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Osama bin Cool

Published: Jul 30, 2007

What do Indonesian students think about Osama bin Laden?

Katie Brayne

If you walk south along Jalan Malioboro past McDonalds, turn left into the Mall, take a right at Marks and Spencer, and then just before the ATM's take a left down the escalators, then, just opposite the Ericsson mobile phone store you'll find a small store with glass cabinets filled with stickers and T-shirts. In this store, on the bottom floor of Yogyakarta's favourite monument to western consumerism, you will find, next to stickers and T-shirts of the various Yogyakarta University logos, European soccer team logos and Yogya paraphernalia, a hand-written sign advertising the latest addition to the sticker collection - a proud portrait of Osama bin Laden, available in a variety of colours. T-shirts are also available, the sign reads on.

Further south, in an offshoot of the Beringharjo Market, you find the wooden boarded stalls of the book market. This labyrinth is affectionately known among Yogyakarta's large student population as 'shopping'. Amongst the old and new text books, newspaper clippings and pre-loved assignments and theses, a new book has flooded the market: Osama bin Laden versus America ('Osama bin Laden melawan Amerika') - a collection of essays from western and non-western academics and clerics translated into Indonesian.

In the aftermath of the Black Tuesday attacks in the US, Indonesian students are clearly interested in this man, whom America accuses of masterminding the most devastating attack on American soil since the Civil War.

So what do Yogya's students think about this infamous figure? This is what I wanted to find out amongst my friends and classmates at Gadjah Mada University and Muhammadiyah University Yogyakarta.

'I don't really know, and I don't really believe the recent news about Osama bin Laden because all the news comes from the West who want to put forward their particular point of view.'

'Scapegoat.'

'America is very scared of Osama. America says that because Osama is able to conduct such a terrorist attack, therefore he must have done it. This propaganda is proof of how scared America is of him.'

'Pretty cool in some ways.'

'He is the symbol of a revolutionary movement that is fed up with America's defence of Israel and its discrediting of Islam. Because of this sentiment, Osama bin Laden and his group hold violently strong beliefs against the West.'

'Osama is a true Islamic fighter, who is trying to free Islam itself from its status as a slave to American interests.'

'A militant who is prepared to sacrifice everything he owns for his religion and community.'

'An anti-American revolutionary who hates America for what he sees as their unjust role as world policeman.'

'He is great, but unfortunately he has no heart.'

'He is only presuming innocence.'

'It is not yet clear whether he did it, but it is clear that he agrees with it.'

'An anti-American, anti-imperialist militant.'

'He is one of the few men brave enough to oppose America. He is currently in hiding not because he is afraid, but because it is his strategy in facing America, who are currently playing judge without any strong proof. I think Osama didn't do it, but that doesn't mean he is not brave enough to do it'

'Osama bin Laden is a true Islamic militant whose goal is to free Islam from its fate as enemy number one to the West.'

Katie Brayne (kbrayne@hotmail.com) was a student at Gadjah Mada University through the Acicis program (wwwsshe.murdoch.edu.au/acicis).

Inside Indonesia 68: Oct - Dec 2001

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