. The ministry of religious affairs is controlled by Muslims. There are lots of publicly-funded Islamic universities. TV schedules are re-arranged in every fasting month. We’re not only a respected majority, we’re also a spoiled one.

For many years, we’ve been having a higher status than the other religious groups in this country. As a result, we’ve become spoiled. Our self-indulgence makes us turn our backs against the discrimination faced by the minorities. Our self-indulgence makes us feel trampled when they ask for more sensible rights.

Our self-indulgence turns us into a shameless flock.

Mayoritas yang Manja di Indonesia

MUI membuat fatwa yang melarang tempat-tempat kerja mengharuskan karyawan-karyawan Muslim untuk mengenakan atribut-atribut Natal. Fatwa tersebut banyak mendapatkan tantangan dari masyarakat, terutama kalangan non-Muslim.

Banyak dari kita yang Muslim kesal dengan keluhan mereka. Kita menganggap mereka tidak menghormati kehidupan umat Muslim. Kita menganggap mereka memaksakan kehendak. Kita menganggap fatwa tersebut hanya memengaruhi kita sendiri.

Jika anda percaya itu, berarti anda bebal terhadap kenyataan kehidupan beragama di Indonesia.

FPI, mengikuti fatwa yang dibuat dengan ceroboh, melakukan razia hiasan natal di berbagai pusat-pusat perbelanjaan di Surabaya. Persetan dengan umat Nasrani! Tidak boleh ada perayaan natal! Itupun hanya satu contoh. Tanpa FPI pun, umat Muslim di Indonesia akan tetap “dihormati”.

Jangan salah. Saya juga percaya bahwa kalangan mayoritas dapat didiskriminasi, seperti orang-orang berkulit hitam di Afrika Selatan pada zaman Apartheid dan umat Syiah di Irak yang pemerintahnya dikuasai umat Sunni. Tetapi, hal itu tidak terjadi terhadap umat Muslim Indonesia.

Doa-doa Islami selalu dilakukan di acara-acara yang dihadiri umat non-Muslim. Kementerian agama dikuasai oleh umat Muslim. Banyak perguruan tinggi yang didanai langsung oleh pemerintah. Jadwal berbagai saluran TV dirubah setiap bulan puasa. Kita bukan hanya mayoritas yang dihormati, kita juga adalah mayoritas yang terlalu dimanja.

Selama bertahun-tahun lamanya, kita memiliki status yang lebih tinggi dibandingkan kelompok-kelompok agama lain di negeri ini. Akibatnya, kita menjadi sangat manja. Kemanjaan itu membuat kita membalikan badan terhadap diskriminasi yang dialami kalangan minoritas. Kemanjaan itu membuat kita merasa ditindas jika mereka meminta hak-hak lebih yang sewajarnya.

Kemanjaan itu membuat kita sebagai gerombolan yang tidak tahu diri.

The problems with anti-Ahok demonstrations

Brainless Muslims

The alleged blasphemy never existed in the first place. It’s obvious how the incriminating video was edited by Buni Yani, a proudly irresponsible and victim card-playing human being.

The editing is so obvious, even for the untrained eyes. All you need is to use your brain. Well, if you have one, anyway.

Easily offended Muslims

Whether Ahok was being blasphemous or not, that’s irrelevant. If he was, so what?

Are we so fragile against criticism of our own religion? Do we really believe everyone must love Islam?

If Islam is really the truest and strongest of all religions, do we really need to defend it so aggressively to the point of making the complete opposite impression?

I am sure the people who got offended by Ahok’s so-called blasphemy love to offend the sentiment of other religious groups. The right of being angry is exclusively theirs.

Naming the December 2nd demonstration as a “peaceful act”

Demonstration was done in the first place because certain people possessed hatred against someone that they deem offend them.

Demonstrators were caught red-handed harassing reporters.

FPI, who is no stranger sectarianism and extremism, was involved in the demonstration.

They did their Friday prayer in the middle of the road, disturbing other road users. The prayer could have been done in mosques.

They also promise more demonstrations in the future. They won’t stop until Ahok is arrested for something he didn’t do.

Is it appropriate to call this divisiness “peaceful”?

The wrapped rice army

It’s not a secret in Indonesia. Many of us are willing to demonstrate for the sake of rice and small allowance. Whether they understand the message of the demonstration, it doesn’t matter. Just give them the rewards.

It is tempting to Indonesians who live in poverty. But, I know that many of us are willing to whore ourselves even for the smallest rewards.

Money-oriented news coverage

I am delighted about the two counter-demonstrations. They may not have any depth. They may be used as vehicles for political parties. But, that doesn’t matter. What matters is their explicit message about the beauty of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity), especially in this increasingly sectarian age.

But, I am disappointed with the coverage by the media, both domestic and foreign, who focused too much on the anti-Ahok demonstrations and too little on the counter ones. Bad news thicken our pockets.

This kind of coverage unwittingly portrays those humans of hatred as the representatives of all mankind, as if their views are the only ones that matter. In the end, they are given more power the peace-loving and pluralist human beings.

Because of their great influence, the media has a responsibility for the society. But then, they think profit is more important.

Blasphemy legislation

I am one of the people who oppose it.

Even though I hate what people say about my religion, I also believe in individual freedoms. I cannot force others to love my religion like I do. I also have to learn to not get offended easily.

More often than not, a statement is considered as blasphemous…if it contradicts with the views of many. Figures like Quraish Shihab and Ulil Abshar Abdallah have such statements.

They never intended to be that way. What they do is having their own interpretations of the scripture. The problem rises when others disagree with them.

This legislation is dangerous because it prosecutes anyone who dares to think differently.

Naming the demonstrations as “defense of Islam”

Do you want to beautify our name? Show that we actually deserve respect.

Show the world that we are peace-loving.

Show them that we are intelligent and willing to have civilised conversations.

Show them that we are willing to treat everyone humanely, not matter what their backgrounds are.

But, that’s not what have been done. Some of us are aroused to do the opposite: being divisive, refusing conversation and even encouraging violence to each other…

…and all of those done in the name of Islam and Muslims.

If that’s how you live your life, don’t call yourself defenders of Islam. In fact, it seems you make efforts to taint the imagine of our religion and our people.

You should be the ones prosecuted for blasphemy, not Ahok.

To be a cultural wizard

Am I already one? Let me see:

I am from Indonesia. With hundreds of native ethnic groups, it is one of the most diverse countries in the world. I have spent most of my life in the city of Batam. As it is a planned city, there is no native ethnic group and many of the residents were born elsewhere. So far, I have seen six dominant ethnic groups and that doesn’t include smaller ones. I have also spent some time living in Jakarta metropolitan area. As the nation’s centre of everything, it is much more diverse.

I have visited twenty two countries (thanks to my mom who could afford it). As Batam is located near Singapore, I have visited it more than the other foreign countries. Many foreigners reside in both Batam and Jakarta. When I was in junior high school, some of my teachers were Filipinos. I have also spent some time living in Melbourne for study. My university has lots of foreign students. I got along really well with some students. Not a single drama.

I am also bilingual in Indonesian and English. I am confident to say I am relatively fluent in both. Indonesian helps me to get closer to my roots and English helps to get to know foreign ones. Every time we speak a language, our minds start using cultural perspectives associated with it. Jokes that sound good in Indonesian sounds terrible in English and vice versa. So, my outlook should be more multicultural than monolinguals’.

A child of multiethnic parents? Have been to many places? Bilingual? It sounds like I am already a cultural wizard, right? No, I am not. I used to see myself as one based on those reasons alone. What experiences I have does not matter. What I learn from them matters a lot….and I have learned nothing, especially about stereotypes.

I still fall for them. Sometimes, in discussions about societal issues, I still use them as references! Some are indeed true. But, life is much more complex than that. I have been frequently slapped in the face by the impossibility of pigeonholing. But, I still do it anyway. All of those wasted epiphanies. I am just getting started with my sins.

I have committed many as a traveller. They make me judgmental against “the others”. Expecting everyone to speak English and to share my way of life are the worst sins. It is very unforgivable of me as I a, aware of human diversity. I think I know the reason why. I think…

I only speak Indonesian and English. Indonesian is, as the name suggests, a national language. It bears the country’s national. Despite its slight bias to certain regional cultures, it is still the least sectarian cultural identity in Indonesia. But, such empowering strength is accompanied by a crippling weakness: vulnerability to foreign influences. I do not oppose them. In fact, I welcome them! But, the problem with Indonesians is we hate being ourselves. We are very joyful about our heritages in jeopardy. I myself prefer English over Indonesian. I can’t speak a single regional language (and there are hundreds of them!); when I speak Indonesian, my dialect tend to be similar to the Jakartan one which is nationally-accepted. Of course, that is not entirely my fault. I was never taught to speak one by my family and schools. I am just making excuses.

Without doubt, English is a global language. Some says that global languages are hostile to regional cultures. Hostile to regional languages? Maybe. But, not to regional cultures. For me, global languages are apathetic to them. They may help us learn other regional cultures. But, they do not encourage. Well, they do if we speak unique regional dialects…and many of us don’t, especially non-native speakers like me. Okay, I know blaming languages is far-fetched and childish. Not to mention that I shamelessly dedicate two paragraphs on it. I would be surprised if I have convinced you. But, I promise the next reason will be more believable.

I used to think holiday and travelling were interchangible. Big mistake. I had the awakening when Justin Lukach from Departure and PBS’s Rick Steves pointed out the difference: Holiday is about relaxation and travelling is about new experiences and learning. Paraphrasing Rick Steves, holiday is not a sin, mistaking it with travelling is. I am a faithful committer of that sin. On trips, I always visit tourist attractions, eat familiar food and distance myself from the locals. Never leave home without my beloved bubble. This sin reveals something about myself that I find hard to admit: I don’t have the will to learn!

I am a do-nothing inept sloth. I am too lazy to try anything new. I prefer to lay down on my bed, browsing the internet. I can use the internet to learn new things. But no, I use it only to view my favourite videos and to interact with friends and acquaintances. I find cultural heritages are more difficult to learn than school subjects. I need to pop my bubble. Am I ready for it? Wait, I ask the wrong question: do I want it? No. Not now, at least. I am interested in other cultures. But, I am too lazy to do the efforts. Of course, that is my personal problem, not anyone’s elses. But, for others, the reluctance to learn is caused by another factor.

I notice many netizens champion cultural competence. I used to think that was terrific. But then, many are also nightmarish. They demonise every “uncultured” person. Tell them that you haven’t tried or don’t like sushi and expect a tsunami of hatefulness. I know, I know. Their maturity and courage are small enough to befriend microbes. But, it is undeniably off-putting. You start associating cultural competence with those so-called humans.

*starts sensing the readers’ impatience. LOL. Most of my readers are my friends….*

What’s the point of my rambling? I just want to say we should thrive for cultural competence. It helps us in acknowledging the kaleidoscopic nature of humanity and, better, humanising each other. But, at the same time, you cannot force it; thrive for it because you genuinely want to. When you do, never be forceful to others; you want them to love it, not hate it. End up with the latter and we’ll get even more disconnected from each other.