ISLAM TAKES CENTER STAGE

I once wrote an opinion article on how Muslim is being negatively portrayed in western media, as well as the impact it brought to Muslims. I then found myself weary by the overwhelming comments as many thought that I’m just exaggerating a few life events.
I read almost all of the comments and still think that my experience rang true in many people of similar background as mine: a Muslim in a western world. The comments did open my eyes and saw the error in my way of expressing my thought and fact-checking effort. Even so, I remember thinking that the conclusions I drew on why people have such negative stereotypes on Muslim were valid.

I then stumbled into a theory of Naïve Realism while reading “The Happiness Hypothesis” by Haidt. The theory suggests that we sincerely believe that we see thing as it is; we believe that we carry objectivity in all of our judgment, thus naively thinking that everyone but ourselves is influenced by their ideology and self-interest.

Just like my obstinacy in believing what I wrote was true, even deeming that people commented negatively were biased by their sense of patriotism, self-interest, or their different religion.

“Naïve realism give us a world full of good and evil, and this bring us to the most disturbing implication of the sages’ advise about hypocrisy: good and evil do not exist outside of our belief about them.” Wrote Haidt on the book.

That might be why people are often so reluctant in giving up their belief and in failing to see flaws on their own views; we do and believe things in what we know to be right even if that goes against the society’s general belief.

Making Sense of the World

Like fashion, where we seem to once again adore the oldies way of styling and dressing, the life consists of war, mass destruction and prejudice seem to make its comeback. The life, in which I could have never make sense of how it all begun, once again is happening in my generation, a generation that takes pride in their forward-thinking and open mindedness.

Making sense of the world we live in today is hard; it has unfolded many events that left us confused, suspicious and scared. The world has left us stranded into the world of hatred and makes us quick into judging people based on our predisposed ideas. The world that we live in today has made people hate others whom they have yet a chance to exchange names with.

But regardless, everyone tries to put together a puzzle from little pieces of information they have and everyone seems to end up with different depictions.

There is, however, one thing, I think we all can agree on. The world has chosen the protagonist, or rather an antagonist of today’s play, and it is Islam.

Islam has been in center stage for a long time, but just recently got a brighter spotlight after the ISIS has made themselves popular through their brutal videos and transgression. The group, although shows more vengeance towards the western world, has also made its offense in a developing Southeast Asia country. Although the attack in Jakarta was far mediocre and seemed to be poorly planned than their prior attacks, it shows that no country is immune from their terror.

People around the world have taken their stand of whether they for or against Muslim. Although, I, for one belief that there is no such thing as a monolithic Muslim worldview.

Many have accused that Islam teaching is breeding terrorists, despise all western people, coming to the western land to force their beliefs toward others, and deem that Muslims will not stand a chance in assimilating well with the western culture.

In debate of whether ISIS is very Islamic or un-Islamic, an article titled “The Phony Islam of ISIS” by Caner K. Dagli was published by The Atlantic. “Aside from the Quran, Muslims are also to follow Hadith, records of sayings and doings of the Prophet Muhammad, which run into dozens of volumes spanning literally hundreds of thousands of texts…” The Quran and hadiths text ISIS use to back their agenda is “nothing more than cherry-picking what they like and ignoring what they do not.” (Dagli)

In another article by The Atlantic titled “Could ISIS exist without Islam?”, the writer, Kathy Gilsinan, quoted Dalia Mogahed, the research director of the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. “Mogahed suggested that the relationship between Islamic texts and ISIS’s brutality is actually the reverse of what both ISIS and many of its enemies claim. It’s not, she said, the group’s interpretation of Islamic texts that drives its brutality—it’s the group’s desired brutality driving its interpretation of the texts…”’

According to Mogahed, a group such as ISIS will still exist even if Islam does not. The extremist group will use what Mogahed called as “the local social currency” to justify their violence. She also mentioned that terrorism emerges time to time from Peru to Japan, societies with no Islamic tie to speak of.

Defending Your Gut Feeling

Remember the time of when you were a kid and live in close supervision of your parents? We sometimes do some of the most bizarre things, yet we always seem to found a reason to justify our act. Your argument to get yourself out of trouble, be it persuasive or implausible, was most of the times not the reason of why you did what you did. It was made up after someone questions your motives.

As Franklin once said, “So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for every thing one has a mind to do.”

The Terrorists’ Assumed Motives

The world has roughly 1.6 billion Muslims. Should Islam really do breed terrorism and all Muslims are terrorist, I don’t think the world has a chance of surviving. People don’t kill another human beings, and beam with pride while doing it, because God ask them to, no matter how devoted they are to their religion.

Feeling frustrated by all the civil war going on, feeling betrayed and oppressed by their government, and feeling helpless to make a living in a trembling country can be what drives them to perform such inhuman acts.

Looking in nostalgic of how Islam had once ruled and in power could also be another reason.

Just like in “Naïve realism” theory, definition of good and evil do not exist outside of their belief. They believe creating a caliphate nation is for the greater good and that is what makes them even more horrifying; these people do not think that what they did is wrong.

Containing this extremist by fighting all Muslims worldwide will not do a world any favor; doing so will most likely extend the ISIS might to recruits. A number of people joined the group because they feel excluded and unwanted in their current state. And some decided to join because ISIS promises them money and free health care.

The people vulnerable to join will even be more fragile if we, as society, keep on judging them, without bothering to ask what is wrong and what can be done to help.

The truth is that it is easy and tempting to just cling onto our current believes, but more than ever, we need to challenge our mind. Try to understand why people would want to join. Don’t look for information to only justify your predisposed belief.

Having an open-minded and tolerance in today’s world seems to be a stronger and effective way in combating terrorism such as ISIS, than arming everyone with guns.

We, Indonesians label many things as taboo and we don’t speak about it in fear of being outcaste. We are afraid to ask questions to people in our immediate surrounding for fear that they will label us as weird, or worse, immoral. Parents often dismiss their kids’ questions by saying that it is nonsense or “because I said so” and offers no further explanation.

The recent attack in Jakarta a few weeks ago showed that terrorism in Indonesia does exist and most likely, there might still be many others who are planning another attack; yet Indonesians are proudly saying that they are not afraid of the terrorists.

But I do. I am very afraid that if we take the issue ever so lightly and instead make humor out of it, our country will be filled with people running around with gun riffles and casualty will no longer announced with names but with numbers in years to come. Because if those terrorist can be influenced to do what they did, then many others can to.

Dismissing people involved in the attack as simply immoral and misguided will not prepare us better in battling terrorism. Encourage discussion around the issue and make people feel safe to express their thought without fear of judgment in open space, I believe will.

*Also published on Whiteboardjournal.com

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