IMAM SHAMSI ALI
The Nur Inka Nusantara Madani and Pesantren
16 August 2019 Nusantara Foundation
Welcoming the 74th Independence Day RI, I once again sent down light strokes about my confusion as an Indonesian nationality. Hopefully there's benefits!
When I first announced the plan to establish an Islamic boarding school in America and it went viral, many wondered. I wonder what is really the main motivation so that I do this quite ambitious project?
Is it because Islamic education institutions in America, especially New York, are inadequate? Or was it because pesantren were needed to face the rise of Islamophobia in America? Or is there any motivation or other reason that the establishment of this pesantren was launched?
I emphasize that the motivation is very diverse and urgently. There are about 800,000 to one million Muslims In the city of New York. This means that there are around 10% of Muslims from the entire population of New York City, which amounts to around 10 to 12 million.
In the NYPD, for example, there are currently around 12,000 members of the police who are Muslim. In public schools there are around 120,000 students who are Muslim. This means that around 13% of all public schools in the city of Bew York are Muslim. Naturally, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha have officially become school holidays in New York City.
There are 12 full-time Islamic schools in New York City. Not to mention the memorizing schools of the Koran who pass dozens of hafiz every year.
In government offices, from the mayor's office, the New York Parliament, to other agencies, including sub-district offices, there are always Muslim staff. At a minimum the staff serves as "liaison" (liaison) between government offices and the Muslim community.
Even since the time of Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, there have been two "commissioners" (members of the mayor's cabinet) who were Muslim. Both are smart young women. One of Palestinian ancestry and another of Iranian descent. Two countries that are actually considered unfriendly to America.
Since I arrived in New York City about 21 years ago, precisely at the end of 1997, I have more or less felt the turmoil. In the midst of the growth as well as the enormous challenges of Islam, it turned out that I hardly found any children of the nation playing a role in America, even other global worlds.
In the United States itself, specifically New York City, Islamic preachers and education practitioners are dominated by Middle Eastern, South Asian or IPB citizens (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh), and of course Africans especially Afro American Muslims.
But in the last decade, I became even more upset when I discovered the reality that this country and nation were not as popular, even with other ASEAN countries, such as Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, and even Cambodia.
Take it for example in the culinary world. Every foreigner to Indonesia will fall in love with Indonesian foods. Not one or two kinds. But from Sabang to Merauke, the foods are amazingly delicious and of extraordinary variety.
But compared to Thailand and Malaysia for example, overseas Indonesian restaurants are almost nothing. In New York City for example Vietnamese restaurants are even more numerous and popular than Indonesian restaurants.
And even sadder is when Indonesia is relatively unknown as the country with the world's largest Muslim population. Often precisely what is thought to be the world's largest Muslim country is Egypt, Iran, and even Saudi Arabia.
As an illustration, I convey funny events on several occasions. For example, I was invited to give an Islamic presentation at an American university. When I introduced myself that I came from Indonesia, not many were enthusiastic. But when I mention the word Bali, everyone seems to be excited because they know Bali well. That is, as if Indonesia is only part of Bali.
On another occasion I introduced myself as a citizen with the world's largest Muslim population. Suddenly someone interrupted: "are you from Egypt" (you are from Egypt)? Some have said: "oh are you a Saudi" (you are a Saudi)?
One day I even introduced the largest Muslim country in Southeast Asia. Some say: "are you from Malaysia" (you are from Malaysia)?
Disorder after disorder has continued to haunt over the past two decades. But it seems unable to do anything to prove that Indonesia is a great, big country, and should be admired by the world. That Indonesia has a great history, has vast land and sea that is extraordinarily vast and rich. The fourth most populous country and third world democracy.
And of all that the most important thing for me is that Indonesia is a country with the world's largest Muslim population