“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*

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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.

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Ungracious citizenry of the (seemingly) enlightened realm

I am talking about the western world, by the way.

Warning: you will be frustrated by my repetitive use of the word ‘west’.

To prevent myself from saying ‘west’ too loosely, I should limit the word to Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada and much of Europe.

Okay, the last one still makes it a bit vague. But, it is more precise than saying it is where white people live. Unless you are a racist, one believes non-whites can be westerners. Being one is all about the heritage, after all.

Anyway…

It is no secret the most jingoistic westerners love to boast how their countries are the bastions of freedom on earth. They love to boast how humans from all over the globe flocking in to live in their safer, freer, more democratic and more progressive homelands. They actually have a point, though.

We have to acknowledge the west is indeed the most civilised realm at the present time! It is the most free regarding speech and religions, the most democratic, the most accepting of diversity, the most children-friendly, the most feminist and the most sexually liberated territory there is.*

Of course, there is no better way to celebrate what makes their homelands great by murdering them!

They believe immigrants are uneducated and unenlightened. This is why they want funding for schools, universities, the arts, science and public broadcasting to be slashed or, even better, defunded entirely! To be truly enlightened, one must give heed only to religious and political indoctrination, absorb their messages earnestly and execute them in one’s daily life!

They believe Muslin extremists are the greatest threats to global religious freedom. That’s the reason why they propose religiously discriminatory legislation. It literally makes sense to fight bigotry, which every Mohammedan is guilty of as confirmed by everyone’s favourite opinionated public figures and bigoted uncles, with bigotry. As we all know, the only way to kill fire is by adding more fire!

They believe ISIS-loving commie feminazi SJW libtard cucks hate democracy! Ultimately, they feel obliged to support a man who proudly undermines the sanctity of trias politica and they are openly grateful of the Kremlin for sabotaging the election!

They believe ISIS-loving commie feminazi SJW libtard cucks are the greatest menaces to freedom of speech! Of course, they have to make an exception. Restriction of speech is ungodly when it torments adherents of old-fashioned, Judeo-Christian family values. If it torments their enemies, then it is godly. There is no better way to protect freedom of speech than robbing it from the people they constantly accuse of threatening it!

They believe Muzzies are the biggest misogynists. Therefore, they must vote for politicians who dismiss gender pay gap as a myth, insist on upholding the innate moral superiority of patriarchy, slut shame ‘slutty’ women while glorifying ‘slutty’ men and oppose abortions because every birth, even ones resulted from rapes, is a divine gift and vaginas must be regulated by old men as women are too incapable to make decisions about their own bodies!

They believe we should execute harsh punishments to sexual predators. But, instead of doing libtard craps like implementing sex education, voting sexually abusive politicians out and condemning victim-blaming attitude, the only way to crush sexual predatoriness is to uphold heteronormativity and cisnormativity. The only way to accomplish that is to keep dehumanising the LGBT communities!

I can do this all day…

Back then, I used to deified westerners as illuminated demigods whose intimate lives intertwined with flawlessness. Slowly, I realised how they were also puny mortals like the rest of mankind. Nowadays, I see them as a swarm of some of the most ungracious organisms in existence!

I mean, some of them are too mentally deficient to appreciate their heritages’ finer attributes; when they are not suffocating themselves with propaganda, they senselessly enjoy unrefined entertainment which they fervently regard as sophisticated.

With that in mind, should we be surprised by their incapability to treasure their motherlands’ comparative modernity? You know, one of the things that makes them glorious in the first place?

Even though my family is not rich, my life is still very privileged compared to most Indonesians’. I didn’t need to have a part time job when I was young. I was able to study abroad. Food and housing were never an issue. Eventually, I become a spoiled, jobless twenty-something man…

…And, in a slightly off analogy, many westerners are just like that. Breathing among what can be described as liberalism drive them into the orifice of depreciation. They don’t know how it feels living in more oppressive lands. Ultimately, they have no hesitation to deny the ‘others’ the privilege they have been enjoying since birth.

Maybe, depreciation is the problem… or maybe, it is just sheer idiocy.

What those pitiful creatures deem as cultural brilliance definitely include anti-intellectualism, zealous traditionalism, religious fundamentalism and soppy jingoism. You know, the things enlightened individuals deem as cultural retardation. The things that hamper the growth of third world countries.

Admittedly, I do sound pontifical and I should refrain myself from declaring the conclusiveness of my sentiments. But, can you blame me for acting like this?

All the things I said above aren’t just a result of momentary sentiments. They are the results of observation that commenced long before the rise of the alt-right movements! I have watched countless videos, read countless articles and interacted with countless western individuals online. Those thoughts slowly materialised over the passing of many suns! The more I know, the more I am disenchanted.

Even so, I still view the west with a high regard. Despite everything, it is also the place where most of my cultural heroes are from, the place where I intend to reside in indefinitely. But, do you know who still have remarkably strong faith in the west? Refugees!

In spite of the hateful rhetoric of public figures, many refugees are still heading to the west to chase a safer life! Obviously, no matter how ignorant and hateful it can be, the west looks heavenly when juxtaposed with the tyrannical, bloodthirsty old countries. But, that’s just one reason.

Savages seem to make up the majority of westerners. They don’t. Their voices command the conversations because they have the loudest megaphones, in part thanks to their detractors’ recklessness. In fact, I am willing to bet they are outnumbered by kinder and more open-minded beings.

If the degenerates are indeed the majority, it would be a lot harder to legitimize any glorification of the west. It would be a lot harder to advertise the American and European dreams to citizens of the third world. The west would be where people are flocking out of, not flocking into.

As much as I despise Eurocentrism and Americentrism, the abundance of enlightened souls in the west is something every gracious individual must cherish…

…and it is pathetic how they are the ones being condemned as degenerates by their degenerate fellow countrymen.

*Obviously, those claims are debatable. In the west, it is easy to find someone getting triggered every time he/she hears a foreign language. In non-western countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, such person would be considered pussies, too weak to handle petty differences. But, in the contemporary west, when sectarianism arises, it won’t be as easily widespread and violent.

While feminism has a stronger footing in the west, it is also the place where right-wing figures still openly believe women are destined to stay in the kitchen and to use their vaginas only for child bearing. Can’t say anything about other countries. But, in Indonesia, such misogynistic rhetoric are almost unheard off. At least, not in the mass media.

Compared to the other regions, the west seems to have best sex education, where sex shaming is not as strong. Well, I should allude to Japan, a paradoxical land where poor sex education and extremely sexual cartoons exist alongside each other. Admittedly, some depictions of sexual acts are morally questionable (and it deserves an essay of its own, assuming I want to do some research). But, others also depict extremely kinky yet consensual sex acts; if it is enough to conclude using just one fact ( it is not), then it seems Japan is a place where kink shaming does not exist.

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What can non-Muslims do to combat Islamic extremism?

*puts on a mask*

It is simple: just whine! You are a non-Muslim. Unlike Muslims, you don’t share any labels of identification with the Muslim extremists.; there is no satanic supernatural connection between you and them. So, none of your actions can and will empower them. You can do shits like giving weapons to Saudi Arabia, giving Muslim extremists too many platforms on the media and even declaring them as the only true Muslims and you still won’t empower Islamic extremism! Believe me, all non-Muslims have to do is to whine and whine.

Actually, there is one extra thing you can do: harass Muslims! If they dare to talk about anything other than Islamic extremism, accuse them of shameless apathy! If they dare to react negatively against figures who demonise them, accuse them of hate speech!

If they really care about Islamic extremism, they should talk about it literally 24/7, making it their sole priority in life! If they really care about Islamic extremism, they should be willing to be stripped of their human dignity! Harass the fuck out of them!

All the while, you can still suck Muslim extremists’ dicks and nobody can smell your dick breath.

*takes off the mask*

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What can Muslims do to combat Islamic extremism?

*puts on a mask*

It is simple: just deny that it is Islamic! It does not matter if the extremists are motivated by certain interpretations of Quranic teachings. It does not matter if they sincerely see themselves as Muslims. Islamic extremism is not Islamic. Therefore, it is not a real thing and the only way to combat a non-existing entity is to deny its existence!

There is one thing that my fellow Muslims still fail to acknowledge: the allegedly ‘Islamic’ extremism is bad because it ruins our image, NOT because it violates our rights as human beings to be treated humanely. Denying the existence of ‘Islamic’ extremism is one big step. But, it is not enough.

Online, the least you can do is to like AND share every single positive article and video about Muslims. You also have to write hate comments against articles and videos that portray Muslims in negative lights, accuse them of anti-Muslim bigotry if you have to! Who cares if those articles and videos are truthful or not? Who cares if there are actual victims of extremism? Why the fuck should I care about their slaughter? Why the fuck should care about the survivors scarred for life?

Truth and morality are not important! Good PR is the most important thing and will always be! It is literally everything!

If every Muslim does as I say, the myth of ‘Islamic’ extremism would be gone for good.

*takes off the mask*

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I am a Muslim… and I love Imam Tawhidi

*puts on a mask*

Why? Because I am a self-hating Muslim. I love how he will do anything to pander to anti-Muslim factions. He supports Trump’s travel bans that wrongfully target certain predominantly-Muslim countries. He supports far-right political figures who hate Islamic extremism because it is Islamic, not because it is a form of extremism. Heck, he even espouses the dishonestly-defined version of Taqiyya, therefore convincing the bigots even more that the peaceful majority is a myth. I love stripping myself of dignity.

In fact, I believe that every self-respecting Muslim should be self-hating. We Muslims must love receiving hatred from anyone who wish for our extermination. We must love the idea of being fascists’ token Muslims. We must love the prospect of sucking bigots’ wet dicks.

We must love the prospect being put down as subhumans!

*takes off the mask*

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No, I am not Charlie

Two years since the Charlie Hebdo massacre and I still refuse to wholeheartedly declare I am Charlie.

Why? Because I believe condemnation of violence does not command us to ideologically align ourselves with the victims. Yes, I am offended by the publication’s mean-spirited vilification of my Islamic faith and fellow Muslims. But, in spite of my hurt feelings, I still cannot find any moral justification for the killings whatsoever. Cynicism has yet to kill my sense of humanity.

If I have to choose a slogan, I would choose I am Ahmed instead. Apart from Ahmed being similar to my last name (albeit with a different spelling), it is also the first name of the Muslim police officer slain by the terrorists. A Muslim died while defending the publication who derided his faith. I cannot see myself enlisting to any law enforcement agencies. But, I should thrive to be just like him, defending everyone’s right to express themselves, no matter how horrendous their thoughts are.

But, some people think my view is not good enough. In fact, people have accused of me supporting the massacre. They believe that my refusal to call myself Charlie makes me an apologist of terrorism. A violence-loving, freedom-hating extremist. I am not sure about you, but I find the accusation blatantly problematic. Hypocritical, to be exact. Hypocritical in various ways.

First, the supporters of Charlie Hebdo love to call themselves freedom lovers because they defend blasphemy. Just like many self-proclaimed freedom-lovers, they try to silence the critics of the blasphemers. How? By smearing, of course. They fail to realise that freedom of speech is a two-way street; it is not a prerogative of the blasphemous ones.

Second, they also see themselves as the humanity-loving. Yeah, no. Their reaction to statements like mine show the complete opposite. They imply that any resemblances other than simply being humans are prerequisite for sympathy. They imply that they would not sympathise with any victims of violence if they are different from them. Humanity-loving my ass.

I just realise something. Besides the slandering and two-facedness, Charlie Hebdo supporters are also guilty of something else: glorification. Actually, glorification is such a soft word. Idolatry is more like it.

Somehow, its staff getting massacred makes them worthy of worship. Somehow, that tragedy makes it the most honourable publication in the world. Getting killed by extremists instantly makes you a hero. Yeah, again, no.

Should I even bother to dismantle this faulty logic? If you are assassinated because your works count as activism, you die a hero! If you are assassinated because you were being offensive just because you could, you don’t die a hero! Not every victim of acts of inhumanity is virtuous. Harsh, but true to life. Do you seriously believe being a victim elevates your moral standing? Your morality is defined by how you treat others, not the other way around.

Okay, I need to end this soon this before I give my detractors more dishonest ammunition.

Once again, I still condemn the killing. But, I am still not Charlie and probably never will. It does not negate my condemnation of the violence. In fact, it shows my sincerity. It shows how I still have a sense of humanity for anyone, even for people I deeply loathe.

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.

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.