The Jakarta Post
At a time when internet comments can send people to jail or ignite a rowdy protest on the street for offending the powers-that-be or the majority, a respected and influential Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) cleric’s decision to forgive the man who insulted him on Twitter has been met with praise.
Mustofa Bisri, affectionately known as Gus Mus, has arguably been the most respected cleric in NU, the country’s largest Islamic organization, since the passing of former president and NU chairman Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid.
However, the fact that millions of NU followers are behind him does not make the 72-year-old cleric, who is an avid Twitter user, immune from internet insults.
A 25-year-old man named Pandu Wijaya sparked the anger of NU followers recently after throwing an insult at Gus Mus for advising Muslims to not join the planned rally in Jakarta on Dec. 2.
The rally is being organized to demand Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama be arrested and detained after having been charged with blasphemy.
Gus Mus called on those who were offended by the blasphemy attributed to Ahok to reconsider their plan to hold the rally, during which they will reportedly also conduct a Friday prayer along Jl. Thamrin and Jl. Sudirman, as well as at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, all in Central Jakarta.
“I heard the information that Friday prayers will be performed on the streets [during the rally]. I hope that is not true,” said Gus Mus on his Twitter account @gusmusgusmu. “If it is true, wow — in Islamic history, since the time of the prophet of Allah, never has there been such a major heresy. The Islamic world would be stunned.”
Pandu, who has the twitter handle @panduwijaya, responded to Gus Mus’ tweet: “There was no asphalt [roads], Gus, in the deserts. The first revelation about Friday prayers was given to the prophet when he was migrating to Madina. Heresy, ndasmu!”
Ndasmu, which literally means “your head”, is a Javanese insult that is highly offensive if used against a respected figure. The term suggests that a person at the receiving end of the insult does not know how to use his brain.
Given his age and his status as an ulema (a learned man), Gus Mus is regarded in Javanese society as a wise old man who should be treated with respect. Pandu’s insult is offensive not only to Gus Mus, but to many of his followers.
PT Adhi Karya, the company where Pandu works, apologized to Gus Mus and decided to reprimand its employee. GP Ansor, a youth wing of NU, had threatened to go to Pandu’s house to ask clarification from his family.
In response to the company’s mea culpa on behalf of Pandu, Gus said, “There is nothing to apologize for. His fault is only using ‘special language’ in a public space. We should understand he is still young.”
He also asked Adhi Karya not to fire Pandu.
Facing public criticism, Pandu apologized on Twitter, saying he was deeply sorry for his rude words and hoped that Gus and his followers would forgive him.
Last Friday, Pandu, accompanied by his family, visited Gus Mus at his Islamic boarding school, Raudlatuh Tholibin, in Rembang, Central Java. Pandu and Gus Mus had their pictures taken together and they put the issue to rest.
Wahid Foundation executive director Yenny Wahid, one of Gus Dur’s daughters, said that Gus Mus had shown a good example on how to deal with online insults.
“The Prophet Muhammad never fought back when he was attacked, had stones thrown at him, defamed and so on. He always prioritized forgiveness and never told his followers to fight back,” she told The Jakarta Post.
Some Twitter users have also praised Gus Mus for his benevolence. “Gus Mus has taught us that if someone deliberately insults you, dialogue is the best solution ,” said a Twitter user with the handle @zuhairimisrawi.
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