Religious Radio a Force to Be Reckoned With

The Jakarta Globe

When Islamic hard-liners in Bekasi and Bogor were questioned recently about what influenced them to take up causes or attend demonstrations, most pointed toward an often overlooked medium: the radio.

Haryanto, a resident of Ciketing in Bekasi, said it was through the radio that he became aware of Murhali Barda, the former head of the Bekasi chapter of the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI). And it was through Murhali’s speeches on the radio that Haryanto felt compelled to attend the former FPI head’s criminal trial for inciting violence.

Murhali was found guilty of inciting an attack last September that culminated in the stabbing of two leaders of the Batak Christian Protestant Church (HKBP) in Ciketing. He was sentenced to five months in prison in February.

“I do not know Murhali personally. I only know of him from the Dakta radio station,” Haryanto told the Jakarta Globe. “Every Sunday I’d listen to his program on Dakta. Through this program, I felt that I needed to support him as much as I could.”

Haryanto is just one of thousands of listeners of Islamic radio programs that at times carry information on where demonstrations in support of religious or moral causes are being held. Or which mosques will host preachers like Murhali.

Completing the News

Media analyst Iswandi Syahputra says many people who rely on television or social networking Web sites for their information underestimate the influence of radio.

According to the Alliance of Islamic Radio (ARIN), there are about 50 registered Islamic radio stations across Indonesia, about 30 of which are members of ARIN. The alliance itself was officially launched in February of last year.

Dhea Qotrunnada, who heads ARIN, recently told the Globe that Islamic radio stations in the country were established to augment and sometimes counter the news on Islam being carried in the mainstream press.

“The main purpose of our broadcasts is getting as many people as possible to stand together. Why should we stand alone? We would never be successful in striking down incomplete reports by mainstream media if we were to stand alone,” Dhea said.

“We air news that has a clear Islamic perspective. We need this to make up for the news being carried by mainstream media, which often discredits Islam. We also air nasyid [Islamic songs].”

Great Variety of Stations

Dakta Radio, which Haryanto likes to tune into, is based in Bekasi. It was established in 1992 and broadcasts news and speeches for what it claims are one million listeners in Greater Jakarta. But director Andi Kosala denied on Friday that it was an exclusively Islamic radio station.

“This is a news radio station that happens to have 40 percent Islamic content,” Andi told the Globe. “It needs to be understood that this is not an Islamic radio station.”

Asked why of all the Islamic preachers in the country Dakta Radio picked Murhali to host his own program, Andi said, “We used Murhali because we saw that he was competent. We did not know that he was an FPI leader.”

At Radio Nuris, an executive told the Globe that the station was established because its founders were concerned about young Indonesian straying from the path of Islam.

“We believed this was happening because of the strength of Western culture,” Rudianto said. “So we began to offer Islamic edutainment for young people, especially students and university students, with 100 percent Islamic values.”

Dadang Rahmat Hidayat, who chairs the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI), said there were many religious radio stations, and not just Islamic ones.

“There are also Christian stations, like Petra FM,” Dadang said. “It needs to be understood, however, that there is not necessarily anything wrong with ‘radio dakwah’ [radio for preaching purposes] — as long as they do not provoke listeners to commit crimes.”

But that can sometimes be difficult to prevent.

“We do not have the equipment to monitor radio broadcasts,” Dadang said. “So we ask listeners to report anything they find offensive.”

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