Long Live Islam Says Ann Njeri

Susan notes: I met the beautiful and amazing Ann Njeri at the Initiatives of Change Tools for Change conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in February 2009.

Although still a relatively young (she’s in her mid-twenties), Ann Njeri bowled me over with her confidence, energy, positive outlook and wit. Over a period of three days, I had the pleasure of sharing 12 hours with her and a group of about ten other women from around the world in a Peace Circle led by Jean Brown and Ann Njeri herself. It was a moving and transformational experience.

Now, Ann Njeri shares her travel and cultural experiences as her life journey continues...

ann_njeri_indonesia_2.jpgDear friends (June 30, 2009),

My perception, view and understanding of Muslims, Islam and terrorism… have totally changed!

The impression I now hold of Islam is purely different, positive and definitely better, compared to what I had some time back.

My change in attitude has been brought about by my walking a mile in the shoes of Indonesians. Living in their bedrooms, enjoying their cuisine, riding on their motor bikes, talking to the students- from Kindergarten to Universities, visiting their social places, watching them as they pray…. And the list continues!
Indonesia is an incredible country. Don’t mind if your geography is poor, mine is worse! It is predominantly a Muslim nation and has the largest population of Muslims in the world.  It is also the fourth largest population after China, India and USA and it is the third largest democratic country after India and USA.

Muslims Are Not Terrorists

I have to let you know that all the time I was there during Action for Life programme, six weeks in total; I hardly felt that I was in a Muslim country. Neither did I remember that I was with Muslims friends, I just felt the presence of compassionate friends!!

I use to think that Muslims were a strange, heartless and cruel people whose hobbies and passion included suicide bombing and terrorism!

But here I was, with all these lovely people who gave me a treat of a life time. They cared and shared everything and made sure that we all had enough! They respected me like one of their own, like an elder sister, a younger sister or a daughter. They didn’t care that I was a Christian neither did they care that I wore no Hijjab. They just practiced what Islam teaches “love and love”.
I didn’t expect Muslim youngsters to be dating. My imagination was that of strict and intolerable people. But to my surprise, boys and girls fall in love and date just like everyone and everywhere else I have been visiting!

Trust me they (Indonesians) are absolutely liberal when it comes to practicing their religion. They are not extremists. But I must mention that they are very disciplined with their five times a day prayers. No debate about that! (But this has done little to reduce the corruption in the place- on a lower note!)

A Question That Made Me Think

I felt challenged when we visited one of the universities. One very outstanding lady who was dressed up in full Hjjab covering everything but her eyes-the typical Muslim look that many of us have in our mind-  ( by the way this is very rare to see in Indonesia, most of the young people both ladies & gents wear jeans and tops+ t-shirts just like everywhere else!).

She later sent me a text message and asked me which religion I practiced. The next thing she asked me:
“Ann, what do you think of me? Do you think I am a terrorist like Osama Bin Laden?”

I was shocked and I felt in a fix. Why did she ask me this? I felt a bit mixed up. Whenever I had seen a person with a full Hijjab, I would see the terrorist in them!! I had not seen one in her - since I had already experienced the real Islam and my prejudices swept away.

I assumed she had asked me question since she had probably come across some extremists who had the ignorant thought that she was a terrorist…or made her feel like one! I know you will agree with me that we as human beings really know how to intimidate others. I felt for her.

But mostly I felt ashamed of the prejudices many of us are holding. Why do we take the standards of some extremists to judge everyone else?  Generalization is wrong and it will always be! Shame on us the people of the world!
Muslim is not Islam. Islam is not terrorism! Islam is the holy teachings…and Muslims are the people who practice it. Some interpret it in their own crooked and selfish way!

Muslims are not terrorists, and the terrorists do not practice the teachings of the Islam!! You can disagree with me if you want, but that is my opinion, an opinion and a fact that many Muslims in Indonesia shared with me. And I saw it with my eyes!
Live Long Islam!


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Related Links:
Ann Njeri Reports on Poverty in Cambodia
Take The Initiative, You Can Make A Difference
Ann Njeri Takes a Pledge of Peace
Initiatives of Change
Action for Life