ISLAM Jealousy in Indonesia “why”?….because Islam boring and ruled by idiot old uneducated Haji/Ustad .
Today the small Indonesian island of Bali was rocked by bomb attacks on two popular tourist areas, killing at least 22. BBC Coverage.
Bali is one of the most beautiful places I have visited. Nowadays, post-Jason Donovan and Ricky Martin, it’s known for its tourist trade as much as it is for its natural wonders. One can only hope that it doesn’t develop a new, darker claim to fame. However I fear that Bali may become one of the most popular targets for Islamist terrorists.
For those who believe in the supremacy of their warped Islamic beliefs, Bali represents a triple-whammy. Three reasons to target the jewel in Indonesia’s crown.
Indonesia is frequently referred to as the world’s most populous Islamic nation, people forget that it is just a truly immense country. Over 13,000 islands make up the vast archipelago, stretching more than 5000km across. The country has a tumultuous recent past and I honestly think that no country has seen quite so much change in the last 50 years. It lives in the shadow of its more successful neighbours, the Asian Tigers of Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore, which sometimes overshadows the strides forward that Indonesia has taken, like free elections being introduced seven years ago.
However, Indonesia is afflicted by several serious diseases. A nasty Asian strain of corruption, armed separatists in Aceh and Irian Jaya and a chronic case of terrorism.
V.S. Naipaul’s excellent book, Beyond Belief, examines how Indonesia has been affected by the recent and widespread embrace of Islam. With this, unfortunately came a firebrand fundamentalist streak, such that Indonesia has been described as ‘Al Qaeda’s next natural home.’
So why has Bali been hit by a series of attacks?
Indonesia’s census states almost 90% of Indonesia is Muslim. However in a few areas, namely Bali, Papua, East Nusa Tenggara and some areas hit by the tsunami in northern Sumatra, Muslims form a minority. You may not have heard of any on that list – with the exception of Bali. Militant Muslims bent upon increasing that 90% up to 100 do not like any of those areas, but Bali stands out. Papua and Aceh have violent armed militia patrolling their territories and Eastern Nusa Tenggara is a massively under-developed backwater. Bali, in contrast, produces vast sums of money and is a peaceful place, with no armed guerrillas to offer resistance to terrorists. It’s an easy target.
India and Indonesia have intertwined histories. Before Islam came to Indonesia via India, the country was Hindu and Buddhist, two Indian religions. The Arab-centric ideologies supported by Islamist terrorists despise India and it despise Hinduism. Osama bin Laden himself has identified India as an enemy of the caliphate and Al Qaeda. With the Arabisation of Indonesia, Indian influences have been purged from the vast majority of the country. The largest Buddhist monument in the world and a contender for 8th wonder of the world, Borobodur, is left woefully under-maintained and under-advertised, as it is a Buddhist stupa in the heart of an Islamic Java.
Despite all attempts to erase India from Indonesia, Bali remained unchanged. Over 90% of the 1.81% of Indonesians who are Hindu reside in Bali. The very culture that attracts tourists in droves is the culture that the rest of the country has rejected – such as traditional Balinese dancing, which is rooted in Hindu mythology. Bali is a slice of ancient Indonesia. Bali is a Hindu infidel of an island. Worse still, Balinese Hindus are leading what is called the Hindu Revival. Read more about Hinduism in Bali and Indonesia.
The last reason Indonesian terrorists hate Bali is that it is a resounding success story. Jealousy is central to much of the moaning done by radical clerics and they hate the fact that Bali is thriving whilst much of Indonesia has criminal levels of poverty. And perhaps the main reason Bali is targeted at all is the cause of Bali’s wealth – Western tourists.
I say Western, but what I really mean is Australian. Australians have been enjoying the food, drink, sun and sand of Bali for decades. Now if you live on Bondi beach and still travel 1000s of miles for a holiday, it must be something special. Brits are also quite keen on Bali’s resorts. Australia and Britain – more enemies of fundamentalist Islam. Two coalition members, two aggressors against Islam, two friends of Zionist America and one more reason why a bomb in Bali makes headlines around the world, not just in the Indonesian press.
My heart is filled with sorrow when I think about the inevitable evil that will be unleashed on little Bali. Tourism is how it earns its keep and 3 years on from the 2002 attacks, the trade had just returned to normal, until today. It hasn’t invaded Iraq or given aid to Israel, yet as long as Bali is a peaceful island, populated by Hindus and enjoyed by white tourists, the diamond on Indonesia’s necklace is under constant threat from the new Islamist fascists.
We Trekked the Mt. Sibayak Volcano
It’s April 8 and we’ve been to the hill town of Berastagi where we trekked the Mt. Sibayak volcano (about 2090 meters). It was a hard climb but everyone got to the top. We passed through rainforest on the way and got soaked in a storm coming down. It was very muddy but fun to get wet and grubby. At the top there are fumaroles, or steaming vents, of sulfuric steam, all yellowish and smoky. Two German tourists came up there 10 days ago without a guide and are lost. There was a camp of rangers and army at the crater using it as a base camp to scout the dense forest just below the peak. It is presumed that they took the wrong trail down, perhaps fell in a deep ravine, and may be dead. Another tourist died 6 months ago, a teacher from Japan, and his remains were found 6 months later (I guess recently) when vultures were spotted circling overhead. One should never challenge the rainforest as it teaches harsh lessons.
From the top you can see a line of volcanic peaks sticking out of the clouds. This is the Bukit Barisan range, the spine of Sumatra, and part of the “ring of fire,” the active plate tectonic border where much volcanic and earthquake activity takes place. The Indian tectonic plate is subducting or diving under the Asian plate, creating great stress and pushing up the Barisan Range. As the Indian plate goes under the Asian, the rock is melted and new magma created.
Two months ago a 6.2 earthquake rocked this area and Medan, testimony to the active nature of the land. The volcanoes have not erupted in many, many years, but the layer of ash covering the land is reportedly 600 meters thick, compared to half a meter for Mt. St. Helens!
We are at Lake Toba now which is the 4th largest lake in the world, a gigantic crater lake, 87 kilometers long and 28 kilometers wide! It was formed 60,000 years ago in one of the greatest explosions of history. Samosir Island was created in the middle of the lake 30,000 years ago in another eruption and that’s where we’re staying now. This is the heartland of the Batak people, the sacred lake that was unknown to Europeans, kept secret, until early in this century. The local clan are the Toba Batak, reputed cannibals (by European explorers, some of which never were heard from again!) as late as early this century, but a friendly, gregarious people, reknowned for their artistry and music, and recent converts to Christianity in this Muslim country (they also mix magical beliefs with religion). This is gorgeous country and we are excited to discover it (please don’t tell anyone about it!). Horas! Ranger Bill and the Trekkers
For Internet: A few days ago on the trip to Berastagi we stopped by what looked like a small shop for buying soft drinks. When I got out I realized what else it was. There were at least a dozen fruit bats in this tiny cage hanging upside-down from the top of the cage. Then there were two other bats outside just hanging out for the tourists to take pictures with. A small lady grabbed the bat and put it on my arm. At first it was a bit painful from the sharp talons gripping tightly to my skin. My arm was quite sunburned from the 5 hour rafting trip before that so that just added to it. The bats wings feel so thin and soft. They must get ripped very easily. Beside the bat cage was a sad looking big eyed Loris. It was walking around very slowly in the cage and looked pretty funny. During the first Sumatra trip the year before the group had bought a Loris at the same place and then released it.
I remember thinking during the plane ride to Sumatra how there was no way I was going to give money to some guy who traps animals, even if it means keeping the poor animal there. I’m not going to help the endangered animal trade. Sometimes you have to be rational rather than emotional. Also at the place was a baboon with a large tumor on its butt. It was tied up and it just looked terrible. That same day we visited a crocodile farm and even there they had monkeys tied up. they forced the monkey to sit on the crocodile’s head. It kept trying to jump off but the man poked it with a stick and yelled at it. I’m very happy our group didn’t buy the Loris.
I’m glad we donated $400 to the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center. The center doesn’t get government funding and a lot of the donations don’t even go to the center. The people there want to make the center into an International education Center. Our donation went directly to the orangutans to help buy bananas, milk, and medicine.
I think what else is important other than the orangutans is the river. The river here, especially near the hotels, is very polluted. The hotels here pump the sewage into the rivers and then we swam in it! Oh well, swimming in the river is really fun and the water isn’t too cold. to build pools here ruins the biological filtration which “eats up” the sewage into less harmful material. If anyone has an aquarium with really messy fish you know what I’m talking about.
I wish we could drink the water and not always have to be worried about getting sick. Even when we brush our teeth we have to use bottled water. Right now I’m sitting in a boat on Lake Toba. We just were watching some cultural show and the people said if we paid $50 they would sacrifice a bull…yeah right. The shopping here is really good. I’ve bought a few very abstract sculptures, a magic stick, and a calendar. I also bought a sarong for my sister. To earn money for the trip I sold homemade ice cream from my house. Because I live in Saudi it sell really well. Well, bye. Stephen H.
For Internet from Jessica W.: the Sumatra trip is so awesome! The best part of the trip was the white water rafting. We went on a class 1-3 rapids. Stephen fell in, but he came out okay. White water rafting is definitely an experience that I’ll remember.
From Casey M.: the volcano hike was cool! the first part was steep and muddy, but then it got better at the cement sidewalk. When I first got a smell of the air at the top, I almost puked, rotten eggs all the way. It was a nice view, I hope the kids next year have a good time too.
From Natalie L.: the best thing on the trip was rafting, but the most important was our chance to write letters to the government and try to persuade them to fund the conservation center. Right now the centers are running on donations and volunteers. I hope people following our trip on the internet will take the time to write a letter as well. trying to control the raft as a team you also had to be careful not to fall off which one of my teammates did. At some parts it was very scary but all in all it was very cool.
From Scott L.: Rafting was my favorite, our raft was always in the lead. I almost fell out but it was cool, I like our boat in Lake Toba, This is one big lake.
From Georgia Ann R.: I think the most exciting thing that happened on the trip so far was when we saw orangutans in the wild. they had been released from the rehab center, and so they thought our guide’s orange backpack had food in it. The mother actually bit him on the leg and we got out of there as fast as we could.
From Karen S.:. Going to Sumatra has taught me a lot about the problems that exist, and now I know that we can save the rainforest and endangered species by writing letters, making donations, and helping educate the local people. I’ve had so much fun swimming and tubing and rafting through the beautiful country side and am glad I’m here.
From Chris S.: today we went shopping and the prices are really cheap. I bought a magic stick for 30,000. there are all kinds of shops and many items to buy. The people sell the things here real cheap because there is so many shops to choose from and they haven’t had good business. In Lake Toba we have just been relaxing and looking at historical sights. This trip is really fun.
From Julia N.: The other day we went to a Lingga village. There the kids can’t start dating until 17 years old.
S U M A T R A
Sumatra is about as big as Spain, and most parts of it are fairly empty, though there are half-a-dozen large towns and any fertile area is well populated. The mountains that rise almost straight out of the sea on its western side catch most of the moisture that blows in from the Indian Ocean, but this rain feeds the big rivers that meander across the eastern plains towards the Straits of Malacca and the Java Sea. One way or another, there is plenty of water everywhere, but most of the best soils are in the hills. Recorded Sumatran history begins with outward-looking seafaring and trading empires on the east coast, and continues with relatively isolated farming communities and kingdoms in the interior. In the 1870s, a Dutch entrepreneur decided that land in the north-east of the island, which was cheap because no one thought it very useful, might be good for growing tobacco. He was right, and Sumatra’s biggest city is the result, though at least half its growth has taken place in the last thirty years.
Most Indonesian towns, even provincial capitals, focus on a single main street. In Medan, it is a long street that changes its name several times between the Post Office at the north end and the Maimoon Palace at the south. There are so many people and things that need to have streets named after them that these two or three kilometres have to accommodate within their length the names of the town hall, two generals and the Green Princess, a legendary local heroine. But the whole street remains in local speech Kesawah, the road that leads to the rice fields. It could be said, of course, that all roads in Indonesia lead to rice fields sooner or later.
In this long street, on a very hot afternoon, we sat in the well-shaded office of a tour company, enquiring in the same breath about local restaurants and the possibility of chartering a car to take us to the hills. The car was soon arranged, but the restaurants were more of a problem. North Sumatra is the country of the Batak people, but the manager of the tour office did not think there were any Batak restaurants. There were the usual Javanese and Chinese eating places; there were plenty of rumah makan Padang, of course. We could get Korean, Japanese and European food, and American fast food. Eventually, we got into a taxi and asked the driver’s advice. We ended up driving 20 kilometres to the port of Belawan, which gave the driver plenty of time to ask the personal questions that people in Indonesia love to ask, and clocked up a massive return fare. But it did not show us any very tempting places to eat.
Finding a restaurant in a town where you know no one is always chancy, but especially so in Indonesia, where menus are not usually hung in the window and it is impossible to guess the quality of the cooking, or even the cost of the meal, by looking at the shopfront. The best you can do is to choose one that appears to be clean and commercially successful. If your driver recommends one, you invite him to eat there as well, as a kind of guarantee of good faith. In this case, the driver didn’t know anywhere, and a couple of circuits of the town were unproductive. Eventually we ate, near midnight, in the hotel coffee shop.
Next morning we were in the General Manager’s office to meet the GM himself and the Food and Beverage Manager. In every big hotel, they are two members of a trinity whose third is the Executive Chef, but Chef was on holiday and had gone home to Bali. Senior Indonesian hotel staff are often Balinese, because their island has had such a large helping of experience in looking after foreign visitors. But many hotels still bring in their top managers from abroad. Here, we were talking to a Malaysian and a Norwegian.
Svein confirmed that there was plenty of Batak food, but said it was virtually unknown outside Batak homes and festive gatherings. Batak recipes use local herbs and roots that are not known, or at any rate not used, elsewhere; and these, while they give the food a characteristic flavour, also turn it a uniform dull grey. He liked the food well enough himself, but would never put it on a hotel menu because no one would order it; apart from anything else, two of its principal ingredients are pork and dog meat, both abhorrent to the Moslem majority. Plenty of people in South-East Asia eat dogs, but usually at home or in small restaurants that specialize in cooking them. Although I cannot see any logical reason against eating dogs that doesn’t apply just as strongly against eating cows or sheep, I must admit that my own upbringing has prevented me from experimenting.
On this trip we were particularly looking out for food sellers. Near the city speculative developers were hastily putting up terraces of shops, usually with two or three floors of living accommodation above them, with fancily bowed windows and balconies or verandahs supported by strangely unclassical columns. Well-established rows of shops carry large amounts of advertising, and a great deal of this is for instant or convenience foods. Both the product and the marketing are American-style, and once you have seen the hoardings and heard the TV jingles you will have no difficulty in finding the familiar brand names even on the remotest island. Even rice is beginning to be branded, though most of it is still sold in large bags and labelled simply by its variety.
As long as there are enough people around, any main road is likely to become a marketplace, so ribbon development of small businesses extends outward from every town and village. Where brick and concrete fail, planks of wood, then bamboo and woven palm fronds take over. Eventually you reach the countryside, where fruit and vegetables are sold from the simplest of shelters, or by the roadside with no shelter at all. We stopped at one of these stalls to buy durian, whose heavy perfume lingers deliciously in the heavy afternoon air. Public transport and hotels ban durian because it becomes overpowering in a small space, but out of doors your nose perceives it merely as a dominant note in the chord of roadside smells, blending particularly well with that of newly-laid dust after a sudden shower.
On the way into the hills, we stopped for lunch at an Islamic eating house by the roadside. Its religious aspect was merely a promise to visitors that the food would be halal, the meat ritually slaughtered and nothing cooked in pork fat. There was also a room at the back where people could pray. The girl who served us wore the white headscarf that covers the hair and looks very becoming. The food was excellent, but at the end of the meal I made a bad social gaffe. Accustomed to city life, I left a tip. My own Minangkabau upbringing ought to have reminded me that in country districts in Sumatra this is not just unnecessary, it is an insult to the person who has served you. The young waitress tactfully assumed that I had left the money on the table by mistake and called after me. She saw my embarrassment, and rose to the occasion. ‘If you want to give something to the mosque,’ she said, ‘the box is here,’ and she popped the cash into the slot with a conspiratorial little smile.
On Sundays and public holidays, the trippers throng the road from Medan. Many of them make for a little hill at the top end of Brastagi town called Bukit Gundaling, a public park with views across the plateau to the high hills beyond. There you can rent a straw mat, spotlessly clean and with beautiful patterns woven into it, and sit on the hilltop to admire the view while you eat your picnic and drink cold lemonade or marquisa juice. If you feel extravagant, you can drink Guinness, which is brewed in Indonesia and advertised with a slogan long ago banned in Britain, Guinness baik untuk Anda. In translation, however, it has lost the alliterative kick of “Guinness is good for you“. I don’t think, anyway, that many of the young people on Bukit Gundaling can afford beer; they drink Coke or Pocari Sweat or the local brands of mineral water and are all very sober, though jolly enough, each little group gathered around a boy with a guitar or, less attractively, a stereo cassette player. But even the music is not usually very loud. It is in fact a scene of the utmost respectability, the sort of public enjoyment one gets used to here. For the middle-aged traveller it is not the least of Indonesia’s attractions.
Our hotel turned out to be on top of a green hillock in another part of town, an old Dutch country club that would have looked quite at home in Surrey. They gave us a good plain dinner in a cavernous dining room and enormous, hard beds in lofty bedrooms. Only the breakfast was a little disappointing, as breakfasts often are in the tropics if you don’t want to eat a plateful of rice. The trouble is the bread, which in small towns is still made to Dutch recipes that have survived since the 1930s and in big cities to American recipes that I suppose have been imported either direct from US catering colleges or perhaps via Japan or Taiwan. Anyway, the bread is almost universally terrible, chalky white, flabby, often sweetened, full of air in the middle but thickening to a soggy brown outside layer which takes the place of a crust. The common name for it is roti tawar, and the best thing that can be said about it is that it is still locally made, much of it by quite small firms, so there are at least distinctions of awfulness and perhaps hope for improvement.
From here to Lake Toba you cross gently-rolling hills through good rich farmland. Most of the rice that is grown here is upland rice, which is not flooded and therefore does not need to be terraced. We stopped for awhile to admire the view of the lake from its northern end, and the Sipisopiso waterfall that plunges over a ledge of hard rock and falls a hundred metres in a single drop. Toba has occupied, for the last 70-odd thousand years, a gigantic, misshapen volcanic crater, most of its centre