Sun, 24 Nov 2002

Author spreads word of Islam through youths

Hera Diani, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

You cannot talk to teenagers unless you speak the same language: This logic was stuck firmly in Teguh Iman Perdana's mind when he started writing his debut work NgeFriend sama Islam (Being Friends with Islam).

Recently launched here in Jakarta, the book targets young people and provides them with the basic values of Islam, which is presented in a more informal, everyday language.

"It's been an obsession of mine for a long time, to write a religious book for young people. I see that they had so many problems and questions regarding the values of Islam, but mediums for talking about such issues are rarely available to them. Youth problems rarely surface at Islamic forums," said the 35-year-old businessman prior to the launching of the book.

In his experience as project officer of religious interactive programs at Prambors 102.3FM, a radio station targeting youths, Teguh constantly encountered young people who were curious about religious matters.

"During my nine years of working on the program, I came across the realization that young people still consider religion as an important part of their lives, but there is also confusion about it," said Teguh, who was with Prambors 102.3 FM from 1990 to 1999.

He added that recent research by Prambors showed that young people are well-informed about Islam, but that sources are scarce.

"They are aware that they need religion in their lives, but they don't know where to get information about Islam that is comprehensive and familiar, something with which they can identify their own lives," said the graduate of the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Indonesia.

Teguh said the radio program had succeeded in providing the correct medium for young people to speak about their religion. Unfortunately, the program was taken off the air for some unexplained reason -- but this, in turn, pushed Teguh to write his book.

The book is divided into three chapters: Yang Aneh, Yang Ajaib (Strange Things, Magical Things), Agama: Kudu dan Perlu (Religion: A Must and a Necessity), and Kenapa Islam (Why Islam).

The first chapter deals with the very basic values about Islam and their misperceptions, such as why many people relate Islam with lack of professionalism, poverty, and cruelty.

The second chapter includes discussions about the morality, secularism, and the inclusiveness vs. exclusivity of Islam.

The last chapter, meanwhile, focuses on the positive aspects and advantages of Islam.

The book is presented as a dialog between two college friends, who speak casually, complete with the latest slangs.

It is clear that Teguh wants to project a more modern and sophisticated face of Islam, which is illustrated by the characterization of the two young educated Muslims, and also the quotes and excerpts in the book.

The topics are presented in a quite comprehensive and structured way. Browsing this book, it will probably remind you a bit of Neale Donald Walsch's Conversation with God for Teenagers. The latter is probably more universal as it does not include certain religion.

This book is a good effort at bringing Islam closer to those young people wanting to know more about the religion and its values as relevant to their stage in life.