Teman-teman, 3 hari yang lalu saya menulis surat ini dan kirim ke Jakarta Post. Saya berniat protes atas berita miring dari Associated Press yang diangkat dan masuk Jakarta Post selama beberapa hari. Berita heboh tentang Facebook muncul setelah sebuah forum kecil di Kediri membahas baik-buruknya situs jaringan sosial seperti Facebook, dan bahas apa lebih baik diharamkan atau tidak kalau digunakan secara berlebihan dan tidak benar. Ternyata berita ini di Republika dan Kompas cukup jauh berbeda dengan Associated Press dan Jakarta Post yang mengatakan 700 kyai/ustadz (lalu besoknya menjadi 1.700 kyai) berkumpul untuk membahas beberapa perkara, dan kemudian membuat fatwa bahwa Facebook haram.
Tapi di Kompas, dijelaskan bahwa ini hanya sebuah forum kecil antar pesantren yang dihadiri oleh 700 SANTRI dan nama 3 kyai disebut sebagai perumus makalah yang dibahas.
Saya kirim surat ini dalam bahasa Inggris ke Jakarta Post untuk memprotes sikap mereka yang selalu menghujat dan meremehkan Islam dengan sengaja, seakan-akan Jakarta Post lebih tahu Islam yang baik seperti apa (= Islam Liberal), dan mereka punya program tersembunyi untuk menjelekkan nama baik Islam dan menggantikannya dengan Islam Liberal.
Saya dapat balasan dari Jakarta Post yang mengatakan bahwa isi dari surat saya “akan dibahas secara internal saja”, atau dalam kata lain, mereka tidak mau menerbitkannya. Sayang sekali. Setiap hari, Readers Forum dipadati dengan surat, email dan bahkan sms dari pembaca yang membahas berbagai isu. Forum untuk tukar pikiran ini sangat bagus dan jauh lebih baik dari forum “surat pembaca” di dalam koran lokal yang lain. Sayangnya, tidak semua surat berhasil masuk. Silahkan baca.
Letter for publication in Readers Forum
Muslim clerics, Facebook, and the Post’s hidden agenda
Over the past few days, I have been saddened at the continuous distortion of the news in the Jakarta Post. It started on the front page last Thursday with an item from the Associated Press (AP) which stated that 700 clerics were considering an edict [fatwa] to ban Facebook, as it might be used for illicit sex or flirting (Post, 21 May).
On Saturday, the Post said that “many were shocked” to learn that “1,700 Muslim clerics of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU)” had actually banned Facebook (Post, 23 May) and then this issue made the front page yet again on Sunday (Post, 24 May). On Monday, the issue finally left the front page, moving all the way back to page two (Post, 25 May).
So what’s the problem? The problem is essentially that this is not “news” but rather carefully constructed sensationalism that I believe was created to serve an unstated agenda. The Indonesian newspapers Kompas and Republika, that also carried this story from the AP, revealed that the gathering in Kediri, East Java, actually consisted of 700 “students” from Islamic boarding schools for girls. They had gathered as part of a regular activity to discuss Islamic issues.
Kompas lists the names of only “three” Islamic clerics in attendance (and says a few others were present, without giving their names). It also says that these 3 real-life Muslim clerics (not 700, and not 1,700) created the list of questions for everyone to discuss in the forum. So, the real news (if you can call it news) was that 3 Muslim clerics created several questions for some boarding school students to discuss (as a regular academic exercise), and one question was about the possible inappropriate use of sites such as Facebook. That’s all.
However, when the AP and the Jakarta Post had finished distorting this non-event, the impression given is that either 700 or 1,700 “clerics” (not school students) wanted Facebook banned immediately. However, the “real news” carried by Indonesian newspapers, and also shown on Indonesian television, was merely a gathering of school students who were discussing topical issues in the privacy of their boarding school forum.
Is that what the Associated Press and the Jakarta Post consider a major news event deserving front-page coverage? How does such an insignificant forum of students end up becoming so heavily distorted and placed at the front of the Jakarta Post several days in a row? What is the real agenda here?
From observing the direction of Jakarta Post articles over several years, I have noticed a strong desire to sideline mainstream Islamic thought and promote irregular Islamic teachings that are not representative of the Indonesian Muslim population, or the overwhelming majority of ordinary clerics here. Rather than serving as a gateway for foreigners to learn about Muslim culture in Indonesia, the Jakarta Post prefers to decide unilaterally what Islam “should be like”, and then promote that idea of alternative Islam (specifically “liberal Islam”) at every opportunity. Thus, anything which doesn’t fit in with that agenda needs to be twisted, distorted, sensationalized, smeared and then scorned as if somehow mainstream Islamic thought (that is followed by almost 1 billion people) is some sort of naughty child that needs a good spanking from the Post in order to be corrected.
It is unfortunate and saddening that the Post continues to do this. I would be prouder of the Post if the editors maintained a neutral and more balanced approach to Islamic issues, and used the Post’s considerable influence to educate and enlighten others, and open doors so that non-Muslims could learn more about Islam as it is currently practiced by ordinary Muslims. If the Post continues to pursue an unstated agenda to demean mainstream Islamic teachings then the Post will continue to disappoint ordinary mainstream Muslims who expect a higher standard journalism.
25 May, 2009