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

Monday, May 21, 2018


Let’s take n imaginary peep into the suburban homes of two Indonesian families for insights into their lifestyles, values and plans.  And their most intimate and final moments.
Just like couples around the world Dita Oepriarto and his wife Puji must surely have wanted the best future for their teenage sons Yusuf and Firman, and their pre-adolescent daughters Fadhila and Pamela Rizkita.  Tragically that ambition included killing others and their own violent deaths.
It was probably much the same for Anton Febrianto, his spouse Puspitasari and their four kids.  Like their relatives there were two teens Hilta Aulia Rahman and Ainur Rahman, and two primary schoolers, Faisa Putri and Garida Huda Akhar.
The first family lived in Surabaya, the capital of East Java.  The second had their home in the nearby city of Sidoarjo.
To their neighbours the families were OK, a bit reserved though that’s not unusual when people rent so seldom get to know the community well - or get exposed to other opinions and interpretations.
The kids were home schooled so had few friends.
They were religious and caused no trouble, so that was fine.
Until one bright Sunday morning in May, when the long-planned secret early trip  was executed. 
They were Muslims going to churches, though not to pray.  Their purpose was to kill as many other fellow citizens they’d never met but who didn’t share their perverted beliefs.
Imagine the two mothers preparing their daughters for the last day of their lives.  What dresses did they chose, what colours?  Maybe the pretty pink for nine-year old Pamela – so feminine.  It made her look cute, often drawing complements when they went shopping. 
In truth it was a hand-down from Fadhila, three years older and just approaching womanhood.  So the dress was a bit on the big size.  Which was ideal for hiding the suicide belt.
How did Mum get the fitting right?  She couldn’t ask the local tailor to do the stitching for fear of questions and gossip, so sewed the strong fabric herself after measuring her daughter’s wee waist; the tricky bit was making sure the pockets could take the short steel pipes.
The other problem was weight as Daddy kept stuffing nails and bolts into the belt till there was no more room.
“Do we have to?” Fadhila surely asked in the whining tone pre-teen girls have perfected in all continents.  “It’s what Allah wants,” said Yusuf, 18, ignoring his mother as he’d done for the past few years, determined to exercise his male authority.
 “Stop complaining – this is your blessing and today you will meet all the martyrs who have gone before.”  Puji knew her son and picked up the tremor in his voice.  She desperately wanted to hug him but was sure she’d be pushed away. .
Then the wires to the handphone battery had to be tucked away in the hems; that job needed time and concentration.
The girls must have watched their mother’s needlework and barraged her with the questions all children ask while preparing for a holiday jaunt.
The oldies could have told the truth:  Parents should be honest and set the right example – that’s a rock in all faiths.  Had they followed that moral precept it might have gone like this:
“We’re taking a ride on Daddy’s motorbike all the way to the place where the infidels gather, for this is the day they worship Satan.
“When we get there remember to press any button on the handphone when I shout Allahu Akbar! Then your body will be sliced in two and your breakfast and blood will be splashed across the church walls and tiles.
“Everything in your body will be shredded, heart, lungs, liver and the tiny womb which will never be filled.
“Your bones will be splintered and flung with great force along with the nails and bolts into anyone nearby, ripping their flesh, smashing their limbs, gouging their eyes.
“Your head will probably be blown off your neck and eventually found far away.
“This what the preachers say is the will of Allah, Now, do you want to come?”
Had she told this truth the girls might have started screaming, bang doors to be let free.  For like their friends Faisa, 11, and Garida, 10, Fadhila and Pamela did not welcome death.
We now know from others that they hated the jihad videos they’d been forced to watch, the dirty black flags, guns firing and stuff where they closed their eyes. Like humans everywhere the young know instinctively, deep in their souls, beyond the reach of the mad and bad, that given the choice they’ll leap for life.
Choice was denied.
Had it been otherwise the girls’ tantrums would have been terrible. The neighbours would have banged on the door and the plans would have failed.
So Mummy lied: “Why today, my precious ones, we are all going to Paradise.”
Puji’s hands were trembling as she dressed her darlings. Years earlier she’d given birth in pain and joy – now there was only fear. 
The men must have noticed the hesitation and ordered prayer.  The women obeyed for that was another will of Allah, as explained by the ustadz.  He was the unquestioned authority who could read Arabic, or said he could, and had been to Mecca, so must be wise.
Yet the mothers harboured secret doubts.  The mosque leader was a known lecher and rumoured to have pornography on his smartphone.
He had four wives, which is allowed in Indonesia for the Prophet, peace be unto him, had 13; but the mothers feared their husbands might follow the greybeard’s example.
Now that would never happen, though in paradise they’d have access to 72 virgins each so would have no energy left for their spouses.
Puji wondered why the teachings make no mention of satisfying women’s desires in the afterlife, and why her husband and sons insisted she and the girls be involved.  She kept these questions to herself lest she be condemned for heresy.
In her reading of the Holy Book men were supposed to be just and compassionate warriors while the women stayed at home to care for the children. The practicalities of the present pushed her concerns aside.
Mass murder needs detailed preparation. Had the motorbike’s tyres been pumped and the tank filled and the license up-to-date?  It would be awful if the engine spluttered out or the police ordered the machine off the road far from the target.  And what about the house? 
Fadhila had adopted a kitten – or more likely it had adopted her - that she’d rescued from a drain.  It slept on her bed and followed her everywhere.  It had been named Maria after one of Muhammad’s wives.  This caused a minor upset for Dita said that was also the name of the mother of Jesus. 
Smart Fadhila knew her texts.  She reminded him that Muhammad loved cats and had once cut off his sleeve rather than disturb the animal when he went to pray.
Could Maria come with them on the motorbike?  “No, angel, there’s no room. We’ll just leave her a fish and some milk on the doorstep”.
Then there was Pamela’s doll, a Disney Snow White.  It had been given by Grandma so could not be discarded by Dad who hated anything associated with the West and the US in particular.  Would that be allowed?  “Just as long as you keep her away from the handphone.  We wouldn’t want an accident.”
As Puji buttoned her daughter’s dress she would have marveled at the unblemished skin, hair soft as duckdown, her open, smiling, trusting face.  For Pamela and Fadhila there’d be no romance and marriage with the right boys – and Puji already had a couple in mind.
There’d be no grandchildren to fill the house with laughter and care for her as the years passed. The agony was coming to the boil.  She had to shout No. But that would be a sin.
Dita was on edge and demanding they move because the Christians kept to a timetable. If Puji didn’t obey the brutality would start again and she’d be bashed into submission.
The Honda fired on the first kickstart.  It took time to get everything arranged on the short saddle.  Dita was trying to talk to Anton on his phone and go over the plans again.  No answer. Pressed close to her daughters Puji could feel their heartbeats and frail bodies.
She desperately wanted to call Puspitasari and hear her cousin’s voice, to know if she too was terrified, wondering if what they were doing was right. 
It was not. Moments earlier the other couple had been pulped in their home when nervous Anton accidentally crossed the detonator wires.  By chance – or God’s grace – the youngest were outside and survived.
Puji must have looked back. The washing was almost dry and for a moment she thought to stop the bike and collect the clothes before realizing there was no point.  What would they all wear in Paradise?  They couldn’t go naked, that would be immoral.  And what would they eat?  There would have to be rice.
So many questions.  No doubt Gabriel would have it all organised as following the men they entered the abode of peace reserved for the righteous.
Dita swung the bike onto the road.  They were on their way to more than murder, mutilation and suicide. They were going to blast Indonesia’s reputation for tolerance.


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