What’s All That Noise?

As I sit here at the computer, trying to win my battle with the nyamuk (mosquitoes) in my room (and losing), I can hear the sounds outside my house of life going on around me in Jakarta – the roosters are crowing (and they never stop), the roti (bread) man is driving around and around with the funny electronic jingle he has attached to his bike, the bakso (meat ball) man is beating his little bell, the nannies are playing games with the kids (or each other) and hysterically laughing on the street, the old lady is endlessly sweeping the garden – swish swish – someone is clearing their throat…oh and spitting…aah the gentle sounds of the street that let me know that there is all sorts of funny and confusing stuff going on around me.  I think for a moment about how gentle and quiet it is in Jakarta, even though millions of people are teeming around outside of this quiet street going about their daily business.

And then….hmm what’s that sound…it’s 6pm…it’s coming…crackle crackle..the old speaker is being turned up to maximum volume…themuezzin is ready…he clears his throat, puts his mouth directly on the microphone and chants “Allahu Akbar Ash-had al-la ilaha illa llah…” (I think).

And then I realize again how little I understand about this place; its beats and rhythms, its beliefs and motivations, its tinny yet extremely loud speakers blaring out religious reminders 5 times a day whether you want to hear it or not.  I have come from a world where we keep things inside; we keep our voices down and don’t talk about our religious belief (mostly because we don’t have any) and now I am living in a city where religion rules.

My pacar, who is Indonesian and Muslim, laughs at me when I complain about the sound of the mosque – he says to me “if you don’t like the sound of the mosque, then you shouldn’t live in Jakarta” and I grimace and say, “But I love Jakarta, I just don’t understand why it has to be so loud” and he laughs in his annoyingly santai way and says “you should buy some land and build your own country”.  I suggest buying a little CB radio for every person in the surrounding area so they can choose to turn it on if they want the reminder, but he doesn’t even grace that with a response.  After all, he is right, this is Jakarta, it’s Muslim, people like the call to prayer, in fact, many are so used to it that they barely hear it anymore.

When it starts at 4am I am instantly awake, throwing the bed covers this way and that, while he continues to snore blissfully unaware of the madness happening beside him.  I think of bule responses to the problem – could I buy the mosque a new speaker?  Give a lesson in putting your mouth a few centimeters away from the microphone to take the away the distortion?

Then I think, in a world gone wrong, now isn’t the time to be complaining about anything to do with Islam.  I don’t mean that Muslims are scarey, I mean, while the West is having champagne cocktails over the murder of Osama Bin Laden (and forgetting they can’t afford the champagne cause they spent all their money bombing countries and killing people trying to find him), while Obama is making heroic speeches about the sweetness of revenge, it’s a time when women wearing jilbabs and people with brownish skin living in Western countries are at a greater risk of being attacked, of swastikas coming back in vogue, where the losers are pretending to be winners… the football hooligans have been unleashed; brainless and ignorant of the fact that they have been made fools of and lied to.

And so the holy wars continue.   Bible vs Qur’an.  Me and the rooster.  Osama vs Obama. Me and the muezzin.  Rich vs poor.  Rich vs rich.  Poor vs Poor.  Ah give me a drink.

So maybe I will ease off my internal battle with the muezzin and try and enjoy the sounds of Islam.  Cause when I think about it, it sounds a lot better than the call to prayer of the West…”Tonight on CNN…Operation Geronimo…Enemy Killed…Hurrah!”


8 Responses to “What’s All That Noise?”

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  1. Bible and the Quran will never fighting
    jakarta just a small part you will ever see and you’re complaining about muslim
    when you are in Arab countries are predominantly Muslim, it will make you crazy
    why you should complain about the teachings of one’s religion, when you stated about the sound of the call to prayer began to 4.56am, 11.58 am, 3.15pm, 5.54pm, 7.15 pm you hear it every day
    we as religious people have to live our beliefs brackish own, without having to disrupt and complain about one’s religion
    things like that without us knowing it has been triggered or caused the war between religious
    when you are in territory that tidah we like, you should be able to accept it
    better all religious people must unite and live in peace

    • treen may says:

      maybe you missed my point – that I agree with you and I am not complaining about Muslims at all. My point is that I am living in a foreign place and learning about it, thus the point of the blog, not putting down Muslims. Of course I agree that all people should get along and not fight over religion. And I wish this was the reality.

      If you think that Christians and Muslims haven’t been fighting for centuries though, then I will have to disagree with you. Have you ever heard of the Crusades? Of Muslims being pushed out of Europe? Of the Bush family? of the war in iraq? of racism against Muslims who live in America and Australia? Of Islamic women not being allowed to wear the jilbab in France? Of people oppressed because of their beliefs in Allah? Of the conflict in the Middle East?

      You have every right to practice your religion and to be proud of who you are.

      I am just a confused bule writing musings about my daily life…

  2. You know, the world’s largest religion is Christianity and Islam.
    Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Torah, the Psalms, sinto to Japanese religion, is only a small part
    I just answered your point about Muslims in your life in jakarta
    I also studied the Christian scriptures, and I’m also not a hypocrite to learn it. I just prove what is in my Muslim teachings, that the Quran is a complete all religions in the world.
    when I learn what’s in the same Christian content in the Muslim
    Whose father god jesus? .. surely the answer is the same god ALLAH as Muslims who have the same god
    why you confused should write your reflections, I also experienced the same thing about you ….
    when I traveled to Melbourne,I met australia people insulted Muslim Indonesia. He said: you Indonesian people, you’re a terrorist nation. I could only smile and pray for him to be able to think more adults
    I do not care about her greeting to me.
    if,have terrorists from a Christian what he is still berhujat like what I feel?
    when Obama delivered a speech on the death of Osama bin Laden, I am very proud of the role America against terrorists

    I really liked about your article
    I just exchanged opinions just to you, not judge you
    my proud and amazed against you, why could love my country……you are a smart girl

  3. welovejakarta says:

    Alonda, one of my favourite things to do is to argue, so I don’t take it as a judgment, just a discussion. I am sorry that some stupid person said such stupid things to you in Melbourne, unfortunately the world is full of ridiculous people who believe the crap they are fed from the governments and media.

    As for being proud about the American role against terrorists – don’t you think they are largely to blame for the creation of terrorists? they have been funding terrorists for years and it is a very well known and not disputed fact that in America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia which made the Americans a whole lot of cash and access to petrol, they were fully aware of what Osama Bin Laden was doing and helped to fund his campaign. The Americans pick and choose who is an enemy depending on who will agree to sell their resources and give America control – if people won’t agree, then America will go in with some excuse as “we have to bring down Sadam Hussein” or “Osama is hiding in the mountains of Afghanistan – he tortures women” and the world believes America is doing it for the good of the people, when it is very clear they only do things for the good of their own economy.

    Well, not for the economy of regular Americans who are currently unemployed and struggling to survive as America has outsourced all of its jobs to countries that will allow them to use their people as slave labour (see Indonesian sweat shops), but to fill the wallets of the big time business men.

    And the world goes on and on and the rich get richer and all the rest, and then me and you will continue to argue.

    Thanks for your comments, keep them coming!! yah!

  4. Derek says:

    Interesting and accurate description of Jakarta’s background hubbub!
    If any of your readers are interested in actually hearing the sounds of Jakarta for themselves (including the ubiquitous roti man), there are a number of sound files at the link… Enjoy!

  5. Bima says:

    He’s barking on the wrong tree there, the nice bub.

    As for me, the most ingenious paragraph in this post that made me almost collapsed in laughter was: “Cause when I think about it, it sounds a lot better than the call to prayer of the West…”Tonight on CNN…Operation Geronimo…Enemy Killed…Hurrah!””

    God, I love your blog, Treen.

    We need more “bule perspective” like you. Free but mindful, honest but not biting, refreshing and arguably unbiased, smart and insightful to boot.


    • welovejakarta says:

      haha, you are funny!I think I may be a little biased though 😉

      • Bima says:

        Hence the “arguably” word, mon ami. There’s no way in God’s given earth anyone could say anything without biased from his/her own perspective, that in turn, is also biased from other sources.

        But at least you do try to deliver reports as “as is” as possible. And spiced with your own sharp and clear yet colorful way of thinking, that’d would make for delicious foods for thought.