Posts Tagged ‘Aceh’

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Watering The Seeds Of Religious Intolerance

August 6, 2013

Here are two sad little tales that encapsulate the rot that is slowly eroding the previously harmonious social fabric of Indonesia. The stories are connected, but separate; their threads weaving dark changes in the characters and mindsets of their protagonists, and diminishing their faith in humanity.

A few months ago, a woman from a lovely family in Sumatra, despite being comfortably settled in Medan, accompanied her husband to Perawang, a village 50 kilometres from Pekanbaru in Central Sumatra. He had secured a better job there, and while it was hard to shift so far away from the family’s love and support, they made the move. They found a house and executed all the necessary agreements to rent it for twelve months. It seemed like a friendly neighbourhood, and the local residents appeared welcoming. But that was soon to change.

After having lived there for just over a month, and having settled in – with all the usual establishment expenses – there was a knock at the door. The house owner was standing there, and he did not look pleased.

“What religion are you?” he demanded without preamble.
“We’re Christian – why?” was the bemused reply.
“You have to get out of the house”, demanded the owner. “We are all Muslims here. You are not welcome.”

Stunned, the couple protested, saying that the owner had already agreed to a twelve-month rental, that he had sighted their KTP identity documents (which specify to which of the six ‘government-approved’ religions one belongs), and that they had done nothing to upset any of the neighbours. The owner was unmoved. “I don’t care. Get out now. We don’t want you here.”

So they were forced to move, and having lost their rental money – and their house – to a religious bigot, had no option but to seek charitable help from their local church. Fortunately, the church showed a compassionate face sadly lacking amongst the Muslims of Perawang, and allowed them to use one of their church properties, where they found temporary sanctuary.

Meanwhile, here in Bali, my good friend Septyni was furious. You see, the woman in question is her sister, and she is both fiercely protective of her sibling and enraged at the bigotry displayed towards her and her husband. For the five years I have known her, Septyni has always been one of the most tolerant and accepting human beings I have ever met. But her family’s crisis in Sumatra, together with the constant news of religious intolerance towards minorities in the press, have begun to change her. She is developing a profound distrust and dislike of the dominant religious group in Indonesia, and this, while sad, appears to be a view shared by more and more people as abuses continue.

And so to the second part of the story, the timing of which was both unfortunate and destructive. Through an acquaintance, Septyni recently met someone who had just arrived  from Aceh – a man who was looking for a job and a place to stay. Ever-helpful to all people, regardless of their origins or faith, Septyni gave him helpful advice about job-seeking strategies and about settling in to Bali life.

She helped him to find accommodation at her kost, where there was a room available for rent. She guided him in his search for ads for job vacancies, and helped him to find a motorbike to rent. And when his rented bike developed mechanical issues and became difficult to ride, she even lent him her own bike and rode his faulty bike herself. He was a neighbour now, and in her view, one should help thier neighbours.

She didn’t pay much attention to his pronouncements that he was “a good Muslim”, because in her mind, a person’s faith is a personal matter between them and their god, and irrelevant to most normal human interactions. So as a Christian, and as a good person, she helped him, not because she wanted anything from him, but because that’s the sort of person she is.

And then this bastard, who called himself “Adang”, repaid her kindness by waiting until she had inadvertently left her room unlocked while using the shower at the other end of the building, sneaking into her room, and stealing 400,000 Rupiah and some of her books, leaving her with insufficient money to pay her rent or buy food. By the time she had finished her shower, he had disappeared for good – no doubt to find someone else to rip off.

Her sister’s forced eviction and her experience with this opportunistic thief were two events that occurred within days of each other. As a result, this kind, tolerant woman now has a deep antipathy towards Muslims – perhaps unwarranted on the basis of only two incidents – but wholly understandable given the very personal nature of her experiences.

She is now on the brink of becoming intolerant – a state of mind previously completely foreign to her, but now precipitated by the appalling behaviour of some people, who just happen to be Muslim. Each new anti-social event she experiences in Indonesia, each new example of religious bigotry, will continue to water the seeds of her intolerance until they produce the same toxic flowers of hate and misunderstanding that we see growing every day elsewhere throughout the archipelago.

The government should do something to stop this rot, instead of promoting it as they are doing, despite their weasel words to the international community. And maybe the vast mass of tolerant Muslims should reclaim their once-vaunted reputation for friendliness and hospitality by opposing those in power who continue to promote Muslim supremacy over all others.

Because if they don’t, the situation will only get worse – and Indonesia will implode.

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Gaga Saga Is Over, But Reverberations Continue

June 10, 2012

The shouting, threats and moralising are over. The vicious little thugs of the FPI got their way of course – there is no-one left in Indonesia with the balls to stand up to these extortionists.  They employed their usual tactics – threats, the promise of violence and lies about the performer’s supposed personal affiliation with the Devil himself.

Using the smokescreen of religion, they browbeat an ineffectual police force into delaying a ‘permit’ for the Lady Gaga concert to try to force the promoters into staging a watered-down version suitable for their sixth-Century sensitivities. Minds like that are incapable of understanding the logistics involved in re-costuming, re-lighting, re-scoring and rehearsing a major concert.

The FPI, despite their ‘moral and religious’ aversion to all manner of commonplace activities, seem to readily forget their objections if they are paid enough bribe money. Just look at the dangdut venues, the brothels and strip joints, the venues where drugs are freely available and where the under-age children of the elites frolic with impunity. Pay the FPI, pay the police, pay a bunch of corrupt officials, and the pathway to Hell magically transforms itself into the pathway to Heaven.

But this time they blew it. Their own bully-boy antics, the traditional ‘hands-out’ feet-dragging by the police, the knee-jerk opposition by an assortment of religious bodies and the smarmy sermonising by a certain fundamentalist-controlled English-language newspaper all combined to get the concert cancelled.

But they all forgot about the Law of Unintended Consequences. Gaga is a world-wide media phenomenon, and once the spotlight had swung onto Indonesia, the country’s demons could no longer be hidden inside a pretty cocoon spun from the threads of political double-talk. Journalists from all over the world saw the cancellation for what it was – interference in artistic freedom of expression – and looked deeper.

What they uncovered, and published, was not at all flattering to a country that claims to be a secular democracy. They noted with interest that the FPI acts as a paid goon squad for the police, and when not under instruction from their masters, freelance as a Mafia-like mob specialising in stand-over tactics and protection rackets. They discovered that the Head of the National Police, Timur Pradopo, is a founding member of the very same FPI that enjoys such an astonishing immunity from arrest and prosecution. They unearthed the intriguing fact that Indonesia’s somnolent president has referred publicly to the FPI as his “brothers”.

They have found that Indonesia’s much-vaunted religious tolerance is a sham, and that any crackpot regional head or mayor has more power than the President, being able to defy rulings from the Supreme Court, closing and burning Christian churches and harassing, intimidating, and physically beating their congregations using FPI mobsters. They have reported on numerous cases of the apparent breakdown of the rule of law and have asked why it is that the police stand by – doing nothing – while these atrocities are committed.

They have been asking why the Ahmadis, amongst the most peaceful of Moslems, have been systematically marginalised, brutalised, and even killed by rampaging mobs of FPI-led fanatics, and the survivors herded into obscene concentration camps such as those in Lombok. They write with disbelief about the killers of Ahmadis getting three-month ‘sentences’ for murder, while their surviving badly-injured victims get six months for ‘provoking’ the violence by merely existing.

They have written about violent attacks on Canadian author Irshad Manji during her visit to Indonesia, where she tried to talk about her book, which ironically promotes tolerance.

They have commented about the rigidities of the Shariah Law-dominated province of Aceh, where new laws prohibit sale of ‘tight clothing’, women are forbidden to be alone with men, public canings are customary, and where punks are marched off to ‘re-education camps’ to recite passages from the Qur’an, their hair forcibly being shorn before they are thrown into a lake as punishment for their personal mode of expression.

They see Shariah-inspired regional by-laws being enacted all over the nation, and the entire West Java city of Tasikmalaya being transformed into a fundamentalist Shariah city-state by religious zealots in direct contravention of Indonesia’s Constitution. The FPI, of course, supports these moves towards a totalitarian theocracy without question.

It’s all supposedly about morals, you see, which the self-appointed vigilantes of the FPI are determined to police. Tight clothing is immoral. Lady Gaga is immoral, and a ‘Satanist’ to boot. Christians and Ahmadis, Shi’tes and most foreigners are immoral. Authors with a libertarian viewpoint are immoral.  But apparently FPI extortion rackets, violence and murder are not immoral. Apparently corruption in government, where literally hundreds of billions – that’s dollars, not rupiah – are stolen is not immoral, nor is unilateral termination of foreigner’s contracts and mining leases, or ad hoc changes to the divestment rules of foreign corporations. And Arabian belly-dancing, or near-naked local dangdut performances are not immoral either. No wonder the world’s media is getting confused.

This country still has blasphemy and apostasy laws. It has punished a man who wrote “God does not exist” on his Facebook page. It allows only six ‘approved’ religions, but marginalises all but one. People of the Jewish faith, at least those with Israeli passports, are not even permitted to enter the country. It has a Ministry of Religious Affairs, which deals almost exclusively with Islamic Affairs. Despite the overwhelming evidence of a huge rise in religious intolerance, its Minister, Suryadharma Ali, recently described Indonesia “the most tolerant country in the world.” No-one seems to believe him, not even in Indonesia.

One good result of the FPI’s self-righteous posturings – and the official dithering over Gaga – is that the government of Indonesia has inadvertently been put under the microscope.  The world has discovered that the beleaguered and endemically corrupt ruling party relies on the support of the radical Islamist parties for its survival. People are beginning to understand why the government so regularly appears to cave in to every religious-based whim and fantasy from these minority power-brokers, no matter how much it damages the country. They are beginning to suspect that because those fundamentalist parties have only ever managed to scratch up 25% of the vote, they will do anything to mobilise the religious vote in order to consolidate their constituency before the next election.

Meanwhile, the world’s media, human rights organisations, and foreign investors are all now trying to understand why Indonesia is allowing itself to be held hostage by a group of radical Islamists whose ideology is not religious, despite their purported piety, but political.  They grapple with the dissonance embedded in nationalistic government rhetoric about undesirable foreign influences, while the same government embraces a foreign pseudo-religious culture, one whose attire, attitudes and modes of political action are not of Indonesia, but Saudi Arabia, the source of its funding.  The oft-stated agenda of these imported radicals is the creation of a world-wide Islamic Caliphate – and if that means the destruction of the beautiful Indonesian culture of yesteryear, then so be it. They don’t really care.

The most powerful weapons than can be deployed against the creeping radicalisation of Indonesia is world-wide media scrutiny of the fanatical religious elements within the nation, and a subsequent growth in awareness amongst its own populace as to what is really happening to their country. In some pockets of Indonesian society, this epiphany is already happening. With luck, it will spread to the silent majority too, especially those tired of being lumped in with extremists and terrorists as being the face of Indonesia.

And if this attitude prevails, when reason and tolerance finally reclaim their rightful place in Indonesia, we will have both the FPI thugs and Lady Gaga to thank.

Now wouldn’t that be ironic?

 

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In Their Own Words – The Wisdom Of The Elites: Part 3

January 12, 2012

Go to Part 1  •  Go to Part 2

PART 3 more public statements made by those in high places in Indonesia. These are an endless source of amusement, wonder, embarrassment, amazement and despair. Many of their pronouncements seem to be characterised by outright denial, shifting blame to others, justifications, outright lies and misplaced piety. Here is a selection of gaffe-prone luminaries, their immortal words, and the context in which they were uttered. You couldn’t make this stuff up.


Netty Prasetyani Heryawan, Head of the West Java Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Agency

Showing a strange lack of compassion for a “women’s empowerment” official, she stated that women have only themselves to blame if they fall into the clutches of human traffickers and prostitution rings. As reported in The Jakarta Globe, she said:

“They’re … leaving West Java only so that they can live out their hedonistic lifestyles.” 
“For these women seeking a hedonistic life, they end up becoming victims of human trafficking.”


Marzuki Alie, House of Representatives Speaker

The poor attendance records of many House members, and their reported manipulation of the current signature-based attendance log, has resulted in calls for a fingerprint reader system. The House Secretary General, Nining Indra Saleh, announced that the cost would be about Rp 4 billion. Marzuki Alie vehemently disagreed, citing his expertise in IT:

“… my calculation is different. My background is in information technology, so I’ve processed it. It’s not correct … I don’t think the equipment should cost any more than Rp 200 million. Rp 4 billion? That’s crazy.”

A few days later, Marzukie Alie had revised his expert calculation upwards by a staggering Rp 1.2 billion, saying that the plan should cost no more than Rp 1.4 billion.


Amir Syamsuddin, Justice and Human Rights Minister

The just-inaugurated Amir refused to comment on the recent spate of killings of villagers in Sumatra, allegedly by security forces and police, defended his reluctance to talk by saying:

“I should not talk about human rights. It is something that I’m not good at …”


Inspector General Iskandar Hasan, Aceh Police Chief

After sixty four young people were arrested by Aceh police for the non-existent ‘crime’ of being ‘punks’, they were beaten, had their heads forcibly shaved, were thrown in a lake and held underwater. After their unlawful arrest, they were subjected to a 10-day ‘re-education’ program at the Aceh State Police camp.

After several foreign embassy officials questioned the illegal arrests, assaults and forcible detention, the Police Chief dismissed their concerns, saying:

“… it’s a tradition. When I was still in the police academy, we were all pushed and plunged into a lake.”


Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal, Deputy Mayor, Banda Aceh

Freely admitting that she is on a moral crusade against the punk community, the Deputy Mayor justified the action taken against punks, claiming that:

“This is a new social disease affecting Banda Aceh. Their morals are wrong. Men and women gather together, and that is against Islamic Shariah.”


Eddie Widiono, former president of the State Power Company PLN

On being sentenced to 5 years for corruption involving Netway, a company for which he fraudulently approved a contract for Rp 92.7 billion, when the real cost was only Rp 46 billion, he complained:

“I feel really hurt by being said to be unprofessional,” he said. “This really hurts my track record.”


Sofyan Usman, former lawmaker from the United Development Party

During his graft trial on 29 December 2011 for allegedly receiving bribes of Rp 1 billion, he claimed that there was no problem, because he wanted to build a mosque. He indignantly asked:

“Do I, as a lawmaker who intended to help the construction of a mosque, deserve to be jailed?”

Interestingly, it was only six months earlier that a judge had sentenced Sofyan to serve a year and three months, and fined him Rp 50 million for receiving a bribe to influence the selection of a deputy senior governor of Bank Indonesia in 2004.


Djoko Suyanto, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs

After a spate of episodes of religiously-motivated violence, including
attacks on Shia communities in East Java, Djoko Suyanto said his office is not responsible for resolving matters such as these, claiming that:

“It is the role of the Religious Affairs Ministry to handle violence that is related to religion.”

Because Djoko’s office would normally be concerned with criminal acts such as unlawful assaults, violence and intimidation, observers have interpreted his words to mean that the government regards assaults ‘related to religion’ as apparently not being criminal acts.


Majudien, Chairman of The Islamic Reform Movement (Garis)

The besieged GKI Yasmin church in Bogor, still being unlawfully harassed by the Bogor Mayor and resident fundamentalists in contravention of a Supreme Court order, suffered yet another attack on New Year’s Eve. The Jakarta Globe reported that a mob of enraged Muslims led by Majudien terrorized church members after becoming infuriated by a bumper sticker on one Christian’s car, which read: “We need a friendly Islam, not an angry Islam.” Majudien justified his group’s attack, complaining:

“What is the aim of that sticker being put there? That is a provocative action against us, the Muslims of Bogor.

An important fact (that had obviously escaped the incensed Majudien) was that the sticker was actually a souvenir distributed by the family of the late former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid during a commemoration of his death. All guests, including the chairman of the Constitutional Court, the deputy religious affairs minister and many VIPs, had received the same sticker. None had apparently complained.


Inspector General Saud Usman Nasution, National Police spokesman, and
First Brigadier Ahmad Rusdi, Police Officer and Plaintiff

Police officer Ahmad Rusdi took a teenaged boy to court in Sulawesi for allegedly stealing his Rp 30,000 pair of sandals. He and his colleague, Jhon Simson, had questioned three youths over the missing pair of sandals, after which Ahmad claimed that:

“The three then admitted it.”

However, one of the boys’ parents accused the police of forcing a confession by beating the teen. The National Police spokesman, Saud, then rushed to the police officers’ defence, denying the boys were beaten and explaining:

“There was an emotional action of pushing the boy until he fell.”

The officers were disciplined, but the boy still had to face court, where:

1) Ahmad, the plaintiff, told the court that he was uncertain about his accusation, and that it was more a matter of intuition than proof.

2) The court was told the court that the sandals found with the defendant were Eiger brand. Ahmad, the police officer said his sandals were Andos. 

3) Ahmad couldn’t prove that the defendant had actually taken the sandals, which had been lying in the street some 30 meters from the policeman’s rented room. 

Despite the obviously weak case, the court inexplicably ruled that the boy:

“… was proved to have engaged in theft and it was decided to return him to his parents.” 

Saud, the National Police spokesman, tried to defuse anger at the the minor’s need to appear in court by blaming the parents, saying that they:

“… demanded that their offspring … be reported legally.”

Saud further claimed that police had reminded the parents that their child was still a minor and should not be taken to court – a strange statement, given that 6,273 minors were being held on criminal charges in Indonesian jails last year.

Source 1   Source 2


And just to show that not all weird utterances occur in Indonesia, here’s a gem from the Adhaalath Party – A Fundamentalist Islamist Opposition Party in the Maldives
Ninemsn reports that luxury hotels in more than one thousand islands of the Maldives have been forced to shut their lucrative spa services after the Islamist political party complained that they were just brothels. An Adhaalath spokesman called for an end to spas, and, wait for it:

“Their lustful music”


I think it’s time for another cup of tea and a good lie down. I look at this list of gaffes and wonder why politicians, police, religious leaders and the so-called elites hold themselves in such high esteem. It’s beyond me, it really is. I may have to go and listen to some lustful music.