Lombokschwitz, Indonesia’s Ahmadi Shame

November 16, 2011

The rising tide of religious intolerance continues unchecked in the great ‘secular democracy’ of Indonesia. Diani Budiarto, the Mayor of Bogor, only sixty kilometres from Jakarta, thumbs his nose at the government, the Constitution, the Supreme Court and the essence of Pancasila itself by continuing to victimise members of the Taman Yasmin Indonesian Christian Church. “No church should be on a street named after a Muslim”, he said. Scholars are apparently still poring over the 114 Suras in the Qur’an to find any which might support his bigoted stance.

Elsewhere in Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi, Christian churches are burned, parishioners attacked and anyone who does not adhere slavishly to Islamic orthodoxy is marginalised. The police stand by and watch. The President, his hands tied by fundamentalist coalition partners, does nothing, thereby condoning the attacks.

In Cikeusik, West Java, 17 year old Dani bin Misra was released from jail to a hero’s welcome. He had received only a three month sentence for the violent murder of Roni Pasaroni, a member of the Ahmadiya sect, during a vicious siege of their home. Their house was torched by a fanatically screaming mob, two of its occupants being set upon as they tried to escape, then clubbed and slashed to death. In a stunning example of Indonesian jurisprudence, one of the survivors was sentenced to six months jail “for provoking the attack”, simply by being in the house. The police stood by and watched. The President called for the perpetrators to be caught and punished, but as is usual in Indonesian courts, the pressure from hard-liners ensured that prosecutors didn’t even bother to call eye-witnesses.

Hard-line Muslims don’t approve of the peaceful Ahmadis. Oblivious the the irony of her words, one resident of Cikeusik said, “We had to clean our village. This is no place for the followers of a cult.” The FPI, a fundamentalist band of uneducated thugs for hire, don’t approve of the Ahmadis either. In fact, they don’t seem to approve of anything that deviates from the ideology being forced upon Indonesians by the fundamentalists’ Arabic masters.

The FPI operates with impunity because the police let them. “As a part of society, the FPI is our partner … in a positive way”, said National Police spokesman Senior Commander Boy Rafli Amar. What else can he say? His boss, Chief of the Indonesian National Police General Timur Pradopo is reported to be a foundation member of the FPI. And despite knowing this, the President still appointed him to his position. What does that tell you about SBY’s commitment to tolerance?

But all of these violations of religious freedoms, all of this intolerance, violence and bigotry don’t really impact Bali, do they?. We can all relax in paradise, because these insanities perpetrated in the name of religion are a long way away in West Java, North Sumatra and Sulawesi, right?


Just 35 kilometres away lies Lombok, touted as “The New Bali” and a fledgling tourist destination. Lombok, which is predominately Muslim, also is home to a population of Ahmadiya – Muslims who have so offended fundamentalists by their belief in a variant of mainstream Islam that they are not even permitted to call themselves Muslims. This peaceful sect, who have been in Indonesia since 1925, has grown in numbers worldwide by 400% in the last ten years. In Lombok, their numbers have been savagely reduced by violent persecution by the local population. Their homes have been destroyed, their land and possessions stolen. Forcible conversions to the “true Islam” have decimated their numbers. Those who have asserted their right to freedom of worship have been hounded into a ghetto in Mataram.

The run-down Transito shelter in Mataram is now home to 140 Ahmadis, crammed into a shelter where sanitation is non-existent and where the government has cut off electricity three years ago. The government has banned them from returning to their homes and has refused to register them as residents of Lombok. Because they are not residents, their food aid was cut off last year, and they are denied the free gas stoves supposedly distributed by the government to all citizens. They are the forgotten people of Lombok. Presumably, everyone is waiting for them to die off in poverty and squalor so that the problem will go away.

What motivated the Lombok population to begin to destroy their own neighbours? Well for a start, maybe the 2005 edict issued by the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) against the Ahmadis started the ball rolling. The government, which had every chance to reinforce the propaganda that Indonesia is a secular nation by nipping this in the bud, dropped the ball and did nothing until 2008. At which time, inexplicably, a Ministerial Decree ratified the unconstitutional religious decree by making it law. Since then, fuel has been poured on the fire by Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali’s call for an complete ban on Ahmadiyah. To the uneducated and the poor, the message is clear. The Ahmadis are fair game.

The latest lame attempt at controlling religious thought comes from the government’s current draft Religious Harmony Bill. This masterpiece of bad drafting requires the consideration of “the local community’s wisdom” prior to the construction of a place of worship. Wisdom? It also wants to specifically regulate how people should spread their faith, celebrate religious holidays, construct places of worship, hold funerals and organize religious education. Have any of these intellectual giants considered the impact of a national law like that on a place like Bali? Unbelievable. Sounds like a law to promote intolerance, not eliminate it.

And once intolerance takes root, it’s hard to eradicate it. In Lombok, it’s not just the Ahmadis that are targets now. Ask any expat unfortunate enough to have a villa with Hindu iconography as part of the design. Ask them about the vandalism. Ask expats who have been brazen enough to politely request their village chiefs for the volume to be turned down on the 4.30am to dawn hyper-amplified call to prayer. Oh wait, you can’t ask them – they’re now in jail.

And ask poor, deaf,  Sadarudin, a harmless disabled Ahmadi resident of the Lombokschwitz concentration camp, who was the target of an attempted beheading by an intolerant coward with a machete. Ask him what he thinks about the politics of religious intolerance in Indonesia. Ask him what he thinks about pancasila, and the constitutional guarantees of freedom of choice of worship. Ask him what he thinks of the President of a  ‘secular democracy’ who allows his country to slide into a fundamentalist theocratic regime while his pious, hypocritical elites grow fat on graft.

Oh wait, you can’t – he’s fighting for his life in a Mataram hospital and can’t talk to anybody. Shame, Lombok. Shame, Indonesia.

— ooo —

15 November 2011: FPI, MUI and FKUB harass Ahmadis in Bekasi, just East of Jakarta

RELATED POSTIndonesia’s Silent Majority Silent While Country Is Hijacked [10 October, 2011]



  1. Great article! There are definitely a lot of injustices that have been touched upon here. Just wanted to point out one thing though. The expat who “politely asked” to have the music from the mosque turned down wasn’t so polite about it. He went in and pulled the plug on the loudspeakers starting quite a riot in the village. Funniest part is that he, an American expat living in Lombok is a practicing muslim himself, he was just sick of the noise. I still think that he being jailed for blasphemy was quite over the top and whenever I find myself in an area with a mosque playing that noise too loudly I wish I could do the same thing as he did. Like I said earlier though, great article.

    • I am led to believe that was a different expat. The one I referred to apparently followed protocol and approached the village head first. He still got arrested for insulting Islam. I didn’t mention the plug-puller because I am told there were other factors in play in that particular case …

      The Bali ‘locals’ are not immune either. A guy who does work for me is a Balinese whose family lives in Lombok. According to him, his family is often threatened by groups of thugs who come round and inform them that ‘their kind’ (Balinese Hindus) are not welcome in Lombok, despite having lived there for many generations.

      People who visited Lombok around 2006 when this rot started will also tell you that it was a scary time, with truckloads of agitators being brought in, burning and looting churches and homes, and generally making life very uncomfortable.

  2. Ok, then I retract my previous statement. I guess the guy you were talking about never made the news because a guy rationally talking something out is not interesting news LOL.

    I have several friends who are Balinese and live in Lombok. They for the most part tell me that while they aren’t particularly fond of the Sasak people, that the Balinese are generally well respected in Lombok. This would be in the Mataram and Cakranegara area though where there are many Balinese living. I imagine things could be a bit different where there are less Balinese like in the south and the east of Lombok.

    • My friend’s family is from the Mataram area. He says that most of the time, relationships with the locals are without stress, if not exactly cordial. The problems apparently arise when ‘outsiders’ come to Lombok and canvass the region to ensure that everything is running according to rules as they see them. So far, the interference has not gone any further than menacing visits. But it’s also telling that when challenged and stood up to, the interlopers backed down.

      I am increasingly finding that not all the news here seems to get reported. Papers need advertisers, and travel and tourism operators advertise. Perhaps they don’t like news that represents the region in less than glowing, ‘paradise-like’, Pollyanna prose. Perhaps some things are just not deemed newsworthy.

      That might also explain why conflict is under-reported in tourist jewels such as Gili Trawangan, just off the coast of Lombok, where a hostile mob of locals recently destroyed property under construction by a property developer. Despite the builder having all required titles and permits, the locals took exception because they had been illegally squatting on the land for years and wanted this state of affairs to continue. So they just got a mob together and tore down what had already been built.

  3. Another brave article Vyt… very few are willing to tackle such topics. Well done.
    I remember first hearing in the mid 80’s that ‘Lombok’ was set to become the next Bali. I’ve heard it every decade since – and I expect to continue to hearing this..
    But for many of the reasons contained in your post – I’m still unconvinced..
    Bali remains the expat island of choice – and your post clearly clarifies some of the reasons for that…

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