Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Some Unwanted Advice

We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant - Karl Popper

Its becoming very difficult to reconcile the Indonesians I know and the ones I see on TV or read about in the paper. The latest attacks on the Ahmadiyah community by a mob having more in common with orcs than humanity have shown that the government really does not seem to have a plan on how to deal with an ongoing problem of incitement in the community by radical groups.

The problem is those pesky Ahmadiyah keep wanting to have their own unique beliefs. This goes down badly with the mainstream Muslim establishment who is apparently so insecure in their own beliefs that they see this tiny offshoot sect as a threat to the souls of the nation. The Government in its role as the arbiter of justice has proposed a host of  bizarre solutions which I would like to consider.

1) Expel the Ahmadiyah.

Ghettoizing the Ahmadiyah was recently suggested by the Government of Lombok. The Ahmadiyah of Lombok have been living a a relocation camp since 2006, when they were burned out of their homes by a vicious mob.  Despite the whole event being captured on TV no charges were ever laid in connection to these events. As a solution it was suggested that removing the community to an isolated location so that their neighbors could not be influenced by their deviant acts. I suppose one of those prison islands could be renamed Pulau Ahamdiyah and special uniforms could be designed so as to conveniently discern Amamdiyah followers from the mainstream. Of course this kind of thing hasn't happened since the Nazi's began rounding up Jews Gypsies and homosexuals but who knows? If nothing else it would earn the current president a special place in Hell alongside Omar Bashir, Adolf Hitler and Slobodan Milosovic but hey if this is the legacy you are hoping for Mr. President, a study of the actions of these dictators would certainly provide some lessons and insight. It won't do much for your UN aspirations though.

2) Initiate a pogrom.

 This method seems to favored by the MUI (majelis ulama indonesia) and their faithful right hand the FPI(Islamic Defenders Front). The Indonesian Constitution, never a strong document to begin with, has been systematically eroded by a combination of inflammatory fatwas, sharia style bylaws, and mostly by the lawless actions by thugs hiding behind the fig  leaf of ensuring religious harmony. Based on their recent actions and statements it seems to me that the religious harmony that these groups are referring to is the peace of the grave for religious minorities. Mr. President please refer to the above-mentioned dictators for advice on how to proceed. Again, this sort of thing is no longer in fashion but if this is how you wish to present the image of Indonesian tolerance to the world, pray continue.

3) Amend the constitution.

Perhaps it might be better to obtain a legal backing before proceeding with plans 1 or 2 by amending the constitution so as to declare the country an Islamic state. This plan would certainly be welcomed  a number of Islamic-based political parties that the government has been pandering to for the last several years.This plan would also be opposed by the small but significant minorities that make up the bulk of the eastern islands of this country. They might see the declaration of Indonesia as an Islamic state the ultimate betrayal of the 1945 revolution. The entire nation could conceivably be fractured into several smaller states, a situation that would benefit nobody. There are lessons to be learned from the Balkans, the Sudan, and Somalia. Indonesians should take heed.

4) Do Nothing.

This seems to be the modus operendi of the Yudhyono administration. Even the president must realise by now that, by pandering to thugs they will only become emboldened to greater and more outrageous acts of violence. Pretending that there is not a problem will not make it go away. What doing nothing will do is emasculate the position of the President of the Unitary State of Indonesia. When people lack leadership and discipline then tend to look to their own interests first. Attacks upon minorities will continue to occur so long as nobody is held accountable. How many people have to die before the government realises that maintaining the status quo is just not going to work in the long term?

5) Banning the Ahmadiyah.

This is the solution as suggested by the Minister of religion. Now the funny thing about banning a religion, it almost almost always has the opposite effect. Muslims should consider their own history when talking about religious bans. Were they not not banned from Mecca for a time? How well did that work? The Catholic church spent hundreds of years being banned by the Romans. When their opportunity came they spent hundreds of years years in counter-reformation efforts against the likes of Lutherans, Methodists, Protestants, Anglicans. Where did it get them in the long run? Ideas are difficult to kill. And who is to say which one is correct? I'm sure that any self-respecting Muslim would be very indignant if it was suggested that their religion was deviant and heretical - I fail to see how they would think that the Ahmadiyahs would feel any less indignant for having their religion considered as such.

6) Doing the right thing.

 This is the least popular option as will involve politicians and the public getting off the fence and actually doing something to promote tolerance as opposed to exaceberating differences. So what is the right thing? Well why not start with harshly punishing those who promote religious violence? Make an example of one or two - the third one may think twice before acting.  Secondly eliminate laws or decrees that get used to justify religious violence such as the ridiculous Joint Ministerial decree on Ahmadiyah as well as the Joint decree on houses of worship. You can't seriously call yourself a multicultural and tolerant society with laws like these on the books. If you want to restrict the growth of churches, mosques, temples and the like why not enforce things like seating capacity, operating hours, noise levels and available parking. Thirdly protect the integrity and sanctity of the courts. People should have the right to protest in front of the courthouse. Those rights do not extend to threatening the magistrates or burning down the courthouse if the decision does not suit the mob. Giving the bigots and haters free reign to hack and burn is a tried and true way to conflict.

Indonesians need to decide what form of country they want. Continuing in this lawless manner will only hurt them at home, and hurt their reputations abroad.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

On Egypt

The events happening over in Egypt are certainly dynamic. I've been following The Sandmonkey both on twitter and on his blog. The man has found himself at the centre of things. CNN has also been providing a lot of coverage on this issue as well as events elsewhere in the Middle East. Twitter is actually a  useful tool in keeping up with events.

 Meanwhile closer to home...
Indonesian leaders have a history of making bizarre public statements. Here is another. The Secretary General of the PKS Anis Matta claiming that thousands of his supporters are over in Egypt actively assisting in the overthrow of a soverign government? Imagine for even one moment if a European or American politican said something along those lines a few years back here in Indonesia. The conspiracy mill would be gristed for years to come.

Whats going on in Egypt will eventually be sorted by Egyptians. Given that foreigners have been targeted by the Egyptian police and pro Mubarak demonstrators its astounding that Anis Matta would make such a foolish and potentially inflammatory statement. Indonesians abroad have a tough enough time without having to worry about about being rounded up as foreign agitators.

Update - the police in egypt can read the news...poor guy

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Pack

Its not the easiest life to be a dog in Bali. You start out as a cute little puppy. After a few weeks the cuteness wears off as the skin diseases cause you hair to fall out and your owners reject you. Eventually you find yourself homeless, starving, and pathetically trying to shelter under a shrub during the rainy season. And so it was for 3 little puppies that my gardener happened to notice on his way home the other day. These guys were terrified of people but too weak to run away. Being a kind sort Nengah(my gardener) brought them into our neighborhood and they have since taken up semi-permanent accomodation in my carport. The pups have been accepted by Mallie, the alpha male in the neighborhood as well as Badi, the other dog that hangs out next door.

So for the last week or two I've been learning about kampung dogs. These pups are doing much better after getting stuffed with food from all the generous folks nearby. These guys can eat. I've never seen a dog until now that's able to eat rice until he can't physically get any more down his throat. They are reasonably clever too. It didn't take long to teach them how to take food sitting down and not to try and snap it from my fingers. They are still very traumatized by whatever experience they had earlier and don't really like to be handled, at least not at first. Progress in socializing these guys has been slow. Unfortunately I don't see much future for them if they can't get used to being around people.

Hopefully someone will come around to take 1 or 2 of these little guys in. It would seem a shame to rescue these dogs only to put them down later for lack of an owner.

Addendum: How not to solve your dog problem