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The bias of faith
Monday, the first day of school. Students from elementary school to high school enter a new environment. They meet new teachers and make new friends. They become acquainted with each other without prejudice; devoid of bias or preconceptions.
Adults have something to relearn from the young.
Time slowly detaches us from our youthful innocence. Instead of wisdom we adopt harmful predispositions. The very tenets of humanity that we teach our children become, among adults, social partitions that split a nation into exclusive biases of creed or wealth.
The mainstream monopolizes the entitlements of truth. A tyranny of the majority, as nonconforming minorities become errant —- marginalized simply due to a lack of numbers.
How many more times will our nation repeat its mistakes? Condemn people on the basis of their beliefs.
In the 1970s and 1980s the nation hunted communists. In the 1990s the “devils” were antinationalists. Now, in this new millennium it is religious revisionists and heretics.
Reformasi has brought great changes in our political vista. Though it seems to have done little in teaching us respect for the opinions and beliefs of those who “dare” to veer from our own.
Travesties of justice continue to prevail on a mass basis. A man in this country can be jailed for conducting prayers in his own language. While the nation’s highest clerical body can look the other way as a mob attacks a group that has an alternative interpretation of a religion.
The recent attack on the Indonesian Ahmadiyah Congregation (JAI) by a swarm of brutes calling themselves the Indonesian Muslim Solidarity is a despicable act of bigotry. The attackers are an embarrassment to civil decency and tarnish the very religion they claim to defend.
Their behavior was more ungodly than any charge against the JAI members they were attacking. These people are the kind who give Islam a bad name. They create erroneous misperceptions that spur a “Western” simplification on Islam and terrorism.
Thankfully, no life was lost in Friday’s attack at the JAI compound in Parung, West Java.
Ahmadiyah is an extremely marginal denomination of Islam, whose followers believe Ghulam Ahmad Khan, and not Muhammad, was God’s final prophet.
The validity of their faith is not for us to question —- just as it is the right of Christians to place conviction in the Holy Trinity, for Hindus to worship multiple deities or Buddhists to believe in the tenets of Sidharta.
True Muslims will always remember their own scripture: “to you your religion, and to me mine”.
Respect for other’s opinions, faiths and creeds is a bedrock for this nation that keeps it great. Despite our differing ethnicities, religions and races, Indonesians have always set aside their contradictions and turned their homeland’s diversity into a strength.
We do not believe that the events in Parung were reflective of the behavior of the majority of Muslims and Indonesians. It was an act of recklessness, spurred by political motives to undermine potential threats to the established power of the pacesetters of organized religion —- people who look for God high up, not in the human heart.
Respect for freedom of faith is not simply the independence to practice what one accepts as divine. It is in effect the nucleus of a democracy: Personal liberty to determine one’s highest conviction —- an act that precedes freedom of expression or voting.
Our faith shapes our social values. How can we ever be free to truly express ourselves in public or through the vote when our faith —- a primary determinant of our political persuasion —- is restrained?
Religion is supposed to liberate; it is not mind control.
One should beware of false prophets, but their deceit will never be exposed if they are not allowed the chance to speak. Physical attacks only sanctify a religion that may have only been an excursion into radicalism to begin with.
While our new democratic system helps provide political accountability and install good governance in the country, the very survival of the nation depends on the ability to harmoniously maintain the patchwork that is Indonesia.
That is the best way to serve the nation and God. “True servants of God are those who walk on earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them they reply: Peace”.