Amir Tejo, Bayu Marhaenjati & Farouk Arnaz
Surabaya. A House of Representatives member questioned police commitment to stop Ramadan raids conducted by hard-line Muslim organizations after one group paraded across Surabaya to intimidate workers in a local prostitution area on Tuesday in an apparent show of force.
“We are not conducting raids, we are just peacefully parading to welcome the coming of the holy month of Ramadan,” said Mochamad Yunus the gathering’s coordinator.
Hundreds of people under the name the United Muslim People’s Movement (GUIB) riding motorcycles, wearing Islamic garb and chanting praises to God paraded across town before stopping at the Dolly area of Surabaya, known for its prostitution.
The group then walked past Dolly streets while an orator used a bullhorn to shout calls for the brothels to shut down during Ramadan.
Yunus also pointed to a recently-enacted decree issued by East Java Governor Soekarwo to shut down all brothels and restrict the operating hours of nightclubs and entertainment centers during Ramadan.
“We are also asking the government to severely sanction nightspots that are deviant. The regulations are clear. The government must take action, otherwise, don’t blame us if we take action ourselves,” he said.
Last week, the National Police warned groups not to conduct raids on nightclubs and restaurants during the fasting month, saying it is against the law. But Eva Kusuma Sundari of House Commission III, which oversees legal and judicial matters, questioned that commitment given GUIB’s actions on Tuesday.
“Even with them showing commitment, the underlying problem is, will the National Police chief [Gen.Timur Pradopo] take action [on hard-liners’ raids] or not,” the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician said. “Police have the authority to enforce the law, but the National Police chief often sides with the hard-liners.”
Just days after the National Police issued its warning, hard-line Islamic groups in East Kalimantan demanded authorities close night spots and brothels, threatening to “take matters into their own hands” if police fail to do so.
Idrus Algadri, the chairman of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) Depok branch, also threatened to raid nightlife spots if they remain opened during Ramadan.
Hard-liners are notorious for their vigilante raids and acts of violence against groups and places they consider “un-Islamic,” including nightclubs, stores selling alcohol, and musical and dance performances, particularly during Ramadan.
In a rare prosecution against such raids, Abdul Rahman Assagaf, an FPI leader, was jailed for five months for the destruction of private property during a series of Ramadan raids in Makassar, South Sulawesi, last year.
The jail term seems to have had little impact on Assagaf, as he again sent his members parading around Makassar last week, threatening owners of night clubs, brothels and restaurants to shut down their operations during Ramadan.