Infidel Banyan Tree

Oct 4th, 2006, in News, by

Outrages to the majesty of God mankind can be found even among tree species, in this case the banyan tree, at least for some zealous Muslim youths in Jakarta.

The banyan tree pictured has stood near Harmoni Central Busway station in central Jakarta, for about 100 years, unbowed, even after some major roads were built around it. Local superstitious types seem to have developed the idea that a spirit dwelled within the tree serving to protect it from the chaotic development and road planning in Jakarta. Some people were even reported to have left offerings at its base and it was rumoured that four men who had attempted to bring the tree down soon after died.

The young men of the United Islam Youth (Persatuan Islam, Persis) group, led by one Zenal Arifin Abu Dhiya, decided that they were having none of it, no tree, nor spirit, no pagan nonsense, should rival or insult the greatness of man, especially during Ramadhan, and they therefore proceeded to hack away at the branches, leaving just its trunk, on Sunday 1st October, to prove that it was just an ordinary beringin tree. The trunk only survived because the necessary tools for its uprooting were lacking, it appears.

Infidel Banyan Tree
The banyan tree in question.

The Jakarta administration filed a complaint with the police the next day, wanting the young men of Persis prosecuted for vandalism. Governor Sutiyoso also threatened to ask the group to replace the damaged tree with 10 new banyan trees.

The group however defended their actions by saying they did it for a noble cause, that is, to diminish the misleading belief about it being a sacred tree. Such a perception could corrupt moral and religious faith, they said. Later Zenal Arifin Abu Dhiya said that the group could not tolerate the tree’s existence, with its reputation for containing a spirit superior to men. The tree’s destruction was done as an act of dakwah, he said. Hat tip to Green Stump.

16 Comments on “Infidel Banyan Tree”

  1. Tomaculum says:

    1. Whose moral and religious faith will/can be corrupted by “such a perception”? Theirs? An unwanted proof of the weakness and instability of their faith and moral, isn’t it? BTW: there are however Moslem ghosts catcher/fighter (on TV), why don’t let them banish the invisible resident(s)? Since tousands of years exists such beliefs in Indonesia, everybody could live with it. Suddenly it is no more suitable to the moral and faith understanding (from whom?).
    2. They can cut down the tree or burn it, but the belief to ghosts (and ancient spirits) is part of the Indonesian cultur (once more: since tousands of years). Not long ago during my holiday in Indonesia, I toke part in a village festivity called Nyadranan, which held in the month Ruwah and dedicated to the ancient spirits of the village and of every village resident. Almost all of the participants were Moslems, many of the women were there with Jilbab (headscarf). Should such traditional events also being prohibited. Should the Javanese stop being Javanese (a.e.)?
    What about Dschinni ((Al Qur’an Sura 72 a.e.)? Or are the ghosts of other beliefs less tolerable or have less right to exist? (“My ghosts are better than yours”).
    3. Do some one believe, that these some people will be prosecuted for vandalism? I think the problem is, that some people in Indonesia nowadays can do anarchical actions, sometimes against the law, and there are no consequences for it.

    At least: “Infidel banyan tree” is a very, very good title. Or: Infidel banyan tree cuted down by some fiddle zealouses.
    My, my, whats going on with Indonesia? Masya Allah!!

  2. Andrew says:

    Oh my, that’s one hell of a poor tree.

  3. Munafikbangetloepade says:


    I don’t know what to say :)) ROTFL.

    It’s just so comical.

  4. Oigal says: pinched my title..

    Still a fair better researched post! I claim work pressures (or being bone idle) as an excuse.

    The more the insanity is exposed, the safer it will be for…..Trees


    BTW”¦ “Governor Sutiyoso also threatened to ask the group to replace the damaged tree with 10 new banyan trees” seems a bit weak.

    How about 12 months as a work detail, 12 hours a day in a reforestry program. Preferably in the most remote location possible, time for them to reconnect with nature I think.

    As for the spirit takening revenge..Go Earth Mother

  5. greenlover says:

    Actually I don’t care about the reason why they cut the leaves of the tree down. My concern is as what Sutiyoso concerns, no matter what kind of the story behind the tree, the most important think is that currently, jakarta is very lack of trees. Jakarta is now very hot. I know exactly the place is very hot at the noon. I can imagine, after this, the place will be getting hotter. I agree with Sutiyoso to ask them to replace the tree. You know it’s hard to maintain the tree especially in jakarta.

  6. Mohammed Khafi says:

    A quote from Zenal Arifin Abu Dhiya in the International Media

    “We did this to propagate Islam.”

    How? by showing blatant disregard for public property, by being wantonly destructive, by an act of vandalism, by showing disregard for nature and the environment?

    What Zenal Arifin Abu Dhiya has achieved is making Islam look ridiculous and has made us look like a backward nation once again.

    Well done, that was just what we needed!

  7. Tomaculum says:

    There are many, many more Muslims in Indonesia, who aren’t bullheaded and not narrow minded like those handfull zealouses, even real Indonesian Muslims and Muslimahs. Why don’t you wake up and trounce them??!!! Not only because of this case, but also against other unintelligible acts.

  8. bfy says:

    I agree with Mohammed Khafi, having lived in Indonesia I am well aware of the moderation and peaceful behaviour of 99.9% of Indonesian Muslims. But acts like this serve to validate the beliefs of many non-Muslims that Islam and violence are one. The United Islam Youth certainly did no good for their Islamic brothers and sisters.

  9. ak says:

    The _most _ridiculous form of radicalism _ever_. Who they think they are, can’t they see that Jakarta does not have enough trees to cool down the polution.

  10. Tony says:

    Mr Arifin, rather than propagating Islam you are trying to enforce it.

  11. Andrew says:

    Sad, doing something “on behalf of Islam” seems to be a very powerful excuse nowadays.

    They are giving the religion a bad name.

  12. David says:

    There is some very good background on the Persis movement at They have a long history of being opposed to Islamic “Hinduism” and superstitious practices.

  13. Jack Hawkins says:

    Muslims shooting themselves in the foot again! Showing how superior they are to who exactly?

  14. Bradlymail says:

    it was another ‘vandalism act’ – should be punished by their stupid acted !

  15. Tomaculum says:

    Any one knows what happened with the vandals? Are they imprisoned or are they still busy cutting other infidel trees or something else?

  16. O. Bule says:

    Oh, God, what utter stupidity. That Islam in Indonesia has come to this saddens me.

    O. Bule

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