I refuse to fear the others

The Israel-Palestine war has been playing again in Gaza. I take the war seriously but it seems those who are at war just doing the routine and replay the spell of “right or wrong, it’s my country”. Hearing and reading the news about Gaza and the fate of Palestine people are like hearing the old tunes as if it was left unsolved intentionally.

I read many articles about the Israel-Palestine war and feel overwhelmed. I read about a Jew who is afraid and feel unsafe seeing a woman wearing niqab. At the same time Muslim community is suspicious at their Jewish neighbors. It must be uncomfortable living that way. They are afraid and fear each other and think the only solution is to have a country made only for Jewish people or Muslim people. Segregation, separation, isolation, disconnection.

I am Muslim woman born in the world’s largest Muslim country, Indonesia. It’s not in the Middle East, it’s in Southeast Asia. I was born in 1979, the year marked by Islamic revolution in Iran, the siege of Mecca and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. My mother didn’t bother all that as she was busy rejoicing my birth.

When I was a child, I like to watch TV. There were many wars back then, such as Iraq-Iran, Afghanistan, Israel-Palestine, etc. Maybe little has changed. When I saw the TV, I don’t know which one is Israel and which one is Palestine. They are look alike. Their skin color, noses, hairs are not the same as I have. But I know siblings or twins often fight very hard so that might be the case with Israel-Palestine war.

When I grow up and learn to read Arabic-Koran, some verses mention about Yahudi or Jews. I never met any Jew or open Jew but I know Arab and their descendants. There are some Arab villages in Jakarta as well as Chinese and many ethnicity from other part of Indonesia. It felt good to be able to identify an ethnic group and feel comfortable with it. It’s difficult to identify or confirm anything Jews when you don’t have anyone to turn to.

I am a Javanese ethnic who was born and grew up in Jakarta. I didn’t know how powerful Javanese was as a ethnic group in Indonesia which has a lot of ethnicity. I didn’t know about power but I can feel it because I was a subject and object of power.

During the monetary crisis, the religious groups were rising. I was swiftly and sweetly recruited to well-organized Muslim organization. I like to be around them, study the Koran and feel closer to God. However I felt uncomfortable to the way they depict Jewish people and Israel. I object the Israel history as a country, the same as I object the USA, Canada, Indonesia and other countries which violate indigenous people rights. Yet I am open to resolution and reconciliation.

Some Muslim do hate Jew very much and try very hard to share similar feeling to other Muslim. I find it difficult to hate Jew based on their race because I never knew them directly and at least God mention about them. I never read God mention anything about Javanese or Asian people. Maybe God knows we can take care ourselves.

The idea of building and focusing hatred to Jewish people was bothering for 18 yo. Let see, my family was not devout Muslim and Indonesia was under shadow of huge man-slaughter in the name of communism supported by Western countries for 3 decades. I almost certain that my ancestors were originally Hindu and/or Buddha which influence our culture.

For around 6 years I joined the Muslim learning group. I observed that often it feels comforting to have one dot to be pointed at as a common enemy. I learn from Indonesia experience after 32 years ruling of Suharto where people always in need to maintain or producing common enemy. Previously it was the Dutch, the Japanese, the US/western countries, the China, the communism, new order regime, neo-liberal, and so on, for good reason. But maintaining and producing enemy cost our sanity, natural resources, freedom of expression, and freedom from fear. There are many parties who are happy to maintain and exploit our fear for each other. They are not doing it to protect you or us. Is it comforting to have many innocent people or other race killed to make you feel safe? Why is my safety more important than the others?

There was a time when the freak out Egyptian Pharaoh ordered his officials to kill all male Jewish babies because of his fear. He spread those fear to his powerless subjects, especially mothers who just delivered their babies. The act of vengeance seems right when it actually perpetuate violence, sadness, hopelessness, frustration. Fear is the tool to gain control and set fertile ground to grow hatred and conflict.

The critical awareness as a Muslim Javanese woman and Jakarta-based Indonesian is important turn for me. I acknowledge that those layers of identities gave me certain power; to speak and write in Indonesia and English language and publish it online. I live in the city with access to electricity, internet, social media, etc. I have the privilege thus the responsibility to deliver my experience of refusing to fear the others.

Malang, 31 July 2014


One thought on “I refuse to fear the others

  1. A very insightful article! Indeed, there is alot of misperceptions on both sides. My blog might give you an interesting angle to Israel and its place among Arab states.

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