Inter-religious Tolerance, A Possibility?

So it’s that time of the year again in Indonesia where you will see most restaurants either closed down during the day or spread a curtain on their usually cleared windows to cover the people eating inside. These veiled windows will be a very common sightings for a month.

It’s the holy month for the Muslim as they start their one month long fasting or known as Ramadhan. Being one of the largest Muslim populated country in the world, it means this whole month long event will affects everyone even from different religions.

When I was still working, the company’s canteen will be closed for lunch leaving us, non Muslim to find lunch somewhere else or just fast away and eat after 6PM where they will break the day’s fast – if they are on the second shift, etc.

Also because people who fast will be up before the crack of dawn, the ‘wake up call‘ can be really annoying for those who wish to sleep peacefully. On some parts of Jakarta, the kids will literally use firecrackers especially in the first few days. Imagine being woken up by them at around 3-4AM? But we put up with it as part of the custom.

Yes, it’s all about tolerance…

I do respect my Muslim neighbors and friends and growing up we are taught to do so.

But this one tweet I saw today got me thinking

Fasting is about self control, not blindly forcing other people to conform to your standards or preventing others from going about as usual.” – Aulia

If it’s correct then why do we let FPI (Islamic Defender Front) still untouched by the laws when they go on a raid to ‘clean-up’ entertainment places such as bars, pubs, etc? Oh wait, I forgot our very own Jakarta’s governor Fauzi Bowo and the police chief himself had acknowledge these hard line Muslim group by attending their anniversary, right?

These entertainment places by law suppose to be close during the whole month, not all of them but around 400 nightspots will be shut down.

We – the non-Muslim – Indonesians are asked to respect our Muslim brothers and sisters in their holy month and we would love to do that but I personally don’t think it’s wise to force this into our throats by putting such tight controls.

And won’t it be nice to get the same respect and tolerance back for the non-Muslim? If there is such thing as balance interfaith tolerance then maybe just maybe there won’t be anymore church goers being attacked by FPI like on last Sunday. Maybe the government wouldn’t put such a tight stronghold on issuing church building permit.

Hats off to our brilliant smart Minister of Information, who decided to banned porn sites starting this month. Not that I’m pro porn sites but really, this mommy thinks blocking such sites solely won’t improve the mentality of this country. Morality of this country needs to fixed no doubt about that, but will blocking some websites help? I seriously don’t think so.

I dream of a peaceful country where there will be no more torching, attacks, burning, whatever against one another…until then Have a blessed Ramadhan to all my Muslim friends.



  1. August 11, 2010 / 7:19 pm

    It’s Ramadan here too…
    It’s so quiet here now…I guess most of our neighbors have traveled to France…
    Have a good day!

    • August 13, 2010 / 11:37 am

      Maybe they stay indoor during the day too – some that didn’t travel? πŸ˜€

  2. liz
    August 11, 2010 / 9:13 pm

    it has to be so hard to live in a place where there is that constant struggle between 2 “sides” of a major issue, like religion.

    • August 13, 2010 / 11:38 am

      If the tolerance level is equal it’s not hard really…it’s hard because of the imbalance I think

  3. August 11, 2010 / 11:26 pm

    Brilliant post, Maureen. I’m a big supporter of personal tolerance. If your actions and beliefs are not hurting others, how is it any of my business.

    I’m completely against censorship and banning. (plus, I like porn) What happened to personal responsibility?

    You make an excellent point about fasting being about self control. It seems the point is lost if all forms of temptation are withdrawn. Isn’t it als0 about actively avoiding temptation to strengthen your relationship with God?

    I cannot imagine living in a place so hostile and intolerant; I agree with Liz that it must be tough. Raising a child in such a place and teaching HIM tolerance must also be a struggle. πŸ™

    BTW – Your comment form is not saving my information… there must not be a cookie set up for it or it’s not working right. Have you made any changes to your comments.php file? Or maybe this theme doesn’t have cookies set up right. I need to look up more information about WP cookies.

    • August 13, 2010 / 11:43 am

      The Minister actions had caused plenty of negative comments from the public here, Lynda. I read a tweet from a guy the other day that by banning these porn sites it’s as if the Minister thinks that we have no common sense and only thinks of porn hahaha.

      Maybe because my son is still so little I can still manage to ‘hide’ the bad news from him but I know he will ask me tons of questions as to why this, why that when he’s big enough to notice the lack of tolerance. But I still have some hopes that things will eventually get better for all sides of religions here because I only ‘protect’ my son from real life for so long before he starts wondering and that’s when the parenting will be challenging.

      I’ll try to ask Sarah about the comment field since I did reinstall Thesis I’m afraid it wiped out the setting she had fixed for me. Thanks for letting me know!

  4. August 12, 2010 / 1:46 am

    Maureen, You always write such thought provoking posts! I had no idea the constraints on non-Muslims in Indonesia. Reading you makes me feel smarter. Have a great day!

    • August 13, 2010 / 11:45 am

      Miel, it’s not too bad but it’s like always under the surface really…these tensions between the religions. It’s sad because there are extremist group(s) who use religions in such a way that even their fellow Muslim are condemning the violence acts, too bad our government still failed to step their foot down and said enough is enough and completely disband these group(s).
      Thanks Miel, hope you are doing well my friend!

  5. August 12, 2010 / 4:25 am

    Kudos to your post – I couldn’t agree with you more. Although we aren’t subjected to respect Muslim practices as forcefully as your country, it is annoying that only religious practices of the “Mass Majority” are observed. Sometimes, religion seems so hypocritical.

    • August 13, 2010 / 11:47 am

      It can look like that but I know plenty of Muslims here had voiced their objections of these extremist groups who seems to be taking matter into their own hands and have their own agenda to turn Indonesia into a Muslim country by saying that Islam does not teach violence. Sometimes I think it would be best to separate religion from the government like they did back in the US but that would turned into a huge mess here lol.

      • August 16, 2010 / 4:41 am

        At least somebody’s thinking about someone else – good luck with that. As far as government, anytime they’re involved it’s a huge mess…no matter WHERE you live.

  6. August 12, 2010 / 2:02 pm

    A very brave post, Maureen. I take this as a sign of improvement as well, remember the time Soeharto was in power? Indonesia needs more people like you.

    I was there during Ramadan time as well and what I find helpful is that I just woke up at their Fajr call and I did my centering practice during that time as well. This way, I accomplished something and didn’t feel that my sleep was disturbed.

    Yeah, this is a burden of being minority, the right of minority is often not being heard or upheld.

    Enjoy your post as usual. πŸ™‚

    • August 13, 2010 / 11:52 am

      Funny part is, Maria a lot of Indonesians now thinks that things are better when Soeharto was in power. Yes, his government is so corrupt – but what people here miss is the orderly regime – back then there won’t be any groups like this who’s taking things into their own hands.

      So maybe what Indonesia needs is government who could totally hold justice in its place regardless of religious aspects. People are getting impatience with today’s government for not doing anything to this one group running around doing violent acts in the name of religions and it really is breaking my heart. If it’s the other way around like there’s a Christian group or other religious groups that do the same thing, you bet I would want to see them in court and be held accountable for their actions too.

      Thanks Maria, I know some people might get offended by what I have to say here but it’s my concern and I do dream of a country where each religions can live side by side peacefully.

      • August 14, 2010 / 2:47 am

        Yeah… that’s true, Soeharto was a strict president, could not dissent but safe. Given that though, I think the freedom of speech is much more now, and that’s an important step toward having democratic system that protects everybody equally as best as it can.

        Yet, being a young democratic country, Indonesia does not have much practice in dissenting yet. As a result, there is no clear system with right and obligation and punishment. And like you said, the judicial system is weak and often discriminatory.

        If people are tired of FPI, what can they do to push the government to do something?

  7. August 12, 2010 / 2:05 pm

    Tolerance is difficult especially when those involved are so closed minded to those around them. Another thought provoking post.
    BTW, I like the new look.

    • August 13, 2010 / 11:56 am

      Thanks, girl!
      It is difficult but I really hope that the younger generations can somehow bridge that mind sets and make a difference. Well, I can hope πŸ˜€

  8. August 12, 2010 / 7:52 pm

    Very thoughtful post. It is important to respect the beliefs of others… and sometimes, people forget about that respect part. I’m sure it is a very interesting but sometimes challenging and rewarding lifestyle to have in an area where there is such variety and diversity. I just wish it was peaceful and respectful across the board.

    I wish you well!

    • August 13, 2010 / 11:59 am

      Thanks Eureka, that’s what I’m hoping too that these will change one day and all religions here can freely practice their believes without being feared of oppressions from other groups. It’s actually is fun, one of the thing that I love about the Ramadhan month is the foods lol but there are so many delicious foods that is unique in this month. Also, in small towns where people are still living in a more harmonious ways, the big Eid will be celebrated by everyone. I remember growing up where my mom will cook for our Muslim neighbors and send it to them then we would visit them on the big day. It was beautiful! πŸ™‚

      Thank you for your visit and kind comment.

  9. August 12, 2010 / 9:17 pm

    I too dream of a peaceful country πŸ™‚ Great post as usual Mo!

    I had a confusion when the news broke about the confrontation which you had the picture in this posting. Are they really like that .. but the reality slaps me right on my cheek .. I don’t think it goes with the principal. As Christians have Love as the principal law (I forgot which verse …), Islam too had “Rahim” as loving law. I don’t know .. I’m confused … or sad, to be exact.

    • August 13, 2010 / 12:04 pm

      Thanks Asta.

      I understand as I too had read many condemnations coming from other Muslims about the acts and they too said the same thing you did, that Islam is a religion of love and teaches peace too but these people take it to the extreme and it smeared the image of Islam in the world. Same can be said to extreme Christians – it’s a shame but everything that is extremist are wrong. It is really sad.

      I really thinks that those hardline extremist such as FPI can learn a few things from this girl Irshad Manji and how she’s trying to bring Islam back to the original teachings of love and compassion.

  10. August 13, 2010 / 6:20 am

    I saw the holiday listed on my calendar and never gave any thought to the implications for being a non-Muslim in a Muslim land. This was really interesting for me to read. I guess it’s a good season to pack a lunch!

    • August 13, 2010 / 12:05 pm

      Joey, your comment put a smile on my face! Lunch pack will be very useful for sure πŸ˜€

  11. August 13, 2010 / 8:34 am

    Another great post! I know I don’t know enough about the Muslim religion, but I do know something about living in a country where the majority is favored. America can say what it wants about being the land of the free, but if you are not a Christian? You are definitely at a disadvantage finding country-wide support for your religious practice. There are are places that have heavy Jewish populations for instance, but these are mostly in big cities. If you live elsewhere, you deal with Christmas and Easter and whatever else mainstream US pushes on everyone. I am a Christian, so I am clearly not bothered in my routine, but others are for sure.

    • August 13, 2010 / 12:08 pm

      Thanks Katie.
      But at least in America, the freedom of one religion is protected by the law right? Here although it is said in one of our laws that the government is protecting the freedom of religions there are only 6 religions being acknowledge here. If your religion doesn’t fall into that category than too bad your beliefs are considered illegal.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, girl! Always appreciate your discussion.

  12. August 14, 2010 / 3:13 am

    β€œFasting is about self control, not blindly forcing other people to conform to your standards or preventing others from going about as usual” (I agree)

  13. August 27, 2018 / 2:40 am

    Brilliant post, Maureen. I’m a big supporter of personal tolerance. If your actions and beliefs are not hurting others, how is it any of my business.

    You make an excellent point about fasting being about self control.
    Thanks !

  14. August 27, 2018 / 2:42 am

    Great post! I know I don’t know enough about the Muslim religion, but I do know something about living in a country where the majority is favored. America can say what it wants about being the land of the free, but if you are not a Christian?

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