I recently became friends with Dwi Anggia, the evening news anchor for Jakarta TvOne. She answers to Anggi, as most Muslims don’t have traditional sir names or last names like we do in the states, so you sort of pick the name you prefer to be called. Anggi has been a great resource for all of my questions relating to Indo traditions, customs and most importantly, food.
In addition to anchoring the news, Anggi hosts a live political debate show on Monday nights, appropriately called Debat. Not coincidentally, and in light of the recent US Supreme Court Decision, the topic this past week was LGBT marriage and Anggi was kind enough to invite me to attend.
What I found fascinating about this debate was that even though I could only understand every 3rd or 4th word, I knew exactly what was being discussed because I’d seen it play out so many times before. The usual suspects were divided up exactly like you would expect, two religious conservatives armed with a stack of citations from the Koran on one side, and on the other, a liberal educator and a LGBT activist armed with only logic, reason and a benevolent belief in equality.
Notice the underlined word above. If you were to substitute it with the word Bible, this is the same debate you’ve seen as well, not just on TV, but in your places of employment, the bars and restaurants you frequent, your social media pages and even your own dinner tables.
In discussing the subject with Anggi, it appears to me that Indo is currently at, or about, where America was prior to Ellen coming out on her show in the mid 90s. The majority of the population here are devout Muslims, 88% in fact, making it the largest Muslim country in the world with over 204 million nationwide. There are twice as many Muslims in Indo than Iran and Iraq combined. Many believe, as most devout American Christians, that homosexuality is forbidden because their particular doctrine has been interpreted to say it is so. It’s also worth mentioning here that The Bible and The Koran share many commonalities, a point that earned Pope Francis harsh criticism from many of his followers after he was photographed kissing a copy of the Koran given to him following a meeting with Muslim leaders.
It also appears that a majority of Indonesian Muslims have rather primitive beliefs as to the nature of homosexuality. Muslims, like many American Christians, believe that the LGBT lifestyle is learned as opposed to being born into. They’re afraid that gays in classrooms or broadcast on TV will corrupt their youth and turn them gay, as if anyone would conscientiously want to choose a lifestyle different from that of their friends and family.
The debate progressed as they often do, the religious conservatives aggressively constructing their arguments, sometimes grandstanding with a closed fist, while the liberals countered more passively with their own counter-points. A majority of the audience sided with the conservative opinion, but there were a fair amount of students that applauded the liberal side.
After 60 minutes of heated rhetoric that kept Anggi on the edge of her 8cm heals, the debate ended, inevitably, as all of the LGTB debates you’ve seen before. Although both parties shook hands, neither said, “you might be right.” There were no moments of enlightenment. No one congratulated the other with a “good point, I’ll give that more consideration.” And ultimately, everyone went home, blood pressure spiked, but with beliefs unchanged.
When it comes to debates, whether televised on a major network or perpetuated in our dining rooms or social media pages, we should all try to focus less on winning and more on understanding. Listen more and talk less. Ask rather than tell and replace aggression with empathy.
In the end, despite our particular faiths or sexual orientation, we’re all pretty nice people and we share more commonalities than we do differences. We’re doting husbands and loving fathers. We’re caregivers and soccer moms. We’re grandparent with intentions to love and spoil. We’re students aspiring to change the world. We’re news anchors educating consumers on what is relevant. We’re chiropractors in Indonesia trying to learn a few things, and we’re all, without question, searching for love – a fact that should NEVER be debated.
Something else we can all agree upon is that progress is inevitable and, in my brief 40 years, I’ve seen no progress in intolerance. Equality always wins. This is not an attempt to get the last word, I just refuse to believe we are bound to a future that exploits our differences rather than celebrates them.
Our world isn’t as big as it used to be. If you don’t believe me, just leave a comment. You’ll get your response within a day, all the way from Jakarta. You’d get it sooner, but I’m busy asking my own questions.
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