Tag Archives: religion

Brazilian atheists have a message for Indonesia

"If god exists, everything is permitted"

This powerful advertisement commissioned by a Brazilian atheist group sums up, in one slogan, what is happening with religious bigotry, persecution and violence against the Ahmadiyah community in Indonesia at the moment.

Last month a court gave sentences of 3-6 months’ jail to 12 Sunni Muslim thugs who led a lynch mob of around 1,500 armed extremists against about 20 members of the Ahmadiyah sect, who are Muslims in every sense of the word except they don’t believe Mohammed was the final prophet. In the eyes of the Indonesian courts, this means you can kill them in front of police and receive less punishment than you would for stealing someone’s buffalo or making a naughty video of yourself with your girlfriend.

Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa put his Cambridge masters degree in philosophy to good use on Friday, cynically inverting logic and ethics in justification of the sentences. He said the judiciary’s independence could not be questioned (ignoring that laws such as prohibitions against murder are created by parliament to be enforced) and noted that Indonesia was not the only country to experience “heinous” acts as a result of religious intolerance (ignoring the fact that heinous acts which go unpunished are likely to be repeated).

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Looking for a no-smoking zone in Indonesia

A website sent in by a reader seems to be a compilation of pictures of Indonesian men smoking in shops. It happens all the time and there’s nothing non-smokers can do except leave the shop. You’d have more luck asking the pope to dance the can-can than getting one of these guys to stub out their cigarettes or take it outside.

Check it out – http://itcroxymasjakarta.wordpress.com

I recently took a friend to Cork and Screw (Kuningan), an up-market wine bar and restaurant in Jakarta, and asked if they had a non-smoking area. The waiter, all dressed up like he was on the Champs Elysees, looked bemused and had to think about what we meant. Finally he told us that if we didn’t like cigarette smoke we could eat dinner  out on the service bar near the cash register. In other words they didn’t have a non-smoking area. The waiter explained that it was a wine bar, and people like to smoke when they drink wine.

Silly me, thinking that a restaurant in the 21st century that aspires to be cosmopolitan and sophisticated would have a non-smoking area. In other countries, of course, I might have trouble finding a smoking area, because the whole restaurant would be a smoke-free, healthy breathing kind of place. But no, this is Indonesia, and it has a very, very long way to go.

It was early and not very busy so my friend and I decided to put up with the smoke and eat anyway. We ordered a hugely overpriced bottle of wine (alcohol is the drink of the devil and rich foreigners, you see, so it is subject to massive taxes in mainly Muslim Indonesia) and asked for the menus. When the wine came we tasted it and both agreed it was off. It had soured, probably because it had been exposed to varying temperatures as it was transported from Australia. The waiter didn’t know what we were talking about, and offered to give it to us in different glasses. We said no thanks. Then a more senior waiter came over and said he would have to get the restaurant’s in-house “sommelier” to taste the wine. I watched as he took the bottle over to a guy who was smoking cigarettes at the bar with a woman, who was also smoking and drinking a giant fruit cocktail with a pink umbrella. The “sommelier” swished a bit of wine around in his glass and had a couple of gulps, but seemed unable to decide if it was OK. He gave the glass to one of the bar tenders who also had a swig before passing it over to a third bar tender for yet another taste. Strange sort of sommelier, I thought to myself. Low self-esteem, perhaps? Lacking confidence? Anyway, the waiter brought the bottle back to us and told us the wine was in fact good. We said no thanks, the wine was in fact off. Then the restaurant’s manager come over and had a taste himself. He said maybe it would be better if he chilled it for us for precisely two minutes. We said no thanks that would make no difference at all. So the manager said he would talk to his number-one sommelier, the really serious expert in the house, who ended up being the woman I’d noticed smoking at the bar. She put down her fruit cocktail and cigarette and had a sip, then another, etc etc etc. Finally she came over and said the wine was good. I told her the wine was not good and we weren’t going to pay for it. By this stage my friend and I were laughing. At least they had the decency to accept our position, but it took an awful lot of rather silly posturing before they did.

My friend and I concluded that it’s a waste of time trying to buy wine with a meal in an Indonesian restaurant unless you want to pay about $80 for a $30-dollar bottle. Otherwise, you pay $40 for the cheapest plonk they have. As for trying to escape the smokers, forget it.

Meanwhile the country continues to bow to Big Tobacco and sidestep meaningful reform to its smoking regulations that would bring it in line with the rest of the world. The latest news is that regulations to limit cigarette advertising will not be brought in as planned because of “technicalities”.  As Arist Merdeka Sirait, chairman of the National Commission for Child Protection, told the Jakarta Globe, the government’s decision contradicted the Health Law.

The law clearly states tobacco as an addictive substance and clearly addictive substances should not be advertised. The government should ask themselves, what do they care about more, income or the future or our children?

If you go to that Jakarta Globe link, check out the comment from the religious nut regarding tobacco and the Koran. Smoking  can “stop you from the sole purpose of having been sent to the world, namely the remembrance of Allah”.

I don’t know about you, but I can think of a few other reasons to live.

Paris pulls plug on Jakarta

Socialite pretty thing Paris Hilton has told her “fans” that she’s going back to the United States after apparently being refused permission to enter Japan. That means her trip to Indonesia is off, and we won’t be able to look forward to the spectacle of outraged Islamists calling for her to be stoned to death in central Jakarta.

Paris tweeted: “Going home now. So dissappointed [sic] to miss my fans in Asia. I promise to come back soon. I love you all! Love Paris xoxo”

The Jakarta Globe reported the news as “a major blow to hundreds of Indonesian adolescents but probably nobody else”. Ouch!

UPDATE: I couldn’t resist adding this perspective from New York News and Features: “Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t let her in, and she was forced to orbit the Earth for all eternity, like a literal failed star? Alas, the U.S. is not as discerning as Japan”. Nasty!

And while I’m at it, I noticed that Paris gave a special mention on Twitter to a blog for being so “honest”… it should surprise no one that it’ s nothing but a creepy virtual altar to Paris – “a site where we all can come to share our AWE for Paris Hilton”.

Laughing at extremists may be best medicine

It’s easy to get irate at the disgusting racism, xenophobia and bigotry expressed by religious extremists of all kinds. And when they are allowed to get away with thuggish violence – like the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) in Indonesia – it’s downright depressing.

But humour is probably the sharpest weapon normal people have in their armoury against such freaks, and some mysterious Indonesian Twitter users are putting this theory to the test, according to The Jakarta Globe.

The “Islamic Destroyers Front” are using the microblogging site to mock the brutes of the FPI, who threaten and intimidate everyone in Indonesia with almost total impunity.

Tweeting through @FPIYeah, the spoof FPI has more than 20,000 followers.

Rote learning of the Koran is described thus: “If we can memorise, why should we use common sense?”

FPI fanatics think it’s important to imitate the dress of the prophet Mohammed, so they get around with wispy little beards, skull caps and pants that are too short.

“Don’t try to be righteous. Try to ‘look’ righteous. It’s easier and faster to gain respect in the world,” @FPIYeah said.

Another Tweet mocked: “Any religion must be practiced with blind fanaticism. It’s better to get into heaven than respecting one another”.

The Globe reported that the author is rumoured to be movie director Joko Anwar but FPIYeah authors denied this. “We’re not him. We’re not as smart as him,” they said.

The real FPI’s latest stunt is to order their fanatics to hunt down the editor of Indonesia Playboy. The magazine only ran two editions in Indonesia in 2006, featuring no nudity, but was forced to close amid threats and violent protests by Islamic radicals.

Charges of indecency against Erwin Arnada were dismissed in 2007 but the state, urged along by the government’s pets in the FPI, took the matter to the Supreme Court which is expected to sentence him to two years’ jail.

Erwin wrote on Twitter that he was not afraid of the FPI and condemned the criminalisation of the press in Indonesia as a a “threat to the media and people who dare to speak and to create”.

The authorities are in cahoots with the FPI despite the country’s secular constitution and its obligations under international treaties to guarantee  freedom of religion.

Jakarta Governor Fauzi Bowo earlier this month attended the group’s anniversary celebrations in the capital, shocking civil society activists.

(Photo courtesy of squid697 via flickr)