Response toward the “Innoncent of Muslims” made by Sam Bacille, 2012


Respecting others mean respecting yourself

I begin my writing for this time with these two sentences:

“A conflict can happen because of jokes that are inappropriate and out of contexts”

“Free speech in a certain country might not lead into the same concept as it applies in other countries. Free speech should not mean absolute freedom of speech. A speech that is directed to hurt others is more dangerous that a speech that is encouraging people to keep and restore peace. Being thoughtful and respectful is much better than being mindful and disrespectful. Freedom of speech is available only to those who can have a sense of responsibility than to those who only think about themselves”

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It has always become a saddest part for Muslims to be seen in a misleading way. Previously, in 2010, the burning of Qur’an, which was almost done by a priest in Florida, and now, the mocking video of “Innocent of Muslims” made by Sam Bacille, a US citizen. I imagine if the leaders of the United States did not spread the ideas of mutual understanding about its citizens, the Muslim world still views American in a negative way. Why? Everyone knew that 9/11 was a tragic thing to happen in the United States, but considering that several countries in the world had been colonized for more than centuries by “advanced” countries, but these “colonized” countries keep going and make good connection with “those” countries, this is something that an American should realize. The center of the world is not in the United States, but it is in everyone’s heart. Then, what is the thing that can cause this stupid mockery over one religion and what does it mean with hurting other religions as well? Is there anything to do with the government? What should we do as a global citizen who knows how to think beyond our common circle?

Now, let us see this problem from the value of freedom of speech. As a faculty of English department who teaches English, I know pretty sure what it means with the word, “speech”. Speech is indicated to spoken word, literally. Nowadays, since the massive development and use of internet, the word “speech” has become more than just spoken words. It has become written statements or videos containing recorded spoken speech. A video is also considered as a form of speech. At this point, I agree that a video is freedom of speech. The question now goes into the word, “freedom”. Do we really have freedom in life? Does our freedom also include demeaning others around us? If that means so, why would we have to create laws and norms in order to rule people’s behavior? Are all these things created for making peaceful life among us? Even then, if I can have the same concept of freedom of speech, why cannot I mock a president of a certain country by telling stupid facts in internet worldwide? Why does the news present all the same stories by informing us that we need “facts”? All these questions came out in my mind because I concern. One thing that I believe is that there is no such thing called absolute freedom of speech. I remember when the president of John F Kennedy who was assassinated because of supporting better quality of leadership in the United States of America. The problem of the video entitled “Innocent of Moslems” was not in the hand of Muslims who got angry because of the video. What they did was right.

I was so disappointed of knowing the idea of “get over it” when it comes to the mockery of an important figure in Islam. Some websites informing that the idea of mocking others’ religion is a common thing happen in internet. Then, I have a question. “Really? I do not think so” To be honest, I had been using internet and watching videos on YouTube since 2005! During these years, I did not find any links that contribute to the expansive action of mocking religion of other people worldwide. In order to stop riot done by Muslims, what we need to do is to educate people more about religions, especially for American students in the United States. Since I am taking literacy and discussion with classmates who are dedicated teachers in their field, I become well-aware of the needs of American students to have strong foundation in what it means to learn philosophy, religion, and politics. Our brain can only access certain parts of things where we could think about something. We had been bombarded by the idea of, “what is the proof? what is the evidence? if you cannot proof it, i cannot accept it”. This statement is completely demonizing because it stops our ability to reflect of what have happened around us globally. There are certain things that we can feel. To live in the world where we always compete one another only make us humans who do not have any sense of what it means to uplift someone’s life. Not everyone can be winners. True winners are those who can make the losers become as winner as they are. I may not be able to see the whole picture of American students, but from the discussion in the classroom, the reason why of such video could be made was because of tremendous freedom of speech without even learning the word known as “responsibility”.

Free speech is protected in the United States. This is good. However, the question is, what type of speech? For what purpose is the speech made and delivered for? Who created the speech? Is the speech valuable enough? I think, as a graduate student in the United States now, free speech means a right that every person has that is in line with the ability to speak for him or herself without offending others. In daily lives, I have seen that many American are open-minded about something new. At the very least, I know this because I live around American students. In my place, as an international student, I clearly understand that about others’ ways of life is crucial to create peaceful life. If Muslims do not respond to the video, there might something wrong with Muslims. If Muslims did not get offended, more and more videos will be created and the new generation of Muslims will be tortured mentally and spiritually. In the highest level, the meaning of cultural exchange that the Fulbright promoted will fail. Why? What is the point of having cultural exchange between countries if every students who live in different countries do not understand one another better? I honestly do not see any difference of mine with students coming from other countries. They eat foods like I do. They like to eat sweet cakes like I do. If Muslims do not want to consume alcoholic drinks, why bother? If Muslims do not want to eat pork, why bother? If Muslims do not want to have free-sex, why bother? What I can think about Muslims is that Muslims are the élite generation of these days. Muslims way of life are very high. They had been taught to be patient. Even though the prophet Muhammad pbuh faced tremendous hardship during his da’wah, he could do that because Allah SWT had given him power to do that. Compared to the reality that all Muslims generation have today, speaking up is the best way to show the existence. Otherwise, oppression will always be done in a lot of ways. We do not want this to happen, right?

The best solution to this problem goes to YouTube. Who owns YouTube? What kind of people? What are their principle? What kind of videos that are eligible for publicity in YouTube? In what language? YouTube should filter the video that is being published. We need to make more educated generation than making our generation living the “tube” by watching different series of irresponsible videos. All videos in YouTube have no cultural basis and no specific laws in it. Even though the video in YouTube was published in the United States, it does not mean that the video could be considered as under the United States law. Every video, as long as it is accessible outside the United States, it belongs to every internet users. The uploader who should be responsible for uploading the video. Internet has no boundaries and borders as we have in our daily life as an X citizen living in a Y country. In internet, we do not have such things. If certain groups get offended by certain videos, I think it is normal. If they groups are silent, it means that the groups’ identity is under question.

Another solution that I may purpose is to educate our children more about religion. We may not teach them all religions, but we can tell them what it means to know religion. It is to understand several circumstances that might not work for us. Among American students who used to live in fancy life styles, understanding religion might be something new to them. Let them know. Therefore, they will not make jokes about the important spiritual things of other religions too. I might not be able to make jokes about Jesus, for example. In the same way, I do not want to humiliate the god and goddesses of other religions. In this way, I learn how to be compassionate and understanding. An educated person is not only able to understand new realms within his or her circumstances but also able to comprehend other dimension of what other people believe in their life. I had sat with Jewish, Christians, Atheist, Buddhist, and Hindus in this country. What is the point of differentiating people based on religion? Triggers and problems always come from those want to dominate others or to create devilish action on earth. Therefore, my last question is, have you decided what you can do to improve the peaceful life among the people around you? The answer lies within yourself. We all are humans. We speak the same language by using our mouth, not hands.

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My second year experience as a Fulbright scholar really deepens my understanding of what it means to be a brighter person, not only in intellectual capacity but also in character and leadership.

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The Beauty I feel when I am being a Muslim (March 7, 2012)


Well, people may have different point of view in terms of how they believe in something, especially believing in something known as “God”. I was actually born from a family where my parents adore Islam and Allah SWT.  I am an Indonesian as well. Yes, what a big deal to be an Indonesian, right? Living in a country in which people all over the world view Indonesia as a Muslim country, but there is something I need to mention: we actually do not view our country as such. However, as an individual who is living and staying in Indonesia, as I can tell, what they say about Indonesia is correct. A lot of people in Indonesia are Muslims and they believe in Allah SWT. The major problem that causes such ‘dispute’ among cultural experts, political figures, or even scientists all-over the world in viewing Indonesia, especially those that are seen in the news, merely due to the multiculturalism that Indonesia has. I believe that you will agree with me that each child who is born into this earth would have his or her point of view when he or she is growing up as someone. Looking at the world around him or her will be the way the child learns or understands why such and such chaos might happen.

Now, I currently stay and live in the United States, pursuing my degree in English. The institution in which I am actively enrolling as a student is Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. I can tell you, this is a nice and good university for me. Not only to study but also to live are things that make this campus interesting. I have not often traveled around the United States to see how beautiful or great other universities in the United States. However, I can tell one thing, feeling like being myself in a foreign country is such a huge thing to have. People always say, “be yourself”; however, sometimes, what I see and perceive is that some people tend to be someone else in order to feel secure within him or herself and with other people around him or her. This is not my principle. Wherever I go, I always be myself. That “myself” is being a Muslim. A friend of mine who is living in Indonesia asked me this questions: “Is that difficult to be a Muslim in the United States?”

Honestly, to answer such question is such a great task for me to do. The basic thing, I mean, for that answer, is to say, “no”. It is not difficult. I was just wondering why such question came to me as if I had a difficult times. Perhaps, what the person who was asking had in mind was that I will have terrible life in the United States. Then, I think, this post might be a way for me to write about this. I divide the view for this thing into two aspects. The aspects are before I came to the United States and while I am staying in the United States.

To be honest, when I was still in Indonesia or before I came to the United States, I viewed the United States as such a “huge and developed” country, or, roughly, an advanced one. Actually, I did not know the person who used this term before, but I am sure that this person might be an educated one. Then, I searched for information about the United States. Again and again, as I could also see as well as in my country, too; I often heard and read cases like racism, Muslims under-attack by some people, suicide, murders, or even so many other crimes that happened in the United States. I thought that that was what the news was meant to be. No wonder why I was a “little nervous” to come to the United States. I realize that I was a Muslim, but will the cops capture me as a terrorist while, in fact, I had nothing to do with that? There were many questions came over my head for several days before my departure to the United States. It was exactly at the end of August 2011, I flew from Narita to Los Angeles. That was indeed my first time flight for the international one. “What a great step!”, I said to myself.

Days and days passed so quickly. After living for several months in the United States, but, of course, in a small town, I had experienced having lots of types of foods, friendly faces of American students as well as faces of international students at SIUe, and welcoming faculty and staffs. At this stage, I did not feel so many problems with my religious identity as a Muslim, though I actually stay in an area in which many people are mostly Christian. In spite of having this difference, I honestly can tell that I do not have problems with any other personal matters. I could still do may five-times prayers a day and I could do Friday prayer with Muslim friends from other countries, like Turkey, the US,Nepal, and India. Then, if I relate this perspective with the question above, I would say, “There is a beauty I feel when I am being a Muslim”. Therefore, the answer of the question above is “no”. However, this is only in my perspective. Perspectives of other people might be different than mine anyway.

What about the beauty? What is that?

People here, especially the young ones, they get drunk by consuming alcohol, though not so many of them. Sometimes, they feel “cool” when they get drunk. For me, that never solves problems. That is just a matter of life-style. As a Muslim, I would not want to consume any alcoholic drink. And, until now, I am still fine. The sad part is that I do not have lost of “good friends” to have because of being “different with surroundings”. By avoiding consuming alcoholic drinks, I am saving myself and my money as well. I do not drive in the US; therefore, this would be a perfect one for me to stay healthy. Walking an hour a day is a good thing to do in order to avoid having the problem of heart attack. So, at this point, the beauty is like a king. I could control myself. It has been taught in Islam that I should control myself, not other stuffs control me over myself, especially over my mind.

Then, who does not like having sex? Sex is fun. Is that true? Well, that’s true. As a Muslim, it is “harram” or prohibited to have sex with opposite gender before getting married. I am sure I could see that there are a lot of sexy girls out there, wanting to be touched and grabbed their “pants”, but, that does not make me as a “man” if I do that. Feeling sexy is okay, but showing the sexiness to other people is another case. I have been taught in Islam that I may only touch a woman when I marry her. If I do not marry her, then, I am not allowed to touch her. To appreciate the prettiness of a girl is okay, but to possess that prettiness without good “way” is not acceptable in any way. There goes a reason of why Muslim women should wear hijjab or veil in order to cover their hair. Women are such beautiful creatures that God has created for men. Men have sexual desire to women. Therefore, if women could not control their appearances, or being sexy all the time, then, the problem that could happen is that the men will view women in the “sexual eyes”. No wonder why there are so many women become victims of raping. In Islam, this is bad because both will be equally guilty. At this point, the beauty that I feel when I am being a Muslim is that I have control over me. People may wear anything they want, but it is me who has responsibility to control things that I have seen. If the appearance that I have seen is beautiful, I would say, “Masya Allah” (Praise the Lord); if the appearance of a woman whom I have seen is bad, I would say, “Astaghfirullah” (Oh Allah, please forgive me). Meanwhile, if I have seen women who are almost “naked” in front of me, I would say, “Astaghfirullah” (the same as above) and “Naudzubillah” (Oh God, please forgive me). At last, who would want to be naked in public? They may want to do that, but as an educated person, I will never want to perform myself “naked” or even a half “naked” in public. When I am naked, the image of my body will be public consumption. This is the core of why women should wear hijjab. They are created in such a beautiful body. It is the times for women to be protected from sexual abuse. I think, Islam has this perspective, which is protecting women from such matters and protecting the men from doing such matters.

What about food? Well, this one is also controversial among other people in the US. I do not eat pork or pig. Eating meat that contains pork is a sin. Then, how if I eat something, due to my hungriness (no other foods to eat) and eat that food without knowing the ingredients of the foods? Let’s say, the food contained pork and I did not know that? If there are no other foods, (remember, no other foods), I can still eat it. If there are still many options of food, then, eating pork is a last choice and even become “harram”. Islam is making things easier for me. I could stay healthy, and in the same time, I could notice things that I want to eat with things that I may not eat. I am the king of my life. I would not easily follow what other people do just because those things look fun to eat. To me, this is a big discipline. Islam teaches me to have my own freedom.

All in all, as a Muslim, I would say that having good discipline and good responsibility in terms of things that I see, drink, or eat are the very basic things to do as a Muslim. For some people, it is hard. However, it is not as hard as they could imagine. The point is that I learn how to take control over myself. We cannot control other people, right? Therefore, controlling ourself will be a good thing to do before we control others. In fact, as Qur’an said, “every human is a leader, and every leader will have responsibility”. Isn’t that great?

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To my brothers, Robby and Rina, hope you grow better and better than I do. 🙂