Here and there

I am in The United States of America. I’ve never been here before, but things are familiar. The way people talk. I’ve heard of those sounds before. The way the trees line up in front of the houses. I’ve seen this before. America’s reach in their cultural products is so deep. I felt like I’ve known America before I even set foot on it.

But being here still surprises me. It was not the extreme difference from Indonesia that amazed me. The wide pedestrian paths and the comfort of walking in the comfort of a city in a developed world are pleasant, but expected. I felt a bit giddy walking past the White House and saw the flag which means Obama was in the house. And sitting in an office in MIT, home of the world’s superb minds I never imagined I ever would have a chance to be part of is quite a lot to take in. But, there is something else that has blown my mind in my first week in America so far.

It is the diversity of the people in America and that in that wide spectrum I found something similar to home. The first person I met here was a religious fundamentalist.

“Indonesia has a lot of Muslims, don’t they?”

“Yes, we do”

“Are you a Muslim”

“I was born and raised as one”

“Oh, me too!”

As he spoke of the absurdity of the Trinity, how offensive the push for gay-marriage was for religious people here, I started to find the strangeness of my situation. I flew more than 10,000 miles. I sat on a plane for nearly 2 days and something very similar to home greets me. Every argument he proposed to show how great the religion is are very familiar to me. It’s a small world after all.

I came to MIT courtesy of the International Women’s Media Foundation to find out what turns people’s fear into violence. This is in relation to the growing incidents of religious intolerance and violence in Indonesia. Islamic militancy is growing in Indonesia. An interesting research done by an Indonesian Islamic scholar Achmad Munjid notes that a new generation of educated Indonesian are anxious to be better Muslims than their parents, who were nominal Muslims and practice syncretism.

The man, he too, wanted to be a better Muslim than his parents. For that he actively looked for sources, imams and mosques and formed his way of thinking of this world.

I guess, in the end, I really shouldn’t be surprised by it. America has a growing Muslim community and surely some children of Muslim parents search for an identity that defines them.

Everyone is looking for some kind of salvation and it’s the same from Indonesia to America. The problem is some people strongly believe that their values are superior to others and that’s also similar from Indonesia to America.

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