The shape of the world a generation from now will be influenced far more by how we communicate the values of our society to others than by military or diplomatic superiority. William Fulbright, 1964

Friday, July 01, 2011


Happy Ramadan


When you choose to live in another country you have to make concessions and change behaviour. Particularly when that nation is Islamic.

Australians abroad must adapt, just like foreigners going to secular Sydney and wishing to slaughter goats in the backyard, take on extra wives or circumcise their daughters.

I enjoy Anker stout, which is much under-valued – the taste, not the price. However that’s off the shelves. I should have stocked up before the town council ordered all shops to remove grog during the month before the holy month lest the sight of a shelf of grog inflame devout shoppers.

I could also have done a bulk-buy of bacon though the quality is poor and use-by dates suspect. This I know for certain because my sister-in-law used to be employed re-dating expired goods, like dairy products.

Putting up with grumpiness, road rage and slack workers as the majority adjust to forced fasting isn’t pleasant, but can be forgiven. People behave in much the same way during a long Australian heatwave.

The appallingly congested roads as millions head out of the cities for mudik (reconnecting with their families and village roots) is bedlam – but so are Australian highways at Easter.

The drivers are seldom drunk, but they are grossly fatigued and overloaded, which is almost as dangerous. Best to stay inside for a few days.

If you’re a reasonable distance from a mosque the amplified five daily calls to prayer eventually become part of the soundscape, along with the cries of kaki lima, the pushcart vendors of every food you might need, cooked or fresh – provided its halal (allowed)


So what’s the problem?

What I can’t tolerate are the loud-speaker vans cruising the suburbs telling people to pray and breakfast at 3.30 am.

Nor can I stand the indiscriminate use of fireworks during the fasting month. This is supposed to be illegal (joke) but unannounced bangs like gunshots at all hours is too much for anyone conscious that frustrated fundamentalists are still cruising the nation’s streets.

So farewell to the Republic for a while. Sadly because we’ll miss 17 August celebrations, which are usually a lot of fun, but this year coincide with Ramadan.

We could shift to Christian North Sulawesi where we have relatives, but even in that thinly populated province there’s little peace and quiet. Many churches have followed Islamic practices and installed loudspeakers to remind people of their Sunday obligations.

When confronted by such problems the usual advice is this: If you can’t beat them, join them.

I can’t do the former and I won’t do the latter. Islam can do without this soul so we’re heading south to where the laws on noise pollution are policed and minorities’ views given some consideration, however scant.

(First published in On-Line Opinion on 1 August 2011)

UPDATE: Former Vice President Jusuf Kalla has been reported as saying there's 'no other country in the world except Indonesia where the call to prayer is deafening'. See


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