What I, a Sunni Muslim, think of the seemingly endless Catholic Church atrocities

Obviously, to say they are an affront to mankind is an understatement. Unless you are a special kind of human being, you don’t need me to realise that. But, there is something which many people don’t seem to notice: it is also a case of giant missed opportunity with horrendous consequences.

Let me go on a tangent first.

The Catholic Church is not just a religious establishment, it is also a highly centralised organisation of clergymen, complete with ranks and uniform admittance processes. Meanwhile, Sunni Islam – the disproportionately dominant denomination – is a highly decentralised religion; we don’t have our own equivalent of the pope and bishops and – in some countries, at least – becoming clerics do not require formal certifications and we are allowed to choose imams and/or Islamic institutions that suit us.

To sum it up, Roman Catholic church is packed with global and official interconnectivity. It is comparable to a unitary country with strong central government. The Sunni one……. well….. I don’t know how to describe it eloquently.

If I have to describe the Sunni world, it is like a country with barely functioning central government, allowing millions of regional authorities to reign over. Each of those regional authority has a varying level of authoritativeness and varying size of jurisdictions…… and many, if not all, of those jurisdictions overlap with each other. Not to mention the citizens are of diverse cultural, racial and political backgrounds – which may or may not greatly influence their religious identities – and they have varying level of experiences with diversity.

As a Sunni myself, I have mixed feelings about this.

On one hand, it feels nice there is no stranger in a faraway land formally dictating my Muslimness. But, on the other hand, it makes tackling religious extremism extremely difficult.

Obviously, that’s not an excuse to do nothing. If you see something, the least you can do is to say something. But, people should realise that the unrelenting convolutedness means tackling Sunni extremism is not as easy as flipping a table.

Now, about this blogpost’s title…

It has always been crystal clear the church is powerful. It has the ability to micromanage the characters and behaviours of every single person within its ranks. While nothing can be 100% effective, it could have easily reduced the abuses to a handful of rare and isolated cases.

Instead, it chooses the complete opposite path.

It consciously protects the many sexual predators within its ranks by not reporting them to the local authorities, consequentially turning Roman Catholic clergyman into a dream profession for sexual predators.

It consciously let the Magdalene laundries to freely abused the “fallen women” for many years and, to this day, the Catholic orders involved still refuse to take responsibility, unrepentantly painting themselves as heroes.

It consciously let some members of its ranks to support Canada’s cultural genocide against the indigenous people by participating in some of the residential schools.

Don’t even forget about the goddamn inquisition.

I am not going to pretend overseeing one of the world’s biggest organisations is easy peasy. I am also not going to pretend the church never does anything noble; I mean, Catholic schools – in some countries, at least – are known for their high quality, a fact which even many Muslims wholeheartedly acknowledge.

But, it is infuriating how an institution chose to not inoculate itself against evil despite having the enormous power to do so, consequentially letting itself becoming a global and historical super spreader of human depravities.

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I also have to exclude the Shia Islam – the second biggest denomination – from this conversation because not only Shia extremism is far less globally consequential, I also know almost nothing about Shia islam. I have heard that Shia leadership is more centralised. But, I don’t know to what extent and I don’t know if it differs from one sub-denomination to another.

Don’t even get started on the even smaller denominations. I don’t know if extremism is even prevalent in any of them.

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“You should ‘go out’ more”…

… is what people usually say to me in arguments. When they say ‘go out’, they mean leaving my safe space and exposing myself to different worldview.

Obviously, that’s a sound advice. We should thrive to avoid any echo chambers if we truly have the desire to grow and discern our reality. But, I do know those people don’t care about my well-being; they just hate it that I refuse to appease to them.

People who love exaggerating the flaws of Marvel films think I need to watch anything other than Hollywood blockbusters, not realising that my favourite film directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman and Stanley Kubrick, arguably giants of arthouse cinema, and some of my favourite films are not even American, let alone Hollywood.

Some people think I will grow out of my “extremely woke” politics and suggest leaving my echo chamber. It is interesting because not only there is nothing radical about centre-left politics, I used to be a lot more conservative. I also live in a country where even self-proclaimed moderates are very socially conservative. Not to mention the many conservatives, libertarians, liberals and centrists I constantly run into online.

Pro and anti-multiculturalism and anti-Muslim westerners have something in common: they genuinely believe that the west is the only diverse place on earth. The differences? The pro wants to feel superior about their own countries, thinking simply seeing minorities on the streets and having foreign ancestors boost their multicultural cred. The other camps think other places aren’t being forced to be diverse. When I refute their factually incorrect claims, they condescendingly suggest me to interact with people of differing cultural and religious backgrounds.

What they don’t know is I am from Indonesia, a country with six officially recognised religions and literally hundreds of ethnic groups; my hometown specifically has five dominant ethnic groups, which is unusual even for an Indonesian city, and has visible Christian and Buddhist minorities. I attended a middle school where I was one of the few non-Chinese-Indonesian and non-Buddhist students and I got my degree from an Australian university. Oh, and virtually all of my online friends are foreigners and much of them are non-Muslims.

My exposure to different cultures and religions is so mundane. If it wasn’t for my interactions with dumb westerners, I would have kept taking my diverse upbringing for granted.

“The more you know, the more you don’t know”

The older I get, the more I can relate to the quote. As much as I want to see myself as extremely knowledgeable, I have to acknowledge the horizon’s infinite vastness.

I haven’t tasted every film style of imaginable. I haven’t matured politically. And I have only been exposed to a tiny chunk of the world’s cultures and religions. I need to keep learning.

But, as one can tell, my aforementioned opponents clearly don’t care. They all share something in common: the belief that some or all of their opinions are absolutely correct. My mere disagreement is more than enough for them to make a baseless assumption about my personal life, which they make even before I say anything about it.

One may argue I am a hypocrite because I also make assumptions about others when I disagree with them. But, there is a difference.

My aforementioned opponents make assumptions simply because I disagree, that’s literally the sole reason. Meanwhile, I make assumptions based not only on how (un)reasonable and factually (in)accurate their opinions are, but also the anecdotes which they willingly share.

If you say enjoyment of pop culture is a sign of immaturity, I can assume you are a self-righteous bitch who want to feel undeservingly high and mighty about your tastes.

If you say centre-left politics – which is closer to the centre than it is to the far end – is too “woke”, I can assume you are swinging too far to the right end. I can also assume you are unable to perceive life’s many many shades of grey.

If you say multiculturalism can only be found in the west, I can assume you are jingostic westerners who think your countries are more special than they really are and/or you know nothing about lives beyond your borders.

If you admit that you intentionally avoid interactions with the “others” and avoid visiting other countries because you “know” how bad they are, I can definitely say you don’t care about the truth, you just want to affirm your preconceived beliefs.

Again, I refuse to say I have fully escaped all kinds of bubbles. But, I am confident I have escaped more bubbles than my opponents do.

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Revisiting Life of Pi (the movie) after ten years

No, I haven’t read the book.

When I first watched it, I was immediately awed by the experience. Initially, I found that baffling.

Yes, I do love ethereal visual aesthetics and stories with magical and spiritual themes. But, I have also watched other similar films. None of them – not even the works of Andrei Tarkovsky, one of my favourite directors – have spiritually galvanised me like Life of Pi has.

Seriously, I spent months arguing with my online friends and reading online essays about the film. I tried to decipher the magical happenings by relating them to Pi’s religiously syncretic spirituality and his relationship with his rationalist father. Inevitably, I ended up in self-contemplation about my own life.

From all things in life, I get much of my spiritual awakening from a Hollywood film. Why the hell is that?

First thing first, I have the MBTI AKA Myer-Briggs Type Indicator hypothesis.

Around the time of the film’s release, I was extremely obsessed with the personality type classification due to my early stage of “self-searching”. I identified as an INFJ (Google it yourself) and the film’s titular character was identified by many as one as well. I might be subconsciously influenced by the words of strangers.

But, this hypothesis falls apart quickly as I still love the film even after I become disillusioned with MBTI (it is basically horoscope with psychology veneer). Besides, there were also many other fictional characters and real-life public figures perceived as INFJs, none of which I could relate to (one of them was Hitler, for god’s sake).

Maybe it is indeed the films’ depiction of spirituality. After I dissected it again for the first time in almost ten years, the film does feel different from the others.

While “raw” is not how I describe it, the depiction is certainly not understated. Pi is not just a person who identifies with three different religions, he is also one who endlessly explores spirituality; his metaphysical journey is always at the frontline of his life story.

But, it does not feel like the film imposes his worldview upon us. Instead of keeping us as emotionally-detached spectators, it wants us to empathise with his experiences. It also refrains from utilising any explicitly philosophical dialogues; they can get too technical, overt and sanctimonious.

Unusual for a story with a religious main protagonist, it also wants us to be considerate of the opposing worldview. Now, my experiences with some self-proclaimed rationalists tells me they can be as insufferable as religious zealots. But, Pi’s father, Santosh, is not one of those pseudo-intellectuals.

While he can comes across as cold-hearted*, he teaches Pi to not fall for blind faiths and to not let sentimentality controls his life. In fact, not only his son ends up as a spiritually and emotionally well-rounded individual, the latter skill helps him surviving the perils of getting lost at sea; in such situation, even vegetarians like him have to kill animals for food.

The open-minded contemplation of the other worldview also gives us a nuanced paradigm to interpret Pi’s story.

On one hand, we can take his fantastical story as his attempt to suppress his memory, which is horrific as it involves surviving as a castaway, witnessing murders, killing the murderer and cannibalising his rotting cadaver. The memory suppression is a natural response.

At the same time, the film is not robotic enough to dismiss the story’s possibility. Would I believe it if someone claimed to experience it? No, I wouldn’t. But, I also acknowledge that the world is a bizarre place.

I mean, just take a look at nature. Tectonic plates are basically giant chunks of land who always bump into each other. Many of those deep sea creatures look like aliens. The outer space has black holes. Every single living being on earth is each other’s very distant relative.

While the living island cannot scientifically exist, carnivorous plants do exist and the water surrounding the Italian island of Castello Aragonese has significant content of carbonic acid, which can be corrosive if nothing’s done about the climate change. Nature is one giant weirdo.

Scepticism is indeed a must. But, if nature – the tangible and measurable nature – is weird, we shouldn’t dismiss any human experiences simply because they sound weird.

Maybe this is why I was so obsessed with the film. It goes beyond simply depicting a character’s spiritual journey. It tries its best depicting one that is emotionally exhausting but ever-lastingly rewarding… and it wants us to have a taste of it.

And, as I was in the early stage of “self-searching”, I (probably) subconsciously craved something more nuanced than the glorified pigeonholes of MBTI.

Oh, and I have mixed feelings about the film’s multicultural nature.

On one hand, the film could have been more multilingual. As Pi is from Pondicherry, a Tamil-majority Indian union territory that is formerly a French colony, there could have been more Tamil and French dialogues. Instead, most of them are in English.

But, I also acknowledge the film does a relatively great job in depicting the universality of human experiences. From my eyes, while the titular character is inseparable from his cultural and religious identities, people from all over can easily feel for him in spite of the differences.

The film feels even more multicultural when you learn about Ang Lee, the director.

He is a US-based Taiwanese director. His first two feature films are about the lives of Chinese (mainland and Taiwanese) immigrants in the US, his third is about the clash between Chinese traditions and western-influenced modernity, his fourth is a Jane Austen novel adaptation and many of his subsequent films are set in America and feature American characters.

He is certainly a filmmaker who has experiences traversing cultural differences.

As flawed as the film’s multiculturalism can be, I don’t find it tokenist at all. It does help reminding me about the universality of human experiences.

I don’t see Pi as someone who belongs to the “others”. I see him as a fellow human being.

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*A bit of tangent about Pi’s father, Santosh.

He does come across as cold-hearted. But, I don’t believe he is. There are times when his emotions are glaring for everyone to see.

He looks genuinely sad when he announces the family’s migration to Canada, he tries to physically fight the French cook for disrespecting his vegetarian wife and insulting Indians like him as “curry eaters” and he – along with his family -looks red-faced afterwards.

Oh, and he names one of his sons – the titular character – Piscine Molitor. Why? Because his friend is a swimmer whose favourite swimming pool is at the Piscine Molitor Hotel in Paris. There is nothing rational about that.

He is just as interesting as his youngest son.

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How to build a civilisation?

Obviously, this requires complex answers. But, if I have to answer it simplistically, I would say civilisation requires good education and discipline.

Maybe it is just me. But, I doubt one can build great things by being disorganised airheads. I mean, it makes perfect sense. I state the obvious because it seems some people have other thoughts about this.

In the west, there are people with strong far-right inclinations who genuinely believe patriarchy, racial and cultural homogeneity, Christianity, cisheteronormativity and machismo built ancient civilisations.

In the Muslim world, there are people who credited Islamic theocracy and highly devoted populace for the Islamic Golden Age. While I encounter them way less, it is hard to ignore them.

If I try hard enough, I am sure I would find even more absurd shits people claim as civilisation builders.

Just for the sake of argument, let’s pretend their notions about ancient societies are accurate (very likely not)*. It still does not make any sense.

Those ancient western civilisations might by misogynistic, homogenous and devotedly Christian. But then, the same things can be said about the least developed parts of the western world.

Take America, for example. Admittedly, the blue states and cities are far from perfect; they certainly have their share of problems. But, you cannot expect me to believe their red counterparts are doing any better.

Those red states have less diverse economic sectors, higher teenage pregnancy rates, higher obesity rates, higher dependence on federal welfare and higher high school dropout rates. Not to mention they are less likely to possess America’s major economic, scientific and cultural centres.

That’s the same with other western countries. London, Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, they tend to be less religious and more liberal-minded than most other places in their respective countries.

While correlation certainly does not equal causation, it also reminds us that misogyny, homogeneity and Christian devotion do not guarantee civilisation-building.

The Muslim world also has something similar. If Islamic theocracy builds civilisation, then explain why Saudi Arabia, Taliban-ruled territories and ISIS-ruled territories are not the most developed parts of the Muslim world. From all theocratic** Muslim-majority countries, Iran is the only one with high rate of research papers publication and thriving film industry.

In Indonesia specifically, the Sharia-practicing province of Aceh is also far from the most developed.

Of course, I have to give another ‘correlation does not equal causation’ disclaimer. There are more religiously pluralistic provinces which are equally underdeveloped or even more. Not to mention that places outside Java are relatively more neglected.

But, it also proves enforced Islamic devotion does not guarantee progress.

My point is even if ancient civilisations were as religiously devoted, misogynistic and homogenous as they want to believe, it still does not prove anything.

It only shows how societies grow despite of those traits, NOT because of.

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*Let’s face it: the average people often have wrong facts about the past. They love exaggerating and whitewash the past lives. Hence, why I am sceptical about their claims. Heck, I already know that they get some facts wrong.

What we consider as western civilisation already started long before Christianity took over. Ancient Rome only became Christian in its later years and Ancient Greece was never Christian.

The territories which experienced the Islamic Golden Age also had thriving Christian and Jewish communities. In fact, Al-Ma’arri – a highly anti-religious philosopher and poet – was a highly-regarded figure. While I cannot say whether irreligiosity was common or not, it is obvious that being anti-religious did not stop others from admiring you.

**Having a state religion is not the same as being a theocracy. Having one means the state subsidises its rituals, without necessarily deriving its governmental policies from the religion’s teachings. England is a good example of that.

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Palatable fundamentalism

Let us compare Christian fundamentalists in America with Muslim fundamentalists in Indonesia.

Notice how ultra-zealous Christians in America dress ordinarily. While some wear the usual formal apparels like suits and ties, many others are dressed very casually in T-shirts, hoodies, jeans; even the young women wear very short shorts while doing outdoor activities. Basically, they dress like the typical Americans.

I also notice they are media-savvy. They are able to create watchable media content watchable (assuming one can tolerate the messages). They know how to make themselves presentable for the masses.

In many cases, their music is far from highbrow. It is often easily digestible middle-of-the-road pop music.

Oh, and don’t forget most of them use English -the most spoken language in America- as their liturgical tongue. Consequentially, the spiritually does not feel burdened by the duty of learning a new language.

Compared that to Islamic fundamentalism in Indonesia.

Fundamentalist Muslims -the ones in Indonesia, at least- have their own fashion sense. The men love wearing a garment called gamis (some Arabs may refer to it as thawb) and, when they do wear pants, they are always ankle-length. For headwear, they mostly wear either turban or peci (not to be confused with kopiah; for reasons, Wikipedia thinks peci and kopiah are the exact same thing). When they do sport facial hair, long goatee is the preferred style.

For the women, when they are not wearing face veil, they (unsurprisingly) wear jilbab (or hijab as many westerners call it) and very long dresses, so long you can barely see their feet.

Obviously, it is a huge contrast to how the majority of Indonesians dress: highly-westernised. But, it is also a huge contrast to how more pious Muslims in the olden-days dressed.

Judging from what I see in photos (they may not be representative), the men wore either batik shirt or baju koko and kopiah as their preferred headwear; when they did sport facial hair, it was never visually prominent. The women wore garments like sarong kebaya or baju kurung; when they wore headwear, it was usually headscarf which still exposes some skin and hair.

Speaking of pious Indonesians in general (not just the fundies), they are not that media-savvy. While we already had religious programmes on TV, entirely religious media outlets were unheard of for most Indonesians. Even now, with their recent emergence, they are still a niche in the country’s media industry.

Arabic is the liturgical language of Islam. Even among Muslims who are not fundamentalists but still pious nonetheless, there seems to be a burden to learn Arabic, as if the lack of fluency would invalidate their faith.

I don’t know if the fundies enjoy music or not. But, I do know that many musicians (not all) who create Islamic music seem adamant on including Arab influences in their works. With all things considered, if the fundies enjoy music, it would definitely be Arab-sounding.

Let me be clear: I don’t believe American Christian fundamentalism is as violent as Indonesian Islamic fundamentalism. But, I can confidently say its palatability makes it more sinister.

Not only the Muslim fundamentalists dress different from the rest of Indonesians, they are also extremely obsessed with anything Arab (or what they perceive as such), more so than the actual Arab-Indonesians themselves. They stick out like sore thumbs.

The American Christian fundamentalists, on the other hand, dress like ordinary Americans and they are culturally very American-centric. Basically, they easily blend in with the rest of the populace.

I believe that makes the American Christian fundies more terrifying because not only they have an easier time recruiting new members and infiltrating the establishment, they are also more likely to have people defending them. In fact, some people may accuse the critics of being a bunch of leftist snowflakes who get offended by everything.

For shallow morons who always take appearances for granted, it sounds absurd that normal-looking people can be a threat to humanity.

For them, we should always judge a book by its cover. Reading is for losers.

Considering how some westerners defend the alt-right, insisting the extremist movement it is not run by extremists, my assumption is within reason.

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Two bad reasons and one good reason to explain your faith

Bad reason 1: wanting to fight off prejudice.

Some people may harass you into explaining why the religious extremists -who happen to share the same label with you- do the things they do. And you may think civil engagements will prevent them from demonising you.

How cutely naive of you.

The fact that they already try to lump you with the extremists without even knowing you show how they already have their beliefs set in stone and the only thing they care about is affirming them. The more you explain everything, the more they feel their beliefs affirmed, regardless of what you actually say and do.

If you assert that not all of your fellow believers are evil, they will accuse you of denying the existence of extremism. If you have proven yourself as one of those good guys, they will insist the extremists are the true believers and you are the fake ones. If you are a Muslim, they will accuse you of Taqiyya -a word that they keep on dishonestly misdefining- and perceive every single one of your word as a lie, unless you willingly become their lapdogs and sell your fellow Muslims out.

Adding a personal experience of mine, in which someone accused me of mocking victims of Islamic extremism, simply because I shared a video that mocked anti-Muslim bigotry.

The thing about humans is we can only truly and voluntarily change for the better if we have the desire in the first place. The obligation to initiate the transformation is on us, NOT on others.

Why do we have to prove that we are worthy of being treated like human beings? Why do we have to prove that bigotry is wrong? Why do we have to be civil and accommodating towards those who want us dead simply because we are different?

Bad reason 2: wanting to rationally justify it.

Here’s a bitter pill to swallow: your religious faith does not make any sense.

Let me start with my own personal story.

When I was a lot younger, I used to think science and religion were the exact same thing, but expressed differently. I tried to use science to justify the validity of my religion. Obviously, that’s stupid. Nowadays, I believe science and religion serve entirely different purposes and they inherently cannot be mixed together.

After dropping my pseudoscientific tendency, I started to have a difficulty describing my relationship with Islam; it was frustrating to experience something and yet unable to describe it concretely.

One day, I saw Reza Aslan’s interview on The Young Turks, in which he stated the cause of his persistent religiosity, despite years of studying religions sceptically: the religious symbolism felt personally meaningful to him.

And I fell in love with his answer! Finally, I knew how to precisely put my faith in words without pseudoscience!

Well, except, there was nothing about precise about that. I was so smitten by it, I didn’t realise how abstract it was and I thoughtlessly used it justify my belief, both to my fellow Muslims (many of whom despise my liberal attitudes) and non-Muslims. I didn’t know Aslan’s exact thought process and personal experiences… and yet, I acted like I did; I acted as if his were exactly similar to mine.

It didn’t take me long to realise how it made no sense. I sounded like a rambling idiot (still do). It didn’t help that I tried to frame a highly metaphysical opinion as objective and rational. Aslan, on the other hand, never tried to frame that opinion of his as such.

You may argue I am just projecting myself onto others and you may argue other people’s religiosity may be more authentic and more rational than mine. Growing up and still living in a religious environment, I have listened to lots of people describing their religious spirituality and, when it comes to the roots of their religiosity, they can be categorised into three:

Those who are religious because they grew up religious, those who feel saved by their religions and those who use pseudoscience to validate their religions.

Obviously, my categorisation is flawed. Not only it is not scientific, it is very rigid, ignoring that anyone and anything in life will always be difficult to put into boxes; in fact, according to my own categorisation, I used to belong to two categories.

But, despite that, I can confidently say all the people I observe have something in common: they are emotionally-attached to their religions.

I don’t see how any of the aforementioned traits are products of reason and scientific inquiries.

A good reason: you are a fucking asshole

If you love shoving your belief down other people’s throats, to the point where you won’t give up until every living being on earth converts, then you do have to explain yourself!

Fortunate for other people, you are the kind of people who are more than willing to explain yourselves, which means you are responsive to every question and argument bombarded at you, which means you open your faceholes a lot more, which means you will always dig deeper holes for yourselves.

Yes, I am certain your words will always be nothing but verbal diarrhoea. I mean, you believe the religions you happen to belong to are the only correct ones and are the only ways to be moral human beings. How can anyone with brains think you are capable of sound thinking?

You have committed every single fallacy in the book and you have incited hatred and even violence against non-believers. Unless you truly repent, there is no reason for me to believe you won’t stop being cunts any time soon.

Obviously, you are human beings. Eventually, you may get tired of having bombarded with loads of possibly hostile questions. When you have reached that point…. well, you better suck it up, buttercup!

You have divided the already-divided world even further and your hateful words have directly and indirectly contributed to violent and sometimes deadly attacks against people you refuse to see as human beings. You cannot spew venom and then complain when you are on the receiving end. You have to fucking endure it, you bunch of worthless fucks!

People hate you not because you happen to share labels with assholes, people hate you because you are the assholes!

Oh, and let’s not pretend that you are not a reason why your peaceful fellow believers become victims of bigotry. You definitely are.

Do you seriously think you do not contribute to the creation and affirmation the stereotypes? Do you seriously think all of your fellow believers see you lobotomised apes as martyrs?

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Yes, I do realise part one and part three also apply to any forms of bigotry. But, I focus on the religious one because part two is strictly a religion-related topic.

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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.

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Being PC with Islam

As much as I am opposed to the many stances of western conservatives, I agree with them on one thing: western liberals and leftists are too PC with Islam.

If Christianity -a religion with long history of atrocities- can be easily criticised, then the same thing should also apply to Islam -also a religion with long history of atrocities.

If you really care about the truths, then you should open to the idea that nothing is free from scrutiny. You should be open about seeing your beloved religion from entirely new and possibly unfavourable lights.

Of course, many western conservatives don’t think that way.

They don’t care about intellectual honesty. They are just grumpy that not everyone in the world adheres to and cherishes their beloved religion.

They probably think they can avert any negative attentions away from Christianity. Of course, that’s stupid… especially if you are from the west

There is a reason why many western liberals and leftists despise Christianity: many grew up dealing with awful Christians.

The homophobes, the transphobes, the racists, the religious zealots, the history distorters, the conspiracists, the bootlickers, literally some of the worst people they encountered growing were practicing Christians!

Don’t forget that those same Christians constantly insist how any ideologies other than Conservatism are inherently incompatible with Christianity.

I am not saying it justifies the anti-Christianity bias; as it is can be a slippery slope to bigotry against Christians, I feel uncomfortable about condoning it. I am not saying progressive Christians don’t exist; believe it or not, there are Christians who are as progressive as non-religious liberals and leftists, if not more.

What I am saying is the anti-Christianity bias did not appear out of thin air. If you consciously assert yourselves as representatives of your fellow believers and ugliness is all you can offer, you don’t have the privilege to be shocked when people end up despising your religion!

It is literally your fault people hate your fellow believers and your beloved religion!

If it is acceptable for non-Muslim migrants from Muslim-majority countries to be Islamophobic, then it should be acceptable for non-Christians from Christian-majority western countries to be anti-Christianity.

I condone neither. But, you have to be consistent: if one is acceptable for you, so should be the other one.

Oh, and you cannot claim to be concerned about Muslims’ misogynistic and homophobic behaviours when you and your fellow conservatives are guilty of the same thing.

We know damn well you are virtue signalling.

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Holidays during the pandemic

If they hold deep spiritual meanings for you, then no festivities needed. Pure and simple.

I mean, why should you? If they are indeed spiritual, shouldn’t you be able to cherish them by yourselves? Isn’t spirituality -which is all about cherishing the connection with one’s self (and one’s God)- inherently solitary in nature?* If you are truly spiritual, shouldn’t you spare some of your time for a bit of solitude?

Some of you may argue holidays are the times to bond with each other. But, the thing is you can bond at any other times! You can bond during meal times, work breaks, daily commutes, exercises, imprisonment, urinating, you name it. Literally all you need is the presence of compatible human beings, that is it!

Some of you may also argue that holidays are meant to be adorned with festivities. But, this argument also does not make sense because partying can be done at any other times as well! Party animals have shown you that celebrations can happen anytime and anywhere!

In fact, this excuse is even more infuriating because they defend their hedonism under the guise of meaningfulness. I love me some indulgence. But, I never try to frame mine as something profound. It is supposed to be carnal and shallow, for god’s sake! It is supposed to keep us in tune with the mortal plane!

I have been having this frustration for years. But, this year, it has escalated because people think those excuses are worth breaking life-saving health protocols!

The only problem I have with this writing of mine is how long-overdue it is. I could have written it months ago. But, somehow, I choose to write it now…. almost a year into the pandemic.

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*Yes, it is admittedly a very biased definition of spirituality and may come across as sanctimonious. But, I base it on my observations of how people I have met -both religious and non-religious, both theists and non-theists- describe their spiritual lives.

Virtually all of the personal accounts share one common denominator: they perceive spirituality as an act of communing with one’s self, with or without the presence of the almighty. It is all about determining their places within the universe.

Yes, my definition is far from perfect. But, at least, it is way less shallow than the ones that liken it to religiosity or feelgoodism.

I perceive spirituality as a solitary endeavour because those personal accounts reveal contemplativeness and, you know, contemplation requires solitude.

There is no arguing about that. How can you reflect if you let yourselves distracted? No, you don’t have to live as a hermit; in fact, I think that is a bit too extreme.

But, you certainly have to be alone with your minds…. and, if you are theistic, alone with your God(s).

Me being a captain obvious.

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“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.