Good morning or for those few who are reading this blog from Michigan Selamat Malam! (Good evening) The expression “time flies when you’re having fun” is incredibly accurate. I can’t believe that it’s Friday here in Yogyakarta already.
The past couple of days have been quite educational and I have really learned a lot. On Wednesday prof. Muhammad Najib Azca gave a very interesting lecture about Islamic radicalism followed by a lecture on peace building and Islam given by prof. Titik Firawati . The day’s lectures concluded with prof. Siti Mushah Mulia speaking with us about women’s role in promoting democracy and interfaith dialogue. Yesterday we attended a seminar on democracy in the Middle East at the State Islamic University of Yogyakarta. *A fact about this university I found interesting was that women are only required to wear hijab inside of the university but once outside, they can take them off. Anyway, I’ll get back to the hijab later because I think that that’s a real point of interest for many Americans.
So yeah, after that we had a discussion with Nunuk P. Murniati and several other important people (including an ambassador from the U.S embassy in Jakarta Don Washington!) The discussion was primarily about promoting interfaith and intercultural dialogue in Indonesia/U.S as well as increasing U.S understanding and involvement with Indonesia. One thing that I have really taken from all of this is the importance of engaging in dialogue and getting to know people from different walks of life on a personal/human level. I think that in the past decade there have been a lot of stigmas attached to Islam and negative portrayals of Muslims in the media. I believe that all of things have led many Americans to assume A LOT about this DIVERSE religion and the people who practice it. I will admit that prior to this trip I did not know any Muslims on a personal level and I too had stereotypes in my mind about Islam. I must first say that it is a shame how much attention terrorism gets from the world media considering (when you really think about it) how infrequently it happens compared to other incidences that have caused mass deaths, especially by certain powerful nations out there *eh hem. Also, people (including myself) often fail to realize how many different sects of Islam people practice, most having nothing to do with jihads or fatwas.
In some ways I think that the discussions we had after the lectures were just as if not more informational than the lectures themselves in some ways because I got to go directly to the source to ask questions about religion and culture. It is great to talk openly and honestly with young Muslim men and women about issues where the media has typically done the talking for us. Out of the 3 girls in the group 2 of them are hijabes (wear hijab). All of them told us that they were given the choice whether to wear the hijab or not. Binar doesn’t wear the hijab because she used to play basketball and found it uncomfortable. Generally the girls told us that women who wear hijab are respected a bit more by men, in that men won’t sit as close to them or asked them out the way that they would with women who don’t wear them. They were telling us that many women in cities and in more educated areas do recognize their full rights however, it is at the grassroots level that women are having more difficulty acknowledging and embracing these rights. We also talked about the ways in which the U.S does not understand Islam and the stereotypes and stigmas now attached to Muslims (especially after 9/11). We all agreed that engaging in dialogue is the best solution for us human beings to gain a better understanding of each other and our place in this crazy world.
On another note. Went to a Gamelan rehearsal last night and LOVED IT. I want to learn how to play Gamelan and I also wouldn’t mind doing more Javanese dance again. I think I’ve basically decided that I WILL find a way to live in Indonesia after I graduate. Plus everyone is telling me that Indonesian is a really easy language to learn (they only have present tense!). I may actually finally live my dream of becoming fluent in another language. Shout out to the University of Michigan for providing me with the opportunity to learn Indonesian next year!