Author Archive

Of sacred spaces and super powers

August 15, 2010

Anyone seen “The Last Airbender” yet?

It’s cute. I mean if this was meant to be a movie review I’d ramble on about squeezed-in plots, less than satisfactory acting, and weird choice of cast, but perhaps not many people would be interested in reading something like that from someone whose favorites include “White Chicks.”

Nevertheless, aside from the gorgeous temples and lovely dining sets, one line stuck to my head:

A’ang (the kid hero): “Is there any sacred places here? I need to reach the spirits”

(well, kind of..that’s roughly what he said anyway)

It was crucial moment. He had to ask for advice from the wise dragon spirit about how to beat gazillions of war ships from the Fire Nation, who were trying to take over a kingdom inhabited by the people of the Northern Water Tribe.

Couldn’t he just close his eyes and tell that spirit to hurry up and give some goddamn clues before the place gets burned down?

There are several reasons. First of all, he’s still a kid with limited experience chatting with spirits. Second, he had his first encounter with the dragon when he was in his own temple, which, of course, has deep spiritual significance to him.

Thus he had to go to the Water Tribe’s sacred spot, where a cherry blossom tree flowers perennially above a tranquil pool in which two fish – the yin and the yang -swim about.

It was in the middle of a war and he had to meditate. Was it worth it? Well, I won’t say who won, but it was.

Now let’s teleport back to a world without giant, furry, flying creatures and the widespread ability to bend elements.

When I went to Victoria a few weeks ago, I realized how lucky Muslims in Indonesia are.

No one questions why you get up from your desk at least twice a day to wash your hands and feet and put on special garments just to remember your creator. Praying spaces are virtually everywhere: malls, train stations, even in close proximity to bars and clubs.

Most of these places also provide praying garments for women.

When I went to a mosque in Carlton, I found no women inside, let alone any garments for me to borrow.

Here’s an interesting insight on Australian Muslims. The first paragraph kind of sums it up.

So yeah, its a pain, despite Melbourne’s (the state’s capital) reputation for being one of the most culturally diverse cities.

The headline in today’s The Jakarta Post read: “Attack on church sparks widespread outrage”

On Sunday, a group called the Islamic Community Forum attacked a church group in Bekasi, West Java. Around 20 people were hurt in one of the many church attacks the country has seen these recent months.

Next, the headline on today’s International Herald Tribune: “Protests erupt in the U.S over proposed mosques”.

Some people are not impressed by the idea of building a mosque near New York’s ground zero, and apparently this is just one of the many planned mosques to be met with hostility across the land of the free.

How important is a place of worship? Some might say God is everywhere and you can just close your eyes in a bus to remember the Creator-Destroyer.

But some just need a special place where they feel at home. Not only for individual solitude, mosques and other religious buildings can serve as community meeting places, for discussion and celebration. Hatred preaching? Maybe.

But isn’t a place of prayer supposed to be, first and foremost, a place where one can be at peace?

You know, even a wonder boy needs that place just to get in the mood.

Right now, some churchgoers in Greater Jakarta are on the point of exasperation because although they feel that they have fulfilled the necessary paperworks (ask for consent from locals, ask for land permits, etc), getting a church up seemed more and more of a wishful thinking, not to mention constant protests they have to face during services.

Meanwhile, in Tenecula, U.S, people who are against a center for Islam communities are deliberately bringing dogs in rallies to protest the plan, knowing that dogs are often considered unclean by Muslims.

We might not all be praying to save a land from invaders, but is it too much to ask for a little space?



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The breakdancer letter

March 15, 2010

Good evening lover,

I went home at around 10 tonight. The grouch that is our dear friend dropped me off in front of your former nest on his way for drinks.

The rain had been reduced to a faint drizzle, and I hopped on the first bus in line – a big, newish, green one.

The first entertainer on board was a guy with a slightly out-of-tune guitar singing Indonesian ballads. I’ve seen a fair amount of that so I concentrated on reading the book with the lonesome fireworks artisan character who shared your name.

Then a few pages away from the end I was distracted by a distinctively early 90s hip-hop tune and looked up to see a man in his late 20s perhaps, carrying a stereo and breakdancing to the song.

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The Oh-So-Significant ‘Others’

May 20, 2009

As far as absurdity goes in my daily job, this certainly beats looking Sri Mulyani right in the eye or sleeping under a highway.

Wondering if the pillars ahead are real or cardboard, it struck me that this is the first time I have ever been inside a church. No, there was that time back in high school when I accidentally walked in before a mass was about to start, but that was because I mistook the place for band’s rehersal studio.

This is not a mass, but still the awkwardness feels tingly; more so because the gentleman speaking to the audience, which now includes myself, starts to talk about Islam, the nation’s largest religion in terms of followers.

Being one of those followers, I have always been somewhat enclosed in a cocoon separating us as Muslims from ‘the others’ Christians, Catholics, Buddhists and so on. ‘We’ are engrossed in our own discussions about ‘them’, ‘the others’ whose beliefs differ from us.

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