I must make it clear right from the beginning, that I am against the Israeli aggression towards what the media rightly or wrongly quote as Lebanese State.

The Israeli aggression, and once again I am against it, is not against the Lebanese State. It is against the Hezbollah, a militant organization that makes use of religious idioms to fight their cause. They have also made use of the Lebanese soil as their headquarters. So, it must be understood clearly that the Israeli aggression is not against Lebanon, but against Hezbollah, a militant organization. It is indeed unfortunate and very sad that Lebanon must suffer, that its beautiful and peace loving people must suffer.

Lebanon has suffered much in the past, and it is still suffering….. Why? To get an answer we must trace the history of Lebanese State. Lebanese State, as was the Israeli State, was created by the allied forces after the last world war. The reason behind its creation was to have a state for the Christians of the region, most of them originated from Syria. It was the same reason behind the creation of Israeli State – a Nation for the Jews.

Not far from the region, from the Middle East – in the Indian Subcontinent too a state was created for the Muslims of the region. And, Pakistan was born.

Now, when we look at the prevailing conditions in those states, what do we find? We find nothing but conflict, discord and disharmony. The people, though prosperous, are not at peace. They live in constant fear. Why? Because they used religion to divide people and create states out of such division. Religion, and for that matter, any religion, is not meant for that. Religion is to unite, not to separate.

It is clear that the allied forces, including their superiors, governments and high officials – did not have an inkling of what religion was. Nor did their local counterparts have. Those local politicians used religion to come to power. It was all politics, and they used religion to appease their hunger for power and authority.

And, so when Jinnah, the Father of Pakistani Nation made a statement that the State would honor all religions equally and protect the people irrespective of their religious differences – the fundamentalists did not like it. They even tried to kill him. They understood, translated and interpreted religion differently than Jinnah.

The irony is that such differences have been there from time immemorial. Religious doctrines and dogmas are subject to interpretations and misinterpretations. No matter how tightly you try to guard, secure and protect them against such interpretations and interpretations, religions are open by their very nature, and therefore will always be prone to understanding and misunderstanding. Now, what do you expect when you turn the religious dogmas and doctrines into an ideology for the state? You create an instable state that must be ruled with iron hand. Without the military junta, you cannot hold such a state for very long.

This was proven by the creation of Bangladesh.
Pakistan could not hold its eastern territory for more than three decades. Both the western and the eastern Pakistan shared same religious background. The majority of people were Muslims. Yet, they could not live together. For, each of them interpreted religion based on their own cultural background. The western Pakistan is very much influenced by the Punjabi Culture, which is aggressive and very similar to the Arabic Culture. The eastern Pakistan is influenced by the Bengali Culture, a mixture of Central, South Indian and Chinese Cultures. They are low-tempered. And, the Central Government dominated by the Punjabis began to exploit them. Until, the Bengalis decided that enough was enough, and fought for their independence. They go it, and Bangladesh was born.

Religion is something very personal.
It is not the belief, but the behavior that matters. Unto that end, an individual must have the freedom to understand, interpret and practice religion to suit his or her needs. The idea behind any religion, in my opinion, is to turn a man or a woman into a contributor – a contributor to peace, to love, to mutual understanding, to harmony and unity amongst people.

Now, how does a doctor contribute to all those things? And, how does an engineer contribute? Surely, each of them would use their own skills and academic as well as professional backgrounds to make such contribution. A doctor can contribute by working on “health for all”. An engineer must contribute by “building bridges for all”. You cannot force a doctor to build a bridge or an engineer to work for health. So, a doctor must have the freedom to interpret religion for health purposes, and an engineer must have the freedom to interpret it for a different purpose together.

What we find now is quite the opposite.
The right to interpret is secured by a group of clergies. And, they make sure that no-one else shares that right with them. Any attempt made by anyone outside their group would be declared blasphemy. To ensure their position, power and sole authority, they often join hands with politicians and rulers who share the same concern. They too would like to hold on their positions for ever. So, the arrangement between these two groups, the clergies and the rulers – is simply perfect. Theirs can be the most romantic affair.

Now, how does Democracy fit in such arrangement?
It does not. It cannot. It has no place in such an arrangement.

You do not, of course, expect Democracy in conservative Saudi, but not even in the Emirates that is the most modern group of states in all Middle East.

Lebanon has been trying to venture upon something different. Lebanon has been trying to be a free nation in its truest sense, in its truest meaning of the word. They have been trying to build a free nation where people can express themselves freely. Unfortunately, before doing that they forgot to deal with the radicals in their system. And, when finally they realized their mistake and tried to do something, it was already too late. The radicals had turned into militants. These are the very militants that we now know as Hezbollah.

What does Indonesia have to learn from this?
We should not make the same mistake that Lebanon made. Radicals must either be pacified or punished for sake of peace. Of-course all done in non-violent manner.

The radicals taking over the job of police must be stopped. They cannot destroy in the name of law. They cannot punish people in the name of religion. They are no defendants of religion. Do not misjudge them because of their attributes or name of their organizations.

Lebanon allowed the militant Hezbollah to grow, and now the whole nation suffers on their account. People of Lebanon are terrified by them, they are held hostage by them. Lebanon is actually done with war. Hariri, their last head of state was committed to peace in the country, peace between the different sections of Lebanese community. What happened to him? He was killed in cold blood. Who killed him? Your guess is as right as mine.

Radicals and militants are not doing any good to the country. They do not stand for the people. They stand for their own groups, their own people. They stand for what they believe to be their ideals. They are committed to violence, to anarchy. But, whatever and whoever they are, they are our own kith and kin. We must not leave any stone unturned in our effort to pacify them, to make them understand that violence never pays.

You do not agree with the policies of American Government, the U.S. Government. So do I. I do not agree with their policies too. But, I do not bomb the Americans for that. I do not harm just anybody that we can lay our hands upon. I have nothing against them. I have nothing even against the American politicians and diplomats. I am against their policies, especially their foreign policies, for those policies affect me, affect our country. So, I must be smart enough to forward my point and convince them that their policies are in urgent and dire need of some rectification. I must be able to make them see the truth more holistically.

Above all, I must be able to free them from fear.
They must be convinced that we are friends, and should not be feared. Once they are convinced of that, their whole outlook and behavior towards us will change. It has to change. It must change.

I have got nothing against Hezbollah.
Nor do I have anything against the radicals and militants in my own country. Indeed, many a times I sympathize with their cause. But, not with their means – I do not sympathize with the violent means that they adopt.

It is not only the duty, but the responsibility of our Government to see to it that there is no radicalism in our society. Often we get entangled in the terms. We allow fanaticism, for in our opinion, it is harmless. I have even heard our ministers stating that being fanatic about one’s own religion is not wrong. I would like to agree to disagree with them in this issue. Fanaticism is the womb where radicalism is conceived, and finally terrorists are born. A fanatic person can turn into fascist in no time. In any case, a fanatic person is already hard, and hardness of character is first sign of violence. One should be firm, not hard. Firmness implies understanding of other person’s point. Hardness, on the other hand, has nothing to do with understanding.

First of all, Indonesia must free its education system from religion as a subject. Religious values which are universal should be incorporated in all subjects. That would be true understanding of religion and fine mean for the propagation of its values.

By teaching religion as a subject, we cannot but highlight the differences between one religion and another. We are also trapped into projecting our religion as the best. In the course, we forget the Divine Ordinance and Its Equal Sanction for all religions. This way we have been contaminating, even poisoning the tender minds of our children. In our ignorance, we have opened path for them to turn into a fanatic and fascist.

Lebanon has suffered much for letting their children learn religion in that way. Do we learn from their mistake and suffering? Or, do we repeat their mistake and thereby ensure suffering for our people? The choice is ours – mine and yours. And, we must make the decision now. Or, it would be too late. And, the Lebanese Experience can be our experience.