Saturday, January 24, 2009

Suicide Squad...Attack!!

The Arab world is back in the headlines at the moment (when is it ever out of them?!) as the Palestinians in Gaza square up to the high tech weaponry and helicopter gunships of the Israelis with their peashooters. Indonesian radical groups now intend to bolster the rather pathetic forces of Hamas by sending a crack commando jihad squad over to the occupied territories to join in the fish in a barrel martyr shoot.

Let's try and parse the perennially emotive issue of Jihad a little bit before we get carried away. A few Indonesian Muslims did indeed fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 80s. Javanese Jihadis were also rather depressingly dispatched to Ambon in order to fight against their own Christian countrymen during the internecine conflict of the late 90s.

However, recent conflagrations in Lebanon and Palestine, as well as the US led invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan have seen irate Indonesian Jihadis unable to send a single person to these conflict zones.

Currently, 863 local Indonesian tough guys have signed up for a Gaza Jihad but as yet none have been dispatched. This is probably for the best as the only training these chaps have received seems to be a mix of Boy Scout self-reliance and Tai Chi style aerobics.

In fact, one can imagine these guys becoming a bit of a liability as they stand amid the smoking ruins of Gaza complaining, "It's cold! I can’t speak the language!" etc. etc. Mercifully, according to local travel agents last week, precisely zero flights have been booked to the nearest points of entry in Cairo, Amman or Beirut and at $1000 a ticket that can come as no surprise. Thankfully the Indonesian government has, rather more constructively, sent some doctors out to the conflict zone instead.

It's easy to mock these chaps of course but my distaste for these boys cuts to the heart of my objections to the exclusivity and tribalism of monotheistic religions. It's always about solidarity with, “Our Muslim brothers." Non-Muslims are inevitably off the love list.

With respect to Gaza, standing up for the underdog may be fair enough however ultimately we are all brothers and Being more punk than hippy though, the endless shenanigans in the Middle East tend to bring out the misanthrope in me. Watching Gaza every bloody evening on the news rather puts me in a similar mood to the late, great comedian Bill Hicks when he concluded one of his epic, stand up rants with the following, "Adolf Hitler had the right idea, he was just an underachiever, kill them all Adolf, all of them! Jew, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, white, black, Asian... the experiment has failed! Put the human race out of its misery once and for all!"

Jihad wise, it's ironic that, whilst Javanese warriors may hanker after getting their heads blown off in Gaza, plenty of Arab gentlemen make the return journey. Flocking, as they do, by the planeload from their homelands to Jakarta, Arabs are coming here in increasing numbers in order to show solidarity with their Muslim brothers in Indonesia (erm…and also sisters...ahem). Good luck to them too I say. If I had to spend 11 months a year living under Sharia law in Saudi Arabia I reckon I'd fancy a trip to Jakarta too. Last Saturday I popped along to a central Jakarta night spot where these usually very friendly chaps like to hang out for a spot of R and R.

There they were, dancing the night away with the local talent and downing glasses of Jack Daniels whilst Arabic disco music percolated through the club. I got chatting to some of these princes among men (probably quite literally in this case) and their happiness was palpable. Hopefully after April's election these fine chaps will continue to be able to enjoy themselves in this country.

I'm sure that they will as, to be frank, Indonesia's strict, Sharia based political parties and their ilk are micturating into the wind if recent elections are anything to go by. Parties with an overt religious agenda seem unable to get above about 5% of the vote here. Admittedly though there are still those, such as the Justice Party, who believe that a strict religious ideology will cure Indonesia of its corruption and inequalities.

In fact, if one looks at the countries in the world that apply Sharia laws you will notice that they are all very corrupt. The reasons behind this would seem to be pretty clear. Namely, if you’re too busy worrying about whether somebody can see a lock of your exposed hair or if you’re going to get busted for having a stroll in the park with your girl/boyfriend then you’ve little energy and bravery left for wondering about where the money for education’s gone or why public services are so terrible. Religious law is totalitarianism in action in this sense and only serves to negate democracy. A climate of fear does not inspire a model society. Here's to a God free election then. Amen.