I was quite shocked when I watched the interviews on the news during one of the town’s meetings against the proposed Islamic school in the area. There were no politically correct words nor sentences worded carefully to avoid undesirable effects. Just blunt words and plain speeches made by ordinary rural people for their fellow citizens. It revealed the depth of the feelings felt by the community towards the Muslim immigrants in Australia.
One interviewee strongly and passionately stated that she didn’t want to have the terrorists in their community. She didn’t even bother to make differentiation between Muslims for in her views they’re all terrorists.
She then continued by stressing that their community wasn’t against immigration as they had Italians, Greeks, and others from Europe, all were welcomed excepts the Muslims.
What really shocked me wasn’t the opposition itself. I understand how difficult it is for a community to accept foreigners among them, let alone letting them build something which would out last everyone of them and might become new legacies in their community. The shocker was the fact that such strong sentiments are felt by Australians. Our close neighbour.
Regardless of the rather volatile relationship between Indonesia and Australia and the ups and downs in our foreign relations, I've always have a feeling that Australians are one of those who really know and understand Indonesians. That means understand the Muslims and Islam. I somehow thought Australia as one of the most tolerance countries when it comes to the practice of different religions. Seeing that news was a revelation. It shows the world a reality. Ugly, unpleasant, and shocking, but reality nonetheless.
People are inherently suspicious of others different from them, particularly if those different people are the ones constantly pictured as terrorists by the media. They also have a healthy dose of fear of change, enough patriotism, nationalism, and faith in their bones to defend their country, community, culture and religion against the invaders and interlopers. Conveniently forgetting their very existence in their beloved land was the results of what they are opposing at the moment. Change brought by the unwelcome foreigners.
It shows that we are still a long way from achieving an ideal world where one’s colours, nations, and beliefs will no longer be an issue. When people could see other people without prejudice. When they could see others who come into their community not as a threat but as a welcome resources. As a fellow citizen of this planet, who has the same rights as everybody else in it.
Most of the fear of change has economic reasons behinds it. Most of the time it is because the community doesn't want to share its wealth with others. They don't want their comfort to be diminished. Very selfish indeed. But that's the reality in its ugly but honest form.
Until people have an understanding that they need to share what they have with others, tensions will always be there. Until people learn to accept that people are different and will always be, there will always be bigotry, racism, and conflicts.
Apparently, the world still has much to do to educate its citizens.