Jakarta, Indonesia: Coexistence in the Largest Muslim City and Country in the World

Laura Vasilion
May 2 · 4 min read

Talking to the World Project

Sometimes, I choose to revisit a country when its geographical breadth and expansive population demands more than one perspective.

Such is the case with Indonesia, a country of 250 million spread across 13,000 islands and many ethnicities.

Terrorists can’t win in the world’s largest Muslim city, it’s been said. I wanted to try and understand why by speaking to someone who lives in the capital city and was there on the day of the 2016 terrorist attacks in Jakarta.

Someone like Yusuf.

About Yusuf

Shortly before the attacks, my husband began playing a word game online with a man from Jakarta: Yusuf. After my husband offered to introduce us, I explained the blog to Yusuf and asked him if he’d like to participate. He said he did.

Thank you, Steve. Thank you, Yusuf.

Yusuf currently lives on the 33rd floor of an apartment building in West Jakarta. He works for ASTRA. All photos used in this post are Yusuf’s.

My Conversation with Yusuf Please look out a window and tell me what you see.

A new building with five towers that is being built. Also a toll road and civilian houses.

The population of Jakarta is about 10 million at night, 14 million during the workday. A total of 23 million if you include the surrounding area, what we call Jabotabek.

What is Jakarta’s ethnic makeup?

There are many ethnicities in Jakarta. The majority, about 80 percent, are native (Pribumi) Muslims. The rest of the population consists of Chinese, Americans, Dutch, Singaporeans, Koreans, Taiwanese, South Africans, Saudi Arabians, and other foreigners.

Jakarta is very liberal and most Muslims are very tolerant. Only small numbers of Muslims are extreme. I do believe they are being used by politicians and also some Middle East countries.

You were in the area of the January terrorist attacks in Jakarta, correct?

Yes, I was in a meeting. I was roughly 10 kilometers from the actual attacks.

Have things changed much since that day?

Nothing changed after the attacks. We do not scare with that kind of terror. It only makes us more solid to face them (the terrorists).

What is your country’s stand on gun control?

Private citizens cannot own guns. It is illegal to own guns. But, with a license, some people can have teargas for self-protection.

Which languages do you speak?

Indonesian, of course, and Malay, which is close to Indonesian. Also Chinese, Japanese, and English.

What do you want the rest of the world to know about your city and country?

Jakarta is a fine city for shopping, sightseeing. There are many historical sites. Good food and good massages. Both are cheap!

Don’t worry about terrorists in Indonesia.

We have very big traffic jams but our new mayor is helping to solve that with the new road infrastructure.

What is your favorite time of year in Jakarta?

During the rainy season some areas flood. Any other time is good.

As long as you have money, you are the king. The freedom to follow my religion and the ease in doing business also brings me joy.

If I came to your house for dinner, what would you serve me?

Depending on your request, most popular dishes are Javanese and Sundanese, such as fish barbeque, sate, Sayur Asam, Sayur Lodeh, Gulai, Tumis Kangkung, etc. Other famous dishes are Nasi Padang, Balado, and Ikan Rica-rica. Most dishes are made with chicken, not pork as Muslims do not eat pork. I am not Muslim, though.

What does your country do well and what do you wish it did better?

The new mayor of Jakarta is very good. He uses the money for the public, subsidizes public transportation, schools, and to tidy infrastructures. The only problem is that things take time because he needs to fight with parliament to get approval.

As for the country, I do believe having too many political parties makes it difficult for the government to move. But two parties, like in the U.S. is too little for us.

What is your opinion of the United States? Chicago?

I stayed for two years in New York and one year in Seattle, Washington. Never stayed in Chicago. Do not know much on Chicago.

U.S. is good but too liberal. And the U.S. government wants to be the world police. I do believe some points are good, but some are too involved in other countries.

Who or what inspires you?

B.J. Habibie, our former president.

In terms of nature and natural beauty, what are the most remarkable things about Jakarta and Indonesia?

We have many beautiful lakes, forests, and the famous islands of Bali, Sumba, and Fores. We have 13,000 islands in Indonesia and many fish species.

Originally published at http://www.chicagonow.com.

Talking to the World

A One-on-One Global Conversation. Focusing On Our Commonalities, Honoring Our Differences

Laura Vasilion

Written by

Editor of Talking to the World (https://medium.com/talking-to-the-world). Novelist. Freelance writer. Would rather be living in Iceland.

Talking to the World

A One-on-One Global Conversation. Focusing On Our Commonalities, Honoring Our Differences