Tag: indonesia

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.

Instagram takes down gay Muslim comics after Indonesian request

 Instagram has taken down an account that featured comic strips about a Muslim gay man’s daily struggles after Indonesia demanded its removal, the government said Wednesday.

Indonesia’s Communication and Information Technology Ministry said it had sent a letter to Instagram requesting that the account, called @alpantuni, be taken down for lewd content. 

“Instagram complied with the ministry’s request,” the ministry said in a statement. 

Communication Minister Rudiantara had warned that Instagram could be blocked if it ignored the demand.

The account featured 10 comic strips carrying Indonesian text, including one depicting two men having sex. It was accessible until around midnight on Tuesday.

Another post showed the character named Alpantuni being abused by other people for his sexuality.

Instagram could not be immediately reached for comment. 

Homosexuality is not a crime in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, except in Aceh province where Sharia law is in force.

But the gay community have been under increased pressure since 2016 following homophobic rhetoric from officials and conservative Muslim groups amid growing advocacy for sexual minorities. 

In recent years, police have occasionally raided places frequented by gay people and briefly detained them on suspicion of engaging in prostitution and pornographic acts.

Last year, the city of Pariaman in the devoutly Muslim West Sumatra province passed a by-law that imposes a fine of 70 dollars for “homosexual and transgender activities.” 

Leaders in several Indonesian cities have also said they were considering issuing by laws banning homosexual activities.

More than 250 Bangladesh migrants found crammed inside Indonesian shops

At least 252 “starving” people who identified themselves as Bangladeshi were found in cramped conditions in two shops in Indonesia’s North Sumatra province, an immigration official said Thursday. 

The migrants were “were starving and making a commotion” when found in the provincial capital Medan on Wednesday, North Sumatra immigration chief Icon Siregar said. 

It was not clear if the migrants had come to Indonesia legally or illegally, but told authorities they were looking for work in Malaysia.

He added that it was not clear how long they had been in the buildings.  

“They may have come legally by boat and are waiting to be taken to Malaysia,” he said. “We are still looking for their travel documents.”  

The migrants have been taken to an immigration detention centre in Medan. 

In recent years, boats carrying members of the persecuted Rohingya community in Myanmar have become stranded on Sumatra on their way to a third country.

Since violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state in 2012, tens of thousands of Rohingya have left the country by boat. Hundreds of thousands have fled across the border in the last 18 months to Bangladesh, where they are confined to camps.

Russia denies meddling in Indonesian election

Russia on Monday denied involvement in attempts to influence the outcome of Indonesia’s upcoming election, after incumbent President Joko Widodo accused the campaign of opposition candidate Prabowo Subianto of spreading “Russian propaganda.”

The Russian embassy in Jakarta said the accusations of Russian involvement – levelled by Jokowi during a campaign stop in Surabaya on Saturday – had “no basis in reality.” 

“We would like to underline that our principled position is that we don’t interfere in the domestic affairs and electoral processes of other countries, including Indonesia as our close friend and important partner,” the embassy said via Twitter.

During the campaign stop, Jokowi claimed that “there is a campaign team that is spreading what is called Russian propaganda, which involves incessant streams of lies and slander.” 

He was alluding to the controversy in the United States about the supposed Russian interference in the 2016 election using a propaganda model called “the firehose of falsehood.”

Jokowi faces former general Prabowo in the April 17 presidential election in a repeat of the vote five years ago, which the president won by a narrow margin. 

The opposition says the president has a dismal economic record after nearly five years in office and that he is too cozy with China.   

Jokowi has picked conservative Islamic cleric Ma’ruf Amin as his running mate in a move seen by some as an attempt to bolster his religious credentials amid accusations that he is hostile to Muslim political aspirations. 

Staying on the Job Eases the Pain, Cancer-Stricken Indonesian Official Says

The information chief of Indonesia’s National Disaster Management Agency was upbeat on Monday as he described the details of a personal disaster – his battle with an advanced lung cancer.

In a country where volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, floods and forest fires are frequent, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho’s job is considered stressful enough even for a healthy person.

But Sutopo has insisted on carrying on with his day-to-day duties, fielding phone calls and text messages from reporters, as well as hammering out lengthy press releases – often from a hospital while undergoing chemotherapy.

“When I work I forget all the pain, even more so when my press conferences are attended by many journalists,” Sutopo told BenarNews during a visit to his spacious office in Central Jakarta.

His desk is stacked with paperwork and books with themes ranging from disaster management to religion.

“But when I don’t do anything, just sitting, I feel excruciating pain. I can hardly sleep at night,” said Sutopo, who has lost 20 kilos (44 pounds) in less than a year.

Diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer in January, doctors said Sutopo, 49, could survive up to three years with treatment. The diagnosis shocked the man who has led a healthy lifestyle, including abstaining from smoking.

“The first thing in my mind was my two children,” he said.

“But I have come to terms with it. What I’m experiencing now has been ordained by God. I just have to live with it,” said Sutopo, a devout Muslim. “I hope that any good deed that I’m doing will be rewarded in the hereafter.”

Sutopo said the cancer had spread to the bones in his back. He has to undergo a regular procedure to remove fluid and blood from his lungs.

“It’s extremely painful,” he said.

On the job

The year 2018 has been an especially busy one for Sutopo, as earthquakes devastated parts of Lombok and Sulawesi islands between July and September, killing more than 3,500 people.

He has had to write press releases and update his social media feeds from his hospital bed.

“I have written about 500 press releases this year, so it’s more than one press release a day,” he said.

A network of local disaster agency officials and volunteers across the country have helped Sutopo by sending information on casualties, aid needs and photos and videos from disaster zones.

“Many of the 3,000 reporters on my list told me that the information I gave them was more than they expected. I try to give them as much information as possible, including videos and photos, so they don’t have to ask more questions,” he said.

Sutopo has an undergraduate degree in geography from Gadjah Mada University and a doctorate in environmental management from the Bogor Agricultural University, but had no background in communications or the media when he took the job.

He started off as a civil servant at the Agency for the Assessment and Application of Technology, where he did research on hydrology and artificial rain. In 2010, Sutopo was assigned to the National Disaster Management Agency (BNPB) as director of disaster risk mitigation, before taking the job as its head of information and public relations.

Warding off fake news

Apart from battling cancer, Sutopo said he often had to contend with sifting out fake content disseminated via social media.

Sutopo’s Twitter feed regularly debunks hoaxes and fake news circulating online about disasters, including videos of old volcanic eruptions being passed off as new, and chain messages that warn of impending earthquakes.

“As more and more Indonesians have access to the internet, fake news and hoaxes have become more prevalent in recent years,” he said. “They used to spread only via text messages, but now they become viral via WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook.”

Following a series of eruptions of the Mount Agung volcano on Bali island last year, alerts were raised to the highest level, leading many to put off traveling to Bali, where the economy depends on tourism.

“What I did was post photos showing people doing yoga or pre-wedding photos with erupting Mount Agung in the background, to show that Bali was safe, and only a small area was off-limits,” he said.

“People were scared because media reports made it as if that the whole of Bali was affected by the eruptions,” he said.

However, the internet and social media have also made it easier for him to spread awareness about disaster management, he said.

“Social media has been very effective in amplifying my messages,” said Sutopo, who has written several books about disaster management.

‘Undying spirit’

Sutopo recently benefitted from social media when he met one of his favorite singers.

Twitter users began using the hashtag #SutopoMeetRaisa to draw attention to his wish to meet the Indonesian pop star. The Jakarta Post reported that the pair met recently in a building where Sutopo had gone to do an interview and Raisa was promoting her new song.

Raisa told him to stay healthy and keep inspiring people, Sutopo told the newspaper.

Weeks earlier, Raisa responded to the hashtag with a tweet of her own, the Post reported.

“My Twitter today has #RaisaMeetSutopo all over it. I’ve read all the stories in your tweets, friends, and it made me feel like I’ve known Pak Sutopo for a long time. He’s loved by many. Keep your spirit and keep on inspiring, Pak Sutopo :)”

Sutopo also has the support of Indonesia’s leader.

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo called him an inspiration to the nation.

“I appreciate Mr Sutopo’s dedication. And I was made aware about his condition today. His dedication to his work is extraordinary,” Jokowi told reporters after a meeting with Sutopo in October.

“It’s really inspiring to us all that while he is in ill health, he has an undying spirit to do the work that he has been doing for years,” Jokowi said.

The story was first published on BenarNews 

Police release transgender women after re-education

Police in Indonesia’s sharia-ruled province of Aceh said Tuesday they had released 12 transgender women after they agreed to act and dress as men.  Continue reading “Police release transgender women after re-education”

Repentant tattoo artist on crusade to remove ink

Sandi Widodo used to be a prolific tattoo artist with a self-described wayward lifestyle, until he decided that it was not the life he wanted and re-embraced religion.

Today, he runs a tattoo removal clinic near the Indonesian capital Jakarta for Muslims who have returned to Islam, charging little to nothing for the service.

 

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Sandi Widodo, founder of Tattoo Hijrah Removal, sits at his clinic in Serpong

“I had an established tattoo studio when I began studying religion and realized that tattoos are haram (forbidden),” says the 31-year-old, himself sporting intricate tattoos all over his body, including one on his left temple and neck.

“I kept thinking about people I have made tattoos for,” he says. “So I made a resolution to remove them for those who have abandoned their old ways, which, like mine, often involved drugs and alcohol.”

In 2014, he sold his tattoo kits and studied in an Islamic boarding school before returning to his parents as a devout Muslim. After consulting a doctor, he started an online fundraising campaign in July to purchase laser tattoo removal machines, which cost about 3,000 dollars each.

The public’s response to the campaign was unexpectedly strong and in less than two weeks he managed to raise 90 million rupiah (6,300 dollars). He then converted his tattoo studio attached to his parents’ suburban house on the outskirts of Jakarta into an ink removal clinic, equipped with three laser machines.

So far, more than 200 people have come to his clinic to have their tattoos removed, Sandi explains. They include punk rockers, musicians and gang members.

“Some of my friends in the tattoo community have followed my steps, but there are also those who stayed away from me because they thought I had become weird,” he says.

Repentant Muslims who want their tattoos removed for free must memorize 50 verses from the Koran that focus on God’s attribute of mercy and grace. Many in the world’s largest Muslim nation consider permanent tattoos forbidden in Islam, arguing that the practice inflicts unnecessary pain and is a form of deception.

“People want to remove their tattoos for a lot of reasons, such as bad designs or inability to get jobs, but we only help people who have shown repentance,” he says.

With no money to have their tattoos removed safely, some people have gone as far as using a hot iron, injuring themselves badly in the process, he says.

Laser treatment to remove tattoos is considered safe, but it can leave superficial skin wounds.

Sandi says he himself has not been able to remove all of his tattoos and has only undergone two sessions of laser treatment. “It takes about two weeks for the blisters to heal from the last treatment,” he admits.

Azri Rachman, a former rock band vocalist with tattoos of his parents’ portraits on both arms among images of a skull and rose, has undergone two sessions at the clinic. The 30-year-old father of two has completely abandoned music and is now a businessman selling clothing printed with Islamic messages.

Wearing a beard, a pair of glasses, a white shirt emblazoned with the writing “I don’t follow trends” and pants ending above the ankles, he still looks more like a hipster than a born-again Muslim.

“It’s painful,” Azri says of the laser treatment. “But it shouldn’t discourage people who want to be closer to God.”

Azri says that, as a band member, he lived a lifestyle that he was “too ashamed to recall.”

“One day I got tired of it all and told my mother, who has stood by me even when I lost my way, that I would start praying again.”

Ahmad Zaki, a social worker who founded a charity group called Punk Muslims, runs a mobile clinic offering tattoo removal services to those who have found their way back to religion.

“A tattoo is a sin that is visible until you die, unless you remove it,” says Zaki, during a tattoo removal clinic at a mosque in Purwakarta, about 100 kilometres east of Jakarta.

“You don’t have to remove it if it’s already there, as God is all forgiving, but it’s better if you can,” he says.

Andini Erisa, who was among nine women who took part in the tattoo removal session in Purwakarta, says she wanted to do away with a star on her right arm and a ring around her ankle.

“I’m getting married next year,” the 22-year-old says. “A three-year-old girl once told me that she wanted to have a tattoo like mine because it was beautiful.”

“I don’t want my future children to do what I did.”