In a comment on my last post, Saturday Morning Musings - a miscellany, Tikno reminded me that I had not responded to the last point in his post. I had intended to do so, but got sidetracked in my thoughts.
Tikno's last two paragraphs read:
Therefore, it's clear that terrorist is the problem of terrorist itself, the responsibility of personal or their organization itself, and has NO relevance with religion. Among you may want to say "Why not using national legal system?" For this one I agree with you, but at least all the good Muslim people has sending the message for world peace through the Fatwa against terrorist. Always remember! outside there are still many good Muslim people, even more than that which you imagine. Will you generalize them also? Hopefully NO.
Although I'm not Muslim, I want to defend my Muslim friends (my best friends here) who understood their religion properly.
Finally, I'm confused why I rarely heard the publication or discussion for this Fatwa on media like TV, newspaper or internet? Oh... I can understand! But... if you have a blog, hopefully you want to help me to spread this news.
Tikno's post refers to two Fatwas against terrorism, one from Indonesia, the other India. The Indonesian Fatwa was issued in 2004 by Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI), the highest Muslim authority in Indonesia with the rights of issuing Fatwa.
Tikno's point goes to the heart of two linked things, stereotyping and selection in reporting.
I have written on both in the context that Tikno is talking about. I tried to find the posts, but could not find the ones I wanted in the time I had. There are just too many posts. I will try to find them later.
In previous writing I have attacked the use of the term "Muslim" or "Muslim Faith" as a universal descriptor. My point was that I did not know what it meant beyond a simple religious label. I thought that it had become dangerously misleading.
Take the phrase Indonesian Muslim. Indonesia I can understand as a country. Muslim is a faith. So in simple English, an Indonesian Muslim is someone from Indonesia who happens to be a Muslim. It means no more than that.
Indonesia itself is a very varied country, so to say more here I would need to know which part of the country they are from. The Muslim Faith is also very varied. Because they are Muslim there are some things that I do know in terms of religious observance. However, to go beyond that I would actually need to talk to them, to understand how they thought and felt.
The problem with stereotypes is that the mislead and confuse. Worse, they can in fact acquire a life of their own. At worst, they actually become the thing.
In some of my writings on the Australian Aborigines I have pointed to the way that specific stereotypical views held by non-Aboriginal people actually affected Aboriginal perceptions of themselves to the detriment of both. In other posts, I looked at the changing meaning of the word terrorist and the negative impact this had had on Western thought. In other posts I attacked stereotypical views about Australia and Australians, and in some depression also explored the way in which western responses associated with the war on terror were feeding into particular views among some Muslim groups.
Nadia is Indonesian and is presently working in Angola. In Where's the Love? - On Bombing and Indonesia Unite, she talks about her own reactions to the Bali bombings. She also talks about the way in which attitudes affect something as simple as international travel.
I have written many times about the way stereotypes affect reporting. In the case of Tamworth and Sudanese refugees I reported at some length because the very simplistic initial reports in the metro media were damaging not just Tamworth but were reinforcing global stereotypes of Australia as a racist country.
I am pretty sure, I have not checked, that the Indonesian Fatwa would have been reported in Australia at the time. However, its existence is certainly not well known. This is partly a matter of news value, something of itself that aids bias.
In the constant search for new material, the media focuses on the now and on the visual. There is little time for more reflective reporting. Those feeding the media including political leaders couch their views to fit within this media world.
In saying this, I am not attacking journalists. I am attacking the world in which they have to work.
Returning to Tikno and Indonesia, I remember when I visited Indonesia as part of an official Australian ministerial mission just how complicated I found the country. I knew a fair bit about the country already, but as I listened to the briefings at the Embassy and chatted to our people there, I found layer after layer of fascinating nuances. At the end, I realised just how little I knew!
Tikno's point about the Fatwa is a simple illustration of this. I vaguely remembered this Fatwa, but did not understand its significance in regard to MUI's position in Indonesia. Those who would like to read the Fatwa, it's in Bahasa!, can find it here.