Politik Internasional

Identity, minority, and freedom of expression

Kategori: World Politics
Ditulis oleh Irine H. Gayatri Dilihat: 3623
Indonesia has been able to transform itself into a very democratic country after the fall of Soeharto in 1998. But are we really democratic? Reality shows it is not easy as that, especially for those in the minority. 

Being a non-religious person among religious ones is a big problem. Being ethnically different. Being the only girl among men. Being the leftist among the rightists. Being the gay or lesbian among the straights. Even not wearing the same attire as your fellow countrymen. 

Like the newest phenomenon that happened just recently, when the 18-year-old Qory Sandioriva won the prestigious beauty contest, Putri Indonesia 2009. Her victory can be seen from different perspectives. She openly said she was not interested in wearing jilbab (scarf). 

For those who defend individual rights, it is a sign of personal freedom. Do what is best for you, and then heaven will open its doors. However, from another perspective, which is very local, representing collective rights (of the so-called Aceh Province), it could be claimed that it makes her representation of Aceh problematic.

She had answered in an interview though, that her victory should not be responded with controversy. She did it willingly, as an individual with a multi-identity background, which is shaped mostly by the culture in Jakarta. Yet she represented Aceh in the pageant battle.

What does Sandioriva's win tells us? She was not forced to join the content. Growing up in the urban Jakartan landscape, one can be from any province in this huge country. She might have only slightest memory about Aceh but more abundant knowledge about Jakarta or cosmopolitan culture in her soul.

But that only tells us that there is no certainty in terms of identity. Nothing negative about this fact. I am a Jawa-Sundanese born abroad who grew up in Jakarta. I choose to be a Tangerang (Banten province) resident.

Identity is very much flexible. It is impossible to think diametrically now that one must bear the same primordial tenets as their predecessors. 

Identity becomes rigid when one or a regime tries to put it into a closed box. Power also becomes an arena of contention among different groups. Identity becomes a dangerous tool when people in power mobilize it on their own behalf. 

Take a look at history. People discriminate against others based on race, religion, ethnicity and ideologies. This is not to say that attributes are not necessary. Perhaps in specific context, time and place, attributes especially social ones, are needed. It becomes a signifier of "us" and "them". Of otherness. The problem comes when it plays into the "othering" process. That begins with minoritization.

Indonesia is full of such stories, like during the late 1960s when fellow ethnic Chinese countrymen were forced to change their names on behalf of assimilation politics. When animists, non-believers, sympathizers, or political leaders from the "left" were pushed aside to Buru Island.

When all students from People's Democratic Party (PRD) in 1996 were accused of being communists and thus subjected to arbitrary arrests, torture and disappearances. 

But those are the extreme examples. More simple practices on how minoritization is taking place daily. How a family excluded daughters or in-laws for getting married to someone of a different religion. How women in Indonesia suffer from being extorted when they marry a foreigner. How a province is able to apply religious-based laws for citizens that not all agreed to although they hold the same ideas.

Some may ask, why bother fighting against this? Why not simply compromise to hold the harmony? Do not miss the point. When speaking about harmony, it is only a facade. A civilized individual will not slay others only out of disapproval of attires, of differences in ideologies, sexual orientation, working preferences, under the condition that it will not harm others. 

Tthis article was quoted from http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2009/11/21/identity-minority-and-freedom-expression.html)