The Politicization of Religion

By : webadmin | on 9:32 AM November 17, 2011
Category : Archive

Edwin Setiadi

Those who bias-ly portray Islam as an extremist religion obviously haven't heard about Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, the so-called Catholic Monarchs of the 15th century, who got rid of Muslims and Jews in their kingdom and slaughtered thousands of non-believers to “preserve the purity of the Catholic religion” in the Iberian peninsula.

Their descendants, also Catholic fundamentalists, slaughtered Protestants in the Dutch Revolution in the 16th century. So, translated into these biased people's way of thinking, Catholicism ALSO is an extremist religion.

And of course there is the Israeli government, which from time to time tries justifying its human rights violations against Palestinians in Gaza by quoting religion. So that's Judaism checked too.
And what about those Hindu extremists who slaughtered Muslims during India’s independence era? If you read deep into history, the Aryans in the steppes were starting to invade neighboring tribes around 4500 BC on behalf of their god. And don't forget about the devout Christian George W. Bush who controversially used the word “crusade” to refer to his War on Terror.

My point: It is not religion that is violent or peaceful, but people. Religion is their interpretation. There are extremists in all religions, and all have chosen their own interpretations of their faith.

In the world today there are around 1.6 billion Muslims, so even if there are 1 million extremists, they are far from a majority.

I wholeheartedly condemn what Al-Qaeda did on 9/11, but I can understand the group’s frustration with the corrupt Saudi regime and its American allies, especially considering the latter’s presence in the Middle East. If US “extremists” can enter Arab lands in a way that causes death and destruction, why have Arab “extremists” who went to the US and tried to do the same but inflicted far less damage compared to their American counterparts become a global problem?

Of course, neither conduct has anything to do with religion. It's all politics. Al Qaeda uses religion to justify their misdeeds. In doing so they help destroy the sacred image of Islam (and Western media propaganda isn't helping either). The danger lies not solely with Al Qaeda but also with their groupies. Hence the extremists in Indonesia.

I have no idea what Abu Bakar Bashir and other extremists are trying to do here, but one thing is certain: their recruits are largely unemployed and uneducated people who are easily manipulated by religious doctrines.

It's getting uglier by the year. In Jakarta, “religious events” often take place in the middle of a busy street with seemingly thousands of devout followers. Sometimes the events are located snap bang in the center of Jakarta's nightlife scene. And law enforcement? They don’t do a thing about it. As the years progressed, in fact, the governor of Jakarta also attended one of the events despite of public outrage.

One prominent extremist group, FPI (ironically named Front Pembela Islam, or Islam Defenders Front), is terrorizing Indonesian citizens (a lot of moderate Muslims at that) with its extreme version of “law enforcement,” destroying “unholy places” in nightlife areas. FPI also famously protested the existence of Playboy Indonesia (which didn’t even show naked pictures) while staying quiet on some nastier magazines (which, according to widely held public opinion, bribe them to do so).

Yes, religion is a lucrative business for the FPI, and those hard-core (and undoubtedly sinful) nightclubs in Jakarta (logically their biggest targets) stay untouched, perhaps because they pay big bribes or the extremists are simply too afraid to bother the mafias.

Sadly, the Indonesian government does little about it. Their excuse? Too afraid to disrupt religious activities (including those that bluntly terrorize citizens) in the name of religious tolerance. How ironic, considering that religious life in Indonesia had been relatively harmonious before these extremists started to appear (I'm personally a Muslim with a family whose members are also Christian, Catholic and Buddhist. My loving grandmother is a Pentecostal. And we all live very happily together). And now these so-called defenders of Islam are actually tainting the religion’s peaceful image and slowly dividing Indonesian society with brutal extremism. How long will the Indonesian government keep quiet?