Monday, June 20, 2016

Percayalah, Mereka Manusia, Sama Seperti Kita


Seorang anak kecil menangis pilu disisi mayat kakak laki-lakinya. Tangan anak itu tak henti-hentinya mengais jenazah si kakak seolah tak percaya kalau saudara kandungnya itu sudah tak lagi di dunia ini.

Sementara itu, seorang ayah berdiri panik di kamar mayat. Matanya basah, wajahnya sembab. Di hadapannya terbaring kaku tak bernyawa sang buah hati belahan jantung, anak laki-laki penerus nasab keluarganya.

Di bagian lain, segerombolan manusia berlari tak tentu arah di antara puing-puing bangunan yang berasap. Mereka melarikan diri dari kejaran maut ciptaan manusia, mereka berlari untuk menyelamatkan nyawa diri dan keluarga. Mereka berlari dari keserakahan kekuasaan para penguasa.

Pemandangan diatas bukanlah penggalan cerita dari sebuah buku dongeng. Ia nyata sebagaimana yang terekam dalam sebuah video yang beredar di internet. Hanya saja kita tidak begitu mengetahuinya sebab kita tidak tinggal di Syiria. Andai kita ditakdirkan menjadi orang Syiria, barangkali wajah-wajah lemah tak berdaya karena kehilangan orang-orang tersayang, atau mayat-mayat tak berdosa yang terbaring di ranjang rumah sakit itu, adalah muka-muka kita atau tubuh anggota keluarga kita sendiri.

Air mata masyarakat Syiria telah lama tertumpah untuk alasan yang tidak mereka ketahui. Entah dosa apa yang mereka perbuat atas penguasa dunia hingga dengan kejinya menjatuhkan bom-bom perang ke atap-atap rumah mereka. Entah kesalahan apa yang telah mereka perbuat sampa-sampai pesawat tempur super canggih terus-terusan mengarahkan moncong rudalnya ke arah sekolah-sekolah anak-anak mereka. Sudah lebih dari lima tahun mereka dijadikan target tak bersalah, tapi sampai hari ini mereka masih bertanya-tanya mengapa mereka yang menjadi sasaran empuk penguasa yang suka perang.

Serangan terhadap rakyat Syiria ibarat cerita berseri yang selalu ‘tayang’ di televisi secara reguler dari tahun 2011. Dua episode terbarunya adalah beberapa hari yang lalu tepatnya tanggal 16 dan 14 Juni 2016. Dua-duanya berlangsung di kota Aleppo. Episode 16 juni berlangsung hanya berselang beberapa jam menjelang diumumkannya gencatan senjata oleh Rusia. Serangan yang menargetkan pemukiman warga itu telah menyebabkan kebakaran dan tentu saja merobohkan bangunan-bangunan yang dimiliki oleh masyarakat sipil. Tidak hanya itu, serangan tiba-tiba itu dilaporkan juga merenggut 7 nyawa[1] dan melukai beberapa orang lainnya.[2]

Episode sebelumnya, yaitu episode 14 juni, lebih dashyat lagi. Setidaknya terdapat lebih dari 50 serangan udara yang membombardir rumah-rumah rakyat Syiria pada tanggal tersebut. Episode 14 juni juga berhasil menewaskan 34 nyawa dan melukai lebih dari 60 jasad.[3]  Perlu diingat, dua episode ini hanya episode terbaru. Masih banyak lagi episode-episode sebelumnya yang mungkin luput dari perhatian kita dan mustahil untuk dijelaskan satu persatu disini.

Ada pepatah masyhur yang bunyinya begini: bila dua gajah berkelahi, yang menjadi korban adalah semut-semut yang merayap dibawahnya. Mereka pasti akan mati terbenam ke dalam tanah sebab terpijak oleh gajah-gajah yang sedang diamuk amarah itu. Dalam konteks Syiria, sayangnya tidak hanya ada dua gajah yang saling adu kuat. Terdapat banyak sekali gajah-gajah lainnya yang saling sikut di seluruh daratan Syiria; Rezim Assad, Hezbollah, Kelompok Kurdish, Pemerintah Rusia, kelompok pemberontak, kelompok Islamic State, Koalisi pimpinan Amerika, Pemerintah Iran, Pemerintah Turki, Pemerintah Arab Saudi, Pemerintah Qatar, Pemerintah Jordania, Pemerintah Inggris, dan Pemerintah Perancis.[4] Diantara gajah-gajah ini ada yang bertarung langsung di lapangan Syiria dan ada juga yang berperan sebagai suporter setia gajah-gajah yang lain. Masing-masing gajah datang dengan mengalungkan banner bertuliskan ‘demi rakyat Syiria’ di dada mereka. Namun tentu saja kalung itu hanya sekedar perhiasan agar tampak gagah dan humanis di mata manusia. Kenyataannya adalah mereka tidak perduli dengan raungan tangis masyarakat Syiria. Satu-satunya yang mereka perdulikan adalah kepentingan mereka sendiri. Soal derita rakyat Syiria itu urusan rakyat Syiria bukan urusan mereka!

Terbukti, pijakan kaki-kaki mereka yang berukuran raksasa telah menghancurkan apa saja yang ada dibawahnya, tidak hanya ‘semut-semut rakyat Syiria’. Sekolah roboh, rumah sakit musnah, pipa air bocor, jaringan listrik putus, rumah ibadah hancur, perekonomian macet, dan fasilitas publik luluh lantah. Sebagaimana yang dilaporkan oleh UN commission of inquiry, semua pihak yang terlibat dalam konflik Syiria terbukti telah melakukan kejahatan perang seperti pembunuhan, penyiksaan, pemerkosaan, dan penghilangan paksa. Bukan itu saja, mereka juga terbukti menggunakan metode perang yang menyebabkan penderitaan bagi masyarakat Syiria semisal memblokade akses ke makanan, air, dan layanan kesehatan.[5]

Sampai hari ini ada lebih dari 250.000 rakyat Syiria yang telah menjadi korban keganasan perang di tanah kelahiran mereka.[6] Angka yang tewas memang tidak sampai sejuta. Tapi, satu buah nyawa manusia sangatlah berarti bagi mereka yang kehilangan. Masing-masing nyawa yang terenggut adalah anak dari seorang ayah, istri bagi seorang suami, dan cucu bagi seorang nenek. Mereka semua sangat berharga karena mereka adalah simbol kebahagiaan bagi orang-orang terdekatnya. Ketika simbol itu hilang maka kehidupan orang yang ditinggalpun akan ditemani oleh isak tangis yang entah kapan akan reda.

Rakyat Syiria yang selamat dari amukan perang juga tidak bernasib bagus sebab mereka kini menjelma menjadi segerombolan manusia gelandangan, tak punya rumah lagi untuk berlindung. Jumlah mereka tidak main-main. Lebih dari 11 juta orang yang mesti angkat kaki dari tempat tinggal mereka akibat perang yang tak berkesudahan itu.[7] Jika di hitung perharinya, sejak awal mula konflik Syiria tahun 2011 lalu, rata-rata terdapat 50 keluarga yang terpaksa meninggalkan Syiria tiap harinya.[8]

Yang perlu dicatat adalah, 11 juta bukanlah sebuah angka mati yang tertulis diatas secarik kertas. Itu adalah ‘angka hidup’ yang terdiri dari manusia-manusia bernyawa persis seperti kita. Mereka memiliki mimpi, mereka mempunyai lingkungan sosial, dan mereka memiliki tempat-tempat penuh kenangan. Semuanya terpaksa harus ditinggalkan gara-gara pertarungan tiada henti para gajah haus kekuasaan itu.

Erangan tangis kehilangan akan terus menggema ke langit Syiria bila gajah-gajah yang terlibat disana masih mengedepankan ego masing-masing. Sudah saatnya gajah-gajah itu menghentikan pertarungan mereka, duduk bersama dengan kepala dingin agar perdamaian bagi masyarakat Syiria benar-benar terwujud. Bukan sekedar slogan kosong belaka. Dan, sudah saatnya bagi kita yang tidak terlibat untuk mengulurkan bantuan apa saja yang kita bisa untuk meringankan beban rakyat Syiria yang sudah 5 tahun dirundung duka. Percayalah, mereka manusia, sama seperti kita.



The Qur’an: A Handbook for the Disabled Community


In recent years, Qur’an, the holy book for Muslims, has come under increased scrutiny due to the widespread of Islamophobia and the growing threat of terrorism by certain extremist groups. It is considered by many as a book of hatred, anti-feminism, or even a ‘manual’ for terrorists. Some even went as far as planning to burn the book that is regarded as containing ‘the words of God’ by at least one billion people worldwide.
In midst of such extensive prejudice, it is perhaps not known widely that the sacred scripture is a source of comfort and relief for the disabled community. Long before the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was enacted, the Qur’an provided guidelines on the issue of disability. It contains teachings and wisdom about how the disabled community should live their lives, and how society should view and treat those who were born a little different from them.
The basic premise that the Qur’an uplifts concerning disability is that there is no such thing as an imperfect being. All humans, regardless of their physical conditions, are considered the best of God’s creations, as stated in chapter At Tinverse 4. Those with disabilities are not considered imperfect, or flawed. It asserts that everyone can reach a full measure of perfection by developing the positive, existing traits of which our individualities are composed. The concepts of perfection and imperfection in the physical sense, therefore, have little application in the Qur’anic view of human life. By extension, so too do the concepts of normalcy and abnormalcy. This is because, as stated in chapter Al Hujurat verse 13, the noblest human beings in the eyes of God are the most deeply conscious of him. God’s measure of a human being’s worth depends not on physical appearances or material belongings, but rather on spiritual maturity and manners.
Moreover, the Qur’an elevates the principles of equality and justice. It is believed that human beings are created in two parts: body and soul. Our bodies may be created differently, some with disabilities and some without, some light skinned and some darker. However, our souls are identical. The soul has neither disability nor ethnicity. Through our souls, God teaches us equality, and through our bodies, God teaches us differences. Consequently, we learn that no matter how seem different we are on the outside, our most important component - the soul - is equally the same.
Unlike views that were widespread during pre-Islamic times, whereby a disability was regarded as a form of punishment, the Qur’an views disability as a test. The purpose of this test is to prove the level of one’s faith (chapter Al Ankabut verses 2-3) and gratitude to God (chapter Al Insaan verse 2). These two aspects, namely faith and gratitude, reap equal rewards from the Almighty. This means that disability could be turned into a land of opportunity for someone to reap God’s rewards as long as he is truly faithful that there is a wisdom behind his condition and is grateful for what God has given to him.
In addition, the Qur’an asserts that every burden given to human beings conforms to the person’s ability to bear. This verse is a guarantee from God to disabled people that they do not need to be troubled by their disabilities; especially when it comes to carrying out the commandments of God. The Qur’an attempts to remove any stigma and barriers to full inclusion of disabled people. It offers relief from certain commands and requirements so as to address the difficulties that arise from specific conditions. In fact, the Qur’an speaks about giving special accommodations to the disabled community. For example, it discusses the issue of Jihad - striving in the path of God - in which the disabled are afforded special waivers. It is said in chapter At Taubah verse 91 that these individuals are given permission to abstain from participating.
The Qur’an also states that “indeed, blindness is not in the eyes, but it is in the heart” (chapter Al Hajj verse 46). Through this verse, the Qur’an clearly reiterates that blindness from the perspective of Islam refers not to the physical eyes, but the heart. It is not concerned with an individual’s physical condition, whether he or she has the ability to see or not; rather, the most important thing is that the person has a sharp vision from his heart. He is able to distinguish between right or wrong, based on careful consideration of the heart instead of the eyes.
However, it is important to note that the Qur’an can be viewed from a wider perspective. Even though this verse talks specifically about blindness, it can be interpreted more widely. Through this, God actually wants human beings to know that the real disability is not in the body, but in the heart. It is not about whether or not we have physical impairments; rather, it is about how much we can obey God’s commandments and how well we treat those around us.
Even though today people with disabilities are often seen as objects of amusement, bullying, and mockery, the Qur’an clearly prohibits such behaviour for any reason. It is said that making fun of other people by laughing at them or calling them by inappropriate names is the hallmark of the wrongdoers and those who possess no feeling of humanity (chapter Al Hujurat verse 11). In this verse, God also says that those who are mocked may be better than those who mock. According to the Qur’an, the quality of an individual is not measured by his or her physical conditions, but by their faith and obedience to the Almighty. In this case, disabled people who do good to fellow human beings and follow God’s commandments have a much loftier position in the eyes of God, compared with those who do otherwise even though they may be in good physical health.
The Qur’an even narrated the story of the Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace) when, one day, he paid little attention to a blind man, Abdullah Ibn Umm Maktoom, who came to him. Even though this could be seen as a minor act of discourtesy on the part of the Prophet towards an individual with disabilities, this caused a sharp Qur’anic rebuke in which the Prophet was strongly reprimanded by God (chapter Abasa verses 1-13). Here, it is clear that the Qur’an does not tolerate any unpleasant treatment towards those with disabilities. Giving rancid face in front of them is considered to have transgressed God’s reasonableness, let alone mocking or belittling them. The historians reported that Ibn Umm Maktoom later became the symbol of inclusion in the Muslim community where he was appointed as the caller for prayer and was asked to lead the city of Madinah when the Prophet had to travel outside.
The widespread prejudice against the Qur’an in our time is due largely to the ignorance of the essential values and principles contained within it. This is very unfortunate as it has been proven that the Qur’an has become a source of comfort for many segments of society, including individuals with disabilities. It is time now for such ignorance to be eradicated because, in truth, the Qur’an is filled with wisdom and insights into humanity.

This piece is co-authored with Muhammad Beni Saputra, a postgraduate student at the University of Manchester.
This piece is also published by Huffington Post at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/muhammad-zulfikar-rakhmat/the-quran-a-handbook-for-_b_10335052.html

Indonesia-UK Relations: Student Exchange Needed

In April this year, the seventh Indonesian president, Joko Widodo (known colloquially as ‘Jokowi’) travelled to the UK. During his visit, he inked at least five agreements in different fields; namely, sports, fisheries, maritime affairs, education, as well as the deal between national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia and Airbus and Rolls Royce. Of all these deals, the agreement on education seems ripe for further discussion.
Undeniably, the Indonesian government, historically, has exerted considerable efforts to send a number of its students to pursue education at the world’s best institutions, including those in the UK, through several scholarship programmes. There are scholarships from the Ministry of Religious Affairs (DIKTIS)the Indonesian Directorate General of Higher Education (DIKTI)the Indonesian Endowment Fund for Education (LPDP); the latter has the highest number of recipients. Each scholarship provider has sent thousands of students to various countries worldwide. Particularly LPDP, whereby approximately 6,400 recipients have studied at several universities globally, including the UK.
The new trend of Indonesian students studying in the UK has increased significantly in recent years. This is even recognised by the UK Ambassador to Indonesia, Moazzam Malik. It is estimated that approximately 3,000 Indonesian students are studying currently at several UK institutions. This figure is expected to increase around 20 to 30% annually. The interests of Indonesian students to pursue education in the UK are driven primarily by the world-renowned quality of UK education.
Although this growing number should be appreciated, it is important to note that the UK is not yet a top-choice destination for Indonesian students. The UK is rankedseventh among the main destination countries of Indonesian students, behind Australia, the US, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, and Germany. Therefore, it is not surprising that the number of Indonesian students in the UK remains relatively low; for example, compared with Australia, which has around 19,000 Indonesian students.
The government in London has made some efforts to attract more Indonesian students to study in the UK. One example is the routine education exhibition held by the British Council in various cities in Indonesia. This year, the Council held the largest exhibition on UK education in three different cities; Jakarta, Surabaya, and Medan. Moreover, the UK Embassy in Jakarta has also taken a step. Last March, for instance, it launched a programme named ‘UK Education Month‘ in cooperation with the British Council. Various programmes were held during the event, which took place between 3rd of March and 1st of April. The event included the promotion of 64 universities from the UK, Education UK Alumni Awards, and the collaboration between Indonesian and UK researchers through Newton Fund. Although this effort undoubtedly provides a platform from which both countries can strengthen their educational partnership, such event are usually held only in major cities of Indonesia; thereby, reaching only a small proportion of the population. Given the vastness of the Archipelago, it is necessary to hold such events in smaller cities in the country.
Despite these efforts, especially when compared to top destination countries for Indonesians to study, the UK’s determination to enhance people-to-people contacts with Indonesia remains minimal. One possible explanation for this is the absence of youth and student exchange programmes between the two countries, as was implemented by Australia, Japan, and Malaysia. Australia, for instance, has an initiative named the Australia Indonesia Youth Exchange Program (AIYEP), where 18 youths from various Indonesian provinces are sent to Australia for two months to learn about, and exchange, culture. Moreover, this is not a one-way initiative; the Australian government also sends 18 of its youths to Indonesia.
Other initiatives, such as the Indonesia Malaysia Youth Exchange Program (Malaysia) and Ship for Southeast Asian Youth Program (Japan), are undertaking the same activities as AIYEP. The young students from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Japan take turns visiting each other’s countries to improve people-to-people contacts. Turning to the US and Europe, similar programmes are in place, such asthe Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) and AFS Intercultural Programs.
In addition to the limited promotions and awareness, the relatively small number of Indonesian students in the UK can be attributed to the absence of annual exchange programmes between Jakarta and London. Besides offering an opportunity for the two different groups of people to develop a sense of brotherhood and understanding, exchange programmes could be an impetus for the participants wishing to continue their studies in the countries they had visited. Moreover, the exchange alumni could become the mouthpiece for the country to which they had exchanged. Furthermore, these individuals can spread important information to other prospective students regarding the country’s education and living conditions. This, of course, will boost the interests of others to study abroad, because it has become human nature for people to trust those who have the same background than foreigners.
Exchange programmes become more crucial for the UK, given the interaction patterns among the people of Indonesia and the UK remain one-way; whereby only Indonesians study in the UK and not the other way around. It is unsurprising that, in 2014, fewer than 50 students from the UK were studying in Indonesia. With the exchange activities, British and Indonesian societies will have close emotional ties, which will increase the interests of British to study in Indonesia and otherwise.
As the UK-Indonesia relationship has grown significantly in recent years, both governments should realise the importance of strengthening people-to-people exchanges to overcome linguistics-cultural barriers. These ties will boost the number of their populations who are acquainted with each other’s societal norms and customs, methods of performing business, and national and institutional interests. While stimulating cooperation is not a simple process, through the use of student exchanges and stronger educational partnership, the UK-Indonesia ties could expand to spheres beyond that of education.
The MoU signed by Jokowi last April, especially in the field of education, is the correct step. Cooperation in education should be a priority for the two countries in order to complement their growing relationship.

This piece is co-authored with Muhammad Beni Saputra, a postgraduate student at the University of Manchester.
This piece is also published by Huffington Post at: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/muhammad-zulfikar-rakhmat/indonesiauk-relations-stu_b_10218320.html

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Ibuku Sayang


Ibu, aku sangat nakal
Dulu dan mungkin sampai detik ini
kau menyuruhku mengaji
aku lari
Kau ajarkan aku berbakti
Aku tak peduli
Aku terus congkak
Hingga membuat nafasmu sesak
Ibuku sayang,
Bertahun yang lalu kau relakan kepergianku untuk mencari ilmu. Kau katakan kepadaku "memang begitulah cobaan menuntut ilmu" setiap kali aku mengeluh. Waktu itu aku anggap kau telah merenggut kebahagiaanku.
Dan kini, lebih satu dekade kita berpisah ibu. Telah banyak yang dilihat oleh mata ini. Telah jauh kaki ini berpijak. Namun kau masih saja dengan kehidupanmu yang dulu. Berjuang demi anak-anakmu.
Ah, ingin rasanya raga ini bertukar setiap kali aku memperoleh kesenangan, ibu. Tidur dihotel berbintang, makan makanan enak, atau tinggal di negeri orang. Namun aku tak kuasa melakukan itu. Semoga kau cukup bahagia mendengar cerita-ceritaku.
Ibuku sayang, aku tahu aku tidak pernah mengungkapkan rasa cintaku kepadamu. Namun ketahuilah, jauh di lubuk hatiku yang terdalam, rasa sayangku padamu lebih dari yang bisa dikiaskan oleh kata-kata.
Ibuku sayang, terima kasih atas rotanmu dulu. Ia telah mendidikku kedisiplinan. Ibuku sayang, terima kasih telah memisahkanku darimu. Ia telah mengajarkanku kerasnya kehidupan.
Ya Allah, panjangkanlah umur ibuku. Sehatkanlah selalu raganya. Semoga aku selalu bisa mengukir senyum bangga di bibirnya.