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Islam and Pluralism ( 17 Aug 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Idul Fitri, Trust And Diversity

By M Hilaly Basya

August 18 2012

The spirit of Idul Fitri encourages Muslims to renew their relationships with relatives. They are enthusiastic about visiting parents, siblings, friends and neighbors. Idul Fitri is believed to be a day when God Allah will erase all sins, as long as Muslims express repentance and ask for forgiveness from others.

On that day, most Muslims think positively about others. They imagine that all Muslims are brothers, so that they have to love each other, regardless of ethnicity, social class, political affiliation and madzhab (school of law).

They will bury hatchets and replace them with friendship. No wonder that most Indonesian Muslims who work and live far away from home prefer to return to their places of origin for Idul Fitri, no matter what the cost.

Such a spirit suggests that Muslims are establishing interpersonal trust, which one author has defined as an appreciation of others, empathy, an intention to live together and tolerance of diverse ethnicities, ideologies and religions.

Islam explains that all humans were born in fitrah, a condition in which people tend to think positively and do the right thing. Idul Fitri means that people return to fitrah.

Therefore, Muslims are supposed to make themselves good people and see others as good people as well. Furthermore Muslims are supposed to apologize and forgive others.

These values are regarded as religious virtues that Muslims must adhere to. It can be said that the values of Idul Fitri teach Muslims how to establish interpersonal trust.

Values of interpersonal trust are necessary for a plural society like Indonesia, where ethnic and religious diversity may lead to conflict. It is not easy to overcome different perspectives, interests and cultures within society. There must be a foundation that supports them to deal with diversity.

Putnam states that interpersonal trust is social capital that a society must generate to establish harmony. Mutual understanding and tolerance can be achieved if everybody thinks positively about each other.

Conversely, suspicion and feelings of being threatened by others are a sort of negative thinking that will destroy social relationships.

It is regrettable that some Indonesian Muslims fail to implement the spirit of Idul Fitri in their social lives. Violence against Shi’a and Ahmadiyah followers indicates that some Muslims think negatively about others.

Instead of accepting diversity in interpreting the Koran, the Sunnah and Islamic history, they regard those two groups as deviants who will undermine Islam.

On one hand they are eager to defend their Muslim “brothers” who are discriminated against overseas, but on the other hand they turn a blind eye on rampant discriminatory practices at home due to different interpretations of certain Islamic teachings.

It is worth emphasizing that Idul Fitri offers an opportunity to live together with non-Muslims and Muslims, too. Creating good relationships and harmonious lives is an important part of Idul Fitri.

Idul Fitri requires Muslims to apologize not only to fellow Muslims, but also to whoever they deal with. It indicates that Idul Fitri supports Muslims in building good relationships with non-Muslims.

Idul Fitri, albeit implicitly, regards Muslims and non-Muslims as equal. Through Idul Fitri, Muslims are called to see that all humans are bound in brotherhood regardless their religion.

The religious qualities of Muslims must be demonstrated by their willingness to welcome others.

It is wise to perceive religious diversity as a condition in which humans attempting to obtain the “ultimate truth”.

However people’s abilities are influenced by culture, social class, ethnicity and primordial inheritances that may leave them trapped in their perceptions of the “ultimate truth”.

Therefore people have to communicate their perception of the ultimate truth in a good way. Communication should be based on an appreciation and willingness to share the uniqueness of each other.

May the coming of Idul Fitri enable Indonesian Muslims to refine their attitudes and relationship swith others as part of a diverse nation.

The writer is a doctoral student in religious studies at the University of Leeds in the UK and a lecturer at Muhammadiyah University in Jakarta.