So, you think you experience religious bigotry?

If I ask you to define it, I am certain your answer would be something like “demonisation of (an) entire religious group(s)”. That should be clear-cut enough. But, of course, every human has their own thoughts, even wrong ones.

If someone thinks you and “your people” are complicit of immorality simply because you share a generalised label with the perpetrators (e.g. Muslim or Christian), then you definitely experience bigotry, regardless of how explicit or implicit it is.

But, do you know what is not religious bigotry? Condemnation of the bad apples!

I have encountered so many Muslims and Catholics who are unable to differentiate the two. Some of my fellow Muslims think it is bigoted to trash on Taliban, ISIS and the likes. Some Catholics I have encountered also think it is bigoted to trash on the sexual predatory-complicit Roman Catholic clergy.

Neither is bigoted because both target a very specific fragment of each group; that should be obvious enough. But, for some reasons, people get too defensive about it.

Maybe they are insecure about their own moral integrity, they feel personally attacked by condemnations meant for others. Or maybe it is something sinister.

It is possible they actually agree with the bad apples, which they consider to be the true believers. It is also possible they believe we should defend those who share labels with us, regardless of how immoral they are.

To call either one morally undignified is an understatement.

Or maybe, they are just simply a bunch of pitifully insecure beings. But, even that can bring horrible consequences.

The defensiveness compels others to have those aforementioned dark assumptions. We are lucky if the others are fellow believers. What happens if they are the bigots?

Our defensiveness makes us look like we are supportive of the bad apples or, worse, we are the bad apples! You cannot blame anyone for having such perceptions! If you are neither, why would you get defensive when people condemn the bad guys?

Don’t get wrong: bigots are a bunch of cunts. They will always dehumanise the “others”, regardless of the facts; hear what they want to hear, see what they want to see.

But, at the same time, we shouldn’t exacerbate the problem by perpetuating the stereotypes. It is no biggie when we are the only ones affected. But, bigotry is a form of collective punishment; if you misbehave, those who share labels with you will suffer the consequences… and vice versa.

You may think the defensiveness helps defending people like you. In reality, what you do empowers the bigots; you give them even more ammunitions.

.

.

.

.

.

Donate to this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.

Those positive Muslim stories no longer entice me

In fact, as a Muslim, I find them nauseating nowadays.

I used to relish on them. I used to believe those feelgood stories would help tackling anti-Muslim bigotry; even if they didn’t, they would give the bigots the finger.

But, slowly, I started to feel uneasy about such stories. Then, I realise they can be problematic for two reasons.

Reason one: they exacerbate some Muslims’ denialism

There are some Muslims (focus on the word SOME) who genuinely believe the Muslim world is inherently problem-free. Consequentially, those particular Muslims dismiss Islamic extremism a conspiracy by the CIA and/or Mossad. Either that or they see it as harmless expressions of faith, hated only by “fake Muslims” and “Islam-hating infidels”.

The more they encounter those saccharine stories, the more they feel entitled to praises just for doing the bare minimum.

Reason two: they are infantilising

Oh, a group of Muslims behave like decent human beings? So fucking what? How is people doing the fucking bare minimum worth the news?

If our decent behaviours are worth the news, it means you are still surprised by our ability to be virtuous. Therefore, regardless of how “woke” you claim to be, you still see us as mere stereotypes. You still expect the worst from us.

So, should we keep the negative media coverage, then?

Well, yes…. with a big but.

On one hand, we have to keep making a big deal out of Islamic extremism. We have to keep reminding everyone -especially Muslims- that it is not something to be tolerated, let alone embraced.

It is also something which does not feed on attention-seeking. Its growth will continue regardless of our (in)attention. Unless you are one of the Muslims who care more about our image than our moral integrity, you would want the negative coverage to continue.

But, on the other hand, many western media outlets (which are unfortunately globally influential) seem incapable of reporting extremism without pigeonholing the Muslim world. They don’t always interview Muslims. When they do, they interview extremists and present them as good representatives. When they do interview peaceful Muslims, they often treat the peacefulness as a bombshell; worse, they also accuse those peaceful Muslims of being complicit to extremism, simply for sharing a religious label with the extremists.

Obviously, journalists must suppress their preconceived beliefs. Unfortunately, we are talking about humans here; it is easy to succumb to prejudice. Even if they try their best, they have prejudiced higher-ups to bow down to.

But, regardless, those saccharine narratives are still the wrong way to go. As mentioned earlier, they belittle our ability to be dignified human beings and they encourage some Muslims to exaggerate the goodness of the Muslim world, discourage them from acknowledging the problems.

Whether we like it or not, the negative coverage must go on. Because feeling good all the time benefits no one.

.

.

.

.

.

Donate to this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.

So, you think you hate Islam and Muslims? Well, I have questions for you

  1. What are the five pillars of Islam?*
  2. What are the six articles of faith in Islam?*
  3. What is Sunnah?*
  4. What are the names of the first two Surahs (chapters) of the Quran?*
  5. How many verses does each Surah have?*
  6. How are Hadiths different from the Quran?*
  7. How many times should Muslims pray in a day?*
  8. What is the total daily Rakaat?*
  9. What is the Quranic chapter we silently recite in every Rakaah?*
  10. What is the phrase we recite before doing any activities, especially reciting prayers?*
  11. What is the phrase we recite to show gratitude?*
  12. What is the phrase we recite when we seek divine forgiveness or when others say outrageous things?*
  13. What is the phrase we recite when tragedies strike?*
  14. What is the phrase which is the Islamic equivalent of “Oh My God”?
  15. What is the phrase which we recite while making promises, even empty ones?
  16. What is the name of the fasting month?*
  17. How long should Muslims fast in a day?*
  18. When are Muslims prohibited from fasting?*
  19. Name at least four Islamic holidays.*
  20. Who are the first, penultimate and last prophets of Islam?*
  21. Name at least four other prophets.*
  22. Name the three holiest cities in Islam.*
  23. What is the name of the water spring highly revered in Islam?*
  24. At which holy city is it located?*
  25. Name each city’s main mosque.*
  26. Is the Islamic calendar solar, lunar or lunisolar?
  27. What are the two major denominations of Islam?*
  28. How did Islam branch into those two?
  29. Name the other smaller denominations.
  30. Which denomination is accused of creating its own last prophet?
  31. Which denomination is perceived as pantheistic rather than monotheistic?
  32. What are the countries with the largest and second largest Muslim populations?**
  33. At which parts of the world are they located?**
  34. Name at least four Muslim-majority countries.**
  35. Which of those countries declare Islam as their state religion?
  36. What is each country’s dominant denomination?
  37. What are the most commonly-spoken languages in those countries?
  38. What are the most commonly-spoken languages in the Muslim world?**
  39. How do Muslims call the headscarves?**
  40. What are the contributions of the Islamic Golden Age?
  41. What are the differences between Jihadism and Islamism?***
  42. Which extremist groups are Jihadist and which are Islamist?***
  43. Did you know that the Muslim world is not a monolith and therefore, many Muslims will not like how I frame the questions, particularly the snide ones?**

If you know the basics of Islamic rituals and mythology, * would be easy to answer. If you know the basic human facts about the Muslim world (yes, we are humans), ** would be easy to answer.

If you know the basics of Islamic extremism, *** would be easy to answer.

If you struggle to answer any of the marked questions and somehow you still hate Islam and the Muslims, then you hate them without knowing shit about them.

Basically, you are a bunch of fucktards.

.

.

.

.

.

Donate to this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.

The (so-called) United States of Islam 2

In the previous essay, I talked about how cute it is that non-Muslims are more obsessed with Muslims’ so-called unity than we are. Now, I will focus on my interactions with them. Disclaimer: I cannot confirm whether my fellow Muslims share my experiences.

If you have joined any conversations about Islam and/or Muslims, you would have heard of taqiyya and how people intentionally misinterpret it.

I won’t talk about the taqiyya-screaming crowd. Conversing with them is like to talking unhinged sentient walls that run in circles. I will talk about the ones who were open-minded enough to move the conversations forward, but still close-minded enough to move the goddamn goal posts.

Instead of dissecting those individuals one by one, I will summarise the gist of their belief as a group.

Most of the time, it started with my complain about our image as a monolith, which disregards our vast racial, ethnical, cultural, political and yes, even theological diversity. Even some Muslim-majority countries boast a high level of cultural diversity which tokenist westerners can only dream of.

If they didn’t use the Taqiyya card, they would “refute” me by claiming that Muslims do have a pope. But, they could not think of a single name! Those who could usually mentioned rulers of countries like Saudi Arabia or Jihadists who proclaim themselves as rulers of all Muslims.

Anyone with basic knowledge about Islam and Muslims know how brainless those people sound.

First of all, there are two main branches of Islam: Sunni and Shia; globally, the former is the majority while the latter is a minority. Mind you, I still haven’t mentioned the relatively smaller branches like Ahmadiyyah and Sufism… and how each branch has its own different madhabs or schools of thought.

How can the ruler of Saudi Arabia rule the entire Muslim world? Never mind the non-Sunnis, even many Sunnis would not be happy about having their religious lives dictated by someone who doesn’t share their madhab. Don’t forget about the ever-volatile Middle Eastern politics being a contributing factor.

I should also mention there are non-Turkish Muslims who believe Turkey -with Sultan Smeagol as the president- should take the lead. They genuinely believe in Neo-Ottomanism despite not being of Turkic heritage. They are like the Turkish version of Weeaboos.

In my home country Indonesia specifically, Muslim citizens have a long list of religious authorities to choose from. There are organisations like the ministry of religions, MUI, NU, Muhammadiyah and FPI.

You can also choose one out of many celebrity preachers or the imam in your neighbourhood mosque. You can choose more than one authorities at the same time and cherrypick their words or none at all and choose to interpret the teachings yourselves.

The self-proclaimed popes “refutation” was obviously their gotcha attempt. They didn’t take into account that I was not dumb enough to think authority -whether de jure or de facto– was valid without recognition.

If I proclaim myself as your ruler out of the blue, your immediate reaction would be seeing me as someone who needs psychiatric interventions and deserves a swirly, NOT as someone worthy to be led by.

Here’s a tip: unless you want to be seen as a pitiful human being with underused brain, never use the words of madmen we never associate with as your smoking guns against us.

At this stage, some would start using the taqiyya card. Those who didn’t would acknowledge the non-existence of a Muslim pope.

But, the venom-spewing didn’t stop there.

Instead of respecting our distinct sense of collectiveness, they insisted we should be more centralised like the Christians are if we want to be free from extremism. Of course, this insistence is problematic.

For one, it is naive. The idea that simply having a pope will help us fighting extremism means we have to believe every authority figure is morally upright… and we know damn well only bootlickers believe that.

Christian denominations like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism and Roman Catholicism are highly-centralised yet still afflicted with social illnesses, some of which are undoubtedly caused and perpetuated by the leaders themselves; Roman Catholicism in particular is infamous for interfering with countries’ domestic politics, even to this day. Should I also mention about how centralised ISIS and Al-Qaeda are?

Secondly, Christianity is not centralised. Its denominations are. Believe it or not, only Roman Catholics acknowledge the pope as their spiritual leader.

Lastly, they were obviously irked with me shattering their make-believe. If they weren’t, they would have gladly moved on and learned from their mistakes. Instead, they demanded us to fit into the pigeonhole. They believed it was our moral duty to abide by their words.

They also unwittingly contradicted themselves. They demonised us because supposedly being one giant organisation made us prone to radicalisation. But now, they demanded us to become one giant organisation if we actually care about fighting extremism, framing our refusal to abide as a triumph for the extremists.

They are like parents who verbally abuse us for not doing something and then verbally abuse us for doing it.

They don’t care about the truths and they don’t care about humanity. They just want excuses to shove their beliefs down our throats and to make Uncle Toms out of every Muslim they encounter.

They just want excuses to be tokenist, gas-lighting, goal post-moving, delusional cunts.

.

.

.

.

.

Donate to this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.

The (so-called) United States of Islam

For years, I wondered why many non-Muslims insist the entire Muslim is one giant organisation in which literally every member knows each other and shares the exact same admittance, trainings and goals and acknowledges the exact same centralised religious authority.

Basically, they think the Muslim world is more structurally rigid than any Christian churches. You know, a factually incorrect belief.

I still don’t know exactly why they posses it. Maybe they have Christian-centric views of religions. Maybe they want an easy path of dehumanising the others (just like they do to Jews and LGBT people). But, I do notice something else: some of them are obsessed with the concept of ummah.

In Islam, the Arabic word for community also specifically refers to the entire Muslim community, transcending literal and figurative border. We Muslims are encouraged to unite with our fellow believers. Ideally, that’s how the Muslim world should be.

Of course, reality is never ideal. We are anything but united.

Sunnis and Shias waging war against each other, Sunnis violently discriminating against Ahmadis, Iraq-Iran war, Qatar Gulf crisis, the unstable relationship between Indonesia and Malaysia, Bangladeshis still harbouring grudge against Pakistan, the Arab spring, the Somali civil war, ISIS killing fellow Muslims, just to name a few.

When we do care about the plights of Muslims abroad, we only think about ones like the Uyghurs and the Palestinians. You know, the ones persecuted by non-Muslims. Even then, we shoot our own feet by ignoring the nuances, not realising that religion may not be the only factor of persecution, if at all.

From my personal experiences as an Indonesian, the word umat -the Indonesian spelling variant of ummah– has a strong nationalistic connotation; every time I hear Indonesian says the word, they almost always refer to Indonesian Muslims specifically.

In fact, if you add the word manusia after umat, you will have the Indonesian for ‘mankind’. Basically, when we use it to refer to a global community, it becomes entirely non-sectarian.

As I said, I still don’t know exactly why people insist on seeing us as one giant organisation. But, it goes to show that they really overestimate our ability to unite and they certainly take our terminology more seriously than we do.

It is so cute, they should have be the Muslims, not us.

.

.

.

.

.

Donate to this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.

The curious case of angry Muslims

If you don’t know what the context is -either because you are reading from the far future or you live under a rock-, this is a response to the recent beheadings committed by Muslim extremists in France. I started writing this in late October.

Actually, this is more targeted to people who have opinions about said cases.

And, my God, I hate their opinions.

Some argue the anger is justified because Muslims are frustrated with the constant demonisation. I highly agree and disagree with the sentiment.

If you are a part of a Muslim minority and you grew up being constantly demonised for your faith, anger would an inevitable emotion. While the violence is not justifiable and will never be, the anger certainly is and will always be.

But, how about Muslims from Muslim-majority countries? Why do they have to be outraged as well?

Okay, I am being too simplistic. Every Muslim -regardless of their national origins- has the right to be angry. Believe it or not, we are humans, after all.

But, the problem with Muslims from predominantly-Muslim countries is we live surrounded by fellow believers. We live in places where our religion is the dominant, ‘golden child’ religion.

Basically, we don’t know how it feels to be a religious minority. While we have the right to be angry, there is no reason for us to be THAT angry.

Some people told me it has something to do with post-colonialism. They argue Muslims still suffer from self-hatred due to past European colonialism. While the colonial governments might disdain Islam, I don’t buy the assertion at all.

I mean, is it really self-hatred when Islam is the state religion of many Muslim-majority countries? Is it really self-hatred when not all of them immediately became quasi-theocratic after independence? Is it really self-hatred when Saudi Arabia -the greatest exporter of Islamic extremism- is not a fucking former European colony?

If anything, they are angry because they are privileged! They are used to seeing their beloved religion as untouchable. Hence, any efforts to prove otherwise is perceived as a personal attack against them.

I despise Charlie Hebdo and I refuse to give slain edge lords their martyrdom. But, I also despise how some try to frame the entire Muslim world as victims when clearly not all of us are! How is that different from bigots who lump all of us as extremists?

.

.

.

.

.

Donate to this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.

No, turning former churches into mosques does not benefit the Muslim world, you pseudo-spiritual swines

Predominantly-Muslim countries like Turkey already have not only an abundance of mosques, but also an abundance of prayer rooms. Why do we need more of them? Why do you act like we are deprived of our religious needs within our own territories?

Besides, if you genuinely believe in Allah’s omnipresence, you don’t need a mosque to communicate with Him; you can pray fucking everywhere. And you know what? Muslims who live in places where they are an extremely tiny minority have done just that! You are just a teeny whiny swine!

No, don’t act like this is not a big deal. Erdogan turns a museum -which is a place of learning and therefore, benefits fucking everyone– into a place of worship -which benefits only one fucking religious group! He sends a message to the world that it is acceptable for Muslims to disrespect non-Muslims.

I should also remind you that Hagia Sophia started as a church and Erdogan is also planning to turn another museum which is also formerly a church into a mosque. Not only he encourages his fellow Muslims to be selfish, he also trivialise the plight of many prosecuted Christian minorities all over the world, many of whom don’t have fucking churches of their own! He gives every Christian in the world the middle finger.

If you don’t have a problem with that, it is either you are bigoted yourself or you are unable to see bigotry right in front of you. And yes, being complicit to bigotry is as bad as committing it.

No, don’t act like you don’t want vengeance against Christians. If you don’t, why do you have to remind everyone that anti-Muslim prosecutions, especially ones committed by Christians, exist? Why do you think it is appropriate to respond with ‘two wrongs make a right’?

No, your virtue signalling does not work on me. If you really care about the plight of Muslim minorities, why the fucking hell are you excited about a predominantly-Muslim country having a new mosque? You cannot claim to care about the poor and then get a boner when the rich get tax cuts!

 

“You are not from here! Shut the f#@k up!”

Those are the words regurgitated by Americans and, to a lesser extent, Brits and Aussies every time I -an Indonesian- critically comment on their countries. They believe I don’t have the grounds to do so and should just focus on my shitty country.

Do they have a point? No, they don’t.

Yes, I have only visited the US and the UK once long ago and I only lived in Australia for around a year. But, at the same time, I am (relatively) proficient in the English language. It enables me to interact with Americans, Brits and Aussies and getting to know their worldviews, both the good and the ugly.

Some of them try to camouflage their rotten true selves by spraying fragrant rhetoric into the air, successfully fooling the fools. Some don’t even try to hide their rottenness. While it is indeed hard to smell beyond the perfume, the unconcealed rotten stench is hard to ignore.

My English fluency also enables me to consume Anglophone media (even though I have been consuming it long before I could properly understand the language). Yes, it does not represent the reality. But, it does represent the ideals approved by the establishment and/or the masses.

As the Queen’s accent has become less prevalent in British TV shows and films, we can confidently say its social prestige has dwindled in the UK. As American pop culture has romanticise depictions of America’s interventionist foreign policy and no one bats an eye, we can confidently say the American public and establishment tolerate or even embrace interventionism.

How we react to the news stories are also very revealing. As many Americans are aroused by reports of police brutality, we can confidently say violent authority figures are worshipped by a large chunk of the American public.

How about those foreigners who want me to shut the fuck up? How much do they know about Indonesia?

Unsurpisingly, almost nothing.

None of them have ever visited it; when they do, they have only visited Bali, an extremely touristy province with predominantly-Hindu locals. None of them can speak Indonesian or any Malay dialects, hindering them from exploring the Indonesian mass media and the people’s reactions to its content.

For many of them, I am their first contact with an Indonesian. Some of them claim to have Indonesian friends which they are deem more knowledgeable about the country than I am, probably because they affirm false preconceived notions.

Sometimes I wonder if their Indonesian friends actually spent much of their lives abroad and have spent little or no time living here. Sometimes I wonder if they even exist. Call me a denier. But, knowing how humans behave, my scepticism is justified.

Those foreigners are indeed right to say Indonesia is a predominantly-Muslim country with human rights violations. But, those are extremely broad remarks. Everyone knows Indonesia is predominantly-Muslim and saying that a country has human rights violations is as in-depth as saying it has foods. It means shit.

When they do detail the cases, they exaggerate virtually all of them to a thousandfold.

Aceh does enforce compulsory hijab. But, there is no national policy obliging women to wear it and they can been seen ‘uncovered’ in the public spaces.

There are indeed territories that shut down churches under the pretense of ‘permit issues’. But, outside those territories, there are tens of thousands of churches still standing with thriving congregations.

Aceh, an Indonesian province, does implement provincial Sharia and that empowers Islamists all over the country. But, we have thirty-four provinces and Aceh is literally the only one governed under religious legislation; our national government does not use Sharia as its guiding principles, never declares the country as ‘Islamic’ and, in fact, acknowledges five other religions. The reality contradicts that infamous Pew Report (which probably only surveyed ‘mosque dwellers’ instead of those who have lives outside mosques and idiots still believe in the inherent quantitative researches despite sampling bias being a fucking real problem).

If you ask those foreigners, they would probably get many basic facts of Indonesia wrong.

Ask them to find the country on the map and they would probably point to the wrong location.

Ask them about its number of population and they would be surprised the country is the fourth most populated in the world.

Ask them to name our official language and they would probably answer ‘Arabic’, thinking that all Muslims are Arabs and vice versa.

Ask them to name our ethnic groups and they would probably stutter and think there is only one, not expecting any forms of diversity (there are far-right westerners who falsely believe every non-western country is homogenous and they utilise the lie as an argument against multiculturalism in the west).

Ask them to name the country which Bali is a part of and many of them would be shocked it is not a country; they would also be shocked that a predominantly-Hindu territory and an extremely hedonistic tourist destination is a province of a predominantly-Muslim country (and it seems the misconception indirectly endorse the falsehood about Indonesia being a Saudi Arabia clone).

If you ask me any basic facts about Australia, the UK and the US, there is a chance I would fare better than many of the citizens. Many Americans still think English is the de jure official language of their country and many Aussies and Brits still don’t know the duties of most present-day monarchs, including the British ones, are entirely ceremonial. I can also name of said countries’ many territories, including their still-existing colonies; many Americans don’t know what DC stands for and that Puerto Rico is a US territory.

In conclusion, not only the foreigners who told me to shut up don’t have any credibility to comment on my country, I have more credibility to comment on their own countries than they do… and mind you, my credibility is still low considering I don’t live there.

To change the topic a bit…

I am also rather assertive with my opinions about East Asia. Not as much. But, it still manages to irk one of my friends.

He said I couldn’t speak any East Asian languages and I have never lived in the region. As a person of East Asian descent who can speak multiple East Asian languages and have lived in two East Asian countries, he was annoyed by me and reasonably so.

But, he was also fucking annoying.

Instead of giving me evidences that counter my remarks, he simply said I should simply try living in those countries. For him, it was more than enough to put me in my place.

Yeah, no.

When foreigners claim Indonesia is an Islamic theocracy, I can tell them that the country still has loads of active non-Islamic places of worships, hijab-less women outside Aceh and things that are considered ‘un-Islamic’… and I can support my claim by simply linking them to countless videos showcasing hijab-less Indonesian women, vibrant church worships and the secular, extremely hedonistic and highly-westernised Indonesian pop culture.

Whether they convince the fools or not, it does not matter. I know my country rather well (I love to think so, anyway) and I have a decent internet access. Therefore, I have the means to debunk the falsehood and I can do so almost instantly. I have no excuses to not do so.

My friend annoys me because he complains about my alleged ignorance… and yet he does not bother to counter despite having the means to do so.

I don’t know how a person can see ignorance right in front of him/her, get agitated by it and somehow too lazy to annihilate it.

Feminists and anti-feminists: a common ground

*puts on a mask*

Some people support feminism because they believe it is the most effective way to coerce women into embracing western liberal values.

They shame women who willingly embrace modest fashion, who willingly choose to become stay-at-home moms, who willingly choose to become abstinent and who willingly choose to become/stay religious.

Their reasoning? They want to liberate women from the oppressive and medieval eastern values, especially the Islamic ones.

Some people oppose feminism because they want to protect women from western values and coerce them to keep embracing eastern values, particularly the Islamic ones.

They shame women who willingly show the slightest appearances of their skin, hair and bodily curves, who willingly choose to be unmarried and childless and who willingly choose to have active sex lives.

Their reasoning? They want to liberate women from the oppressive and overtly-sexualised western liberal values.

I have to a suggestion for both feminists and anti-feminists:

Why don’t you just make peace with each other?

I mean, it is quite obvious how you actually have something in common with each other: you are advocating to take women’s right to think and act for themselves under the pretense of liberating them.

Wouldn’t your goals become easier to achieve when you find a common ground with the “others” and form a gigantic and influential alliance?

Together, you can oppress women to the fullest.

*takes off the mask*

.

.

.

.

Donate to this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.

2018 Asian Games opening ceremony… a big pile of meh and WTF

Yup, among the bedazzled Indonesians, I am of the ones who is not entirely impressed by it. Let’s be real here: it still has glaring problems here and there. Now, where should I start?

Ah yes, the mediocre artistic merit.

The fake mountains that almost subjugated the rest of the stage obviously copied the turfed hills of the London Olympics ceremony.

The Ratoh Jaroe dancing (often mistaken as Saman) obviously copied the Beijing Olympics drummers. The dancers were in a rectangular formation, just like drummers were. They wore colour-changing costumes which allowed them to create coloured patterns without moving places, just like the drummers with their illuminated individual drums, which allowed them to form giant Chinese numerals and perform the countdown.

The anthology of folk songs and traditional dances, while successfully depicted Indonesian diversity, is something that has been done many times before! It has become a go-to method of introducing the country’s cultural richness to the world.

While the cauldron looked nothing like the one in London, the general atmosphere when it was set on fire was similar. The fireworks, the lighting, the song. Even though it may be coincidental, I cannot help thinking this was also a copy.

I am not sure what is wrong with most of the dancing. They felt lackluster. Maybe it was the choreography. Maybe it was the dancers who didn’t spend much time practicing. Either way, the dancing failed to emanate the intended moods.

The event’s original songs are not impressive. Unlike many old-school Indonesian pop songs, they do not have an impact on my soul (pardon my pretentiousness). Heck, even the one composed and written by Guruh Soekarno Putra, one of my most favourite songwriters ever, felt like just another of those mawkishly-written ‘inspirational’ pop songs that will bring nausea to every single Indonesian who are not brainless enough to easily fall for immodest sentimentality.

Because of the ordinariness, the ceremony does not have the thought-provoking disposition of the Athen Olympics nor does it possess the emotional climaxes of the London and Rio ones. It does not have a lasting impact on me.

Okay, okay! I know how unfair it is to compare an opening ceremony of a continental multi-sporting event to ones of global calibre. It would be fair to compare it with the other Asian Games ceremonies. But, I am too lazy to watch them. So, I am resorting to an uneven comparison which is a lot easier. But, I do have more easily vindicated criticisms about the event’s ideological substance, which I find detrimental for our own good.

It openly promoted patriotism through the pretentious voice-over narration, which no one bothered to translate to English, despite its original purpose is to promote cosmopolitanism and the opening ceremony is meant to be an introduction to the host country and making guests feel at home! But, believing in one’s country’s non-existing perfection is more important, it seems.

Speaking about that…

I hate the speeches of Sheikh Ahmed Al-Fahad Al-Ahmed Al-Sabah (or 4As for short), the president of Olympic Council of Asia, and Erick Thohir, the organising committee chairman. Al-Sabah pandered to the Indonesian audience by praising about their so-called suaveness and saying how much he loved them… repeatedly… in Indonesian. It was cringeworthy to hear. But, it was relatively harmless. Thohir’s, on the other hand, was quite dangerous.

He prided himself as a citizen of a country with the largest Muslim population that still manages to retain its interreligious peace. Yes, religiously, Indonesia fares way better than countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Bangladesh and Maldives. But, only toads living under coconut shells believe our interreligious life is in pristine condition.

Literally days after the ceremony, a Buddhist woman was sentenced to one and a half years in prison for complaining about loud calls to prayer (which, believe it or not, many Indonesian Muslims also complain about) while Buddhist temple vandalisers were sentenced for three months! We let Aceh implement its own provincial Sharia! We only officially recognise six religions, none of them indigenous! Ahmadi Muslims are treated worst than adherents of indigenous beliefs! Oh, and Ahok is still in jail for non-existing blasphemy!

Peace, my ass! The ceremony’s poor aesthetics may be tolerable. But, his speech really ruins the event’s moral integrity for me.

Of course, I should not be surprised by this. Preceding the traditional cultures anthology was a so-called re-enactment of Indonesia’s early history. Accompanied by that tastelessly nationalistic narration, it showcased how Indonesia is a peaceful and pluralistic nation and has always been since the dawn of time. It is pretty much historical negationism.

Now, going back to how unfair I am for comparing it with ones of bigger calibres. If I can completely ignore the denialism, I would see the show as a big pile of guilty pleasure!

Those cheesy pop songs have appropriately upbeat arrangement and cheerful lyrics. Even the introverted and cynical creature in me was invigorated by their sounds and I actually wished I was there!

As much as I find the anthology a major cliche, I also can’t help myself from loving it! There is something about the parade of my country’s diversity that makes the Indonesian in me warm and fuzzy inside. Besides, it is indeed the easiest way to showcase our cultures; I can’t think of any other effective approaches.

I also love how they booked Joey Alexander! It was a short performance. But, his sublimity as a Jazz pianist bestows the spectacle with a dash of elegance! I believe Jazz can be as exquisite as classical music… or even more so. The Jazzy rendition of Angin Mamiri and Gending Sriwijaya, two folk songs from two culturally distinct provinces, is a refreshing deviation from the usual utilisation of classical-sounding, pop-ish and/or ethnic music.

Actually, it was not the only display of elegance. I almost forgot to mention the moonlight dance (I name it myself, don’t remember its actual name), which preceded Joey’s appearance. While a foreign friend of mine rightly said it looked picturesque, I would love to add another adjective: ethereal.

The fake full moon made the segment feels unworldly. It was supposed to symbolise worldliness, but it didn’t. It made the overall show slightly more extramundane. If they substitute the conventional orchestral soundtrack with something more ambient like New Age music or something more daringly postmodern like Minimal music, I can guarantee the immersion would intensify. Of course, it would be too creative for the viewers; we Indonesians hate anything too creative.

In spite of my criticism, I also have to commend the Ratoh Jaroe dancing. Not only it was the only dance number that I enjoyed, it also fired up the audience’s spirit just like those pop songs did. The colour-changing costumes, which impressively did not involve any electronics, also contributed to the liveliness.

Right from the beginning, the show made great and triumphant efforts to protect itself from the lethargic virus, unlike those shitty ceremonies of the 2012 National Sports Week and the 2013 Islamic Solidarity Games. While not as dull as the two, the 2011 Southeast Asian games one also failed to stir up my spirit.

While I can be pretentious, I am not pretentious enough to completely hate escapist fun. Sometimes, entertainment is just all about entertainment. Sometimes, the absence of artistry is tolerable.

But, again, the immorality of Thohir’s speech still bugs me. I don’t think there is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying anything that comes from a human rights-violating nation. But, if that something tries to legitimise the violation or, in this case, denies its existence, every well-informed person with a functioning moral compass would have a hard time enjoying it.

I am disappointed how I haven’t found a single article or video that condemns Thohir’s speech. Maybe, I just haven’t found one yet. Maybe, as a nation, we are seriously in denial about our past and our current state of being.

Knowing my people, it is probably the latter.

Correction: I stated that Joey Alexander performed his rendition of Angin Mamiri and Gending Sriwijaya. It is incorrect. He only performed Gending Sriwijaya. Angin Mamiri was, in fact, the soundtrack for the preceding moonlight dance.

I don’t know why I bothered making this correction, considering my lack of significant readership.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Support this deadbeat, preachy blogger on Patreon.