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My experience with Islam


I was wondering for quite a long while if in posts on Facebook I should underline that I spend a week with Muslim family. I never wrote that I lived with Buddhist, Catholic or Hindu family. But somehow the fact of teaching English in Muslim community seemed to be the one which needs to be underlined. Why? Maybe because from pictures people would realize anyway? Or maybe because Islam is such a popular topic nowadays? All in all I decided to not underline things which are obvious but yet completely unimportant. Considering, though, situation in Poland and Europe, I think it can be quite interesting to describe MY experience with Islam in Indonesian version.

It started from one week in Malang, in Ajeng’s house: Muslim woman found by Ajeng organizes free English classes at her home, she took me also to public schools and kindergartens where as volunteers I had a chance to teach English and speak about my travel. In exchange Ajeng offered me place to stay free of charge, food and above all the possibility to participate in her daily life. And it was one of the most beautiful experiences in my travel. I was never so close to Muslim community, Muslim women. It’s also not too often that I receive so much care and love. They shared with me everything, in every visited place I was welcomed with a lot of food, drinks, smiles and stories. I discussed a lot, especially with Ajeng, who often surprised me with her thoughts, modern attitude toward education, society, women role. It’s true that many things are strictly assigned to men and women, especially in public space share of duties is clear and quite impossible to question. At home, though, more things are allowed, home of Ajeng and her family was above all full of love. I was happy to look at her husband, fully engaged in the relation with three daughters, I saw how much they also support each other in realization of common values: education, ecology, equal opportunities. Ajeng was so careful to not impose her religion that she never even took me to the Mosque, although we visited Buddhist and Hindu temples.

Similar experience I had with Septiyah, which I met for a short while in Yogyakarta. Septiyah works in NGO concentrated on different issues among which there are also women rights. She is extremely active person, taking part in many social activities. She is open, flexible and very happy to help and support others.

All of those look very pinkish. Where are the shadows? Well, there are some. I have to admit that the most difficult was that everybody wanted to have a picture with me. I felt like a monkey sometimes, often people made pictures with me without my agreement, a lot of them also hugged me to make better capture although we never spoke to each other. But all in all it doesn’t seem to be particularly connected with religion.

What is connected to religion, though, it’s what is now happening in Yogyakarta and what one of the local activists working on women and LGBT rights, shared with us. Fundamentalists’ movement, having religion among their main arguments, claim that LGBT people are not welcomed in Islam, they are agents paid by other countries which aimed in destroying Indonesian society. Of course abortion should be completely forbidden and women have clear duties and rules which can’t be questioned. Main goal of women should be family, her place is at home. But if from sentences above we will cut the world Islam and put Catholic really anything would change? It’s pretty amazing how in both cases people use exactly the same arguments and exactly the same social groups suffer. Of course all of those are true when we speak about extreme, fundamentalists’ groups; ordinary people, Catholic, Muslim, have nothing in common with that.

Ordinary people are everywhere the same, doesn’t matter what god they believe in. There are some which are good and some which are bad, helpful and unhelpful, those who change the world and those who don’t care.

Don’t believe? Come to Indonesia.

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