Punk’s definitely kicking and alive in Aceh

Photograph: Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP/Getty Images

During my college years I wanted to get a mohawk haircut. It never happened, but if I were in Aceh I might want to shelve that thought forever.

It all started when a group of 64 punkers attended an orphanage charity rock concert “Aceh for Punk”. According to a twitter user, whose brother was one of the punkers involved, as they were about to go on stage, they were stopped by the Banda Aceh deputy city mayor, Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal, and the Aceh sharia police. Their reason, the punkers did not have permission to perform.

Whatever justification it may be, the following events was the “moral re-education” of these young punkers, most who are still in school. They were shaved, their punk attire stripped, thrown into pools of water for “spiritual cleansing” and they were given brushes because they are seen as dirty and have never showered for days.

Illiza, who’s involved in many Aceh sharia raids, further explained that these punkers are “creating public nuisance” and determines to pursue the punkers who escaped the raid on last Saturday (10/12). Illiza’s argument was that these punkers are also morally corrupt, because “men and women are together and it conflicts with Islamic sharia”.

Indonesia’s Aceh province was given special autonomy to implement sharia law after the peace agreement to end the separatist struggle in 2005. The current struggle, it seems, is questioning whether enforcing these sharia principles makes common sense.

Being a punker is an ideology, it is an identity. Though I do not know much about being a punk rocker, I know for sure that just by being one it is not amoral. Hence, the purpose of these moral re-education in Aceh is baseless and have the potential to violate their human rights.

Iskandar Hasan, Aceh’s police chief, however, denied the human rights violation allegation:

“We’re not torturing anyone,” he said. “We’re not violating human rights. We’re just trying to put them back on the right moral path.”

Whose moral path is it again?


6 thoughts on “Punk’s definitely kicking and alive in Aceh”

  1. In my innocence I think it was a clear breach of the kids’ physical integrity, their freedom of thoughts and even their physical freedom.

    I guess mr Iskandar Hasan bady needs some lectures on human rights.

    Anyhow the loud and clear Aceh message is: fall in, conform, don’t deviate. There is only one way; our way.

    Aceh is not my favourite holiday destination :).

    1. I was in Aceh last December. Entering Aceh by bus from Medan, I arrived at the bus terminal only wearing a loose headscarf and getting looks from the locals, mostly men.

      Remnants of the tsunami impact is obviously there, but what I feel from Banda Aceh is that it is at least in between two identities – an urbanized society (especially since a majority of international expats was there for development work) and an increasing sharia-controlled society.

      These sort of news won’t win tourists, indeed. Pity, because Sabang and the rest of the Aceh landscape is beautiful. Not to mention their savory culinary delights.

  2. Posted originally in Aceh, Daerah Istimewa on Pelopor.nl

    Post 1
    Many Muslims claim that the West in intent on discrediting and sidelining Islam. To which I wish I could tell them that they need no help from the West, for many of their co-religionists are doing a dandy job of it themselves. For Thor’s sake, focus on what is important, focus on what matters!

    Post 2
    My beef with the “hardcore believers” is not about their obsession with the afterlife, but rather with their belief that ritual and form is what matters the most. This phenomenon, goal displacement, is well know in the field of administration. Goal displacement refers to a distorsion of performance/reward structures in which the form has displaced the substance. Easily observable performance indicators have displaced actual performance.

    In this instance, and in others, what we witness is priority being given to ritual (fasting, prayer, avoidance of pork, circumcision, profession of faith, etc.) over substance, over actually being good and virtuous. In today’s Indonesia it is far more important to declare oneself and be acknowledged as a Muslim, to wear the paraphernalia, fulfill the ritual, speak the nomenclature than to actually fulfil Islam’s high ideals of tolerance and respect for others. Ritual and apperances have displaced virtue and reality.

    1. Mauri, I think you and I share the same concern several times that sharia proponents often focuses more on form than substance, and I think this phenomena is not exclusive in Indonesia but also happening worldwide. Remember the European ulama that said women should not touch bananas because it resembles a penis? Trivial.

      By the way, thanks for the Islamicity index article that you sent me, will definitely make a post on that.

  3. My concern is that this goal displacement is prevalent even among those who would not be categorized as “Islamists”, “fundamentalists” or “extremists”. We see it in everyday practice. You have written about it previously apropos Robert Putnam’s visit. To this day, it is anathema for a Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim. In other words, it is far preferable to marry one who adheres to the ritual and rhetoric than to marry a good person. Look at the generalized disgusting and amoral treatment of Ahmadis. Look at the avoidance of pork, while people will eat mystery meat bakso, and smoke their way to an early death. This literalism and fetishism of the mundane, obsession with ritual is the bane of today’s Islam in Indonesia.

  4. Oh yeah, look at the punishment meted out to the punks, while corruption runs rampant in the province. But you need not come as far as Aceh to know Aceh. West Java and Banten in Java are probably now the country’s epicenter of fundamentalism and intolerance in Indonesia.

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