Recently our M.A.D. Group was invited to a new Radio station in Surabaya (Suara Muslim Surabaya) that talks about Islam in general and other related topics such as Islam and Diversity. After several explanations about the M.A.D. project, the manager and the rest of the staff seemed to finally understand that the project is not about preaching Islam in Europe but it is about cultural understanding and awareness of the diversity and humanity that exists within any faith, nation or community group, including Muslim communities. Though it was clear that we would like to talk mainly about our project, questions and comments from the manager and the listeners were mainly oriented towards the universal values of Islam with arguments meant to reject the western general association of Islam with Terror. This made me think that actually many Muslims are often on the defensive when they are questioned and challenged with their religion and have the tendency to define themselves of what they are not, quoting the Holy scriptures as a proof of their “innocence” instead of saying who they are as simple human beings with its strengths and weaknesses. That is where confusion comes from for many non-Muslims. Those Muslims define themselves on a religious basis not on a national or cultural identity like most of Westerners would do. Therefore every action, wrong or bad, intended by a Muslim is considered to be the result of the teaching of Islam. Surprisingly this simplistic equation does not apply when a Christian fundamentalist commits a terrorist act such as the recent massacre in Norway. Some Western Medias and politicians suddenly got a flash of genius by saying that: “terrorism has no religion”; well it was about time to acknowledge that! Anders Behring Breivik is just as sick and hateful as any other fundamentalist, be it Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, secularists etc. So let’s not put religion on trial and honestly recognize that terrorism has no religion indeed.
Our one and half an hour talk on radio Surabaya was nevertheless very pleasant. Students, girls and boys, men and women of different social status and even Salahuddin Wahid, Gus Sola by his nickname, very respected man and brother of the fourth president of Indonesia (Abdurrahman Wahid), would also call for a word of encouragement and appreciation of our work.
We don’t know if our message went through to our Indonesian audience but we are sure of one thing: they were delighted to hear that people from Europe (especially a non-Muslim person such as Eugenija) refuse to be part of that continuous intolerance and hatred spreading in Western Europe and the United States.
The 9/ 11 terrorist attack has wakened up the past trauma of Europe concerning its relation to religion. Following that terrible event more and more interfaith dialogues take place in many parts of the world between Christians, Jews and Muslims, implying that religion is the dividing factor. These seminars might be helpful in some extent but I think that promoting these types of religious meetings is a way to divert us from the real issues which are mostly social and political. So instead of focusing on religions as a common ground in our dialogues, we’d better talk of what we have in common as simple human beings without neglecting our differences and seek for a sincere unity in our diversity and that is what the MAD Project is also about.