Bekasi Bigots

Feb 21st, 2010, in Opinion, by

Sectarian mapping of cities to prevent conflict, as another church, in Bekasi, is closed.


BEKASI BIGOTS RIDING HIGH

Having lived in Bekasi, West Java some years ago, the Jakarta Post article about 'religious mapping' holds interest. The very idea that you need to map an area to provide for peaceful sectarian co-existence, never mind integration, sums up what is wrong with Indonesia. It can be better summarised in two words: Muslim clerics, as in this story of protests against the construction of a Protestant church in Bekasi recently:

Rusli, 38, a moderate Muslim, was in a quandary when local clerics recently asked him and other residents to sign a petition against the building of the Batak Christian Protestant Church (Filadelfia Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP)) church in their neighborhood in Jejalen Jaya.

The clerics said that if we didn’t sign, they wouldn’t recite prayers at our funerals. I insisted on not signing it, but most of my neighbors were cowed by the threat.

With local clerics still playing a pivotal leadership role in rural parts of Bekasi, people in the Muslim-majority region are easily dragged into conflicts sparked by religious tensions. The spat between the HKBP and the Jejalen Jaya residents only escalated once Muslim clerics in the subdistrict began inciting opposition to the construction of the church.

All Muslim clerics in this subdistrict have agreed the construction of the church must desist immediately

says protest leader Nesan.

So what's their problem? Murhali, Bekasi FPI leader said on TVone on Sunday that there were 6 churches in the area.

At night, their singing disturbs the locals’ sleep

They can hardly be serious in saying that church-bells and hymn-singing 'disturb' Muslim residents, since their own mosques emit cacaphonous ululations again and again every day, not least when normal folk are abed and asleep.

Bekasi '45 Islamic University sociologist Andi Sopandi points out such faith-fomented conflicts are to be expected. Such disputes, he says, occur frequently in developing rural or suburban areas across the country, where the influx of newcomers with a more diverse background has grated on traditionally more homogeneous communities.

Locals and newcomers get along well only if they share similar basic values, and for most Indonesians, that would be religion

says Andi, who advised former vice president Jusuf Kalla during the latter’s mediation to end the deadly inter-religious clashes in Poso, Central Sulawesi. Given the situation, he goes on, the establishment of an interfaith communication forum alone is never enough.

True enough, Andi, but what is to be done?

Andi believes it is paramount for all regional administrations in the country, including in Bekasi, to produce a map, updated each year, that shows the spread of religious clusters in the area.

The map shouldn’t just list the populations of each religion, but should also point out their homes and nearest houses of worship. Using such a map, the local administration can work with its Interfaith Communication Forum to allow for houses of worship to be established where the population of any particular religious group is high.

It might, one would think, be easier just to let people build a church, or temple, or mosque, subject to parking needs etc., and allow for freedom of religion to proceed, but not here. The ignorant savages who hold court in the mosques direct their flock to hound anybody who doesn't share their beliefs.

Why, we have to ask again? And it does seem to come back to the paranoid fear among these clerics that their flock will jump ship. Repeatedly, we hear the horrified fanatics speaking of 'conversion'. Sometimes they use the term 'Christianisation' of areas, as if there's some Rome-directed plot to flood Bekasi with Catholics or perhaps American evangelists are master-minding wholesale Protestant indoctrination of the Bekasi masses. No wonder Islamic spokesmen often prescribe the death penalty for anyone who converts out.

Are rank-and-file Muslims truly so weak in their faith that only such barbaric threats keep them bending the knee to bearded ignoramuses? I doubt it. Most people need a pretty heavy reason to change the religion they were born into.

The menace of proselytisation was also the excuse in last week's report from Taman Galaxy, which is a nice little housing estate there where I occasionally did some work about seven years back. Everybody seemed civil enough, no signs of irrationality, at least no more than usual. But this year, we have 16 Islamist outfits up in arms because Galilea Church has a little Sunday fair.

One Murhali said that there were allegations that the church was carrying out a mission to convert residents.

We received reports that church officials often held a charity bazaar for locals but they were asked to say that Jesus is their God. I think it’s a violation.

Sounds unlikely, but what the heck, even if they were asked, they can 'just say no', nobody forced them to go there, and given Islam's record of forcible conversion, a charity bazaar is pea-nuts.

I'm sure Andi Sopandi is a well-meaning man, but maps will only show that non-Muslims are in a minority just about everywhere in Bekasi and in Jakarta. The kind of bigoted clerics we're talking about here don't care at all if it's 2% or 20% - backed up by the kind of Islamist zealots who run the political show in Bekasi, they want to stamp out any alternative source of spiritual guidance that might seem preferable to their own unpleasant brand.


196 Comments on “Bekasi Bigots”

  1. avatar Michel S. says:

    Depressing story, and sadly it is on par with the level of paranoia prevalent in other “moderate” Muslim-majority countries like Turkey and Malaysia. The suggestion to compile religious mappings of various cities, in particular, struck me as being the first step to ghettoization, or to allow targeting of vulnerable minorities during riots.

    I linked to this from my blog; looks like Indonesia Matters’ WordPress set up does not support pingbacks yet.

  2. avatar David says:

    Trackbacks don’t get through Michel, turned off a long time ago. Incidentally your blog is totally blocked to search engines, is that deliberate, never understand why people do that but it’s up to you.

  3. avatar Michel S. says:

    Patung, thanks for noticing that! I have two other WP blogs, and both of them have their privacy settings set to “visible to all” by default. This particular one is the only one that has an… undefined… privacy setting, for one reason or another. I just flipped the switch.

    Would explain why the only traffic so far has been through the Facebook page. *smacks head*.

  4. avatar BrotherMouzone says:

    Repeatedly, we hear the horrified fanatics speaking of ‘conversion’. Sometimes they use the term ‘Christianisation’ of areas, as if there’s some Rome-directed plot to flood Bekasi with Catholics or perhaps American evangelists are master-minding wholesale Protestant indoctrination of the Bekasi masses.

    I don’t think there is any doubt that churches are actively trying to convert people – it’s kind of par for the course with most organised religions. Make no mistake, there is an organised push to spread Christianity in Indonesia, and some of it is funded from outreach churches/missionary organisations from overseas.

    The fact is that the Muslim organisations need to accept that every faith has a right to recruit, regardless of what shade of woo they believe in.

  5. avatar Oigal says:

    Make no mistake, there is an organised push to spread Christianity in Indonesia, and some of it is funded from outreach churches/missionary organisations from overseas.

    Too true, but not a point the Muslim organisations could push without looking fairly silly when and if the nefarious means of recruitment of converts by certain arab nations in this country is revealed. I have purposely not used religion here as it has more to do with converting to another countries outdated customs than anything actually found in the Koran.

    Classic around here is we have one very well “externally funded” Mosque that provides monthly “sit down” money to the terminally lazy, providing the head of the family dresses his women folk of all ages like shuttlecocks. Unfortunately, this occurs in the middle of what used to be a Christian area generating much rumbling and creating yet another tinderbox. A shame that these idiots create tension amongst what used to be a bunch of people who got on well together for generations. Little doubt that the moderates and those Indonesians proud of their own heritage are losing the battle for the hearts n minds.

  6. avatar sputjam says:

    I have stop listening to priests an imams a long time ago. Better to use our own common sense when it comes to matters regarding faith.
    It is better that clerics are not at our funeral. They cannot change a thing.

  7. avatar Geordie says:

    It is better that clerics are not at our funeral. They cannot change a thing.

    Excellent point Sputjam and one that evaded me in my initial reading of Ross’ article.

    From my (extremely) cursory reading of a translated Koran, the point that God has no partners and intercession for and on behalf of a Muslim is a pointless exercise as it is to God one answers personally is made time and again. Therefore by logical extension, prayers by an, I assume, Imam carries no more weight than any other Muslim.

    Doesn’t the Koran also admonish the Muslim to be wary of clergy in general and ones purporting to have the ‘right’ interpretation of said book in particular? Sorry, that’s off topic.

  8. avatar Odinius says:

    This is another example of people letting their organized religion do their thinking for them. Imams and other officials threatening to withhold prayers from ordinary people? That reminds me of the kinds of extortion rackets Catholic priests ran in Martin Luther’s time.

    But I’d like to put this in perspective, as this thread seems to be predictably turning into Muslim-bashing. Bigotry and ignorance towards a poorly understood minority religion is in no way, shape or form limited to Islam or majority-Muslim societies. For example:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1252636/Defence-chiefs-fight-plans-build-giant-mosque-overlooking-Sandhurst.html

    or

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/culturemonster/2009/12/the-swiss-minaret-ban-islamophobia-lightly-veiled.html

    or

    http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/brooklyn/flier_denouncing_mosque_goes_around_9IOoINLEue4r5K3gywcXQN

    It’s about time that people recognize all of these incidents as evidence of a broad assault on religious freedom by those who think ‘group’ rights are more important than individual rights.

    Unfortunately, most people will only get incensed when ‘their’ group are the victims. A very sad fact, indeed.

  9. avatar Ross says:

    I think the problem is that while Christians in for example Indonesia are quite likely to be loyal Indonesians, and indeed have held very high rank in the ABRI in the past, there are powerful reservations among countries with Muslim minorities, supported by surveys of those Muslims’ opinions, that sectarian solidarity comes above allegiance to the nation-state.
    We have seen this during the Iraq and Afghan Wars – yes, you can be a loyal Brit or Yank or Aussie and disagree with the war because you think it is not in your country’s best interests. But the scraggly-bearded louts and their jilbabbed loutesses are out there protesting ONLY because the enemy happens to be Islamic.

  10. avatar Odinius says:

    But Ross, don’t you think that the same goes for a lot of the evangelical Christians who protest the mistreatment of Christians in other parts of the world? Do they stick up for the Hindus and Muslims under assault in Sri Lanka, or the poorly treated Shias in Pakistan? What about the increasingly marginalized Christians in Indonesia, or increasingly marginalized Muslims in Switzerland?

    It’s downright hypocritical to condemn it in one direction and excuse it in another. But that’s what we get. This is ‘groupism,’ and it’s a depressingly universal feature of the world today.

    I am tempted to make the point that the Muslim bigots in Indonesia, Christian bigots in the West, and all sorts of bigots in the rest of the world, are inadvertently dooming their co-religionists abroad by attacking the rights of minorities who live among them. But then, that would mean that these bigots might actually listen to rational arguments about reciprocal rights. They won’t, because it’s not about rights, it’s about power…specifically, the exercise of power by frustrated members of the majority over the minority.

    Wherever this happens, and whenever, it’s an assault on religious freedom, which must remain agnostic (pardon the pun) on the issue of ‘who’ and ‘whom.’

  11. avatar Ross says:

    Well, I can’t speak for all people who attach the label Christian to their groups, but unfortunately the Muslim problem in the West is well-known. There are normal Muslims there, whom I have worked with and got on well with.

    But there are far too many who seek to impose unacceptable standards on their hosts, notably attacks on free speech, such as the current trial of Geert Wilders in Holland; other issues are the outrageous demand for sharia law to be permtted to co-exist with British law and the arrogant demands on the UK social security system, which has started paying out benefits for polygamous primitives.

    Unfortunately, Western self-abnegation encourages this. Note the way Obama’s Democrats, and many Republicans, in the US treat CAIR as a respectable organisation, despite its terrorist roots and links, and the marchers in Sweden whose confidence in their superior breeding rate allows them to chant that Sweden will be ‘Ours in 2030.’

    For myself, I think people ought to be allowed to worship in peace ( as Pancasila philosophy here once decreed) whatever their religion, but that should not give anybody a license to flout the old and sensible rule, ‘when in Rome, do as the Romans do.’

  12. avatar Oigal says:

    Do they stick up for the Hindus and Muslims under assault in Sri Lanka, or the poorly treated Shias in Pakistan?

    Short Answer, yes and a hell of lot better than their Muslim brothers in most instances, Bosnia ring a bell? Protests and sanctions for the Muslim opposition in Iran perhaps..and..and…

    I actually don’t see much Muslim Bashing here unless people wish to equate what these bigots are doing as mainstream Muslim. As for the defence, “other people do worse stuff” that is fundamentally flawed and dooms Indonesia to a journey to the stone age.

  13. avatar Odinius says:

    People who believe in religious freedom, yes, but as the links I posted demonstrate, there are plenty of Christians in the West who believe that religious freedom ends at Christianity’s border, to the point where they want to stop the building of religious structures belonging to minority religious groups. I fail to see how that differs from the Bekasi idiocy in even the most tangential of ways.

  14. avatar ET says:

    People who believe in religious freedom, yes, but as the links I posted demonstrate, there are plenty of Christians in the West who believe that religious freedom ends at Christianity’s border, to the point where they want to stop the building of religious structures belonging to minority religious groups.

    What goes around comes around. Try to build a church or organize a prayer group in Saudi Arabia or Iran.

  15. avatar Oigal says:

    You will get no dispute from me on the lunacy of all religions particularly on the fringes, however

    I fail to see how that differs from the Bekasi idiocy in even the most tangential of ways.

    It manifestly differs in that it is occuring here to Indonesian citizens, who have every right as citizens to demand better from their government. The defence that other countries do worse is not a defence at all but rather the wailing of a government failing its duty to its people.

    It is also very disputable that in the vast majority of countries where Muslims are a minority or even the wrong sect, they are treated worse than christian (or other) minorities in Muslim countries.

    I think its a fair bet to say I would rather be a Muslim in the UK or USA than a christian in SA or Iran (or dare we say soon Indonesia).

  16. avatar Oigal says:

    As for the reference to the Swiss Minaret, that does your case more harm than good. You failed to mention the place of worship is allowed, just the symbols of overt dominance (as so beautifully explained by some Imam or other as the “Missles of Islam”) were rejected.
    Even that was more of general reaction by the public to radical members of Isam over the past decade in that country than a general “we hate Islam”

    You would be aware that 20 years ago there were 3 Mosque in that country and now 90. How many church approvals in Indonesia in the same period?

    This huge number of new places of worship to cater for less than 5% of the population in spite of the fact that significant sections of the Islamic Community have yet to grasp the fundamentals of free speech and equal rights that make up the core of Swiss governance.

    All in all, Swiss actions are a very poor example to use as an excuse to act like barbarians here.

  17. avatar BrotherMouzone says:

    @Oigal

    You failed to mention the place of worship is allowed, just the symbols of overt dominance were rejected.

    Okay, so using that logic, Bekasi churches should be built without crosses on the outside or a tower/spire. But then they wouldn’t look like churches. Surely Christians have a right to pray in a recognizable place of worship.

    @Ross. Some of your arguments would probably be fair enough, it’s just that you pepper them with such vitriol that it is impossible to believe that you are remotely impartial or objective. In this thread alone, you described;

    polygamous primitives
    scraggly-bearded louts and their jilbabbed loutesses

    Who can take an argument seriously when it is laced with such thinly-veiled bigotry?

  18. avatar Oigal says:

    BM,

    Once again you are being more than a little disingenuous with the facts. You know as well as I do the Islamic Crescent and other comparable symbols are allowed just the overt great towers were disallowed (perhaps like the ear shattering, distorted loud speakers in Indonesia should be). Yet, you skip over the fact that with barely 5% of the population of the Muslim Faith over 85 new Mosques have been approved, built and in use over the past 20 years, this does not include the prayer centers, praying rooms etc .

    It would indeed be interesting to see how many new churches have been approved and built over the last 20 years in Indonesia seeing we wish to compare. Although I suspect it would be easier to count how many churches have been attacked, bombed or burnt to the ground.

    None of which changes the fact the “other countries do it worse defence” is proof that there is no defence in the first place.

    As for

    polygamous primitives, scraggly-bearded louts and their jilbabbed loutesses

    Well it seems you have choice like most people you either associate these people with their acts or by their religion. If these polygamous primitives, scraggly-bearded louts and their jilbabbed loutesses are acting in fashion that runs contrary to what you belive are Islamic principles then they are indeed everything that Ross calls them and more. If however you believe they represent the kind of behavior expected from a devout Muslim, I guess you should be offended but you cannot straddle that fence forever.

    I doubt most Christians would be offended when people refer to the loony religious right as crazy throw-backs. Just an observation but it seems to me, too many Muslims have a over sensitive insult-a-gene which leads to them continually defending the indefensible.

  19. avatar BrotherMouzone says:

    @ Oigal

    Once again you are being more than a little disingenuous with the facts. You know as well as I do the Islamic Crescent and other comparable symbols are allowed just the overt great towers were disallowed

    When was I disingenuous previously?

    You seem to be under the impression that new churches are not being built in Indonesia. That’s just not true. There are a lot of new churches, at least in the Jabotabek area (I feel like we’ve had this discussion before). I also don’t believe for a minute that the behavior of the Swiss on minarets (while patently wrong) justifies the behavior of some Islamic groups in Indonesia.

    I’m not saying that Ross and others don’t have valid points to make. I’m just saying that name calling makes him part of the problem.

  20. avatar Oigal says:

    BM,

    When was I disingenuous previously?

    Hmm perhaps by leaving out little qaulifiers that leave the reader to think cresents are banned crosses are not. Whole places of worship are banned when they are not..

    Ooops sorry that was Ody not you, I will have to stick with only this one then..

    Bekasi churches should be built without crosses on the outside

    There are a lot of new churches, at least in the Jabotabek area (I feel like we’ve had this discussion before) I really would be interested in how many.

    I would disagree (in this case) that Ross is part of the problem. The problem is mainstream Indonesia refuses to stand up for it citizens unless they are part of the majority religion. This is a classic case of Indonesian Citizens having a fairly basic right abused. instead of Indonesians being outraged by that, people like yourself are trying to defend (or water down the issue) by ignoring the elephant in the room.

    The real question that is being asked here (and across Indonesia) is are you Indonesian or Muslim first? As we know, the answer to that is holds some pretty dire consequences for the nation as it exists at the moment. The time is rapidly coming when fence sitting can’t be done anymore. To suggest the two are mutually compatable ignores the fate of over 15% of the population and 80% of the wealth.

  21. avatar Ross says:

    Brother!

    I use strong words to make people respond. and the attention given to another thread at the mo (which is a poor man’s knock-off of one I did a few years back on ‘kampung girls,’ compared to this rather more serious issue, suggests I need to use even stronger words next time.

    I am not impartial as between the FPI, who do mostly answer the description of scraggly-bearded louts ( the jilbabbed loutesses were visible on demos in the UK) on the one hand and those pro-tolerance demonstrators they beat up in the inert presence of dozens of cowardly cops.

    Nor am I impartial as between Christianity and Islam. The religion which shaped our western civilisation gets my vote anytime, no matter that its leaderships are currently weak-kneed soppy sorts. (strong enough?)

  22. avatar Odinius says:

    ET said:

    What goes around comes around. Try to build a church or organize a prayer group in Saudi Arabia or Iran.

    Or Bekasi. Thanks for making my point for me, though.

  23. avatar Odinius says:

    Ross said:

    Nor am I impartial as between Christianity and Islam. The religion which shaped our western civilisation gets my vote anytime, no matter that its leaderships are currently weak-kneed soppy sorts.

    Absolutely your right, as it is for the committed Muslim, Hindu, Jew, Buddhist, etc.

    The great thing about modern democracies is that they are supposed to uphold the rights of all individuals to make choices, including choices over their religious lives. You should be able to “give your vote” to whomever you choose, wherever you reside. When a state restricts those choices, by inhibiting the free practice of religion, or does nothing when citizens attempt to unilaterally restrict that right, there’s a fundamental problem.

    My other problem is when people choose only to complain about it when their group is the victim, or rationalize bigotry by pointing to someone else’s bigotry. It all looks the same in the end.

  24. avatar Ross says:

    Fair enough, Odinius!
    But I can’t equate restrictions on minarets (not mosques) with the wholesale suppression of churchbuilding which these fundamentally bad people go in for. And clerics who use their perceived status or power to intimidate poor folks into signing an anti-church petition are just that…BAD!

    There is too much kow-towing to Islamists in the West. Here they rule the roost and rub everyone else’s noses in that fact.

  25. avatar Oigal says:

    My other problem is when people choose only to complain about it when their group is the victim, or rationalize bigotry by pointing to someone else’s bigotry. It all looks the same in the end.

    What is is interesting that even (or just) here, religion has crawled/slithered in to take undeserved centre stage. The issue should be addressed as INDONESIAN CITIZENS being denied protections they are entitled to under the laws of this country. The fact they worship teapots, flying horse riders, or the orgins of the easter egg is not relevant.

    If you applied the law equally without regard to the thugs of God (all kinds) then it would be a non issue except a few extra bodies in the cells for anti-social behavior.

  26. avatar Ross says:

    Most religions have some good core values (which they may not always adhere to) so I can’t share Oigal’s anti-God perspective, but he’s right… this should not be a thread for theological / doctrinal debate.

  27. avatar Oigal says:

    Oigal’s anti-God

    Damn (pun intended), perhaps I should change my name to Damien 🙂

  28. avatar Odinius says:

    Oigal said:

    What is is interesting that even (or just) here, religion has crawled/slithered in to take undeserved centre stage. The issue should be addressed as INDONESIAN CITIZENS being denied protections they are entitled to under the laws of this country. The fact they worship teapots, flying horse riders, or the orgins of the easter egg is not relevant.

    If you applied the law equally without regard to the thugs of God (all kinds) then it would be a non issue except a few extra bodies in the cells for anti-social behavior.

    Completely agree, and would add that by protecting the individual rights of all Indonesian citizens, the state would by extension protect the rights of all communities. As soon as states begin thinking of individuals as bits of collectivities (even when well-intentioned), a whole host of nasty side-effects emerge. And, of course, much collective thinking is not well-intentioned.

    I think, generally, people who campaign for “special rights,” as opposed to “equal rights,” are all cut from the same cloth. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the people trying to block churches thought the Swiss minaret ban was a breach of their rights, and miss the irony. Similarly, I’m sure a lot of people who think stuff like what’s going on in Bekasi is a travesty of justice, but support restricting freedom of religion for Muslims in Western countries. Again missing the irony.

    As I said earlier, the state should stay agnostic on all issues of “who” and “whom.”

  29. avatar ET says:

    Odinius said

    When a state restricts those choices, by inhibiting the free practice of religion, or does nothing when citizens attempt to unilaterally restrict that right, there’s a fundamental problem.

    But once again we stumble over a point that I tried to make several times in this forum. What is the difference between a religion and a cult that strives for world dominance? And why should a democratic state that is based on the will of the majority of its voters not have the right to restrict the practice of a cult which it considers opposed to its core values?

    No one will oppose a spiritual exercise or guidance that helps individuals to cope with the difficulties of life or put it in a higher perspective, but when political aspirations become involved the appropriate measures of control should be applied in order to safeguard the continuance of the state’s existence and development in accordance with its principles.

  30. avatar Ross says:

    Cults like Charles Manson’s obviously need suppressed, but Lia Eden’s is totally harmless, except to the ‘tranquillity’ of those morons who made up the mob outside her home. They should have been jailed, not her.

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