The West vs. The Islamic World?!

Starring You Meet-Ups Indonesia
“We have more in common than you would expect at first sight”

In the news, discussions and preaching the “West” and the “Islamic world” are often used as opposites. The West will be associated with sex, drugs and alcohol and the Islamic world with terrorism and the oppression of women.

People judge each other relentlessly, but do we really know what’s happening in that other world? Have we lived there? Have we been there? Do we actually know someone there? Unfortunately, the judgments are usually based on nothing more than the news and stories on social media.

If Donald Trump makes ridiculous statements about Muslims or Islam, he has no idea what he is talking about. The same holds for Imams who destroy Western values during lessons or sermons. In both cases, a gap is created between groups of people who have more in common than you would expect at first sight.

The last 4 years I visited 60 countries and everywhere I stayed with local families. Very often people asked me about the differences between the people in all these countries. What I have learned during my travels is that everyone on this planet has so incredible much in common. Matters concerning language, food, housing and clothing are obviously different per country. However, regardless of whether you’re staying with a Chinese, Turkish, American or Zambian family, they all have the same problems, needs and plans for the future.

The youth explores their sexuality, they dream of an excellent study or job and they would love to travel. Adults aim at achieving a stable income to be able to raise a family. Parents focus entirely on the welfare and future of their children and grandparents enjoy their grandchildren proudly every day. Regardless of origin, religion, or social status, all over the world a similar behavior is found.

It’s important that we get to know each other and discover how much everyone in the world has in common. If we only receive negative information, through the news, politicians, social media or sermons, about people we do not know and know nothing about, we’ll accept this information easily as the truth. However, if we hear negative nonsense about a person or group we do know something about, we’ll judge the information critically. In this case, we can make a considerate judgment about whether the message is correct or not.

The so called West and Muslim world are not opposites. They are portrayed as such by political and religious leaders to promote the team spirit within certain groups. Let’s get to know each other! It’s a simple, powerful and effective weapon against those who divide us. Let’s get to know each other! Not from believer to non-believer, not from European to Asian, but very simple: from human to human.

Let’s get to know each other!

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Western bombs can’t stop Islamic terrorism, but we Muslims can

“Let’s not give up on our brothers and sisters”

Last week I went to an Indonesian cinema to watch the movie called Neerja, which tells the heroic and true story of Neerja Bhanot, a 22 year old Indian flight attendant. During a flight from India to the US, her plane makes a stopover in Pakistan where a group Palestinians of the Islamic Abu Nidal organization hijacks the airplane. Neerja courageously saves the lives of almost every passenger, but she herself doesn’t survive the hijacking.

The movie provides a detailed description of how the terrorists prepare themselves mentally for the hijack. Before they attack the airplane they gather one more time and pray together to Allah. Thereafter, phrases like Insha Allah and Allahu Akbar are repeatedly used during hijacking.

When it was made clear to the audience that the movie characterized the terrorists as Muslims, a tumult occurred in the cinema. People stated loudly that these barbarians absolutely cannot be Muslims and more specifically that they themselves have nothing to do with those people. I also heard someone suggest that this showed once more how Americans always display Muslims in a negative way. However, the movie Neerja is entirely written, directed and produced by Indians.

I was surprised by the commotion. The terrorists pray to Allah and are inspired and motivated by verses from the Holy Quran. Obviously we aren’t dealing with good Muslims here, but certainly they are Muslims.

This denying and avoiding attitude among Muslims can also be recognized concerning the problematic situation with IS in the Middle East and towards other terrorist organizations such as Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram.

Many terrorists, but also radicalising and already radicalised youngsters, find justification and motivation in Islam. They are Muslims, just like me and one billion others.

It’s easy to insist that these terrorists aren’t Muslims and have nothing to do with us. But let’s have a look at it from a different perspective. How are we ever going to solve the problems with Islam-related terrorism? Who is going to stop those radicalized youngsters who play the heroic terrorist? Well meant Western bombs have proven to be counterproductive. The terrorists see every interference by Western countries as provocation and strengthen themselves, both in number and determination.

One billion people live peacefully in accordance with Islamic customs and traditions. A group of only a few thousand people is terrorizing the world, which they claim is in accordance to those same customs and traditions. Does this prove that Islam as a religion is the problem? No, it only shows that a small group of Muslims chose the wrong path within Islam. One billion Muslims didn’t choose this wrong path and therefore they hold the key to the solution.

Islam presents itself often as the “religion of peace” and this is a great opportunity to demonstrate it. I would like to suggest the following to my Muslim brothers and sisters. Don’t see the fact that a group of terrorists is following your religion as an accusation addressed to you. That they are Muslims too doesn’t confirm that Islam is a bad religion and it doesn’t say anything at all about you as an individual. Try to see it as a chance, a last resort to reach this group of lost brothers and sisters.

A sense of futility combined with misinterpretation of and focus on just a small part of the Holy Quran, make from an everyday person a terrorist. Proper knowledge of Islam will take away the feeling of futility and make space for a peaceful and meaningful life. Western bombs won’t bring our Muslim brothers and sisters back on the right path, adequate knowledge and a correct interpretation of Islam will. Let’s not give up on our brothers and sisters, we better bomb them with our experience and knowledge.

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Bom Barat bukan solusi terorisme Islam, melainkan kita Muslim


“Marilah kita jangan menyerah atas saudara-saudari kita”

Minggu lalu saya pergi ke bioskop untuk menonton film berjudul Neerja yang menceritakan kisah nyata dan heroik dari Neerja Bhanot, seorang pramugari India berusia 22 tahun. Selama penerbangan dari India ke Amerika Serikat, pesawatnya singgah di Pakistan dimana sekelompok orang Palestina dari organisasi Islam Abu Nidal tiba-tiba membajak pesawatnya. Neerja berani menyelamatkan nyawa hampir setiap penumpang, tapi sayangnya dia sendiri tidak dapat bertahan dari pembajakan tersebut.

Film ini memberikan penjelasan secara rinci tentang bagaimana para teroris mempersiapkan diri secara mental untuk melakukan pembajakan. Sebelum mereka menyerang pesawat, mereka berkumpul sekali lagi dan berdoa bersama kepada Allah.  Setelah itu, ungkapan-ungkapan seperti Insya Allah dan Allahu Akbar berulang kali diucapkan selama pembajakan.

Di dalam film itu digambarkan dengan sangat jelas kepada penonton bahwa sang teroris adalah Muslim, dan keributan pun terjadi di dalam bioskop. Para penonton menyatakannya dengan keras bahwa orang-orang barbar tersebut dapat dipastikan bukanlah Muslim dan lebih tepatnya mereka tidak ada hubungannya dengan orang-orang seperti itu.  Saya juga mendengar seseorang berbisik bahwasannya sekali lagi hal ini menunjukkan bagaimana orang Amerika selalu menampilkan Muslim dengan cara yang negatif. Bagaimanapun juga, film Neerja sepenuhnya ditulis, disutradarai dan diproduksi oleh orang-orang India, maka tidak ada hubungannya dengan orang Amerika.

Saya terkejut dengan keributan yang terjadi. Para teroris berdoa kepada Allah dan terinspirasi serta termotivasi oleh ayat-ayat di dalam Al-Quran.  Jelas kita tidak berurusan dengan Muslim yang baik disini, tetapi dapat dipastikan mereka adalah Muslim.

Sikap menolak dan menghindar yang terjadi diantara umat Islam ini juga dapat dilihat dari permasalahan antara IS (Islamic States) di Timur Tengah dengan organisasi teroris lainnya seperti Al-Shabaab dan Boko Haram. Banyak teroris, tapi juga radikalisme dan pemuda-pemuda yang sudah teradikalisasi, menemukan pembenaran dan motivasi dalam Islam. Mereka adalah Muslim, sama seperti saya dan juga miliaran orang lainnya.

Mudah untuk bersikeras bahwa teroris tersebut bukanlah Muslim dan tidak ada hubungannya dengan kita. Tapi mari kita melihatnya dari perspektif yang berbeda.  Bagaimana mungkin kita dapat memecahkan masalah mengenai Islam terkait terorisme?  Siapa yang dapat menghentikan para pemuda radikal yang berperan sebagai pahlawan teroris?  Hal ini jelas menunjukkan bahwasannya bom barat telah terbukti kontraproduktif.  Para teroris melihat setiap campur tangan negara-negara barat sebagai bentuk provokasi dan memperkuat diri mereka sendiri, baik dalam jumlah maupun tekad.

Miliaran orang hidup damai sesuai dengan adat istiadat dan tradisi Islam. Hanya sekelompok orang yang berjumlah ribuanlah yang meneror dunia, mereka mengklaim bahwa hal tersebut sesuai dengan adat istiadat dan tradisi yang sama. Apakah hal tersebut membuktikan bahwa Islam, sebagai agama merupakan sebuah masalah? Tidak, itu hanya menunjukkan sekelompok kecil dari umat Islam memilih jalan yang salah di dalam Islam itu sendiri.  Miliaran Muslim lainnya tidak memilih jalan yang salah ini dan karena itu merekalah yang memegang kunci solusinya.

Islam mempresentasikan ajarannya sebagai “agama yang damai” dan ini adalah kesempatan yang besar untuk mendemonstasikan hal itu.  Saya ingin memberikan saran kepada saudara-saudari Muslim saya.  Jangan menganggap bahwa fakta yang ada menunjukkan sekelompok teroris yang mengikuti agama Anda tersebut  sebagai sebuah tuduhan yang ditujukan langsung kepada Anda.  Walaupun mereka juga orang-orang Islam bukan berarti  bahwa Islam adalah agama yang buruk dan hal tersebut juga tidak menunjukkan apapun mengenai diri Anda secara individu. Cobalah untuk melihat hal ini sebagai kesempatan bagi kita, sebuah jalan terakhir untuk menjangkau saudara-saudari kita yang tersesat dalam kelompok ini .

Sebuah rasa tidak berarti dalam hidup dikombinasi dengan kesalahan tafsir dan hanya berfokus kepada sebagian kecil dari kitab suci Al-Qur’an dapat membuat manusia biasa menjadi teroris. Pengetahuan yang tepat mengenai Islam akan menyingkirkan perasaan tidak berarti di dalam diri dan justru akan memberikan ruang yang penuh kedamaian serta hidup yang penuh makna. Bom barat tidak akan membawa saudara-saudari Muslim kita kembali kepada jalan yang benar, namun pengetahuan yang memadai dan interpretasi yang benar dari Islam lah yang akan menolong. Marilah kita jangan menyerah atas saudara-saudari kita, dan lebih baik kita membombardir mereka dengan pengalaman dan pengetahuan kita, bukan dengan kekerasan.

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