Jessica Harkins, Zaky Pawas & Ismira Lutfia
Jakarta. Fresh from protests against the presence of two churches in Bekasi, the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front has now turned its wrath on a gay and lesbian film festival.
On Tuesday, more than 100 members of the group, also known as the FPI, demonstrated at various foreign-run venues hosting screenings during the two-week Q! Film Festival, which opened on Friday.
A spokesman for the French Cultural Center (CCF) on Jalan Salemba Raya in Central Jakarta told the Jakarta Globe that the protesters — dressed in white robes and turbans, and shouting anti-gay slogans — had gathered outside the center to demand it cancel its participation in the festival.
But the Jakarta Police were quick to remind the public, including the FPI, against violence, saying personal freedoms must be respected.
“The important thing is we live together side by side in peace and not interfere with one another,” spokesman Sr. Comr. Boy Rafli Amar told reporters on Tuesday.
He added that as long as pornography was not being shown, the police had no problems with the films.
“We do not know what movies are being shown. If they contain pornography, that is forbidden of course,” he said. “However, if it simply shows the lifestyles of homosexuals or gays, must we really ban this?”
John Badalu, the festival’s director, said he was not concerned about safety because the necessary precautions had been taken.
“We anticipated this,” he said, adding that the FPI had sent each venue a warning letter prior to the festival. He added he was discussing the developments with the venues and festival partners.
In a written statement, the FPI warned the cultural centers involved “not to take advantage of the Indonesian people’s hospitality” by organizing “deceptive events that contradict the Constitution and Indonesia’s religious and Eastern values.”
The group also said “liberal infidels” backed by foreign funding had repeatedly tried to legalize same-sex marriage on the pretext of human rights, freedom and equality.
Hartoyo, an activist from Ourvoice, a gay, bisexual and transgender rights group, told the Globe the FPI’s protests were fine as long as they did not turn violent.
“They have the right to believe that the festival is a sinful thing, but they should channel their objections appropriately by filing a complaint with the police,” he said.
“Let the authorities process the case through legal channels to determine if the film festival really is against the law.”
Hartoyo urged the FPI to accept the decision of the authorities, although he said he doubted whether the police would be able to deal with the issue fairly.
“The thing is, the police are afraid of the FPI and can’t take a firm stance against the group,” he said.