Are We Religious Enough?

Posted on: July 3, 2007

logo_tjp.gifThis article was published by The Jakarta Post on December 24, 2007.

When I lived in Pakistan for three years the one thing I was so proud of was that I was a Muslim coming froma country with the largest Muslim population in the world. When people asked where I was from I would proudly say, “I’m from Indonesia.” In a country like Pakistan where religion (Islam) is a big deal a Pakistani will be more than happy to know that the foreign guy he is talking to is a Muslim. So, they would reply my answer, “Indonesia? Oh, you are brother.” And when I started to spice up the conversation by asking, “Do you know Indonesia?” They would say, “Yes, Sukarno!”

What’s good about this country anyway?

Indonesian Muslims are so proud that they are the majority and they are religious. Non Muslims may not be the majority but they have the same kind of feeling: We are religious! Muslim parents will beat their children if they don’t want to pray daily (sholat) while Christian parents will yell at their children if they are still sleeping on a sunday morning. Indonesians claim that the Western values are so sickening and disgusting therefore they condemn free sex and the use of condoms. Indonesians think that the Western people are immoral people who just can’t control their animal-like behavior.

Indonesian Muslims may not have the greatest mosque in the world, but I am sure that they do have some of the best mosques that have ever been built by humans. And for sure there are more mosques located in Indonesia than in any other countries in the world since there are more than 200 million Muslims living in Indonesia. Jakarta for example, you can find mosques almost everywhere, I mean everywhere. Every Friday mosques are so full and crowded, men go there to pray. During my six years of living in Jakarta I can tell you that I never saw one mosque that was not crowded on a Friday, every mosque was packed. Wow, what a religious country we have, or do we?

By being religious people, Indonesians accuse the Western people, especially Americans, to be immoral, “Those people are so sinful, they do sex before marriage, they drink alcohol, and they don’t respect their parents.”

But let me tell you something, living more than ten months in America has made me realize that America, or at least some parts of it, is more conservative than what people in the East think. Yeah that’s right, America is so conservative. In America you have to show your ID every time you want to buy a beer or any other alcohol drinks. You have to show your ID to go to a club when you want to have some fun during the night. Prostitution is only legal in the state of Nevada but only in some counties where it is even illegal in a city like Las Vegas. Well, you can still find girls lining up on the streets but they are so localized and most likely you will never see them on major streets. And yes, right now there are four states that approve same-sex marriage but there are more than many states that still think that same-sex marriage is out of the question.

In the area where I live in, people smile to other people who they don’t know on the streets more than what I experienced in Jakarta. Children are so much respected that every time a school bus is stops cars from every direction have to stop for safety reason too, no question asked. Seniors and people with disabilities are always given the number one treatment, they get special parking lots or any other public advantages. When you open a door at a store or any public place you have to be aware if there is someone trying to enter behind you so you can hold the door for a while until that person can reach the door and enter safely. When you do so, most likely that person will say, “Thank you,” and a smile will be your bonus.

“What about the free sex?” you might ask. Well, it is true there are a lot of people in America who consider that sex is not a big deal, it is just a physical need. But even so, I would say that the condition is not as bad as it is depicted in the Hollywood movies. One important thing, you have to remember I said earlier that America is more conservative than what we might think, and being conservative is different than being religious. Being religious means that someone lives his or her life based on the religious values while being a conservative person means that he or she believes in traditional values. Religious values might be part of the traditional values, if you think about it, but since most American conservatives think that religious values are just part of the traditional values then those values are not absolute and they can be “twisted” a little bit based on the current condition. So when more American conservatives think that sex before marriage is normal due to the modernization and all the cultural changes they still claim that they are people who appraise traditional values because being conservative doesn’t necessarily mean that all the religious values are included. That is why those people would prefer to be called conservatives rather than religious people.

What about Indonesia? Are we religious enough? Yes we do condemn free sex, alcohol, and drugs but are we really acting like the holy ones? Jakarta can be a good example, again. Yes the mosques are over crowded on Fridays. But does it mean we can’t find prostitutes in Jakarta? The answer is yes and yes, you can and it’s so easy. Just go to places like Mahakam Blok M or Kota in the evening and you will see girls in sexy dresses standing on the streets waiting for fancy cars to pick them up, or go to Taman Lawang for a different attraction. These prostitutes are not even localized as they can pick some of major streets to “market” themselves. You want to buy a beer or any alcohol drinks? Easy, just go to any stores and buy them and showing your ID won’t be necessary. If you are too shy to do so, you can still get pletokan at traditional warung on the streets. And while we think that condom-to-stop-AIDS campaign is ridiculous we can still buy condoms so easily on the streets: You don’t even have to look old to buy the condoms, just give your money and go.

Now, do I still have to mention the corruption? I guess not.

Can we blame the economy for this condition? People might say that the bad economy forces people to do things that religions prohibit in order to survive. But will a good economy automatically encourage people to be better religiously? Can people have the right to make an material element in life as an excuse for their sinful acts?

Picture was taken from here.


25 Responses to "Are We Religious Enough?"

good article. Rocks!

Hey Tasa,

What a co-incident, I wrote this topic too. For certain level, free sex in the western culture is a myth that people in the east take it as a fact. The point is moral and free sex in the east and also in Indonesia are like iceberg, they do not talk, discuss and publish it in the public. In contrary, free sex and moral in the west is more like an inverted iceberg. They talk about it, even on TV show.

@ Guebukanmonyet: Good, I mean great, article, once again! You must be areally smart participant observer. It’s hard to avoid prejudices, but you indeed seem to succeed always. That gift of an open mind is quite a treasure. And a pleasure to read.

Moreover, you are absolutely right; the overwhelming majority of American adheres to conservative values. Whether or not these middleclass values are sufficient to bring about progress, is questionable of course. I rather would like to defend the thesis that more often than not, marginal people with deviant habits, norms, values will bring about real change. It’s a strength of the US-societies in the past that they gave plenty of room for “being different”. And even encouraged it. “Don’t fence me in” also applied to moral issues. There was ( and is in some parts of the country) a great and healthy lack of too much social control.

Maybe that’s the big lesson to be learned from the US. It could even work out in the RI.

@ Beni Bevly: Your (inverted) iceberg comparison strikes me as quite appropriate.

Wah, pake bhs inggeris, gak ngerti

tukang ketik: Thank you for your support.

Bevly: Yes Bung Bevly, you have a great article. It is true that free sex in America is not as bad as what people in the East think. America is like we know is always divided into the conservatives and the liberals.

Colson: Thank you for your compliment, I guess I just tried to be objective. It is one of the greatest weaknesses of people in Indonesia that they don’t see things from different angles, and that is one of the reasons why Indonesia is having a lot of internal conflicts in the society. You are right, people in America have this “privilege” to be different: you can be whatever you want and no cultural pressures, well they do exist but much lesser than what people in the East receive.

rd Limosin: At least you tried to read it, didn’t you? Thanks for stopping by 🙂

Great post. The more I think about it (I read Beni’s posting too), I would say it’s the stereotype of Americans and Indonesians that we’re caught in. Fortunately (or unfortunately?) there probably are as many people outside the stereotype as there are within.

nice article tasa, can I link this site?

Good article Bro, It is between Saleh Ritual and Saleh Sosial. Padahal dalam Al-quran telah difirmankan “Sholat itu mencegah perbuatan keji dan mungkar” It is confusing, Indonesia is a big Muslims country where a lots of mosques and each of mosque is always crowed, lots of kyai, lots of pengajian but at the same lots of prostitution, drugs and gambling.

Tapi saya percaya esensi umat muslim itu ada pada sholat, ‘sholat itu tiangnya Agama”, dan saya yakin saleh ritual yg direfleksikan dlm sholat, ngaji, haji, pengajian dll akan membawa pada saleh ritual yg pd akhirnya akan menciptakan masy. madani sperti kota Madinah pada jaman Rasul.Amin.

kalaupun kenyataannya saleh ritualnya masy. Indonesia tdk bisa menstimulus saleh sosial, it is different case (ada banyak hal yang menyebabkan gagalnya Sholat/tdk diterima, dan saya tdk punya kapasitas untuk menjelaskannya)

Dan sudah saatnya kita merubah paradigma umat muslim, bahwa islam tdk sekedar hanya sholat, ngaji, pengajian, haji… tapi umat islam juga punya tanggung jawab untuk community empowerment, mennciptakan masy. Madani.

kalo kata bapak saya “jgn mabuk cinta pada Tuhan sampai km lupa pada masy. km, jgn terlalu sibuk ngurusi Tuhan sampai km lupa mengurusi anak istri km” gak jauh beda dgn cerita-nya AA. Navis – Robohnya Surau Kami.

Dan masih kata bapak saya: Indonesia Negara korup di dunia krn saleh ritual-nya tdk bisa menstimulus saleh social, orang2 sibuk ngurusin Tuhan sampai lupa kalo rakyat butuh makan. Orang2 berdiam diri di masjid tapi lupa daerah Kota banyak prostitusi.

Sorry, if too longer.

Sori gw gak pake bahasa Inggris, takut maknanya beda.

Orang Indonesia sibuk shaleh untuk dirinya sendiri.

Sori ada bagian yang gw gak setuju dengan tulisan di atas gw (Andhi Rock), mungkin maksudnya sama tapi redaksionalnya harusnya lebih diatur. yang bagian

” jgn mabuk cinta pada Tuhan sampai km lupa pada masy. km, jgn terlalu sibuk ngurusi Tuhan sampai km lupa mengurusi anak istri km”

Gw berpendapat redaksional tersebut memisahkan seolah-olah mengurusi anak istri bukan termasuk ibadah, padahal hal tersebut termasuk ibadah, dan termasuk urusan kita sama Tuhan. Termasuk juga urusan sosial. Dalam Islam, ada 3 hubungan yaitu habluminallah (hubungan kita dengan Tuhan secara langsung), habluminanas (hubungan kita sesama manusia), dan hubungan kita terhadap lingkungan. Kesemua itu adalah satu kesatuan ibadah kita kepada Tuhan. Jadi bukan hal yang terpisah secara makna ibadah. Kala kita mengurusi rumah tangga /masyarakat/organisasi salah satu makna juga hubungan kita sebagai khalifah Allah di muka bumi ini.

Saran gw redaksionalnya menjadi “Jangan saja kau lupa mengurusi anak istri kamu sesungguhnya itu juga termasuk ibadah kamu kepada Allah”

Gitu…. mungkin segitu dulu aja, bila ada kesalahan mohon koreksinya

Setuju Bung Deniar. Mohon maaf kalo ada salah redaksi-nya.

Itulah yg sudah saya tulis diatas.. bahwa ada 2 ibadah, 1. Ibadah ritual dan 2. Ibadah sosial. mengurusi istri, anak, masy, ikut organisasi, kerja, menuntut ilmu, gotong royong, nengok tetangga sakit, ngurus negara jelas itu adalah ibadah, ibadah sosial.habluminanas.

Dan ketika kita beribadah yg berhubungan dgn Allah saya menyebutnya itu ibadah ritual, habluminallah. “Mabuk Tuhan” disini adalah orang yg sangat saleh ritual, sholat, puasa, pengajian, haji… “sampai lupa ngurusi anak istri km” …tapi tdk peka saleh sosial (ibadah sosial) krn menganggap islam itu ya hanya sholat, puasa, haji, pengajian, pake sorban. Orientasinya hanya Allah-ahkirat tdk diimbangin dgn orientasi duniawi habluminanas. Bapak ane emang kalo ngasih nasihat suka konotatif bahasanya… maklum orang tua bro…

Makasih bro atas masukannya…
Salam kenal AdhiRock

Bleu: Yes you are right. It’s true that a lot of people are trapped with stereotypes.

Yeny: Thank you Mba, I’d be more than happy 🙂

AdhiRock&Deniar: Setuju dengan pendapat kalian berdua bro. Intinya memang jangan pisahkan hubungan antara manusia dan manusia dengan hubungan manusia dan Tuhan, keduanya saling berkaitan dan tidak dapat dipisahkan. Melakukan kebaikan kepada manusia lain bukan berarti kita tidak berhubungan dengan Tuhan.

Nice discussion.

bener bgt, gw setuju bgt, apalagi kta orang Indonesia walaupun mayoritas islam keturunan. jadi esensial dari Islam itu sendiri pun mereka ngak tau.
seandainya orang paham dengan agama ini, InsyaAllah negara Indonesia takan terpuruk seperti ini. dimana moral bangsa telah rusak, generasi muda pun seolah2 hidup tanpa arah. padahal ada satu pedoman hidup kita yaitu Al-quran. kalau ditanya mungkin generasi muda Islam sekarang apa mereka bisa baca Al-quran?? disaat kitab suci ittu kita buka
rasakanlah kedamain setelah kita membacanya.mungkin itulah mu’jizat Al-quran.
seriang kali terjadi disaat kita senang kita melupakan tuk kembali padaNYA tapi Allah tidak tidur. Allah Maha Pemaaf, disaat manusia berbuat keburukan, pintu taobat kan selalu terbuka, Allah tak pernah dendam dengan hambanya.
seandainya kita bisa saling mengingatkan tuk menuju ke arah lebih religius, alangkah indahnya dunia.

Interesting article.

I do however have comments and/or questions. Your discussion on the relationship between conservatism (can be defined as both political and religious stand and point of view), religion and good-manner, somehow implies that conservative, meaning religious, is definetely more appropriate (as it is resulted in a well-manered society or let’s use a more provicative jargon: civilised).

This conclusion can also be interpreted that a liberal society (to follow your line of thought: more secular) will always take form of a problematized society, as people will tend to practice free-sex, approve homosexual relationship, etc.

I have to disagree with you in taking religion as the MAIN indicator of how well a society works.

I have been living in Europe, Switzerland to be more precise, for more than 6 years now. Without having your skill of sociological observation, I still can say that this liberal and secular society works very well. “Despite” its secular characteristics, the society I live in is very peaceful, way peaceful from the one back home in Indonesia. Criminal rate is very low, social tolerance and code of conduct creates balance in which most people’s rights and needs are well-respected, and people live and interact with each other in an orderly fashion despite their difference in culture, political and religious belief.

Yes, free-sex is not seen as a societal problem here. But does it create a society full of “immoral-animals” whose lust drive their life? I absolutely doubt it. Teen pregnancy is very low as well as AIDS infection. Sex-education does the trick, not religious education.

Do the atheists and agnostics are less polite or less civilised than religious people? Again I doubt it! I am currently in an academic world and interact daily with many briliant people. Many of them are atheists or agnostics, yet they are well-mannered, open-minded, and have high cultural and religious tolerance toward others.

Religion, in my opinion, does not condition a person’s value in a society, as it may not determine a society’s value when it comes to how it succeed or not in creating a comfortable, safe, and peaceful living environment.

While in some cases religion SHOULD lead to a “better” society, in other cases a secular society does NOT always mean a doomed one.

ila: Thank you for commenting. Saya setuju. Bangsa ini memang sudah terlalu lama melupakan esensi ketuhanan yang kita miliki. Kitab suci tidak pernah digunakan dan diterapkan sebagaimana seharusnya. Tempat-tempat ibadah memang tidak pernah sepi tapi tampaknya masyarakat kita hanya menjalankan ritual simbolisasi dan melupakan esensi yang sesungguhnya. Too bad.

Pipit: Thank you for commenting too. Nice thought you have. Well, I think I agree that religion may not always be the main element to see how good a society works. Probably I’m just too Eastern minded. The fact that pregnancy rate is low as well as the AIDS spread, I think mainly it is because people in the West are more educated, they probably perform free sex more but the safe kind of free sex. Because as I mention in the article, more people in the West don’t put all religious values in their life guidance.

And the fact that you find people in Switzerland are much nicer than people in Indonesia, it is something that I’d call a cultural gap. I differenciate two kinds of cultures: the mature cultures (culture that have survived for hundred years) and the immature cultures (cultures that haven’t really existed that long).

Thank you for responding to my comment. Hemm..cultural gap? What do you mean exactly by that? And whose culture that you might call mature or immature? Is that mean that I am having “somehow” an immature cultural understanding? 🙂

Civility may take different forms and it does not necessarily relates to the “maturity” of a culture. Besides, when one can call a culture has started or ended? To try to have a “measure” of a culture then one assumes that culture is something that is “fix” or immobile, while it has been argued widely in anthropology and sociology that culture evolves throughout time.

Pipit: No, that’s not what I mean. I tried to compare the Western culture and Indonesian culture to explain your experience living in Switzerland, I think the Western culture is a mature culture while Indonesian culture is an immature culture.

Well, I believe that a culture may have a time when it actually starts to grow into a new direction. In Indonesia for example, our culture and an identity as one nation (before we were separated by islands, religions, or ethnics) started after the independence or the year of 1945. So, the so-called new culture has been going on for only 60 years and so, compared to American culture that has been evolving for hundred years. That is also the reason why the Black and Hispanic communities in America still can’t compete against the White community because their cultures are not mature enough.

Thank you for this wonderful discussion.

Hello, salam kenal…
please don’t call Masjid as mosque. just Masjid as Masjid OK!!

Salam kenal juga. Thank you for the advice, but for me mosque or masjid are the same thing. Mosque simply means masjid in English and I don’t see anything wrong with that considering there millions of muslims who can only speak English and not Arabic or Indonesian.

well, Indonesian people are sometimes more ‘american’ than the American people themselves, mate! and we’re so proud of it, aren’t we? haha! *cynical laugh*

vienz: Yes, that’s a good one. Some of us may be even more American than Americans themselves. It’s true. Our culture is not ready to accept all the things that this world is offering, and it is a shame to report that we are the victims of globalization and so-called westernization.

The ones who accuse westerners to be immoral are the ones who are ignorant. These are the people who haven’t even travelled overseas to see western countries with their own eyes and furthermore are brainwashed by non-logical dogma spouted by uneducated clergymen.

Indonesian people need to become part of the global community so they can crack their shell of ignorance and finally learn about others.

You might be right, but people in the East also have their point though. It is Western fault for giving the misleading image of their society.

Only pro memori: Beauty as well as ugliness is in the eye of the beholder.

pada akhir artikel saya paham kalo betul sekali kefakiran membawa kepada kekafiran, pengganguran adalah kejahatan terbesar. supaya tetep terjaga keimanannya, kita harus memperbaiki kondisi ekonomi dan pendidikan. kita harus berusaha optimal dan berdoa serajin2nya supaya Tuhan memberikan kita hidup yang lebih baik.

pada akhirnya kita emang harus berdoa setiap hari agar Tuhan tetap menjaga iman kita, agar kita tetap konsisten menjalani prinsip yang kita anut dan wafat dalam rahmatNYA.

I don’t know what to say more, untuk artikel ini, saya hanya bisa ngomong gini…..berdoalah agar Tuhan tetap menjaga dan memelihara iman kita amin.

Yonna: Good one. Let’s just pray for the better of Indonesia and start doing the smallest things that we can to improve ourselves and hopefully others.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Read My Articles on

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

About Me

guebukanmonyet is Tasa Nugraza Barley. He's a free man with unique thoughts and dreams. He sees his life and this world differently from anyone else. That's because he knows what he wants; and for that reason he doesn't want to be the same. Read why he blogs, here.

Contact Me



All articles and essays were written by guebukanmonyet. Before commenting remember that Life Accepts Differences.
%d bloggers like this: