Ditulis oleh: T. Oryza Keumala
Truly, my friend, my heart is troubled,
as a Muslim, and as a young person,
to see our beloved Aceh in this day and age
still drunk with the ancient wine from the Imperium of Iskandar MudaI wrote this poem on a scrap of paper after reading the morning paper, Serambi. The local news makes the sweet coffee prepared by my mother taste increasingly bitter each day. But that morning the coffee’s bitterness was not due to the news I read; a friend had phoned me at the break of dawn. He said, my friend, the idiocy has arrived. I listened to his next sentences with rapt attention. He told me that the boys’ and girls’ classes at school were now segregated. Black coffee spurted from my mouth onto mother’s teak table. I was so disgusted I felt sick to my stomach. I asked my friend on the other end of the line why this was being done. He said in a pompous voice, “This land is ruled by shariah, dude!”
and ended with a stupid laugh.
On 16 July 200, the new school year began. As usual, the first day started with a flag ceremony; this was followed by the student orientation period. It was fun and exciting. The new students in the school all looked so small, like they were still little children. Their innocent faces reminded me of the character Marji in the book Persepolis by Marjene Satrapi. This visual novel tells of a small girl who is onfused and perplexed as she watches the rapid changes occuring in her country, Iran, at the start of the Islamic revolution in 1979.
This year, the student orientation period was only one day. The second day, the students started going to class and studying. Something looked very strange, as I mentioned earlier: the boys and girls were separated into different classes. I saw the homogeneous class composition and imagined how it was going to be stay in one place for over six hours and whenever you look to the left, to the right, or behind you, you see only boys or only girls. How boring! Interacting only with the same sex so often and for so long will be both tedious and dangerous, I can assure you.
I talked with several of the new kids at the school. They complained about the class segregation. These youngsters felt there was no logical reason or justification for the segregation. As a person who upholds democratic values, I deeply respected their opinions. From then on, I started regulary discussing this issue with my friends. Do we really need gender-segregated classes in Aceh? And what are the reason?
The bureaucrats in the Banda Aceh City Education Service who promulgated this class segregation have only one reason: to pursue the complete (kaffah) appliation of Islamic shariah in all aspects of life. Well, as a teenager, with limited learning and shallow judgment, I can only define the word they used, kaffah, as meaning complete. So what the Education Service wants is complete application of Islamic canon law, is that it? Complete and flawless. Everything done completely, thoroughly, without fault. Truly, a noble reason. How noble and worthy are our decision makers if this is truly being done solely and purely to make Islam complete in Aceh.
The class segregation has been imposed, in junior and senior high school, but its implementation has not yet reached the outlying areas of Aceh. Some voices are being heard among students protesting the Education Service’s decision, but so far the opposition is limited to complaining and grumbling, discussing the issue with friends, and occasional foul language cursing the decision.
They are of course Muslims, who seek to obey the commands of their God, and who would not dare to oppose an “order from God.” But their common sense tells them, these boys and girls who reject the segregation of classes by gender, to question wheter this is really the intent of Islam? Is this really a command from Allah? Is it in the Qur’an? Or is this a decision made by the Islamic Shariah Service, which the Education Service is required to carry out? And what is the basis? Many other such questions arise from the ambiguities and inconsistencies we see with our own eyes in the reality of daily life.
Well, I certainly can’t answer these questions. Personally, I too cannot understand what possible strong justification the Education Service could have for separating male and female students into different classrooms. It’ s just an unclear as the overal application of Islamic canon law in Aceh these days, as I see it.
Let’s try to figurre out what they had in mind by separating boys and girls at school. We are being separated because we are males and females are not muhrim, close relatives, so we can’t be near one another because they worry that something undesireable might happen –that’s it, more or less. So this is the question: will separating us in class solve the problem? The classes are separate, but what about other pars of our school? What about the canteens, which are always crammed with students during the breaks? Take the canteen at my school. It’s not that big, but it sells a great variety of food. During breaks, it’s full of students buying snacks (Wak Min’s tasty bakso, for example) or just quench their thirst with a soft drink. A canteen packed with students, boy and girls, during the break is a common sight in any school.
But in Aceh, since boys and girls have been put in separate classes, something absurd has occured. Have a look into the canteen. Boys and girls are mixed together, pressed together in fact, just to get their fried tofe while it’s still hot. So what happende to the concept of gender segregation in class, of separating males and females who aren’t muhrim? Why isn’t this done in the canteen as well? Or didn’t our decision makers think that far?
This is just a small example of the stupidity that teases our logical minds. What about the other school facilities, like the library, or the laboratories? Surely they shiuld be segregated as well, if they really want to impose a genuine separation. And what about the teacher’s room? Obviously, the male and female teachers must be separated as well. This segregation is not limited to the young; clearly, the law of God knows no age limits. O teachers, we need your worthy example, not just commands!
I hope that the examples above provide an illustration of the inconsistencies that occur in the application of Aceh’s version of Islamic shariah. We can see many more odd situatuon in public spaces.
Personally, I’m completely willing to accept and follow the decision that has been made. I therefore demand that separate facilities be provided for us –separate labs, separate libraries, separate canteens, and separate teacher’s rooms— in the school where this class segregation policy has been imposed. This means that they will have to build separate offices for men and women teachers, separate labs and libraries for male and female students, and there will have to be two canteens, one for boys and one for girls. Or why not simply build separate school for males and females? If this segregation is being imposed in the name of Islamic shariah, it must be done comprehensively and thoroughly; no half measures can be tolerated.
For the same reason, public offices, labi- labi (public transport vehicles) markets and Lampuuk and Lhoknga beaches also need to be segregated, with barriers built to prevent males and females from mixing in any way.
I also request that our honorable Mayor of Banda Aceh, Mr. Mawardi Nurdin, employ a screen when he needs to meet the Deputy Mayor, Mrs. Iliza, when they are in the same room together, to prevent anything bad from happening. Likewise, the members of our legislatures need to be segregated by gender. O leaders, we need your worthy example, not just commands.
And when we go shopping, I want separate stores for male and female shoppers. And when we’re sick, we must have separate hospitals for male and female patients. But how will this be done? When housewives go to the market, must barriers be erected between male and female shoppers? Nd what about becaks? Male passengers and female becaks drivers? And when we go into the rice fields, will we also have separate plots of land for men and women? How crazy it would be to be a Muslim, if it’s like this!
What suprises me is that the application of Islamic shariah in Aceh focuses only on symbolic issues –all those trivial matters that don’t really relate to the true basic values of Islam, as a religion of liberation. Liberation here has a very broad meaning. Islam doesn’t merely regulate how women dress, or wheter men and women need to be separated. Islam also emphasizes of injustice and human liberation. Why do we need to build new classrooms, canteens, libraries, labs and other school facilities, simply to separate males and females, when many of our commpatriots in the remote regions of Aceh don’t have any school at all? Can we call this a religion of justice? When students in Banda Aceh look on timidly while the local goverment squanders the public’s money building new classrooms for boys and girls, while in East and North Aceh our brothers and sisters remain wallowing in the darkest ignorance, and we do nothing to help them. Instead, we’re occupied with matters that are far from the basic values of Islam.
We so often get hung up with a little matters that are not that important. Raiding women who fail to wear the jilbab, closing tourims veneus for no evident reason, harassing transvestites who work in wome’s beauty salons, separating males and females who are not muhrim, caning small-time gamblers in front of the mosque, and all the other things that are done, are actually far removed from the great spirit of Islam.
Why waste money building new classrooms, when so may other children receive no education because there are no school in their villages? Why are we so enthusiastic about whipping our fellow Muslims who are caught gambling, but we do nothing to battle ignorance and to create better opporunities for them? Why cut off the hands of the poor and oppressed when hunger forces them to steal? Yet at the same time, we do nothing to oppose the impoverishment caused by unjust rulers! In the name of Allah, the all-powerful, let us not forget the essential spirit of Islam!
It is told the Prophet went to visit Abu Jahal ninety times to urge him to embrace Islam. This shows that our great prophet Muhammad relied on persuasion and communication, rather than repression. How beautiful Islam would be now, if we followed his example! Just look at the behaviour of the WH (shariah police) and the Education Service; did they ever invite us student to disuss the idea of separating the classes? No! They ignore our opinions as citizens, and refuse to acknowledge us as thinking creatures! Isn’t this supposed to be a democratic country? Islam, too, teaches us to engage in deliberation to achieve consensus before making any decision that affects many people.
And bear in mind, my friends, that it took the prophet Muhammad thirteen years simply to inculcate faith and belief in one God in the hearts of his followers. Only after thirteen years did verses on canon law start to be revealed, because only then did the believers have strong faith. Here lies the problem. Have you ever heard of he WH going into villages, prayer halls, schools, offices, and public places to propagate the word of God, to make the words of Allah resound in our hearts? Have you ever heard the WH delivering Qur’anic verses in a gentle tone, in soothing voices, with calm and cool visages, inviting us to uphold Islamic shariah? The key question is, do the WH do what the Prophet did? By spreading the name of Allah, full of the gentleness and peace that are the main characteristic of Islam, just as the prophet Muhammad did –persuasively and communicatively.
But look at the present reality. They arrest women who don’t wear the jilbab, but we watch our local soccer team, Persiraja, who wear such short pants, above the knee! They raid places of sin, gambling, prostitution, and alcohol; but corrupt public officials who openly steal the public’s money are not treated as sinners and punished. So what is the point in separating boys’ and girls’ classes in school, while allowing kids in East Aceh to study sitting on the floor, with holes in their school’s roofs? O leaders, where is the logic in your thinking?
We should do whatever we can to follow the example of how the prophet Muhammad upheld Islam so that it could spread and take root. Don’t just write the names of Chinese shops in Arabis letters, hold Qur’an reading contests regulary so we can hear the verses of the Qur’an being sung so sweetly, and then gloat that all is now “kaffah”. Yet we seldom take to heart the true meaning of the Qur’an and the hadith of the Prophet. So dive deep into the Qur’an, and surely you will never be lost.
What’s so difficult about that?