How important Religion for Indonesian

According to a 2000 census, almost 88% of Indonesians declared Islam as their religion, firmly consolidating the country’s status as the most populous Muslim-majority nation in the world. While 9% are Christian, 2% Hindu and 1% Buddhist.

When I was small I was often taught, even told, to learn by heart concerning the Pillars of Faith/Belief and the Pillars of Islam. The Pillars of Faith/Belief such as Belief in God, in the Prophets before the Prophet Muhammad God bless him, the Sacred Books before the Qur’an, Belief in Angels, and Belief in Divine Decree together with Belief in the Day of Judgment.

This Dogma can easily be explained authentically like the verse from Al Qur’an, in particular a verse from Al Hajj as follows “ya ayuhannasu ittaku robbakum” which means “Oh! Humankind be devout to (worship) your Gods”. I take the word robbakum to mean God. The God of Islam is Allah, The Hindu God is Sangyang Widiwase, The Jewish God is Adonai, and the Christian God is Allah (but read Alah).

In connection with Christmas, the Islamic Community almost throughout the world officially holds fast to the decrees of the Religious Teachers that to greet a person with “Merry Christmas” fits in with our tenets of tolerance and acceptance of other’s beliefs. It is a question of the attitude to a friend, or tolerance between religious communities, that we are able to participate in the Christmas festivities without it conflicting with our beliefs.

ABC TV Australia in a programme leading up to Christmas featured a report from Jakarta. This programme did indeed attract my attention because it reported on how Christmas was received and welcomed in Jakarta Malls. What touched me deeply was when a mother wearing a head scarf (jilbab) made the statement that she was very happy with Malls which were decorated with Christmas decorations (in the traditional Christmas way). There were Christmas Trees, Santa Claus, snow with all the other things we see which are associated with Christmas. The rhythm and tunes of the music are what is associated with Christmas. White Christmas. The shop assistants wore clothing of various colors such as Santa wears together with the distinctive hat.

It is my impression that when Australians see this program their opinion will change little by little. In the minds of some westerners, Islam is regarded as very hard, cruel or even barbaric such as the way they regard Amrozi and his associates who murdered hundreds of innocent people in the Bali bombings.

The attitude of the lady wearing her jilbab represents indeed the attitude of the modern world who cannot deny that the existence of differences is a certainty. The Pillar of Belief guides us to believe and have faith in the sacred texts of the Al Qur’an and to believe in the Prophets before Muhammad. We can show our appreciation to that mother wearing her jilbab, and be indeed proud of the local wisdom which indeed is inherent in our culture.

Let us think about the positioning of Borobudur (Buddhist) and Prambanan (Hindu) temples they are not too far from each other. The significance of this is that Buddhists and Hindus could live close to one another in harmony at that time. It also represents the rise and fall of powers, and war fare between kingdoms.

Finally I wish to quote again from Al Qur’an “I created the Nations and the Tribes so that you can all get to know one another. And in my eyes they are the most pious and devout”.

But we have a long way to go until we have reached tolerance. Western influences deemed by some authorities as anti-Islam was the reason why Lady Gaga was denied permission in Indonesia. The reason for her cancellation, authorities argued, is that she resembled “a devil worshiper.” Maybe if she dressed up as Santa’s helper, she might have been welcomed!

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