A brief description of the outlooks of Indonesian Muslims

Based on a university assignment I made recently. Improved and translated from Indonesian:

Ahok is charged with two years of imprisonment for a blasphemy he was never guilty of. Habieb Rizieq, who blatantly and clearly insulted the Christian faith and desires for Sharia imposed on every citizen, has yet to be touched by the anti-blasphemy legislation. Worse, Ahok is considered to be the nation’s divider and Rizieq to be a unifier by some Muslims.

Unfortunately, this injustice is not surprising. First of all, Islam is the biggest religion here, venerated by 87.18% of the population; so easy for the majority to rule. I obtained the data from a census published by the Central Agency on Statistics (BPS) in 2010. Minority religions were also mentioned. But, the balance in religious studies was not always embraced.

Overall statistic studies of the whole country published in 2016 mentioned the numbers of government-run Madrasahs (Islamic schools) along with their students and teachers; there are also numbers for the people who did the Hajj (pilgrimage). Same thing with the 2015 and 2014 publications. The studies were executed to comprehend different aspects of the country’s life, including its ‘key socio-demographic’ characteristics, as stated in the introduction page of every said publication.

Demographic studies should include every single section of a society, not just the majority ones. Other religious groups are not mentioned at all while the study of the Muslim one is quite in-depth. The Indonesian government seems to treat the others like step-children. Maybe I look petty for making a big deal out of statistical researches. But, that lack of impartiality is also shown in the government’s administrative works.

From its name alone, the ministry of religious affairs should serve all religious groups. But, in reality, they only serve Muslims. The ministry is being ruled by Muslims, including the ministerial rank. If they only want to serve Muslims, at least they change their name to ministry of Islamic affairs. No need to be deceptive.

Of course, I cannot completely accuse the government of making Islam the golden child. Besides it, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism are all officially recognised. Despite being dominated by Muslims, the ministry of religious affairs still possesses organisations that represent minority religions. Publicly-funded universities affiliated with other religions can still be found. Ministerial positions can still be held by non-Muslims. Despite the tendency to be religiously one-sided and to mix religion with politics, the Indonesian government has yet to be tainted by Islamist ideology.

I also believe the problem can also be found on the people. In the post-Soeharto era, Syahrin Harahap notices how the Indonesian society possesses three distinct images: harmonious, open and fair interreligious image, secular, liberal and western-oriented image and conflicting, in tension and terroristic image. (2006, p. 32-43).

The observation shows how a nation, especially one as diverse as Indonesia, always consists of distinct collectives. But, at the same times, those said images are very black and white and I find that unnerving.

Indonesian liberals are not thought to prioritise harmony even when they openly oppose religious sectarianism; Ulil Abshar Abdalla even supports the Ahmadis. We also forget about how, as I mentioned earlier, Habieb Rizieq is being praised by so-called harmony-loving citizens. The mask we wear is often deceitful.

Rationality, which is embraced by some Muslim thinkers, is considered to be a highly-western thing. Such assumption gives the impression that rationality is antithetical to eastern cultures and most Muslims are easterners themselves.

Rationality is also not considered as a factor for openness. Rational thinking is just a path towards blasphemy, a path towards atheism. As a result, many Muslims see it as something that we should refrain ourselves from embracing.

We also forget about how popular the western culture is in Indonesia, even among citizens who oppose liberalism. Even the Islamic pop culture is highly westernised, with its commercialism and hedonism that attract conservatives’ distaste (Saluz 2009).

In addition, a load of preachers have attained celebrity status. Every sermon is a generous money generator. They also have appeared in countless commercials. In many ways, they are not unlike the televangelists from the United States, a western country.

Those liberal thinkers are considered too westernised because they studied in western universities. People with such petty assumption don’t realise how modern Islamic education in eastern countries is based on the western one; Islamic universities in the east have followed the results of the Bologna Process. Oh and Gus Dur graduated from University of Baghdad and Quraish Shihab from Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt. They studied in Arab education institutes. Why weren’t they accused of being too Arabised?

Besides accused of being too western, the liberals are also labelled as secular, despite how open they are about their religious beliefs, how often they give religious sermons and how some of them teach in Islamic educational institutes. Besides, can we guarantee all of those opponents of liberal Islam pray five times a day, do the zakat, fast every Ramadhan, abstain from alcohol and pre-marital sex?

The images shown by Syahrin Harahap, despite referring to the ones foreigners see, also exist among Indonesians. We love to stamp black and white labels on each other, not realising how humans are more complex than we like to imagine. I also feel Syahrin Harahap used the wrong approach to this issue.

I appreciate how he acknowledges Muslims’ extremism problem. But, at the same time, he was an apologist; he seemed to blame the rise of fundamentalism on forces from outside the Muslim world by stating that Islam is an inherently peaceful religion.

As a Muslim myself, I would love to believe that. But, in reality, those extremists genuinely believe their views are completely aligned with Islamic teachings. We should accept the possibility of our beloved religions being far from perfect.

I do agree with his proposal that teaching globalisation studies to students will help combating domestic extremism (p. 43). It is true the ideology was born overseas and spread from one country to another. But, the academic discipline does not cover the whole issue; it does not study how something spreads internally once it reaches a country.

I propose for all Indonesian Muslims, including the moderate ones, to take a look at themselves in the mirror regarding how we decipher Islamic teachings and how we treat our fellow human beings, especially ones whose outlooks contradict ours. Even though the moderates incite neither violence nor discrimination and will call out anyone who do so, their tendency to make infidels out of liberals and unwillingness to admit Islam as the inspiration for extremism have already given birth to possibly long-lasting negative consequences.

Like it or not, the moderates are indirectly responsible for the injustice that befalls Ahok.

 

 

Badan Pusat Statistik 2010, Hasil sensus penduduk 2010: kewarganegaraan, suku bangsa, agama dan bahasa sehari-sehari penduduk Indonesia, BPS, Jakarta.

Badan Pusat Statistik 2014, Statistik Indonesia 2016, BPS, Jakarta.

Badan Pusat Statistik 2015, Statistik Indonesia 2015, BPS, Jakarta.

Badan Pusat Statistik 2016, Statistik Indonesia 2016, BPS, Jakarta.

Harahap, S 2016, ‘The image of Indonesia in the world: an interreligious perspective’, The IUP journal of international relations, vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 30-44.

Saluz, CN 2009, ‘Youth and pop culture in Indonesian Islam’, Studia Islamika, vol. 16. no. 2, pp. 215-242.

My identity

(Based on my New Media class assignment. It was made in 2014. Three years ago. In this new version, I will also compare my 2014 view with the current one.)

The pictures above are screenshots of the pages I like on Facebook. The shrinks among you will try to ‘psychoanalyse’ me based on that alone. I am sure you will get your ‘analyses’ wrong. Yes, what I like reveals my true self. But, I have only shown you eighteen pages. You should also consider the groups I join, my taste, my backgrounds, what I share online and how I interact with fellow human beings online and offline. Here, I will discuss how I form my online identity and its legitimacy as a form of legitimacy. First, we need to define what identity is.

2017 update:

Some of the Youtubers featured in the screenshot… well… I have stopped watching them almost completely since 2015, a year after I made this assignment. I also liked a page called ‘Positive Outlooks’. Yeah, I don’t remember how I ended up liking a page with such revoltingly-syrupy name.

R. Atchley (cited in Kelly 2010) defines identity as a group of traits that distinguish a self from the others; it is the only thing that can represent a self. I personally see myself having more than one; my online behaviour is different from the offline one. Stard and Prusak (cited in Kelly 2010) believed that to be true; they stated a self can have more than one depending on how it represents itself. An online identity is different from its offline counterpart because the former tends to be more mindfully presented, considering how social media gives users more time (Champagne cited in Bouvier 2012, p. 40). Every identity is legitimate despite contradicting each other. Online, I have two: humanist and spiritual.

2017 updates:

It is anecdotal, but I believe online identities are not always sensible; they can be a lot nastier than the offline ones. New media seem to be good at breaking down our metaphysical guard.

I still believe one can embrace two seemingly clashing identities; humans are complex creatures. But, I also admit the syncretic identification can appear as cognitive dissonances to most people, especially when said individuals refuse to acknowledge the contradictions’ existence.

My humanist identity is an identity I embrace when dealing with fellow human beings. It covers my social, political and cultural identity. When online, it is mostly liberal and internationalist in nature. I constantly clash with conservatives, I prefer English over Indonesian and most online articles I read are about international issues instead of local ones. When I first joined Facebook, I was far less international but was already liberal. Then, I started to meet people from all over the world and had good relationships with them. Offline, it is a different case.

I still have shreds of conservatism and nationalism inside my offline self. My lifestyle is neither too liberal nor too conservative. I live in Australia at the moment, studying in an international university and have no problem respecting local customs. But, I spend most of social life interacting with fellow Indonesians and acting like a stereotypical Indonesian inside my house. Even though both are different, my online and offline identities greatly influence each other. I would be completely completely liberal and international online if my offline self is not more moderate and more nationalistic. Unlike my humanist identity, my spiritual identity took longer to form itself.

2017 updates:

I am not sure about my usage of the word ‘humanist’. Humanism is often defined as a divine-less and human-centred form of spirituality. It is obvious how my so-called humanist identity has nothing to do with spirituality. Back then, I did not bother to open my thesaurus. Now, I think ‘temporal’ or ‘profane’ are the more appropriate choices.

I was fooling myself when I said I had good relationships with everyone on Facebook. I did end up being close to some users. But, at the same time, I also had many clashes caused by various reasons. Sooo easy to interact with me.

Now, I am back to Indonesia, even though I am still studying off-campus mode on the same university. The reason I mostly interacted with Indonesians while living abroad is I lived with my sister, who had many Indonesian friends and acquaintances in Australia. If my sister was not with me, I would have more interactions with Aussies. If you barely socialise and you live in Australia, your interactions would mostly consist of Aussies. Duh!

Spirituality does not have a universally-accepted definition. I personally define it as a way to embrace one’s true self; it is not necessarily about connecting with the divine as agnostics and atheists may also describe themselves as ‘spiritual’. My online spiritual identity is a reformed/progressive one. I believe there must be a reform in the way believers interpret religious teachings. On Facebook, I join groups and like pages dedicated to progressive/reformed/ Muslims; I also like pages dedicated to progressive Christians. If online users ask what my religion is, I would immediately answer progressive/reformed Islam. Offline, once again, it is a different case.

I am closeted with my belief in order to avoid any conflicts. There are not many openly progressive Muslims. The internet is our safe haven, the only place where we are able to congregate peacefully (most of the time); the online congregation is more spiritually satisfying than the ones I encounter in mosques. But, there is a problem with my spiritual identity: it is insecure and fragile.

I am doubtful that I perfectly represent my identity. I tend to have low tolerance of conservative and moderate Muslims, even the non-violent ones, seemingly contradicting my so-called progressive nature. Technically, I am a progressive/reformist-wannabe militant liberal. It will actually help if I interact with more people, not just the ones who claim to be progressive.

Piotr Bobkowski (2008) believed young people are not enlightened enough to properly express their faith (p. 3) and yet they can be too showy (p. 21). Literally me. I am very quick to announce my religiosity while still not being learned enough. Compared that to my fellow self-identified progressive/reformist Muslims who are both well-read and reserved.

2017 updates:

I still embrace that definition of spirituality. But, nowadays, it has become more layered and slightly more complex (only slightly). I realised how I defined it in 2014 was too simplistic and superficial.

I keep typing ‘reformed/progressive’ regarding my Islamic identity. Many people use the two words interchangeably, sometimes along with the word ‘liberal’. From what I know, there are no established distinctions between reformist, progressive and liberal Muslims. But, I tend to identify with the first two as I do think liberalism is different from progressivism and reformism.

My militant liberal attitude was short-lived. I was very impressionable and let myself influenced by the nasty self-proclaimed reformed/progressive Muslims whose idea of progressive Islam includes selling their fellow believers to anti-Muslim bigots. That’s why I am often reluctant to join online communities dedicated to such well-intentioned movement. It is too bad because many self-proclaimed progressives out there still maintain their dignity.

I agree with Bobkowski to an extend. It is true youngsters are prone to irrationality and immaturity; unsurprising considering how young brains are not fully-developed. But, at the same time, adults can also be guilty of the same, especially when it comes to spirituality. Case in point, those sell-out so-called progressive Muslims.

Online identity is as legitimate as its offline counterpart. In the digital era, both are inevitable crucial parts in overall human identities. One can’t live without the other, despite seemingly different from the surface. It is not important if they are different from each other or not, it is more important if they are true to a person’s true self and they don’t make him or her an intolerant individual.

2017 update:

It should be like this: it is more important if they encourage our true selves to embrace reason and high moral standards.

 

Bobkowski, P 2008, ‘An Analysis of Religious Identity Presentation on Facebook’, International Communication Association 2008 Annual Meeting – Conference Paper, pp. 1-24.

 

Bourvier, G 2012, ‘How Facebook users select identity categories for self-presentation,’ Journal of Multicultural Discourses, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 37-53.

 

Kelly, L 2010, What is Identity?, Australian Museum, retrieved 19 May 2010, <http://australianmuseum.net.au/blogpost/Museullaneous/What-is-identity>.

The vanity of material rites

As a child, I used to find Ramadhan extremely gruelling. It was very easy for me to feel hungry and thirsty. Just add blazing tropical sun for extra torment. But, that was all physical. Emotionally, it was a different story.

Even though my body was drained of any will to live, I had this inexplicable emotional satisfaction. It was the same feeling that I experience after watching a motion picture work with conflict-afflicted, yet heart-warming story (I did say ‘inexplicable’, didn’t I?). Every fast break was sublime. And then, the end of the month arrived.

Idul Fitri, which is the Indonesian name of Eid al-Fitr, marks the end of Ramadhan. It is meant to celebrate the end of the arduous fasting period. But, the most important of all, it is meant for us to forgive and be forgiven by our fellow human beings. A wonderful climax for such sublime spiritual feeling. Then, growing up happens.

The older I get, the less I experience such feeling. Criticalness and cynicism are slowly killing it. I’ve become doubtful of the faithfulness of any positive emotions that pop culture wants us to feel. They are like sugary shells: they can be left out hollow or filled with snake venom. Then, I dragged that attitude up even further to other aspects of life, including religions.

Let me start with fasting. For believers, fasting is meant to show what hunger and thirst feel like, it is an act of self-restraint, a test of our will power. Supposedly, an ability in getting through the process is a sign of spiritual achievement. For many years, I was imbecile enough to believe that. What happens at fast breaks is anything but spiritual.

A fast break is what it really sounds like: the time to break from fasting. A few glasses of drinks and a tiny assortment of snacks, accompanied by our gratefulness for the simplest sustenance we can get. Main meal to be eaten later on. At least, that’s my ideal fast break. Most other people are of no integrity.

For them, it’s all about self-indulgence. Greasy snacks and diabetically-sweet drinks. In total, the ‘snacks’ equal to two highly-calorific and innutritious meals; oh and there’s still a main meal afterwards. There’s no gratitude, only perverse sense of duty to partake in gluttony. Fasting is just a mere chore. Oh and the gluttony doesn’t stop there.

Most religious holidays I know always involve feasts. They are meant to encourage gatherings with everyone, especially with our loved ones. From my experiences, foods can bring people together, even the ones that don’t always meet eye to eye. But, it is naive to expect that during Eid.

Once again, we feel obligated to engage in lecherous food orgies. Most of us only visit houses that provide buffets. Whether we are close or not to the hosts, that doesn’t matter. What matters is the food they provide. Food and money in green envelopes to buy new clothes. Oh, remember when I said how Idul Fitri is about forgiveness? Yeah, just another lie.

We ask our loved ones for forgiveness, they ask us for the same thing…and then, we proceed to wrong each other literally seconds later. Our lyrical words are nothing but showmanship, hiding a nature so malicious that Satan would be thrown off his balance. Living in a gratifying make-believe is more important living in sincerity. Oh, and speaking about dishonesty…

I am very much guilty of the ‘sins’ I mentioned. I see Ramadhan as a mere chore and gluttony is the only reason why I love Eid. In fact, I’ve been (almost proudly) inconsiderate towards many rituals for quite some time. So, I am not entitled to be (self-) righteous about them here. But, I am entitled to be outraged by how we still put confidence in the claimed spiritual benefits.

Ramadhan fails to encourage self-restraint and appreciation of the most basic sustenance. Idul Fitri fails to nurture genuine familial bonds among us. Enforcing compulsion to rituals is impotent in cultivating their supposed benefits. In fact, as I’ve said before, they’ll become mere chores and additional justifications for hedonism. We cannot achieve spirituality by solely immersing ourselves in the corporeal realms. Sounds reasonable enough? Well, not for the self-proclaimed enlightened ones.

They, the individuals who tyrannically equate rituals with spirituality, see themselves as the enlightened saints who have masterfully unraveled the divine they avow to dearly love when, in truth, they are utterly skin-deep organisms who commit sacrilege by stripping down the highly enigmatic and ethereal transcendence into meagre physicality.

But, for all of that, they’ve got the audacity to denounce us, the rituals loathers, of disgraceful sacrilege that they themselves are unabashedly guilty of. Naturally, what can one expect from ungodly self-admiring mortals of imaginary importance? Clearly, anything but humility and self-consciousness.

Okay, I need to wrap it up before I blow up my rant even more.

No, I am not saying that rituals are inherently worthless; regardless of my frustration with religious holidays, I still love some rituals like the daily Islamic prayers. What I am saying is……different strokes for different folks. No matter how cliched this idiom is, its merit still stands.

Your experiences are personally yours. Never ever force others, not even your fellow believers, to observe your favourite rituals, let alone shaming them for not feeling the same profundity. You are literally one human being among a sea of billions. Unless you suffer from a severe case of self-admiration, you cannot seriously think you are the sole bearer of sacred truth.

Also, is it appropriate to observe rituals for hedonism’s sake? It is a question I am not ready to answer yet. But, I am certain that it is inappropriate to dismiss the existence of hedonistic tendencies among the participants.

The tangibility of rituals is also a vulnerability against hedonism. There is no doubt some observances are deeply contemplative. But, you cannot pretend the ones purely motivated by worldly pleasures do not exist. Acknowledge that simply physical observances won’t enhance our celestial existence. Be honest, for God’s sake.

Oh, and I do not understand the hate for hedonism. Like, why? We live in a material world all the frickin’ time. Even the most pious among us have engaged in it more than once. Eating our favourite foods, having fun with family and friends. They are earthly pleasures. They are hedonistic. Hedonism is inevitable.

Believers as queer allies

religion-praying

Believers can be ones. Yes, you read that right. In fact, you need them. As homophobia is often religious, it makes perfect sense.

Non-believers may understand the soul of religious communities. But, believers can reach out to it. They can transform it to a kinder one and hence, kinder believers. Self-accepting LGBT believers in particular can aid closeted fellow believers and encourage religious homophobes to humanise their fellow human beings.

Of course, you may think religiosity is inherently homophobic and I’m just an apologist. Of course, everyone has their own thoughts. But, I want you to admit three things:

First, you’re already lost. You fight for LGBT rights against religious bigots. Then, you find believers who share your cause! They can help encouraging change in the bigots’ hearts. But, you blow it by refusing their alliance. You cripple your own activism.

Second, you support the bigots. You’re theologically in tune with them. In fact, you also support the notion that they are the truest of all believers. The strengthening of their existence isn’t the fault of progressive believers. It’s yours.

Third, you were never a right activist in the first place. You only care about non-religious queers. More anti-religious, the better. No matter how much they are hated by the religious communities, they will always have strong supports. Lucky them.

The religious ones? After the hatred from their fellow believers, a support would be more than morally delightful. Theological agreement optional. But, being heartless you are, you regurgitate almost equally inhumane animosity to their faces. Upgrading their misery and isolation with such innate virtuosity. You must be so proud.

My advise? Stop calling yourself an LGBT right activist. Instead, call yourself a loving person for some …and a heartless enemy for the rest. Unleash your true gangrene self. Don’t be shy! Honesty and self-acceptance, they are good for your soul.

Well, I’m not sure if they are. It takes a lot more to heal yours, if you actually have one. But, at least, you’re no longer a fraudulent angel. You won’t double-cross anyone with that deceitfully sweet mask of yours.

Life under the crescent-bearing Garuda

istiqlal

*puts on my personal lenses*

I was born and raised in Indonesia, a predominantly-Muslim country which also has the biggest Muslim population on earth. It has been hailed as a progressive Muslim. I beg the differ. First, the government only acknowledges six religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Confucianism. Native religions? Sikhism? Judaism? Our government is not secular -and kind- enough to recognise them. Too bad. Oh and Islam is the golden child.

There are publicly-funded Islamic universities; you won’t find non-Islamic religious ones funded by taxpayers. Formal events have brief Islamic prayers. Broadcasters air Islamic calls for prayer. Mosques can get away with their loudspeaker abuses. TV stations re-schedule their shows every Ramadhan. There are quite a few Islamic political parties. All presidents have always been Muslims. The ministry of religious affairs has always been dominated by Muslims. Of course, favouriting Islam makes us vulnerable to hardcore Islamic conservatism.

More Indonesians think women should wear hijab. Islamism is getting popular. Increasing religious bigotry and homophobia. Increasing anti-Semitism. Islamic moral police grow like fungi in wet seasons. Some universities are accused of letting extremists brainwashing students. More Indonesians think Islamic identity is inherently Arabic. Aceh has provincial Sharia. There are ISIS supporters. So much for being a progressive Muslim country, eh? Progressive haven it is not. So, it is right to call it an extremist one, right? Right? No, it is not.

Indonesia is admittedly heading the path towards extremism. But, it has yet to reach the destination. With female modesty, for example. Some workplaces ban hijab. Few female TV personalities wear hijab. Hijab is not enforced in some Islamic schools. Hijab is still seen as a backwarded cultural practice, not a religious one. Some hijabis are trend-followers, not devout believers. Okay, then. Hijab is not widely-accepted. How about atrocities against religious and sexual minorities?

Religious discrimination and homophobia are indeed rising. The former can be really violent at times. But, at the same time, the situation is not as horrific as claimed. We still have religious pluralism. Mind you that we still recognise other religions. Some regions are still predominantly-Christian and Bali is still predominantly-Hindu. In predominantly-Muslim ones, there are many non-Islamic places of worship and educational institutes; some Muslim parents send their kids to Christian schools. Non-Muslims have held high-ranking government positions. Indeed, all of our presidents have been Muslims. But then, all of them are also of Javanese descents; Javanisation is also an issue here. Our homophobia and anti-Semitism were born out of cultural conservatism; only now Islamic radicalism is a major factor. We were already homophobic and racist even when we were much more secular.

Secular. Yes, Indonesians can be secular, even some of the most devouted ones. From 2000 to 2004, I attended two Islamic schools. Despite the compulsory prayers and all-Muslim student body, the atmosphere was very secular; students openly enjoyed hedonistic entertainment and not all girls wore hijab. Our entertainment in general is very secular. Islamic one exists as a niche market. Islamic political parties flopped at the previous national election. Every time a netizen demands state Sharia, others would remind him/her (sometimes brutally) that Indonesia is a multi-religious country and has always been. The moral police here is like Westboro Baptist Church: widely-known and widely-hated. We still appreciate our Hindu and Buddhist heritages, like Garuda, our national symbol. Out of 34 provinces, only Aceh is Sharia-plagued. No, Aceh does not represent the entire country. Okay, I need to stop.

I admit that Indonesia is a wrecked ship that needs massive renovation inside out. Government’s permissiveness of radical Islam, centuries-old racism and homophobia, corruption, horrendous education, endangered heritages, fragile economy, anti-intellectualism, I can go on all day! But, likening Indonesia to Saudi Arabia is just delusional. You cannot cherry pick information that pleasure your prejudice g-spot and pretend you are in touch in reality.

I admit that we don’t know everything about our own countries. But, that doesn’t mean foreigners can make shits up. A foreigner who has never been to Indonesia claimed he knew everything about it; when I said “everything”, I meant only the bad ones. Where did he get his info? His cherry-picking of carefully-selected news articles and his Indonesian friends of dubious existence. He swallowed their words easily like an obedient child. I refuted his friends’ claims and he accused me of blindness. But, I should not be angered by him and his likes. Their intellectual dishonesty drastically lower their position in the rank of creatures and their brains usage.

Update: this article was written last year, long before Ahok’s blasphemy case started. Now that he is wrongfully convicted, Indonesia is heading even closer to religious darkness. But still, Indonesia is still far from being Saudi Arabia. Pakistan, maybe. But, not Saudi Arabia. Again, the Muslim world is diverse.

Another update: Recently, there was a news about the opening of the first Catholic state university in Indonesia. The first Catholic state university, NOT the first non-Islamic religious one. A quick google search showed me that there are a handful of Protestant, Buddhist and Hindu higher education institutes in the country. Even though the ministry of religious affairs is still annoying dominated by Muslims, it seems I really underestimated the religious section of Indonesian government.

 

1mjntsyvj_sjtlysowv8btq Garuda_Pancasila,_Coat_Arms_of_Indonesia

Open the dictionary for “moderate”

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Extremist Muslims want to behead you while the moderates want them to behead you.

Literally what many netizens believe. It’s expressed in comments and memes, often accompanied with photos of scary Muslims. I’ve spend most of my life living among moderates and that’s a dangerous slander. In fact, violence really offend them. You may as well spit on their faces (arousing for some of you, I am sure). It took me too damn long to unearth the cause.

One day, I found an article with this headline: Woman Beheaded in Broad Daylight in ‘Moderate’ Muslim Nation While Police Watch.

The Muslim nation it refers to is Saudi Arabia. Yes, that devilishly-medieval, everyone-must-be-Muslims, women-must-wear-tents Wahhabi nation is considered ‘moderate’.

I know the apostrophes are meant to be sarcastic. But, it implied that some people actually believe that. What kind of dead-from-the-neck-up dimwits are they? The kind who needs to learn proper English.

‘Not radical or extreme’ is what the ‘moderate’ means! A moderate Muslim would never justify any kinds of violence. A moderate Muslim would never sympathise with Islamists and Jihadists. Ever. No, I’m committing neither ‘No Scotsman Fallacy’ nor political correctness. I am not being apologist. What I’m doing right now is presenting proper understanding of the word.

But then, I doubt it’s simply about poor language comprehension. Genuinely clueless, they are not. They know what they are doing. They possess genuine hatred. Period. No commas. No buts. They will do anything to justify their hatred. That includes making shits up.

And succeeded, they have. The so-called ‘dangerous moderates’ is already a widespread idea. That and the dishonestly-misinterpreted and exclusively-Shia Taqiyya. PB and J for the prejudiced ones.

Don’t you dare criticise them, though. They think they’re entitled to do anything. Their rights to hate are more important than reasons and truths. That’s the essence of freedom, they say. Calling them out is the same as silencing them, they believe. Bigots sure have big sense of entitlement, don’t they?

I’m not a moderate. In fact, I consider myself a progressive (-wannabe) Muslim. Ideologically, I clash with moderate Muslims. Many are still brazenly unreasonable, homophobic, sexist and too easily offended. They still refuse to admit that Islamic extremism has anything to do with Islam.

Far from being progressive. They shouldn’t be the anti-extremism front line. I believe they will ruin our war against extremism.

But still, they are not violent. They are horrified by violence, probably way more than the people who demonise them. I even dare to say many are pacifists. For them, the idea of ‘sinners’ must be dealt with inhumane brutality is inherently ungodly.

Obviously, the moderates’ own bigotry shouldn’t be tolerated. In fact, I believe we should encourage them to be more progressive. As they are peaceful, it is probably easier to encourage (not ‘force’) progressivism to grow in their minds and hearts. Maybe I am just in the clouds. But, I do believe they have strong likelihood to make excellent allies.

 

Spirituality and religion (and morality): everlastingly sectarian

Religions

Here I go. So contentious, even the mere mention of those words trigger the delicate snowflakes out of most people. Obviously, I should boost the triggering by defining what spiritual and religion are.

Spirituality has a myriad of definitions. Some see it as the synonym for religiosity. Others see it as a process of fathoming either the universe, the self or both. Others also see it as a guide to find meanings in one’s lives, intrinsic and acquired. Some even believe it is the state of being irreligious. Predictably, they are all personal and abstract. Different case with religion.

Yes, some people do have equally personal and abstract definitions for it. In multiple occasions, Reza Aslan described religion as a language to describe the ‘indescribable’ and the divine. I used to define religion as the literal bridge between the earthly and the spiritual; some people I know still believe that. But, it’s also possible to shape more clear-cut characterisation.

Religion can be understood as a set of ideas and rituals to achieve what the worshippers deem as ‘spirituality’. It can also be seen as a tool for social control, consciously and subconsciously coaxing every reachable feature of a society. Such characterisation is observable in real life. It’s very apparent how universally-accepted definitions are unrealistic. But, instead of reducing our sectarianism, we are increasing it.

Fanaticism. One of mankind’s greatest and most harmful sins. We are extremely in love with our own convictions. Anything that negate them even in the slightest will be dealt with staggeringly-fierce hostility. Seeing the title, you know what kind of fanaticism I’m referring to here. I’ll begin with the one that I used to be guilty of as well: thinking religiosity and spirituality are literally the same thing.

I had that mindset because I was so in love with restrictions. I believed not religiously restraining ourselves in every single aspect of life was a sign of serious moral decay. Of course, I was a hypocrite as my lifestyle was very self-indulging. I also willingly ignored what the other sides had to say.

We often reject the existence of the unendurably suffocating nature of strict religiosity. Even religiosity as a whole can appear so for many people. Like it or not, religiosity has harmed countless individuals, physically and emotionally; the injuries are difficult or even impossible to heal. It’s easy to hate on the so-called ‘infidels’ when you’re not the one being harmed.

We cannot simply dismiss those traumatised people as ‘haters who don’t want believers enjoy profound spirituality’. Our positive experiences are unique to us and not to be used to ‘evaluate’ fellow human beings. Before you accuse me of atheism (as if that was a bad thing in the first place), I’m not completely siding myself with non-believers.

In fact, I still consider myself religious. I also loathe the idea that true spirituality is inherently irreligious. Some unbelieving individuals miserably fail to realise how their positive experiences with irreligiosity are unique to them. I believe them when they say religions repress them. But, I can’t listen to them when they say believers love being repressed.

Some of us genuinely feel religiosity is liberating, not suppressing. Often times, we feel empty and go astray in the world. Religion can be an emotionally-benevolent counsellor, bestowing us the liberty from the worldly abyss and sense of lost. It has nothing to do with loving oppression which, believe it or not, we also loathe as ungodly immoral.

It also has nothing to do with our loathe of reason and science. Some of us still love both. We still use them to understand our earthly surroundings and to intellectually challenge ourselves. Their duties are different from the ones of our beliefs. For us, they cannot be fused together. But, they can make great allies that enrich our innermost lives.

The segments above show my attempt to articulate the contention of spirituality and religion, as objective as I possibly can. Just kidding! I’m neither a journalist nor an academic. I barely made efforts to filter my own biases. So, that being said, I should continue by recounting my personal experiences and pretend they are universally relatable. Let’s start with the ignorance and hypocrisy of my fellow believers.

‘You are not spiritually enlightened!’

‘You are an atheist!’

‘You are immoral!’

There you go. Three of the most common sentences my fellow believers have said to me. If you are open-minded enough, you would immediately notice the problematic nature.

Once again, they’re unable to acknowledge their experiences’ lack of universality. The annoyance become harmful when they start ‘evangelising’. When I said ‘evangelising’, I meant harassing and guilt tripping their victims who have no time for narrow-mindedness.

Also, they use the word ‘atheist’ as an insult. The notion that disbelieve is related to lacking enlightenment and morality is ill-founded. In fact, many atheists have proven themselves to be more enlightened and more moral than those self-righteous believers. Many great thinkers, scientists and artists of the contemporary world are atheists. I’ve never heard of atheists who kill in the name of atheism. Never.

I should be more detailed with this farcicality. I always disclose my Islamic identity and agnostic theism (yes, that’s a thing). Even then, I only do so when it’s relevant to the topic of conversations. I’m muted about my spiritual life. I did try to explain in full details. But, I ended up babbling incoherent assortment of words and feeling extremely naked for exhibiting an intimate aspect of my life. This shows how my spirituality is both inexpressible and private.

Sermons, inspirational stories, joint rituals. Inspiring to me, they are not. Why would they be so? As an individual, I’m free-spirited enough to not fall for superficiality, gooey sentimentality, cliches and guilt-tripping. Free-spirited enough to know what’s spiritually good by myself, without getting dictated by humans who have skin-deep judgment of the true me. Of course, that makes an outcast out of me.

Some people I know believe spirituality is all about bragging and getting easily awed. Don’t do either one and they will accuse you heresy or, in my case, atheism. They think they are shaming me for being a bad person. But, in reality, they are shaming me simply for being different. As always in the case of religious people, there’s hypocrisy.

Those believers are the same ones who condemn extremists for their intolerance of human differences, for their supposedly ‘heretical’ and ‘ungodly’ treatment of fellow human beings. Yet, they shame people like me for having the gut to call ourselves believers. What can I expect living in a country where religiosity is almost inborn?

I have never met openly anti-religious individuals offline. Only met them online. Because of that, my negative experiences with them are lesser in quantity. But, the annoyance and nastiness still disturb my psyche. Yes, like religious people, they can also be hypocrites and zealots.

The hypocrisy arises every time they label religiosity as irrational. Admittedly, there’s a truth in the accusation. But, it’s very hard to take them seriously when they themselves suffer from scientism. They believe science is an authority figure who has all of the absolute truths on its hands. That’s not what science is.

Science is a set of instruments and theories used to methodically study the observable and measurable universe through experimentation; if repeatable, its results may end up as new scientific theories. My definition is unabashedly schematic. But, that’s the best I can do. Besides, if you compare mine with the ones you find on google, you can tell I make out the nitty-gritty.

In principal, science does not manifest and believe in absolute truths. Science is indeed the best medium out there to grasp our material world. But, it is not perfect. The instruments and theories which shape its foundation are – and need to be – upgradeable. If the new ones are more orderly and more sound, why stick with the old ones? Perpetual self-enhancement. That what makes science beautiful.

In case you forgot, what is now pseudo-science wasn’t so long time ago. Geocentrism, astrology, numerology, phrenology, alchemy. At one point in human history, they were all regarded as scientifically valid. Science started as philosophy. But, thanks to all the refinement brought by dedicated and inquisitive scientists, they were all replaced by more solid disciplines. It’s a history rejected by those so-called ‘rational’ disbelievers.

For them, science is an entity whose essence is fixed from the very beginning and will remain so. Those individuals accuse believers of zealotry towards their own beliefs, not realising they are guilty of the same thing. They refuse to acknowledge the existence of critical-minded believers. Yes, we do exist. Believe it or not, some of us are not fanatics. Irrational and hypocritical. Add self-righteousness to the disbelievers and the set is complete!

I will dedicate the next segment on anti-religious atheists. Judging from my personal experiences (emphasise on the word ‘personal‘), they are the non-religious individuals who are guilty of this sin the most.

Again, like believers, some of them love to claim higher moral standing. As stated before, I’ve never heard of atheists killing in the name of atheism. But, if you want to claim something that loaded, make sure that it is an actual reality.

Just give me one evidence that supports such assertion. No, the atrocities committed by believers is not it. The sins of your enemies do not warrant your supposed morality. How you treat your fellow human beings does. Oh and I can prove that immoral atheists exist. Just take a look at communist countries. You know, those officially atheistic countries.

They were good in discriminating, imprisoning and killing anyone not in line with government-approved ideals. As religiosity was not one of them, religious people were among the victims. At certain periods, they were treated like atheists in Muslim countries. Surely, you cannot deny this part of human history.

Yes, I know it’s history. I know we should move on instead. But, history isn’t meant to be forgotten; it’s meant to be a testimony of the true human nature, a testimony in which we can learn a lot from. If you’ve learned from it, you would not quantify a person’s morality from the identity he/she associates with. If you equate atheism with morality, you are on the same league with those religious zealots. No, I won’t stop making that comparison.

Even though I’ve interacted with many anti-religious pricks online, I’ve received only encountered one attack targeted personally to me. One person premised how people have used religions to justify their acts of inhumanity. Therefore, he concluded that every person who still observe a religion willingly tolerate or even partake in inhumanity itself. Yes, he actually said that.

That’s what we call Guilty By Association, which is an actual fallacy and that invalidates his argument. No, I’m not committing fallacy fallacy which refers to invalidating true conclusions based on false premises. In this person’s case, his true premise was followed by a false conclusion. But, this is not what agitates me the most.

He also carried out a nasty ad hominem against me. What he said seemed impersonal. But, he blurted that out while we were having a one-on-one conversation and he specifically said the word ‘you’, insinuated that I also tolerated and partook in religiously-motivated inhumanity. Well……..

People who actually know me will immediately scream ‘bullshit’. I’ve condemned so many forms of religious bigotry and violence. Often times, I’m very vulgar with my condemnation to the point of aggravating religious apologists, who declare non-existing perfection of their religions and religious communities.

Also, I’ve done many bad things in my life, motivated by nouns that end with ‘-phobia’. But, not once I harmed my fellow human beings in the name of Islam. Not even when I was a backward-minded believer! Once again, my religiosity is personal and it never dictated how I treated others. So, what he said about me was false. Yet, his words affect me to this day.

I don’t know why I’m still hurt. I am indeed insecure about myself. But, when it comes to my morality, I am the complete opposite. I also welcome the possibility of me being the immoral one; if you hate self-righteousness, it’s hypocritical to announce yourself as entirely and absolutely moral. Once I detect a hint of immorality in me, I should thrive to eliminate it. Maybe the exasperation I’m having right now is the result of the insult itself.

Well, not really. I’ve been called with many things in my life. Being a loser means abundance of verbal abuse is expected in one’s life. But, admittedly, a handful of them are extremely hurtful. I haven’t found the ‘hurt’ factor yet. But, I often assume the insulters aren’t just trolls. They are genuinely mean-spirited individuals who have deep-rooted desire to make me see myself as a subhuman they think I am.

But, in the end, my own religiosity and spirituality are and will always be my personal matters. No one, not even powerful religious organisations, have the right to intervene. My morality does affect others. But, as long as I’m willing to clean mine every time it gets dirty, I don’t think I have anything to worry about at the moment.

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.