The American man accused of blasphemy in Indonesia for allegedly invading a mosque and pulling the plug on the loudspeakers during a nightly prayer reading says his life on the island of Lombok is over. He’s leaving.
In a letter to this blog, 64-year-old Greg denied the allegations from his neighbours at Kuta beach, where he had lived for more than 10 years and ran a simple guesthouse for tourists. He said he had merely asked them to turn down the loudspeaker, and was set upon by a mob who destroyed his house:
I didn’t pull the plug, I ask to turn it down. Previously, I bought a set of karaoke speakers so they could hear themselves pray, without waking the dead with their loud speaker. I was pushed and rocks thrown by a bunch of drunk teenage boys who are a known gang in the neighborhood.
Later, with over 100 police present, I was forced to leave my house by the police. The police stood by as the mob destroyed, burned and ransacked my house.
The mob was looking for something to do and this was a good excuse for fun. No religion allows people to take the law into their own hands. It was mob mentality and police ignorance. Without nightsticks, pepper spray, or any other mob control techniques, they tried to stop the crowd by shooting their 22 gage pistols into the air.
Anyway, no charges have or will be filed. I have a current Kitas Visa, and I am living comfortably in a hotel – never to return to Kuta, Lombok.
Whatever the facts behind the incident at the mosque, what everyone agrees on is that a mob ransacked the American’s house under the gaze of the police. The “mob mentality” is on display every day in Indonesia, so it’s no surprise.
Islamic chauvinism and police bias are also evident on a daily basis, so it’s also no surprise that Muslims would feel entitled to resort to mob violence over the tiniest insult to their religion by a foreigner or member of a religious minority. Recent violence against Christians and Ahmadiya followers testify to this. The police respond by doing nothing or being pathetically ineffectual. In the case of the Ahmadis, they actually help the extremists carry out their attacks. There is no rule of law.
Some people say such violence is on the rise because President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is a weak leader who leans on Islamic parties to shore up his fractious, splintered and dysfunctional ruling coalition. (“Ruling” is a generous term in this case; it actually does very little of that).
As for conservatively Muslim Lombok, it’s no wonder it stagnates in backward poverty while neighbouring Bali (mainly Hindu and very open and tolerant) grows rich from tourism. Stories like this – about the violent, intolerant locals 0n Lombok – are common and they’re one reason I’ve spent very little time on the island despite its physical beauty.
As for the rights and wrongs of loudspeakers in mosques – personally I think the practice should be banned completely or subjected to tight restrictions. Others disagree. Check out the comments to this Jakarta Globe story on the Lombok case to get a taste of the endless debate.
Greg – don’t fret too much about leaving Lombok. Try Thailand instead.
(Photo courtesy of Txemi via Picasa)