JAKARTA. You know, I have been to Bali before, but I think you cannot say you have truly arrived in the Land of Sukarno, until you step foot in Jakarta. Arriving in the city last Tuesday, we were well aware we are entering the heart of the regional colossus that is Indonesia, with its population of 238,000,000 souls. In Jakarta alone, almost 10 million people inhabit the city. In other words, we could fit more than one third of Malaysia into the Indonesian capital city. Even its traffic jams are more impressive by Kuala Lumpur standards.
THE INDONESIANS are different from the Malaysians. Their society is more structured in deference to hierarchy, and I think all Malaysians will admit that the Indonesians are certainly more prim and proper, with a stronger attachment to the traditional adab (etiquette). I would pass by the same hotel cleaner 3 or 4 times in the corridor and each encounter elicits the selamat pagi, pak (Good morning, father). It is just part of their culture, and I am always humbled by their humility, which I fear I cannot replicate. Knowing this, a power broker we met made this simple reason as to why many Malaysian business ventures fail in Indonesia, "Arrogance", he said. "Hmm...", me and Ariffin nodded, too shy to disagree.
PERJANJIAN BARU - NEW TESTAMENT. In our hotel room was a cabinet, and in the cabinet was a drawer, the contents of which is to me a reflection of the country. Firstly there was a sticker pointing the way to the Holy Kaaba as direction to which Muslim guests can pray. For Christians there was a blue bible in Bahasa Indonesia, a fact if copied in Kuala Lumpur would make many Malaysians go blue in indignation. Oh, there are bibles in KL hotel rooms too, placed by the Gideons, but they are all in English. A bible in Bahasa Melayu is interpreted by some as an attempt to convert the indigenous Malays to Christianity. Alas, I disagree with such fellow Muslims about this - on a fundamental and cosmic level - Click my earlier posting - "What is in a name or a word? The Meaning...".
And lastly, regardless of religious credentials, there were a couple of emergency brochures in case of fire and earthquake(!). Fortunately, neither events occurred and we managed to sleep through 2 nights in secular Indonesia rather well. Ariffin especially, who had the ability to fall asleep almost immediately upon his head hitting the pillow. Amazing fellow.
A SUICIDE BOMBER. At the entrance of our hotel was a small table with the sign 'Security Check' and a metal detector. I see no point really in this vigilance because the post was never manned. Anyway, those fruit baskets that impersonate as Muslim Jihadis tend to target the more prominent hotel chains. Perhaps that is why our client chose a small and less conspicuous hotel. I sympathise with Indonesia because it had to deal with its fair share of terrorists (whom I refuse to call fundamentalist Muslims, because they the only thing they are fundamental about is their penchant for merciless slaughter. Oh no. They are just bandits and the enemy of all civilised human beings) and bombings. This latter fact was brought to head on the day of our flight back when news report from Jakarta confirmed that a suicide bomber hit a congregation of Muslims praying at the az-Dizkra mosque in the Cirebond police compound.
This shameless act of terror signals the bandits shift from just targeting US and Western symbols to fellow Muslims. Some news report like to call these loonies "pengebom berani mati" which roughly translates into "death defying bombers". This suggestion that they are courageous is a gross error - really, the best adjectives are "pengebom tak sayang nyawa lagi" or "pengebom yang tak ada hati perut" (Bombers tired of living or heartless bombers). These foolish young men have been bred and nursed from the milk of despair which their elders call Islam. Such preachers of hate only defame the faith and tradition of my Prophet. They are our enemies... (Click here on my earlier posting - "Ground Zero Mosque and the Ornament of the World".
There is no doubt that ethnic Indonesians and Malaysians are 'seakar serumpun', ergo, of the same root and branch. We share many of the same cultural and religious traditions. And I guess its little surprise that familiarity sometimes breed contempt. Both countries have had our fair share of spates and misunderstanding. But even then, I am contented to say that the quarrels never last long. In the worst case scenario, Malaysia will have no choice but to send our No.1 best export to Indonesia, the diva Siti Nurhaliza to mediate. I am sure that after her intervention, all will be okay, and we will resume happily puffing the famous rokok kretek (Indonesian herb infused cigarette) in celebration. After all, as Ariffin likes to mention to almost every Jakarta-en he met, from the taxi driver to the university professor, "Indonesia is the big brother to Malaysia". And I do believe I agree with him.
Datuk Siti Nurhaliza, Indo-Malaysia Bilateral Relations Saviour
Have a lovely Tuesday, sunshine.