Sunday, 14 May 2017

The blasphemy verdict of Ahok.

Basuki, or Ahok, is jailed for two years. He has to serve it immediately. That is, no bail pending appeal due to fear of him being a flight risk. And the sentence exceeded the Prosecution's recommendation of two years' probation. 
The Jakarta governor's crime? Blasphemy. He happened to have referred to a verse in the Quran while telling his constituents last September that they should not be misled by opponents urging Muslims to reject a non-Muslim leader." 
Ahok is a Christian and a Chinese. That's double minority in a largely Muslim majority nation. 
One political analyst Tobias Basuki has this to say about the verdict: "(the verdict was more a result of) politicking by the elites from various political parties who hate Ahok and who have been deprived of government projects because of Ahok's strict style of governing."
After the verdict was passed, crowd of hard-line Muslims cheered and shouted, "Allahu Akbar!" It means "God is great." 
Lesson? Just one. I have to admit that there is a lot I do not understand about religion. 
I therefore seek deeper understanding with Ahok's verdict that many of his supporters have lamented as harsh, manifestly excessive and politically motivated. 
In fact, a human rights group chairman Hendari said, "The verdict has proven the blasphemy (law) is prone to misuse by certain parties...It was a trial by the mob, which is actually against the rule of law."
Alas, during my secondary school days (in the 80s), I was taught religious studies, and I chose Christianity, that is, the four synoptic gospels, which talked about the life of Christ. 
At the same time, I was also a member of a relatively large charismatic Church where this God of mine is further illuminated as the Creator of the Universe, a God of love, an omniscient being of mercy, hope and compassion. 
For me, the religion taught in school and preached over the church pulpit tallied well, or is coherent. They were mostly congruent, consistent. 
They talked about a relatively uncomplicated God, who acted with predictable grace and wisdom, and rewarded his believers with eternal bliss and rest. 
Then, I read about religion in the papers, and seen (and experienced) it applied in the world outside the sterile classroom and the pristine pulpit, and things get much more complicated, muddled and even mind-boggling.
In the world, in raw reality, in politics and even in the offices of religious institutions, God takes on a different interpretation (or manifestation) from the one I was accustomed to in school and church. 
Strangely, this God becomes less clear or defined. He is less predictable in his storied ways. Divine love in the world out there is layered with man-made conditions. Mercy has a different agenda - more political rather than ecumenical. 
Compassion is selective. His divine blessing appears to be more nepotistic, manipulative and opportunistic than fair, just and equitable. And even his judgment and wrath seem to have a god-for-hire feel where they become a means to a very self-centric end. 
I was once told that religion separates us from the animals. To believe in omnipotence, and to ceremoniously subject our will to a higher purpose effectively distinguished us from our four-legged friends. 
But, to be honest, I can't be sure anymore. That distinction seems more contrived or self-delusional than believable. 
Yes, dogs do not repent, cats do not take communion, and wolves can't sit still to listen to a sermon for three hours straight, but neither do they act in the way we humans have acted when we ride on the triumphalist chariots of our own religious interpretations. 
Let me end with what the formidable Mark Twain has to say about religion (not that I agree with him entirely):-
"I have a religion--but you will call it blasphemy. It is that there is a God for the rich man but none for the poor.....Perhaps your religion will sustain you, will feed you--I place no dependence in mine. Our religions are alike, though, in one respect--neither can make a man happy when he is out of luck." Cheerz.

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