indonesia

Police Issue Vigilante Groups a Warning: No Ramadan Raids This Year

Will we make it through the whole month without the annual raids on nightclubs, bars, and restaurants? Time will tell.
May 27, 2017, 7:30am
Open all Ramadan. Photo by Thomas Baron/ Flickr CC License

The National Police issued a stern warning this week to Indonesia's Islamist hardliners: don't even think about going out on Ramadan raids this month. The raids, the work of religious vigilante groups, routinely target bars, nightclubs, red light districts, and even restaurants that remain open during the Holy Month.

"The police are the only law enforcement," said Commissioner Awi Setiyono, of the National Police's public relations department. "Communities and mass organizations are forbidden from conducting any sweepings."

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Indonesia's mass organizations, or ormas, have a history of enforcing their own version of Islamic law during the Holy Month—sometimes with deadly results. These groups, organizations like the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), defend their actions by saying they are only upholding moral standards during Ramadan. But the nation, still divided amid a rise in sectarian language, is no place for Ramadan raids this year, the police said.

The police urged citizens to report any illegal vigilante raids in their neighborhood.

The Jakarta government typically orders bars, nightclubs, and massage parlors to shutter their doors for the entire month, but there are plenty of loopholes and many only shut down for the first and last days of the month. Bars still serve alcohol, but bartenders usually hide beers in tea pots or coffee mugs and replace the liquor bottles with water.

Restaurants, from the fanciest spots in Senopati to the smallest roadside warung, will cover their windows with curtains during daytime hours out of respect or those who are fasting.

Nahdlatul Ulama's youth wing GP Ansor said the organization would work with police and report anywhere caught violating the Ramadan rules.

"We wont do anything outside the law, we still have police authority," Redim Okto Fudin, of GP Ansor Jakarta, told local media. "If they cannot be disciplined, then we will coordinate and take further action requesting the police and military to shut them down."

Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim-majority nation, where only 13 percent of the country follows a religion other than Islam. But tolerance and diversity are enshrined in the country's founding ideology, the Pancasila, and it's common to see people eating or drinking during Ramadan.

As the country comes out of an ugly election, the jailing of Jakarta's Christian governor, and a terrorist attack in the capital's east, Muslim organizations are saying that promoting a message of tolerance is more important this year than ever before.