Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Problem of Tolerance

Recently, in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, the food stall of an aged woman named Saeni was inspected by officials of Banten, one of the biggest provinces in Indonesia. They confiscated all of her food – and perhaps drink(s) too – since it was considered illegal for people to sell food and/or drink during certain hours in the fasting month for Muslims. This was recorded on a video and it became viral on social media; the public responded by giving her a big donation – around 265 million IDR, equal to approximately 19,925 USD.

The underlying idea behind this attention-drawing event is that people should express tolerance to those who are fasting. However, there are people who are opposed to this with the thought that, actually, Muslims are the ones who have to pay respect – to those who aren't fasting – which makes a lot more sense since, as far as I know, fasting is not about avoiding temptation, but resisting it.
But, say, it is really about 'avoiding temptation'. So we are faced with a clash – one side wants fulfill their daily sustenance needs (and this means bread and butter for Saeni), while the other wants to experience as fewer things that can drive them to consume food and drink as they can.

In the wake of this controversial matter, a meme challenging the Minister of Religious Affairs to keep Bali's Ngurah Rai Airport open on Silence Day and ban Christmas trees in malls has spread on the Internet. If you think about it, they reflect the same kind of issue. Most Balinese are Hindus, but there are Balinese who aren't. I believe so many foreigners, as well as non-Hindu Balinese (including Muslims), want to enter and leave Bali through the airport on the religious holiday, when Hindus don't work – perhaps they want to visit their families or partners that they haven't met for ages. The question is "Who is to tolerate who?" The same thing can be recognized in the second case, although it is subtler. Would a Muslim hanging out in a mall be agreeable to occupancy of items promoting Christianity, which clearly teaches doctrines contradictory to Islamic ones, in some space where they should be able get through? The honest answer is "no". And this gives rise to the same question "Who is to tolerate who?"

I reckon we can find many other examples easily. You live next to a church and the choir is enchanting a hymn while you are trying to meditate, needing silence. You are exhausted and trying to catch forty winks at noon before continue working at 1, but the mosque near your workplace is emitting loud sounds through its speaker(s) – it's very likely to happen in Indonesia. You are discussing the possibility of a new contract with your important business partner while the smoke and ash of burning incense from a temple is making your eyes ache and distracting your concentration. Who is to tolerate who?

There is no win-win solution to this kind of thing. One has to swallow a bitter pill, whereas the other rejoices in the fulfillment of their wish. The end result might be in favor of the majority of inhabitants of the region.

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