May, 11 2017
I Am a Minority, and I Will Accept No More

For a long time, she had stayed quiet as a member of the minority group, but Ahok's sentence and arrest has jolted her out of her silence.

by Ira Guntur
Issues // Politics and Society
Share:
My husband is privileged in this country. A male pribumi, a Javanese Muslim. He has no clue what it’s like to live as a member of the minority group.  
 
Not his fault of course. But he would never know what it’s like to be bullied because your eyes are slanted and because the color of your skin is yellow. No idea what it feels like to be required to produce hundreds of documents when applying for a passport (thank God the Soeharto era is over). 
 
I am a Chinese descendant. My paternal grandfather came from south of China as a trader (not slave) and my maternal grandfather has been in the country for generations. But my parents have always been nationalists.
 
I do not have a Chinese name because I was born after the government required all ethnic Chinese to adopt Indonesian names. Growing up, I was sent to learn Balinese dancing and to love the Indonesian art and culture including traditional costume, from kebaya to baju bodo. My dad – a sports lover – believes that as a nation, we all should be proud when the Merah Putih is raised in international sports events, because that means an Indonesian (black, yellow, brown or whatever) is bringing pride to Indonesian. 
 
But I do not know if many still share this sentiment. Post May 1998 when the ethnic Chinese were targeted in racial riots, things had been different for us. We were wary, but still optimistic about our country.  Until the election result of the Jakarta gubernatorial election came, and the two-year sentence of Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (Ahok) for blasphemy on Tuesday. 
 


When you are different, you want to feel that you are a part of  the majority.  That is only normal; by nature, we want to feel accepted as part of the bigger group. So we adapt; we follow norms. 
 
But what about the majority? Why do they feel so threatened by the minorities?  Are we so different from them that they must suspect us? Do we look strange? Or are we perceived to have some power that they don't have?  


 
Taking a look at the difference between Ahok’s supporters and those who joined the series of religious-based demonstrations against him, I couldn’t help but noticing the difference. Class. Am I being prejudice?  Well, so sue me. But when Pak Ahok bowed to the judge, when his wife Ibu Veronica played cello in a busway, those are the things that the men in white robes cannot fathom. How would they understand it when, to them, it’s all about shouting and screaming to defend their religion.
 
Why do they need to defend religion? The religion is solid. And besides, they are the majority. Islam is the religion of choice for most people here. You can do anything you want. Build as many mosque as you want. Preach day and night if need be, and no one would complain, fearing the backlash of being persecuted for blasphemy. 
 
Being a member of the minority group sucks. Still, we do not mind. We love the country. We are proud to be part of this amazing country. We wish we could contribute positively to the nation. But what’s the use of pride when your sentiment is not reciprocated by the other half of the people? And how can you remain hopeful when the law is not on your side, when the majority rules without compassion and integrity?  
 
For the longest time I was quiet, nrimo or accepting as the Javanese would say. No more. Enough of this. I refuse to be called a kafir. I do not want to see an Indonesia where school kids are separated by their sex or by religions. I do not want to see Indonesia turning into Iran or Afghanistan. It would be too sad. God bless Indonesia. 

Ira Guntur was a banker in her previous life but prefers to be in media, NGO and anything related to yoga. She loves books and travelling equally and is currently spending too much time doing home improvement.