The Second Version

05/01/11

Bigotry For Everyone

I wrote before that my experience with Muslims here in Indonesia has been positive: the months passed since then have only confirmed my opinion.

I know that there are violent extremists here, but so far I have not met one in person. Muslims here are not saints, but their virtues and vices fall well within the normal bounds of human nature.

But this posts is about bigotry. Before I touch that argument, however, I have to provide some backstory.

Around mid-July 2010, my mother-in-law suffered a bad stroke and she has been in a vegetative state ever since. She spent nearly one month at the hospital in critical conditions; during that period of time I and my in-laws took turns to stay with her, and it is only through the generosity of friends and relatives that the bills have been paid. Now she is at home in her own room, attended 24/7 by two nurses; she still requires many medicines and treatments. Hopes for her improvement are, sadly, close to nonexistent.

Many people have prayed a lot for my mother-in-law; catholics and protestants and muslims and the odd buddhist; they prayed to different gods but for the same end.

My in-laws were so stricken that when one nurse said that her boyfriend who is into magic and supernatural can perform rituals to rid my mother-in-law of the evil spirits making her sick and to protect the house from more spirits, they agreed. The sorcerer performed the rituals, got paid good money but nothing much happened – I guess he's just a crook playing on people's grief.

So the family tried another avenue, a protestant minister who claims to able to perform another sort of ritual – I don't know the details of it, but it is said to end with the sick person either recovering or finally passing away. The pastor came and asked many questions, about the family and eventual supernatural events that occurred. But then, instead of going on with the ritual he became incensed at the fact that my relatives display many crosses and images of Jesus and Virgin Mary around the house. He found that very offensive, to the point that he refused to perform the ritual unless those sacred images were not just put away, but disposed of. The unsaid response to his request was that he can stuff it.

The minister's conclusion was that first my parents-in-law attracted evil upon themselves studying pranotherapy (which is a technique for healing people through natural energy) some years ago, and then the sorcerer left even more powerful evil spirits around.

Now, one of the nurses is a Muslim – devoted it seems, because she prays five times a day, but she prefers to wear shorts and t-shirt rather than the veil. Religion has never been an issue in our daily dealings – well, except when I boiled a piece of ham, and she wouldn't use that pot for her own food even after washing. The other Muslim around the house is the maid who comes in a few hours per day to cook food and do the chores; she is a friend of the family to the point she refused another job offer because she thinks that we are more in need of a hand.

Recently, the family invited another minister to come and pray; he did so but he also offered some bizarre suggestions to improve the situation. He said that we should pour lard oil all around the house to neutralize the sorcerer's spell (apparently those supernatural beings survive on a strictly halal diet). Also, he said that the sorcerer's girlfriend has evil spirits in herself, so we should secretly rub the patient with lard oil to act as a barrier and to make the nurse uncomfortable until she'd eventually leave. Moreover, he said, there should be no Muslims in the house.

Now, however you slice it, tainting a Muslim with haram products is a lowly trick and the suggestion of a muslim-free house smacks of bigotry – especially when the persons that should be excluded have in fact been loyal hard-workers.

I told my story, now you decide how to place it in your universe.

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