Tag: islam

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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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.”

Indonesia’s sexual minorities dealt new blow with conviction of gay couple

The gay community in Indonesia was dealt another blow after a court in the sharia-ruled province of Aceh sentenced a gay couple to 85 strokes of the cane, in the first such case in the country.

Sexual minorities in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country are already on the defensive following last year’s barrage of anti-gay rhetoric and actions by officials.

“This is a sad day for the LGBT community,” said Yuli Rustinawati, spokeswoman for Arus Pelangi, a group that advocates for the country’s lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT).

“It is ironic because today we are celebrating International Day Against Homophobia,” she said.

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Sexual minorities and rights activists feared the worst after Aceh’s parliament issued a new set of Islamic laws, known as qanun jinayat, regulating private morality in 2014. The laws took effect in October 2015.

Under the law, sex out of wedlock and same-sex sexual acts are punishable by 100 lashes of the cane, or 100 months in prison.

The previous laws banned gambling, alcohol and being alone with someone of the opposite sex while unmarried, but did not specifically regulate sexual acts.

“Qanun jinayat that is used to convict [the gay couple] is discriminatory and the punishment meted out is especially harsh,” said Adreas Harsono, a researcher for Human Rights Watch.

“Their rigths were also violated because they were mistreated during their arrest,” he said.

Local vigilantes barged into the couple’s rented room in the city of Banda Aceh and handed them over to sharia police.

A video posted on YouTube showed a visibly distressed naked man surrounded by angry locals.

Many homosexuals have left Aceh since the introduction of the laws, Harsono said.

Transgender people in Aceh had very few job opportunities, forcing many of them to resort to working as hairdressers at salons.

But even as hairdressers, they are banned from serving female customers.

The once-rebellious Aceh has long been known as a staunchly Muslim
region and is nicknamed “The Veranda of Mecca.”

The central government granted Aceh special autonomy in 2002 to
mollify desires for independence, allowing the province to impose its version of sharia laws.

Jakarta and separatist rebels signed a peace pact in 2005, ending
decades of conflict that killed 15,000 people, mostly civilians. The deal was spurred by the Indian Ocean tsunami a year earlier that killed more than 170,000 people in Aceh.

The mayor of provincial capital Banda Aceh, Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal, has referred to the growing visibility of gays and lesbians as a “moral tsunami.”

She said her government has formed a special team to provide counselling for homosexual people.

In the rest of Indonesia, consensual sex between people of the same sex is not a crime, but hostility toward homosexuals has been growing.

Early last year, Higher Education Minister Muhammad Nasir warned of pro-LGBT activities on university campuses and banned such groups.

Last month, police in Indonesia’s second largest city Surabaya raided hotel rooms and detained eight men for participating in a “gay sex party.”

The government has sought to block gay-friendly mobile apps that it says promote “sexual deviance” and has also asked social networking services to remove emoticons from the Indonesian market which depict same-sex couples.

Arus Pelangi, the LGBT group, said it recorded more than 150 incidents of discrimination, harassment and attacks against LGBT people last year.

The government has also blocked international funding for organizations working to help sexual minorities, said Harsono of Human Rights Watch.

The Constitutional Court is considering a case filed by a group of conservative academics that seeks to criminalize consensual gay sex among adults, with proposed penalties of up to five years in prison. No verdict on the petition had been passed.

“Things are getting worse and worse for LGBT people,” said Harsono.

“I’m at loss for words about the inhumanity.”

Jakarta governor’s jailing tests Indonesian unity

Rallying cries by conservative Muslims for the prosecution of Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama have culminated in his imprisonment, sending shock waves through minority communities in Indonesia. Continue reading “Jakarta governor’s jailing tests Indonesian unity”

Ahok concedes defeat in Jakarta gubernatorial election

The governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, has conceded defeat in a religiously-charged election to lead the Indonesian capital after unofficial vote counts showed a comfortable lead for his opponent Anies Baswedan.

 

“To our supporters, I know you are sad, but this is the will of God,” Basuki said.

“We still have six months to finish our homework and we will do our best,” he said, referring to his time left in office.
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A representative selection of votes surveyed by several pollsters, referred to as quick counts, showed Basuki on 42 per cent and rival Anies commanding 58 per cent.

Anies is backed by conservative Muslims who want Basuki, a Christian of Chinese descent, jailed for a perceived insult to Islam that dogged his campaign.

The apparent margin of Basuki’s loss came as a surprise after polls conducted before the election showed the race to be too close to call.

Basuki won a three-way first-round vote on February 15, securing 43 per cent of the votes compared to Anies’s 40 per cent.

Anies said after the first results came in that he would work to unite the divided electorate.

“We are committed to maintaining unity in Jakarta,” Anies said. “We want to celebrate pluralism and diversity.”

The official tally from the run-off will not be announced until the first week of May, but the so-called quick counts have accurately predicted past elections.

Wednesday’s election was seen by some analysts as a test of secular democracy in the world’s most populous predominantly Muslim country.

“Your vote will determine the direction of Jakarta,” Basuki said after casting his ballot near his residence in North Jakarta.

“Let’s celebrate democracy with joy,” he said.

About 7 million of Jakarta’s 10 million residents were eligible to vote.

Basuki’s bid for a second term was hampered by a blasphemy case triggered by comments he made on the Koran.

Basuki’s remarks that there were people who deceived Muslim voters into believing that the Koran commands them not to vote for Jews and Christians sparked massive street protests by conservatives in November and December.

He was charged with blasphemy and is facing a maximum five-year jail term if found guilty. He remains free and a verdict is expected after the election.

He has apologized for the remarks, and said that he was referring to those who misused religion for political gain.

His campaign has warned that a victory for his Islamist-backed opponent could threaten diversity and pluralism.

“I voted for Ahok because he has proven to be a leader who gets things done and he represents diversity,” said Rudy Pardede after voting at a polling station in central Jakarta.

Security was tight in the capital, with 65,000 police officers deployed to guard against voter intimidation.

Once a clear favourite, Basuki saw his poll numbers falling after the blasphemy accusations, as many conservative Muslims genuinely believe that he insulted Islam.

Conversely, support for the US-educated Anies rose after he met one of the leaders of the anti-Basuki protests, firebrand cleric Muhammad Rizieq Shihab.

Basuki, the first Christian to lead Jakarta in 50 years, has been perceived as an effective administrator in a bureaucracy long plagued by corruption and incompetence.

He has won praise for cleaning up rivers clogged with rubbish in an effort to reduce flooding, a perennial problem in the city.

His administration has also built more parks and playgrounds.

But he has caused resentment with his decision to evict poor residents from their riverbank homes and relocate some of them to cramped, low-cost apartments, where they have to find rent money despite having been separated from their source of income.

Anies, a respected academic, has capitalized on the discontent, vowing to upgrade existing houses instead of evicting.

Tight race for Jakarta governorship after divisive campaigning

Jakarta’s residents will choose between a beleaguered Christian incumbent and a rival supported by conservative Muslims in a religiously charged gubernatorial election on April 19.

The election, which sees Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian, take on former education minister Anies Baswedan, is seen by some analysts as a test of secular democracy in the world’s most populous predominantly Muslim country.

Ahok’s bid for a second term has been dogged by a blasphemy case triggered by comments he made on the Qur’an that were deemed insulting to Islam.

Ahok won a three-way first-round vote on February 15, securing 43 per cent of the votes. Anies came second with 39 per cent.

Latest polls suggest that the race for the run-off is tight, with Anies leading by about percentage point.

“A defeat for Ahok could be a bad precedent because political parties would be led to believe that the politization of religion is effective,” said Tobias Basuki, a political analyst at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

Ahok’s remarks that there were people who deceived Muslim voters into believing that the Qur’an commands them not to vote for Jews and Christians sparked massive street protests by conservatives in November and December.

Ahok was charged with blasphemy and is facing a maximum five-year jail term if found guilty. He remains free and a verdict is expected after the election.

He has apologized for the remarks, and said that he was referring to those who misused religion for political gain.

His campaign has warned that a victory for his Islamist-backed opponent could threaten diversity and pluralism.

But in some neighbourhood mosques, congregants installed banners calling for Muslims not to vote for an “infidel,” in reference to Ahok. The banners warned that those who did so would not receive Islamic rites when they died.

Once a clear favourite, Ahok saw his poll numbers falling after the blasphemy accusations, as many conservative Muslims genuinely believe that he insulted Islam.

On the other hand, support for the US-educated Anies rose after he met one of the leaders of the anti-Ahok protests, firebrand cleric Muhammad Rizieq Shihab.

Ahok, the first Christian to lead Jakarta in 50 years, has been perceived as an effective administrator in a bureaucracy long plagued by corruption and incompetence.

He has won praise for cleaning up rivers clogged with rubbish, thereby reducing flooding, a perennial problem in the city of 10 million people.

His administration has also built more parks and children’s playgrounds.

But he has caused resentment with his decision to evict poor residents from their riverbank homes and relocate some of them to low-cost apartments, where they have to find rent money despite having been separated from their source of income.

Ahok has also drawn criticism for going ahead with the reclamation of Jakarta Bay to create 17 artificial islands for business and recreational purposes.

Anies, a respected academic, has capitalized on the discontent.

He has vowed to upgrade existing houses instead of evicting, and to cancel the reclamation of the bay, saying that the project threatens the environment and the fishermen’s livelihood.

He has denied accusations that he was complicit in sectarianism, arguing that perceived injustice and growing social division were the underlying problems.

“To bring unity, we need to tackle the issue of disparities. Disparities between the haves and the have-nots … and between the educated and the not-educated,” he said.