Category: society

Push for all things halal divide opinion in Indonesia

After an official suggested that the Lake Toba area on Indonesia’s Sumatra island could be turned into a halal tourism destination, activist Togu Simorangkir came up with the idea of holding a pork festival as an act of resistance.

The event from October 25-26 involved pork cooking and pig catching competitions and was attended by 300,000 people from all over the country, according to Simorangkir.

“It was a big success even though it was just a spontaneous response against making North Sumatra a halal destination,” says Simorangkir, a British-educated activist who founded Alusi Tao Toba, a foundation dedicated to improving the communities around Lake Toba.

“The festival is not about religion, but about maximizing local tourism potential,” he says, adding that most people in the area make a living as farmers.

Muslims are forbidden from eating pork under Islamic rules because the meat is considered unclean.

The Indonesian government established a new halal certification agency under the Ministry of Religious Affairs in 2017. Since then, everything from refrigerators and microwaves to cat food can be certified as halal, or religiously permissible.

Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, but is also home to several other religions. About 63 per cent of North Sumatra’s 15 million people are Muslim, but members of the indigenous Batak tribe, to which Simorangkir belongs, are mainly Christian.

Simorangkir says the idea of halal tourism in North Sumatra is divisive.

“I think there’s no need to divide people based on religion,” he says. “Here there are many mosques and people from all over the world come.”

“If they want tourism to thrive here, they should crack down on companies that destroy the environment,” he adds.

Simorangkir says the pork festival was initially opposed by local leaders and tour operators because of fears it would offend Muslims and hurt tourism.

“The word ‘pig’ has negative connotations in our society, when in fact it’s just an animal, like cows and buffaloes,” he says.

Critics fear that halal tourism, intended to attract Muslim visitors from wealthy Middle Eastern countries and all over the world, could mean a ban on alcohol, separate facilities for men and women and other restrictions.

North Sumatra Governor Edy Rahmayadi has denied suggestions he wants to turn the Lake Toba area into a sharia-compliant destination.

“It’s a misunderstanding,” he was quoted as saying by Detik.com, adding that he was simply suggesting that infrastructure be improved to serve visitors from Muslim countries such as Malaysia.

“So, when Muslims come to a place, […] there’s halal food,” he said. “Even in Thailand, where Buddhists are the majority, there are halal restaurants.”

The head of the Religious Ministry’s Halal Certification Administering Agency, Sukoso, says food and drinks, cosmetics, drugs and other consumer products will have to be certified halal by 2026 according to a 2014 law.

“As for household goods, it should be determined what materials they are made of,” he says, adding that products made of leather are subject to halal certification to ensure they do not contain materials from pigs.

The country’s first halal certified corrective glasses were launched in early November by PT Atalla Indonesia, according to the state Antara news agency.

“Even though glasses are not yet among products that need to be halal certified, the company has done it. I appreciate the effort,” Industry Ministry official Gati Wibawaningsih said at the launch event.

Japanese consumer electronics maker Sharp last year launched what it described as the first line of halal refrigerators in Indonesia.

The company expects sales in the segment to grow between 10 and 20 per cent with the introduction of halal products.

“We want our customers to have peace of mind when using our products,” Sharp Electronics Indonesia sales general manager Andri Adi Utomo said in a statement.

But some Indonesians have questioned why consumer products needs to be certified halal, with many taking to social media to ait their views.

“Now that there are halal glasses, watching porn will no longer be sinful,” one Twitter user joked.

Talk of introducing halal tourism to cater to Muslim visitors in the popular resort island of Bali, a mainly Hindu enclave of Indonesia, has also faced opposition from locals.

Earlier this year, vice presidential candidate Sandiaga Uno sparked controversy after he said he would promote halal tourism in Bali if he and his presidential running mate Prabowo Subianto were elected.

They were defeated by incumbent President Joko Widodo and his running mate Ma’ruf Amin in the April election.

Bali Governor I Wayan Koster rejected the idea.

“Bali is a cultural tourism destination,” he told local media. “There’s no need for such narrow branding.”

Jerinx, the frontman of popular Bali-based rock band Superman Is Dead, said the concept was irrelevant.

“Bali has always been friendly to Muslims. What the f*** is wrong with you people?” he wrote on Twitter.

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Second student dies after anti-government rally turns violent in Sulawesi

 A second student has died after protesters clashed with police on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island during a rally against legislation that critics fear would undermine freedoms and anti-corruption efforts, an official said Friday.

Police fired tear gas to quell rock-throwing protesters who gathered outside the legislative council building in Kendari, the capital of South-east Sulawesi on Thursday. 

One student died of a bullet wound during the violence, authorities said.

“This morning, another student, who was critically injured, died because of bleeding in the head,” said the chief provincial ombudsman, Mastri Susilo.   

This week tens of thousands of students across the country have been holding daily protests, which have often turned violent, against revisions to the criminal code which include the criminalization of sex outside marriage, co-habitation and insulting the president.

The violence in Kendari followed clashes on Tuesday in Jakarta that left more than 260 students and 39 police injured as security personnel and protesters faced each other outside the national parliament building, police said.

The proposed changes to the criminal code would see consensual sex outside of marriage punishable by up to one year in prison, while a couple living together without being married could be jailed for up to six months.

Anyone who insults the president or vice president could be handed a prison term of up to four-and-a-half years. This was decriminalized by the Constitutional Court in 2016 after a legal challenge by citizens.

The protesters also demanded the government revoke recent revisions to a law governing the country’s anti-corruption commission that activists warn could severely threaten the body’s independence.

The protesters also demanded the government revoke recent revisions to a law governing the country’s anti-corruption commission that activists warn could severely threaten the body’s independence.

President Joko Widodo on Thursday sought to reassure the public that he remained committed to democracy. “Don’t you ever doubt my commitment on this,” he told reporters.

He said he was considering issuing a decree in lieu of law to replace the recently passed bill on the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK).

“We will decide and inform the public soon,” he said. KPK commissioners and activists have criticized Joko for agreeing to the revision, saying that the changes could spell the end of the independent body.

Since it was established in 2002, the KPK has arrested and prosecuted former ministers, governors, central bankers and legislators with a conviction rate of nearly 100 per cent.

The agency’s success has made it one of the most respected institutions in a country where confidence in law enforcement agencies is low.

Earlier this month, the parliament also picked a new board of commissioners for KPK, led by a police general accused of ethic violations when he was an investigator at the commission.

The appointment of the police general, Firli Bahuri, prompted the current board of commissioners to tender their resignation to Joko.

KPK officials said that Firli was dismissed as an investigator last year after he met with two suspects being investigated by the agency.

Since it was established in 2002, the KPK has arrested and prosecuted former ministers, governors, central bankers and legislators with a conviction rate of nearly 100 per cent.

The agency’s success has made it one of the most respected institutions in a country where confidence in law enforcement agencies is low.


Ada cerita di balik MRT Jakarta

Tidak seperti kota-kota besar lainnya di dunia, Jakarta tidak punya daya tarik khusus yang bisa menjadikannya sebagai tujuan utama bagi para wisatawan asing. Kecuali ada agenda bisnis untuk dilakukan di Jakarta, banyak turis asing yang hanya sempat melihat bandara, sebelum pada akhirnya melanjutkan perjalanan ke kota lain di negara ini.

Kenapa begitu? salah satunya karena kemacetan lalu lintas Jakarta yang sangat terkenal, ditambah jaringan transportasi umum yang membingungkan dan kurang bisa diandalkan. Tidak heran jika hanya sedikit orang asing yang ingin menghabiskan waktunya di Jakarta.

Namun hal tersebut bisa jadi berubah seiring dengan peluncuran MRT pada bulan Maret ini. Sebuah sistem kereta cepat massal pertama yang kehadirannya sudah lama ditunggu-tunggu oleh banyak orang.

Saat dilakukan tes uji coba pada 30 Januari lalu, wartawan diberikan kesempatan untuk mencoba MRT dengan perjalanan bolak-balik antara bundaran Hotel Indonesia di Jakarta Pusat ke Lebak Bulus di Jakarta Selatan. Kereta berjalan tepat waktu selama 30 menit dengan pemberhentian selama 30 detik di stasiun bawah tanah dan stasiun atas yang keseluruhannya berjumlah total 13 stasiun.

“Kami melakukan pengujian dengan skenario keberangkatan terlambat di salah satu halte, serta bagaimana sistem bisa mengejar waktunya supaya semua jadwal kereta akhirnya bisa berjalan normal,” ujar Direktur Utama PT. MRT Jakarta, William Sabandar, dalam perjalanan tersebut.

Pada 25 Januari, pembangunan jalur MRT sudah selesai 99 persen dan perusahaan kemudian menjalankan pengujian secara terintegrasi. Delapan kereta dijalankan secara bersamaan dengan interval 10 menit untuk menguji ketepatan waktu operasi normal, juga untuk memastikan bahwa pintu platform bekerja sesuai dengan keberangkatan dan kedatangan kereta api.

Pada akhir Februari, perusahaan melakukan uji coba penuh bersama dengan simulasi untuk situasi darurat hingga 11 Maret. Uji coba tersebut terbuka untuk partisipasi publik terbatas, sebelum akhirnya layanan penuh perdana diluncurkan pada akhir bulan Maret.

Muhammad Kamaluddin, kepala strategi perusahaan MRT Jakarta mengatakan, selama operasi awal enam kereta latih yang dibangun oleh Nippon Sharyo dan Sumitomo Corp dari Jepang tersebut akan mampu mengangkut hingga maksimum 1.900 penumpang. Jam operasional MRT akan dimulai sejak 5.30 pagi setiap harinya, dengan keberangkatan dari kedua ujung jalur, serta keberangkatan terakhir sampai 10.30 malam.

Terdapat beberapa gerbong kereta yang didedikasikan khusus untuk penyandang disabilitas, dimana gerbong tersebut akan berhenti sangat dekat dengan lift di stasiun. Selain itu, juga akan ada petugas yang ditunjuk secara khusus untuk melayani penumpang wanita di jam-jam sibuk.

“Secara bertahap kita akan meningkatkan jumlah kereta menjadi 14. Kereta akan berjalan dengan kecepatan 30 kilometer per jam untuk perjalanan sejauh 16 kilometer,” tambah Kamaluddin.

Pengerjaan tahap kedua untuk memperluas jalur MRT ke bagian utara kota juga akan segera dimulai, dimana konstruksi diharapkan akan selesai pada 2024 dan operasionalnya akan dimulai pada 2025.

“Kami masih dalam persiapan. Peletakan batu pertama bisa berlangsung kapan saja, tetapi tidak ada yang menghambat atau menunda pembangunan fase kedua, semua berjalan sesuai rencana,” kata William Sabandar.

Fase kedua akan memperpanjang jalur dari bundaran hotel Indonesia ke Kampung Bandan di Jakarta Utara dan setelah selesai akan menjadi jalur lengkap yang terentang dari ujung selatan ke ujung utara Jakarta.

“Kami menetapkan target untuk menyelesaikan proyek tersebut dalam lima tahun,” kata Kamaluddin, sambil menambahkan bahwa delapan stasiun di jalur kedua akan berada di bawah tanah dan beberapa akan diintegrasikan dengan jaringan bus Transjakarta milik pemda DKI. Tapi pembangunan untuk tahap kedua tersebut akan menemui sedikit kesulitan karena harus melewati Monumen Nasional atau daerah Monas, yang disebut sebagai daerah ring satu di Jakarta Pusat, dimana istana presiden dan kantor-kantor pemerintahan berada.

Januar Wibisono, seorang pekerja yang berkantor di salah satu gedung di kawasan bisnis Sudirman-Thamrin di mana jalur MRT beroperasi di bawah tanah, mengatakan dia bersemangat untuk mencoba layanan ini dan berharap MRT akan membuat perjalanan hariannya dari sebuah lokasi di pinggiran selatan Jakarta jauh lebih mudah. ​​

“Gedung kantor saya berada di dekat stasiun Bendungan Hilir. Saya akan memarkir motor saya di dekat stasiun Lebak Bulus dan naik kereta dari sana. Jika total 30 menit hingga akhir jalur, saya perkirakan akan membutuhkan waktu 20 menit untuk sampai ke tujuan saya,” katanya.

Stasiun Bendungan Hilir adalah salah satu dari enam stasiun bawah tanah di area bisnis, yang dimulai dari stasiun Sisingamangaraja. PT MRT Jakarta menawarkan sponsorship untuk hak memberikan nama bagi setiap stasiun sesuai dengan nama asli stasiun, dalam upaya menghasilkan pendapatan diluar tarif. “Tapi stasiun Sisingamangaraja akan menjadi pengecualian. Stasiun itu akan diberi nama Sisingamangaraja Asean untuk menandai gedung Sekretariat Asean di dekat stasiun,” kata Sabandar.

Bersama dengan sistem light rail transit (LRT) yang diperkirakan akan mulai beroperasi tahun ini, diharapkan dapat menggeser orang dari pemakaian kendaraan pribadi ke transportasi umum, sehingga akhirnya dapat mengurangi kemacetan lalu lintas di Jakarta. Di beberapa lokasi, moda transportasi umum akan melintasi jalur stasiun terintegrasi, seperti stasiun Dukuh Atas di Jakarta Pusat, yang terintegrasi dengan kereta api bandara, kereta komuter, dan bus reguler, juga Transjakarta.

Jalan-jalan di Jakarta tersumbat melebihi kapasitas karena terjadi peningkatan pertumbuhan sepeda motor yang dipicu oleh mudahnya mendapatkan kredit motor serta hadirnya aplikasi ojek online. Menurut data dari Badan Perencanaan Pembangunan Nasional, kemacetan di Jabodetabek diperkirakan menyebabkan kerugian ekonomi sebesar 100 triliun rupiah per tahun.

Untuk mendukung peralihan ke MRT, pemerintah kota DKI juga telah memperbaiki trotoarnya yang tidak rata agar mendorong lebih banyak pejalan kaki dan memungkinkan penumpang yang keluar dari stasiun berjalan kaki ke tujuan mereka.

Jakarta juga dijuluki sebagai salah satu kota yang paling tidak ramah bagi pejalan kaki. Menurut hasil sebuah studi yang dilakukan oleh Universitas Stanford yang diterbitkan pada tahun 2017, orang Indonesia termasuk dalam kategori pejalan kaki paling malas di dunia dengan rata-rata 3.513 langkah setiap harinya, dibandingkan rata-rata di seluruh dunia, yaitu 5.000 langkah.

“Saya sudah menyerah nyetir mobil kalau bepergian sehari-hari sekitar 15 tahun yang lalu, karena saya benar-benar tidak tahan dengan kemacetan,” kata Rani Cahyawati, seorang karyawan yang bekerja di kantor dekat bundaran Hotel Indonesia.

“Setiap hari saya mengandalkan apa saja yang ada, baik itu bus kotor, bus tua, bus Transjakarta, taksi, atau ojek. Jadi, saya benar-benar menantikan MRT dan LRT untuk beroperasi. Sudah waktunya bagi Jakarta untuk dimodernisasi dan lebih beradab bagi masyarakat dan pengunjungnya,” tambahnya.

*Pertama kali diterbitkan dalam versi bahasa Inggris di Bangkok Post

From social media to parliament: Young Indonesians enter politics

 The political views of Indonesian millennials used to be limited to social media posts, but now the youth are taking charge by seeking parliament seats in their country’s upcoming election.

Univesity student Tsamara Amany Alatas is a social media star who often voices critical views on issues ranging from gender equality to religious freedom.

Now the 22-year-old has thrown her hat into the political ring, vying for a seat in the national parliament in the legislative election scheduled for April 17.

Like any media-savvy politician running for office, she has visited slums and talked with locals about their aspirations and posed for photographs with babies.

“I believe politics can be a force for good when people who are elected are good,” the 22-year-old told dpa during a recent visit to a central Jakarta slum.

Tsamara is one of the young legislative candidates fielded by the newly-established Indonesian Solidarity Party (PSI), which claims to be the bearer of progressive politics in a largely conservative nation.

The party,which backs incumbent President Joko Widodo, is led by 36-year-old former television newscaster Grace Natalie, a Christian of Chinese descent in mainly-Muslim Indonesia.

The party has an uphill battle, with polls indicating it is unlikely to win more than 1 per cent of the vote, which would be short of the 4 per cent threshold required by Indonesian electoral laws to get seats in parliament.  

Poll numbers, however, have not discouraged Tsamara, who has nearly 170,000 followers on Twitter.

“This party represents the values I’m fighting for and it’s where people with idealism are,” she said.

Lucius Karus, a researcher with the Indonesian People Forum for Parliament Monitoring, said that 21 per cent of candidates whose ages are known are categorized as millennials, meaning they were born after 1980.   

Nearly 8,000 candidates are competing for seats in the 560-member House of Representatives. 

Lucius said even though women account for 40 per cent of legislative candidates – exceeding a quota of 30 per cent set by electoral laws – it’s not likely they will be elected.

“Many young or female candidates are listed on the bottom on their parties’ lists on ballot papers, and candidates on top of the lists are usually well known and more likely to be elected,” he said.

Currently, about 20 per cent of national legislators are women.

British-educated engineer Faldo Maldini is another millennial running for a parliamentary seat.

The 28-year-old is a spokesman for opposition candidate Prabowo Subianto and is a deputy secretary general of the National Mandate Party.  

“I represent the young generation, but I talk to old and young people alike about their problems,” Faldo told dpa on the sidelines of a campaign stop in a village outside Jakarta.

“You can be famous on social media but if you don’t go to your constituents, they won’t vote for you,” said Faldo, whose Twitter account has more than 88,000 followers.

Sitting cross-legged on the front porch of a villager’s house in Bogor, a city south of Jakarta, Faldo appeared at ease talking to the elderly host, who complained about unpaved and potholed roads in front of his house.

“People here complain that despite many factories around here, jobs are going to people from outside, and prices of basic commodities are expensive,” he said.

“My focus is how I can help young people here get jobs,” he added. 

Faldo said he wants to prove that running for office does not have to be expensive.

“I’m not from a rich family and I just got married, so clearly I don’t have much money,” he said.

“I want everyone to have a level playing field so it’s not only people with money who can run for parliament,” he said.

Didi, a voter in Bogor, praised Faldo’s plan to promote entrepreneurship in his village.

“I make dolls and after he promoted my business on Instagram I received a lot of orders from different places,” he said.  

Ari Nurcahyo, executive director at local think tank Soegeng Sarjadi Syndicate, said the fact that many young people aspire to be politicians is good for Indonesia’s future.

“They are technologically literate and highly educated. We need people like them to face the digital economy era,” he said.

“But they need a new political party that isn’t beholden to oligarchic interests and care about issues such as anti-corruption,” Ari said.

Ross Tapsell, an expert on Indonesian politics at the Australian National University (ANU), said only a small number of Indonesian millennials are middle-class and politically savvy.

A survey released last year by ANU found that fewer than 10 per cent of millennials living in Jakarta and the surrounding areas had a university degree.

“The usual depiction of a millennial is someone who is inner city, on Instagram, active about politics in social media,” Tapsell said.

“In fact that’s really only a small proportion of what a lot of people aged between 17 and 35 are actually doing in this election,” he said.

Jakarta launches city’s first MRT line

Enthusiastic commuters flocked to railway stations in Jakarta on Tuesday to be the first to ride the Indonesian capital’s shiny new trains, as the country launches a public trial of its first metro system.

Officials hope that the so-called mass rapid transit system, or MRT, will reduce traffic congestion, which is infamously bad in the city of around 10 million people.

“It’s very comfortable. I feel like I’m in Singapore,” said 35-year-old Akbar Mapaleo, who brought his wife and two young children.

Construction on the 16-kilometre line, funded by Japan, began in 2013 and cost 16 trillion rupiah (1.1 billion dollars).

It consists of six underground and seven elevated stations.   

Until this year, Jakarta was one of the world’s few megacities without a metro line.      

“Today, we start a new culture of commuting,” Jakarta MRT chief executive William Sabandar said.

“The MRT alone won’t solve the problem of traffic jams, but with integration with other modes of transport, such as the rapid bus system, hopefully congestion can be reduced,” he said. 

Construction will begin this year on a second line, extending 8.6 kilometres to the city’s north, officials said.  

President Joko Widodo said this month that traffic jams in the greater Jakarta area cost 4.5 billion dollars a year.

West Java broadcast watchdog restricts airplay of songs for sexually explicit lyrics, videos

A broadcasting watchdog in an Indonesian province has restricted radio and television airplay of 13 English-language hit songs because of their sexually-explicit content.

The Brodcasting Commission of West Java said the songs do not adhere to “norms of decency and morality” and can only be played from 10 pm (0300 GMT) to 3 am.

The directive was issued last week but made headlines in the local media on Tuesday.

“The lyrics and videos of those songs contain lewd and sexually suggestive words and images,” commission chairwoman Dedeh Fardiah said. 

The songs include hits such as Dusk Till Dawn by British singer Zayn Malik, Versace on the Floor by Bruno Mars, and Overdose by Indonesian singer Agnez Mo and Chris Brown.   

The Indonesian parliament last week dropped a bill on music following protests from local musicians who said it could curtail their freedom of expression. 

One of the provisions of the bill states that musicians must not  encourage the public to make lewd content, commit blasphemy, bring negative foreign cultural influences. 

“Even without the music law there’s already a fascist regulation like this,” said Jerinx, drummer for Indonesian rock band Superman is Dead, referring to the song restrictions. 

Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, but the government is largely secular. 

Valentine’s Day too saucy for conservative Indonesians

Love is in the air across the Western world this Valentine’s Day – but the custom has few fans among conservatives in Indonesia, with a local district warning youngsters against celebrating the holiday.

Ade Yasin, the chief of Bogor district near Jakarta, said local youths should not follow their counterparts in the West, the news website Metropolitan.id reported on Thursday. 

“Valentine’s Day celebrations are not part of our culture, so I call on the public not get involved in any activities related to Valentine’s Day,” Ade was quoted as saying.  

The head of the Bogor Council of Muslim Scholars, Mukri Aji, said Valentine’s Day celebrations often promote promiscuity. 

“What is wrong with it is pre-marital sex, prostitution and rampant LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] behaviour, which are violations of Islamic tenets,” he said. 

He warned promiscuity could lead to diseases such as HIV/AIDS or unwanted pregnancies.

Sex out of marriage is seen as unacceptable by many in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country.

Valentine’s Day celebrations were banned in several Indonesian cities last year.

But for Huzaemah Yanggo, the head of the fatwa division at the Indonesian Council of Muslim Scholars, Muslims are allowed to celebrate Valentine’s Day, as long as they do not engage in illicit behaviour.

“We as Muslims must show love and we don’t need Valentine’s Day to express our love, for example to our parents,” she said. 

“But as long as it doesn’t violate religious teachings, it should be no problem to celebrate it,” she said.