Turkey & Personal Reflection

As promised, I will write about my reflection of my trip to Turkey. This will also be the last post about the trip. For a complete collection of the photo, you can go here. I am sure there's some sort of saying that you should go out and see the world and expand your horizon and learn more about you and the world. You know something along that line. Well my trip to Turkey had been one that was akin to having my system shocked, especially in how muslims can be. As mentioned before, I didn't know much about this country before I left. I couldn't even point it in a map. I didn't have any expectation about the country in relation to that being a country with the majority of muslim population. I guess coming from Indonesia, it's not a big deal. It wasn't even something that registered in my head, that I was going to a country where the majority of the population is muslims. It only somewhat came to me when I was on the plane from Istanbul to Kayseri. The plane was still at a low altitute that I could see the city and the things that stood out was the minarets. They really stood out amidst all the concretes and high buildings and it dawned on me that yes this is a country where Islam has a great influence on the life of the people. It wasn't a cause for worry or anything. If there's anything, perhaps there's a feeling that I'm going somewhere where I will be familiar with some things. That thought proved to be kinda wrong.

What happened was many moments of being shocked, flabbergasted, stunned, and at lost of words with how Islam is in Turkey. What with the vineyards, the presence of alcohol everywhere, and the lax rule in the mosque. Some of the words that came to my mind that an Indonesian would use to express the shock were: ya Allah, Masha'Allah, and Astaghfirullah :P By the way, I felt that Indonesian would often say Masha'Allah when they want to say Oh my God for something that is shocking even for a rather negative situation but from my googling, I'm not sure if it's the right usage. Back to the topic, if one would say the Islam in Indonesia is a moderate Islam then I would say the Islam in Turkey is a liberal Islam. It was something totally unexpected for me. Not that I was expecting a strict country but I didn't expect to see this. Take the drinking part for example. There are Indonesian muslims who drink but I believe only a small percentage would do it openly. In Turkey, it was like the norm. You go to a restaurant and you'll see people having wine or raki with their meal. By the way raki and the Efes beer are 2 things which I was really curious about but I didn't try any of them :( Back in Indonesia for Chinese New Year this year, I was surprised that the Padang restaurant, which Dewi took us to, sell beer. I wondered if there were muslims who would openly order that and drink it in the restaurant. When I told my cousin about this, she said perhaps it's only haram when people get drunk. I told mom about it and she said something along the line, oh it's good that they're not fanatic. The hotel guy I talked to said, it's because Turkey is a secular country so noone can force anyone to be religious. Well I don't find that argument to be satisfying. In Indonesia too, noone can force you to be religious though there is the annoying anarchist Islamic Defender Front (FPI) who's very judgemental and intolerant about eveything. Even them is not actually reflective or supported by the majority of Indonesian muslims. Oh just in case you don't know, Indonesia is not a muslim country. Islam does not dictate our law. We are the country with the biggest muslim population. So even though it takes me longer time to type that than to just say a muslim country, I do it because I think it's imperative to get this correct. It's important for me because I'm not a muslim and obviously I don't want to live in a country where the law is based on Islam. I just don't think that's fair for the non-muslims and I am thankful that Indonesia's foundation states clearly that we believe in God, not just a particular God.

Anyway, my point is, muslims all over the world follow the same teaching right so why does the Islam in Turkey seem so different. I know that I only spent 1 week plus there so my perception of it is totally not deep. However, from the general view that I got it just seemed so liberal. I actually had something like a faith crisis eventhough I'm not a muslim :P It's just like my whole understanding about what being a muslim is was turned upside down by seeing the muslim Turks. I wonder if among the country with a lot muslims, they see Turkey as some sort of pariah. I was thinking that if an Indonesian girl says to her Haji parents that she has a Turkish boyfriend, will the parents actually be worried thinking they're not true muslims? Anyway, at first it felt really refreshing and liberating for me. I like the fact that people don't get judged for what they do. In Indonesia, it often gets pretty suffocating, example: an Indonesian celebrity in a bikini in Bali was in the news and be judged for revealing her body. I don't believe in forcing people to be religious. I don't believe in removing all temptation so that people can be religious. I think people with a strong faith will keep their faith even when all around them are against it. So for organization like FPI to come off so strong in removing things they feel is un-Islamic feels so wrong for me. Even if they can make a pious muslim out of it but it may not be effective when the person is somewhere out there where there are more temptations. The world is not small and if we're going to close ourselves and be against everyone who's not in the same faith as us, what would we be, North Korea?

As the my trip continued, that feeling of wishing that the Islamic society in Indonesia could take the chill pill and be not so restrictive kinda tempered a bit. I don't know what it was, perhaps it's the fact that I am Asian (generally we're known to be more conservative, no?), the fact that I am Indonesian Chinese (with a family who's conservative), the fact that my 11-year Christian education successfully shaped my view on things, or the fact that I am an Indonesian. When I read about secular country, many of them try to ensure there's no excessive showing of religious belief by people. In getting to know more about secular countries, I googled here and there to get answers for some of my questions. I stumbled into Laïcité and I had a mix feeling about it. After around 11 years in a Christian school, I went to a government high school which accepts everyone. If Laïcité had been imposed then my life in that school wouldn't have been too hard for me on my first year. My first year, especially my first week was tough. I didn't know if I could survive my 3-year stay there. I went from a Christian school where we started our day with prayer, singing hymns, and reading the bible to a government school where Islam is everywhere. At the door of the classrooms and the whiteboard, there's arabic caligraphy with verses from the Quran. Some teachers come in to class and instead of saying good morning or so, they'll say "assalamualaikum" where the only response to that is the other arabic verse. Do they care that there are non-muslims in the class? No. Do they care if perhaps the non-muslims feel uncomfortable? No. Perhaps they secretly hope we see the light and convert. So that was hard for me to swallow and digest. My first year in my high school was rough but then I managed to deal with it and get to know my wonderful muslim classmates who I was able to talk to, who let me read their notes or books from the religion classes, and who are generally really nice people and do not like me less just because I am not a muslim. So when I think about them and I think about the other side of Laïcité, then I see the negative side of it. It it's imposed on the country, my school would be free of all religious items, we may not even have a musholla in the school, but it would also mean that my female classmates who would like to wear their headscarf to school would be denied of that. Then I think it's a violation of their human rights to exercise their belief. I'm also not sure I like the idea that sermons given in the mosques have to be approved by the government. While it's good that it can prevent extremism but it's also a form of censorship, isn't it? Especially if the sermons may criticize certain government's policy or officials. It just feels like instead of splitting the government and religion, it's like the government has a way in controlling the religion. So I am not sure if that kind of secularity is right.

Again I don't know, maybe it's all the facts that I mentioned earlier, but there's something about being religious in Indonesia that I treasure. Religion is infused in our lives in all aspects. We often start and end things with prayers. Religion is in the curriculum. It's everywhere though perhaps the most visible sign is Islam. As much as I do roll my eyes if some muslim organizations say something is bad or release a fatwa for something they think is bad, I do have to say some of them are not totally rejected by the non-muslims. Don't watch Lady Gaga's concert? Why, though the churches don't come out on tv to say it, I think it was perhaps mentioned during Sunday service. Even the South Korean Christians will agree with this. Stop all the raunchy songs with explicit lyrics for example. I do agree on this because imagine the horror if I have to explain the song "Jupe likes 69 the best" to ... my parents? Oh my God! So in a way, I agree with certain suggestion and advice on making our society morally sound. I just don't agree on it being too restrictive, suffocating, and most importantly have to be done in such a violent hostile way. Then of course the issue comes on who should be on the moral authority in the country and I guess that's the hard issue with the different groups. I guess for Indonesia, I just don't want Islam to be the only voice in the country, ignoring the minority. I am sure what the muslims clerics think as proper or not are the same sentiment shared by the priest and pastors in churches, the Budhist monks, and the Hindus leaders in Bali, so we are not so different.

I guess, at the end of my trip, I didn't come out of it thinking that secularity in Turkey is a totally awesome idea and Indonesia sucks. We're just different and I would like to know more about Islam in Turkey. There's so many questions that I want to ask and I would like to observe life there. I find it very very intriguing. Obviously Indonesian muslims are the not the holiest in the world but when I see the Turks, sometime it's like there's no trace in them that they're muslims. It sounds so bad writing that but really. I heard people saying this country is more Europe than Asia and it's so true. So I guess because it's not so visible, I would really like to know how it's really like behind the screen, for example what is it like in the family. Do they pray together? Are they okay with their kids marrying a non-muslim? So many questions to ask and it's very personal and so of course I can't just start shooting away on the Turks that I just met. I left the country with a lot of unsatisfied curiousity and the desire to know more. It's a country that I unexpectedly love. It is so different and yet there's a familiarity to it for me. There are things like the unexpected comfort I felt hearing adzan because it reminded me of home. Of course there's also the awesome experience. It's a country that I would really really love to visit again. I am thankful to God for this chance and I hope He'll be kind enough to grant me the chance again in the future :)

On other personal reflection. Well there's the unimportant one like right now I can actually eat cereal with milk :P There's something about white milk that made me not be able to take it. So I never ate cereal but I started on this trip and I found myself not hating it. I actually think warm milk with cereal is really nice. I have even bought cereals here in Singapore and ate them. I still don't think I can drink a glass of white milk but I think this change in me is a good thing :) I also realize that I have awesome organizational skill. I will never doubt that I have it. Awesome is perhaps open to discussion but I realize I am so much better than some people. I realize that I can be a person someone can rely on but I found myself not being able to rely on anyone easily. It's a rather hard thing to do because I will always question the methods and not have much believe when someone's methods differ from mine. Perhaps it's an OCD thing, I don't know. I also realize that there can be someone messier than me, oh my! Then I guess most importantly, I realize what kind of characters I need in a person whom I want to spend my life with. Perhaps I haven't gotten the full picture but to be able to see certain details of it I guess is important and enlightening. I know what I can stand and cannot stand and I know how I am and what I need in a partner. Maybe when I can see more and more details in it, I will finally meet my guy? *fingers crossed* If there's one thing that doesn't change is patience. Even more so, I realize how it's very very hard for me to be sincere in doing things for a group when I feel the other group members are not as contributive. Perhaps it's selfishness, perhaps it's individuality, perhaps it's simply being a bad person. I just cannot be all sincere and happy about it. I keep on thinking if I have to do this on my own and can do this on my own, why do I need all these people? Maybe it's simply being a bad person, that I want someone who can bring something to the table to be in the team. It sounds so Singaporean actually. Darn this country has crept into me, aarrgggh!

On current life news. Life has started to go back to it's depressive state. I try not to think about it much. My dad is rather unwell now. I'm not sure if it's worse or actually better than what my family try it to make it sound. I get mix signals. Anyway dad is having some tests done and hopefully we'll get a definitive course of action soon. I have to say that for the first time, I feel that my safety net is going to disappear. Especially after hearing my brother talked about the uncertainty on his future plan since dad is unwell now. It brings another thought into my mind. Things that I should really see if it's feasible to do. Then this week, I had some sort of a clash with Max. It burdened my mind so and another enlightenment came that I have to have my kids be brought up in an environment where we believe in God and have the fear of God. I had been reprimanded for allegedly forcing my belief on other people but I am what I am, what I believe and I believe in living my life a certain way and I want this for my future generations. Anyway, let's just say I am very disappointed with Max and it perhaps changed our relationship a bit. I feel I've lost all ability to be all friendly with him. We'll see. I feel like arguing because I somehow care about him that I would like him to live his life in a good way. If I don't care, then I wouldn't care about what he does. All people can say, including him, is I'm not seeing that he has his freedom to choose how to live his life. You know it's like seeing someone going to the river with a boat with holes. We all know the boat have holes. Me, I will scream my best and try to not let that person go to the river with that boat. Some people argue it's their choice, so let it be. I can't do that. If I think someone (I care) is making a mistake, I tell them. Again people argue that my definition of a mistake is different, people have a right, etc. Whatever.

I've also done the normal stuff here in Singapore. Watched The Avengers with Ms. J yesterday. As a moral support for her, we watched it in 3D Imax. I wasn't as blown away as her. I guess it's just the mental state right now that I need more things to interest me. I like Robert Downey Jr a lot though. While the movie had some cheesy lines especially coming from Samuel L Jackson's character, it did have some funny moments. Who knew that the Hulk would actually be a very important character and one of the funniest? I also didn't expect that Captain America would be the one in a leader role. Well I didn't watch his movie. I didn't watch Thor either. I just reached the state where I kinda had enough of superheroes movie. I watched this because of how I like Robert Downey Jr :P Oh I have to say that the Robyn from How I Met Your Mother was so skinny in this movie, it's crazy. I also have to say that even with Captain America and Thor which Ms. J likes a lot, I am next drawn to Jeremy Renner. Perhaps it was also boosted by his Mission Impossible's performance but he just exuded coolness :P Well I guess that's it about life peeps. Hope you guys have a great life ahead :)

:) eKa @ 1:52:00 PM •


Post a Comment

back to home