IT’S NOT EASY to be living as a moslem these days. Especially when one lives in the West, where the religion is prejudiced negatively by the public and media. It’s been always under scrutinity and criticism. In the recent years the intensity is greater than before.
A moslem Indonesian young man experienced this greater intensity, too, while he stayed abroad. As a young hopeful scholar, let’s call him Hasan, his future is quite promising. He has a strong background in worldly education, helping him make his way to one of the German top universities. But along with it, he has a baggage of thick religious familial setting since his very young age. He has been exposed to Islamic values, norms and practices on daily basis as his father, a highly influential leader and figure in the patriarchal family system of Indonesia, teaches everyone in the family the significance and love of Islam. In brief, the religious dedication runs in the family members’ vein.
To cut the story short, one day Hasan discovered a wallet in a train he was taking somewhere in Germany. With all his father’s internalized teaching of the obligation of doing good unto others in life, he was so ready to find the owner out and give it back to whoever that was. As he opened the wallet to find who this owner was, Hasan read a man’s identity card on which he could learn the address and contact number. He contacted this man called Philip. They agreed to meet. Philip was obviously glad to learn his wallet would be returned. And Hasan was equally glad to be of help. But instead of returning the wallet as it was, Hasan did a little bit further. He had an idea of wrapping it carefully as if it were a gift from him to Philip. To add to the ‘gift’, Hasan had sweets to accompany the wallet.
Upon seeing Hasan, Philip was panic-stricken. He took several steps back after Hasan told the man that he was the person saving his belonging.
Philip could not believe his eyes. Hasan with his Asian looks and a white cap typically worn by muslim men did not fit Philip’s image of a kind personality.
“No, it can’t be possible!” Philip shrieked. He shook Hasan’s shoulders out of disbelief. Hasan himself did not move an inch as he felt there was no need to. He believed Philip would not do him any harm.
Philip is one of million Europeans who put so much trust upon the Western media coverage, which is to some extent more against and less in favor of muslims.
In Europe nowadays especially post Arab Spring, the anti-muslim sentiment has been building up. Like Philip, some people in the European countries see these Arabs and mostly muslim refugees as uninvited guests with potential problems. And to add to the mess, some of these refugees commit crimes in their already peaceful and stable homelands, putting more stress on the struggling European countries’ economy and security. Philip’s prejudice towards Hasan, therefore, can be very much understood.
This is a point to ponder especially if you’re a muslim yourself. As a muslim, we’re the embodiment of our religious teachings and values. Certainly, Islamic teachings are great, noble and flawless but if what people see in its followers is poverty, anger, bitterness towards the rest of the world, exclusivity and a sense of self-entitlement (to being considered the best religious group on earth), who wants to believe it?
In the past, Islam was represented by its best ambassadors. These were affulent and influential merchants sailing to foreign soils outside Arab world and Europe. In Indonesia, that was what is told in the history, that Islamic teachings were brought in peace by expatriate traders.
Knowing himself is one of Islam ambassadors, Hasan renounced Philip’s presupposition that muslims are a group of terrorists or thugs. While there are muslims who fit that not-so-positive image, there are many more of them who are like Hasan. They are peace messengers. They are erudite. They are educated and adaptive to the contemporary world without neglecting their cultural and religious roots. And these representatives are what the increasingly hostile world badly needs instead of more Al Qaeda and ISIS fighters. (*/)