Category: Religion

Indonesian all-girl metal band breaks the mould

Performing in the scorching sun wearing long-sleeved shirts and Muslim headscarves, members of the all-female Indonesian alternative metal band Voice of Baceprot were unfazed by the stifling heat.

“Are you ready? You guys are looking good!” band frontwoman Firdda Kurnia shouted to a crowd of mostly teenagers gathered in front of a shopping mall in Garut district, West Java province, before launching into her opening guitar riff.

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Voice of Baceprot from left to right: Firdda, Euis, Widi

Guitarist and singer Firdda, drummer Euis Siti Aisyah and bassist Widi Rahmawati – fresh-faced high school girls who make up the Voice of Baceprot, or VoB – say they want to inspire fellow teenagers and smash stereotypes held by many in the West about covered Muslim women.

“We want to show that girls who wear hijab aren’t oppressed,” 17-year-old Firdda said after the band finished playing.

“We want to show that even though we play metal, we are not abandoning our identity and obligations as Muslims,” said Firdda.

All-female bands are nothing new in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, but they usually dress like their Western counterparts.

Dara Puspita, a pioneering three-piece all-female rock band in the 1960s, was under pressure from then-president Sukarno, who saw Western music as a bad influence.

Indonesia has always been home to a thriving metal subculture, said cultural observer Hikmat Darmawan, noting that President Joko Widodo is an avid heavy metal fan.

“Rock music was an outlet for young Indonesians’ rebellion against the country’s past autocratic regimes,” he said, referring to the rules of former presidents Sukarno and Suharto.

Born to devout Muslim families and growing up poor in Garut, a small town in largely conservative West Java province about a four-hour drive from Jakarta, the VoB girls never dreamed of becoming musicians and did not learn to play musical instruments until they were teenagers.

They were introduced to the guitar and drums a few years ago as part of an extracurricular programme while they were attending an Islamic junior high school, or madrassa.

“We started out playing an acoustic guitar and broken drums from the school’s marching band,” said Euis, the drummer.

“There were no electronic instruments,” she added. “The school then bought a set of drums but I cried because I couldn’t use it.”

There was initial resistance to their choice of musical genre from family, teachers and neighbours, whose conservative views associated rock music with moral decadence, drugs and promiscuity.

“They would say that that metal is not for Muslim girls and that it’s Satanic music,” Firdda said.

“Our neighbours frowned when they saw us carrying the guitars. But that didn’t bother us because we enjoy what we do,” she said.

But attitudes are changing, with their parents no longer opposed to their career choice.

“They are now saying they are proud of us,” Firdda said.

The band, whose name means “noisy,” sings about social and environmental issues, such as in their single “The Enemy of the Earth is You,” and refrains from peppering their songs with religious messages.

“We are a band whose members are Muslims, but we are not an Islamic metal band,” Firdda said.

Firdda described the band’s genre as “nu metal” and said that its music is influenced by an eclectic mix of artists including Dream Theater, Lamb of God, Linkin Park, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Eminem.

The band has been invited to play on local television and is attracting a legion of fans in Indonesia and beyond, Firdda said.

After the band’s recent performance in Garut, local fans mobbed the girls behind the stage and asked to take selfies with them.

“We have fans in places across the country and overseas, including in Israel,” said Firdda, with a laugh.

The trio has won praise not only for breaking the mould of a typical metal band but also for their musical prowess.

“They have good skills and the fact that they wear hijab is a plus,” said Ade Nasruddin, a metal fan who attended the band’s live performance in Garut.

“The bass player is especially very good,” he said.

The band has also won plaudits from overseas viewers.

“There is nothing as truly cool, punk rock and rebellious, as a girl in a hijab with a guitar and microphone challenging the authority. Deep respect from a thinking American,” a YouTube user named Patrick Hayes wrote on one of the band’s videos.

The band is set to release an independent album later this year, to be distributed online. Some of the songs will be in English.

“We want people outside Indonesia to listen to our music. We have never been abroad but maybe someday we can perform overseas,” Firdda said.

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Indonesian police break alleged online fake news syndicate

Indonesian police have arrested three people they say were part of a syndicate that spread fake news and other misinformation online for money.

The group, called Saracen, posted false news, provocative memes and other forms of content on social media to suit the agenda of their paymasters, said national police spokesman Awi Setiyono.

The alleged syndicate involved about 800,000 social media accounts and offered its services to individuals for payments, he said, adding that police were trying to find out who their clients were.

“These people were engaged in hate speech,” the Setiyono said. “People must not fall for memes intended to create ethnic, religious and racial divisions.”

Ethnic and religious tensions rose earlier this year in the run-up to the Jakarta gubernatorial election pitting then-incumbent Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian of Chinese descent, and former education minister Anies Baswedan.

While campaigning, Basuki was charged with blasphemy after hundreds of thousands of Muslims rallied to demand he be prosecuted over remarks that his opponents misused a verse from the Koran to prevent him from winning another term.

He lost an April election run-off to Anies, who was backed by Muslim conservatives, despite winning the most vote in the first round vote, and was subsequently sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy.

Indonesian ulema council issues fatwa against fake news

Indonesia’s Islamic authority issued a fatwa against fake news over concerns about how religious and ethnic tensions are fuelled by hoaxes, its chairman said Tuesday.

The Indonesian Council of Ulema, a semi-official body, declared that producing and spreading fake news is forbidden in Islam, chairman Ma’ruf Amin said.

“There’s growing anxiety that fake news has created divisions and hostilities in society,” Amin said.

“We hope that this fatwa can curb negative content,” he said.

Indonesians are among the biggest users of Facebook and Twitter, and politicians are increasingly using social networks to reach voters.

Popular Twitter users who are paid to tweet, known locally as “buzzers,” to promote politicians must not post content that are divisive, slanderous and false, Amin said.

Online bullying and hate speech are also haram, or forbidden, the cleric said.

Former Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, who is Christian of Chinese descent, was jailed for two years last month for blasphemy in a case that stemmed from a video posted online.

In the video that went viral, Purnama made comments about a passage in the Koran that many conservative Muslims deemed insulting, sparking a series of massive protests demanding his prosecution last year.

The case has fuelled resentment against minority ethnic Chinese, who are often perceived as wealthy.

Ramadan starts in Indonesia

Muslims in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, Indonesia, began observing the fasting month of Ramadan on Saturday.

President Joko Widodo welcomed the occasion with a message calling for unity amid concerns about rising religious intolerance.

“I hope that during this holy month, we will increase our devotion, our brotherhood and unity as a nation,” Joko said.

The Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, was jailed for two years earlier this month for blasphemy, following protests by conservative Muslims angered by remarks he made about the Koran.

Ramadan, a month-long period where healthy Muslims must abstain from eating or drinking from dawn to dusk, is a time for increased charity and heightened religious fervour for the faithful around the world.

In Indonesia, TV programmes, including soap operas, are dominated by religious themes. Comedy shows featuring famous Indonesian celebrities accompany millions of Indonesians who eat the sahur, the daily pre-dawn meal before the start of fasting.

Ramadan also means a crackdown on vice. Authorities in the capital Jakarta have banned nightspots from operating during Ramadan.

Places such as discos, massage parlours and saunas have been ordered to shut from one day before Ramadan until one day after Eid al-Fitr, a festival marking the end of the holy month.

This year Eid al-Fitr runs from June 25-26.

Exceptions are to be made for establishments located in hotels and specially-designated entertainment centres. Similar rules also are in place in other cities in Indonesia.

Many in Jakarta welcomed Ramadan with a sense of gloom however.

“We are supposed to welcome Ramadan with joy, but those terrorists spoiled it,” said Triyoga Wahyu, a Jakarta resident, referring to a suicide bomb attack in eastern Jakarta on Wednesday which killed three policemen and wounded 10 others.

“I hope they go to the deepest hell,” he said.

Nightspots in Jakarta ordered shut during Ramadan

Those looking to have fun in the Indonesian capital during Ramadan should go elsewhere.

The Jakarta administration has banned nightspots from operating during Ramadan, which is set to begin Saturday, ostensibly to respect those who observe the Muslim fasting month.

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Photo: The Parrot/Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata

Places such as discotheques, massage parlours and saunas have been ordered to shut from one day before Ramadan until one day after Eid al-Fitr, a festival marking the end of the holy month, said Catur Laswanto, head of the city’s tourism agency.

Eid al-Fitr is from June 25 to 26.

Exceptions are to be made for establishments located in hotels and specially-designated entertainment centres, he said.

“The rules are in place so that Muslims can observe the holy month solemnly,” he said.

Similar rules also are in place in other cities in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.

In the past, the Muslim vigilante group Islamic Defenders’ Front sometimes raided nightspots that remained open during Ramadan, accusing those places of harbouring prostitutes and drug addicts.

But such raids have been rare in recent years after the government cracked down on violators of Ramadan hours and the sale of alcohol.

Mahdi Ba’bud, a local head of the Islamic Defenders’ Front in Jakarta, said his group would not conduct any raids this Ramadan.

“The police will take action,” he said. “We are just watching.”