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Detachment and Commitment: Amish Community and Another Moslem Story

Amish community, located in Lancaster, was, umm, unbelievable. I can’t promise you that I will be able to project how cute the people are, or how beautiful the area is, through words, probably not even through pictures. Amish people were originally come from Zurich, Switzerland. Their story began with a man named Simons, who had a little different opinion with Lutheran, Simon thought that baptizing should be optional, so that the people would be more absorbing the meaning of baptizing. Simon and his fellow made a new sect called Menonite.

Among this Menonite, however, there were other disagreements. A guy named Jacob Amman thought that the Menonite followers were sway with worldliness very fast. He wanted to return the faith of the people to the old time, when there were not so much distractions. He wanted the people to stay plain, to translate the bible literally, to stay pure. Surprisingly, the Amish moved to America with the same reasons like many other religious believers, to run away from prosecution. Because of its different lifestyle, there were many Amish priests who were jailed or even executed.

At first I thought it will be like Baduy people in West Java, but turned out that the Amish are more flexible. They live in a huge huge huge farming area. Unlike Baduy, they aren’t isolate themselves. They live among the people. They can have their houses side by side with other people’s. They go to the store, selling things to people and buying from them. They mingle with other people. The kids go to school, but only for 8 years. They learn basic things such as english, math, history, geography and so on. But they will not go to higher education because they avoid the children knowing too much about the other world that it makes them leaving the Amish culture. Amish people refused to get the picture taken. Stacy and Debra had different thoughts about it. Debra said that the reason they don’t want any picture is because the sense of worldliness, but Stacy said that the Amish believe their soul would be taken away along with the pictures. But during our trip in the area, we are allowed to take pictures of their animals, their buggy horse, their houses et cetera, just not the people. 

We are still a little bit confused with their technology restrictions though. Because they are not allowed to have telephones or televisions. Basically their houses arent hooked with electricity wire. But then, at one of the family’s house that we visited and we had our dinner with. The family served us with fresh bread and peanut butter, meat ball, chicken and mash potatoes, brownies and ice cream. And these meals couldnt be prepared or preserved without the helped of electricity. The meatball and chicken for example, definitely needs microwave. While ice cream needs to be kept in the fridge.

We also saw the fridge and the microwave. These equipments are apparantly ran using the diesel generator, so they are allowed to have that kind of electricity, but not having the wire connected to their houses. Saddie Mae, the Amish lady, was also telling us that she had a friend driving her to the market sometime. She is allowed to ride in the car, but not to drive it. I asked our tour guide, Jane, what was the border of what to do and not do, and she said that as long as the priest said that it is okay, then they are not in troubles. It is still confusing for me. But I guess, what is obvious in the middle of the paradox is the Amish’s detachment from the worldliness.

They might use some modern equipments, but they CAN live without it. Saddie Mae wouldnt mind if her friend cant give her a ride that day, she’ll still serve us meals withour her microwave. Amish community are basically surrounded by the modern world, you can find cafe and convinient stores nearby, and they meet tourists everyday-tourists wear fashionable clothes and show their camera and cellphones, but the Amish remain with their salad dress, strap pants, scooter and buggy horses. They are not tempted and rather to continue their simple and modest life. As Stacy said, their world might be small, but they want it that way.

We also went to the Islamic centre. I wasnt very excited at first, because we had so much about Islam since we started in Indonesia and in Michigan. But the guy we met, Pak Rizwan, was great and I liked him a lot. He came from Bahrain and just like most of the moslem who came from a country with moslem majority, he took his religion for granted. He was just like another teenager too, he was in the band and played Pink Floyd to Metalicca. And then he came to United States.

At first he said that he was pretty shy with his identity and rather not to show people about it, since he was worried that he will be treated differently. But then he decided that he wanted to learn about Islam from the very basis, and so he did, and he found that Islam is a very beautiful religion and now he dedicated himslef to be faithful. One of the very interesting parts that he mentioned was about the gender equality in Islam. What he emphasized was basically fact that men and women are created differently.

Man is physically stronger, while woman is weaker and more sensitive. But it doesnt mean that they are not equal. Each have different roles, different responsibilities and different previllages. In the Qur’an, man is responsible as the provider of the household. They have to provide foods, money, clothings and so on to her wife, her children, or even her other family members. It doesnt mean that women cant work. They can. In fact, if the women works and gets paycheck, the money is her absolute right and she doesnt need to share with anyone else including her husband. Meanwhile in husband’s money, there are included the wife’s right. This is one of the previlege that is own by women, and that to some extent, man has more responsibility. Islam does not put women as second class citizens.

So why is that we found many violations toward womens rights in Islamic country, using religious teaching as a shield? All I know is this is a major degradation in Moslem’s life. In the life of Prophet Mohammad, even in the era of 4 khalifah after he passed away, women enjoyed the chance to do what men did. They were actively involved in public. Siti Khadijah, Prophet’s wife, was a very succesful and rich merchant. In the leadership of Umar bin Khatab, a government officer who was responsible for the market conditioning also led by a women.

But after the Khalifah of Ali bin Abi Thalib, women started to be kept in the house. Some said that at the time, it was a sign of social prestige. The less likely your women to be seen in public, the more prestigious you are. Besides this odd cultural shifting, I also see that the discrimination toward women also happen because of the misconception about responsibility.

Men do have a big responsibilty to his wife and his family, it means that he needs to protect her and them and make sure that they are happy. This responsibility has absolutely different meaning with overpowering. Most people, not neccesary men, identify responsibility with previlages. Take our parliament member, for example, they feel the great importance of their role toward Indonesian society, that they used it as a vehicle to overpnd to take advantage. Greater responsibility does not justify you for being mean to people that you are responsible for. Responsibility means commitment.

Our discussion with Rizwan had to stop because we heard the adzan started to call people for prayer. I felt very touched. I went to pray. Cindhi was very happy and she hoped that I can continue to commit.


Anggita Paramesti, mahasiswi FISIPOL UGM yang pernah mengikuti program pertukaran pelajar AFS-YES ke Amerika Serikat tahun 2007-2008. Pada tahun 2011 Ia berangkat ke Mindanao, Filipina Selatan untuk mengikuti Silsilah Summer Course on Moslem-Christian Dialogue  bersama komunitas lokal Zamboanga. Ketertarikannya pada isu-isu global seperti dialog antaragama, hak-hak minoritas, feminisme dan budaya membuat anak kedua dari dua bersaudara ini kritis terhadap kondisi di sekitarnya. Saat ini Gita bekerja sebagai Interpreter dan guru Bahasa Indonesia untuk pelajar asing di Realia Language and Cultural Center, Yogyakarta.

By Louie Buana

Alumni Universitas Gadjah Mada yang sedang melanjutkan studinya di Universiteit Leiden, Belanda. Pernah mengikuti pertukaran pelajar ke Amerika Serikat selama setahun di bawah program AFS Youth Exchange & Study (YES). Penulis novel "The Extraordinary Cases of Detective Buran" ini memiliki hobi jalan-jalan, membaca buku, dan karaoke. Find out more about him personal blog.

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