Ahmadis’ Holidays Plagued With Fear in Indonesia

The Jakarta Globe

Ahmadis’ Holidays Plagued With Fear in Indonesia

Not all Muslims celebrated Idul Fitri with jubilance and excitement. For members of the Ahmadiyah minority sect, this year’s celebration is marked by heartache and fear.

Firdaus Mubarik, a spokesman for the Indonesian Ahmadiyah Congregation (JAI), told the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday that approximately 600 Ahmadis in Sukadana village in West Java’s Cianjur district had been banned from using their mosque for prayers.

“Ahmadiyah followers in Sukadana village were told by the village chief that they could not use their own mosque to hold a Idul Fitri prayer in case of a possible attack by the residents,” Firdaus said.

“For us, this is a threat.”

Instead, Firdaus said the group had to hold its prayers inside an Ahmadiyah Islamic school as guards from Cianjur kept watch.

Similar threats were also aired against Ahmadis in Makassar, who were recently attacked by assailants from the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).

“Even though our mosque was damaged by the FPI on August 13, thank God we could hold Idul Fitri prayers in our own mosque peacefully this morning wthout any disturbance,” Irza Rasid, an Ahmadi from Makassar, told the Globe.

“Unfortunately, we could not stay longer to gather and celebrate Idul Fitri among the Ahmadiyah congregation because we did not want the FPI to come and attack us,” he added.

Last month, FPI members attacked the Makassar office of the JAI, where Ahmadis had planned to hand out food and groceries to the surrounding community.

“The FPI often conducts raids on Ahmadiyah activities without any coordination with the police. Not only did they carry out raids, but also threats and intimidation towards us.” Irza said. “It needs to be understood that we do not want to fight back … because we have our own motto, which is love for all, hatred for none.”

The JAI has recorded more than 160 cases of violence against Ahmadiyah communities in the last 10 years.

In Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara, Ahmadis have been living in a rundown shelter for nearly six years after their village was attacked and ransacked by mainstream Muslim groups.

“We have lost our land, we have lost our homes. Some have even lost their lives, but we are thankful for we have you, Allah,” Ahmadi children sang after the community performed their Idul Fitri prayer on Wednesday.

Many cried as some 50 children sang the song remembering the violence that drove them away from one village to the next, destroying every possession that they owned.

More than 250 Ahmadis took part in the prayer, occupying a tiny room in the middle of the abandoned Transito building. The ceiling showed signs of collapsing on to the congregation, which had to use makeshift prayer mats made from recycled newspapers and torn sheets of plastic.

Community members prepared a simple chicken stew and rice cake.

“I know they are nothing fancy, but they remind me of home,” 58 year-old Siti Kalsum said.

City to Release Targets of Ramadan Crackdown

The Jakarta Globe

City to Release Targets of Ramadan Crackdown

The Jakarta administration will release more than 2,000 beggars, buskers and street children it deemed a nuisance during Ramadan and crammed into shelters.

Kian Kelana, head of the city’s social affairs agency, said on Wednesday that the people, known collectively as PMKS, would be released a week after Idul Fitri celebrations and had received “training” during their time in the shelters.

“We have rounded up more than 2,000 PMKS and have placed them in shelters in Kedoya, Cengkareng [both in West Jakarta] and Ceger [in East Jakarta],” he said. “During this time, we provided them with skills training, so they will have the skills to get a proper job rather than returning to the streets and panhandling.”

The government began rounding up the people on July 20, ahead of Ramadan, which began on Aug. 1. The move came in anticipation of an increase in the number of beggars and buskers who come to Jakarta from rural areas during the holy month.

Kian said most of the people put in shelters were not from Jakarta and would be sent back to their hometowns. “Most of the PMKS come from West Java and Central Java, and we’re coordinating with the provincial social affairs offices there to send them back to their families,” he said.

Those without families, he continued, would receive additional training over the next three weeks to improve their chances of finding employment.

Kian said the training provided at the shelters was intended to teach them how to repair air-conditioners and cellphones, and learn gardening, cooking and beauty salon skills.

“AC and cellphone repairs are our main focus because these two skills provide them with greater job opportunities and allow them to be their own bosses,” he said.

Last year, the administration arrested 2,500 PMKS ahead of Ramadan, 50 percent fewer than in 2009. Though the raids this year officially ended on Sunday, public order officers rounded up at least 46 beggars on Tuesday night.

Data from the social affairs agency shows the number of street children in the capital has increased from 5,650 in 2010 to 7,315 so far this year.

Most of them work as panhandlers, buskers, illegal parking attendants or three-in-one “jockeys,” riding with motorists to allow them to skirt rules on the number of passengers required in cars on major thoroughfares during commute times.

FPI Threatens ‘Serious Action’ Over Film

The Jakarta Globe

A hard-line Islamic group has threatened to demonstrate outside the headquarters of a TV station on Saturday over its plans to air a controversial film.

Habib Salim Alatas, the leader of the Jakarta wing of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), claimed approximately 1,500 of its members would gather outside the SCTV offices to demand it cancel all plans to air the film on Takbir night.

The film by director Hanung Bramantyo, called “?”, studies the role and state of Islam in modern Indonesian society. The FPI’s goal is to establish Shariah law and it has used violent methods in the past.

“We do not understand why SCTV is willing to air ‘?’, while the Indonesian Council of Ulema [MUI] has clearly said the movie damages Islamic values and morale,” Alatas said.

The MUI issued a fatwa, or Islamic ruling, in April forbidding Muslims from watching the film, claiming it propagated the idea that there are paths to God other than Islam.

Alatas said SCTV knew people opposed the film, adding that it was not just the FPI. Other organizations affiliated with the Islamic People’s Forum (FUI) would join the campaign, he said.

“We will go to the SCTV studio in the afternoon and we will not leave until the SCTV staff comes outside and gives us assurances that they will not air the film,” he continued. “If SCTV still airs it, we will take serious action.”

He said his group had sent a letter outlining its proposed protest to the Jakarta Police.

SCTV spokesman Uki Hastma said the station would take time to listen to the FPI but added that no decisions had yet been made about whether or not to screen the controversial film.

“I cannot say yet what other steps we will take. That will be decided after talks with the FPI,” Uki said.

The award-winning Hanung, who is known for exploring religion’s role in modern society in his movies, said he hoped SCTV would not give in to the FPI.

“As a television station, SCTV can only be controlled by the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission [KPI],” Hanung said, adding that the station could lose its credibility if it backed down.

“If SCTV gives in to the FPI’s demands, it will lose its credibility. I believe that SCTV will not risk their credibility easily.”

The enigmatically titled “?”, is a study of the role and state of Islam in modern Indonesian society. Released in April, the film stirred up heated debate and protests long before it ever reached a projection room or was shown in movie theaters.

A group called Banser, which operates as the youth wing of the country’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, has been among the more vocal critics of “?” in the run-up to its launch.

The group objected to a scene in which young Banser recruits are seen being paid to perform tasks that would normally be in direct breach of a good Muslim’s duty to be charitable.

From Bikes to Buses, Mudik Migration is On

The Jakarta Globe

Nurfika Osman, Dessy Sagita, Elisabeth Oktofani & Arientha Primanita

Taking any mode of transportation available, residents of Jakarta have begun streaming out of the capital in what could best be described as an orderly crush.

Maya Puspitasari, who was heading to her hometown of Bengkulu with her cousins, took the quickest option of flying, but she found herself stuck in toll-road gridlock on the way to the airport on Friday — at 5 a.m.

The jam’s cause was a long line of cars entering the airport complex. Once inside Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Maya said the domestic terminal was unusually packed with people heading out of town. But even with the crowd, she said the mudik experience this year was more comfortable than previously.

“Fortunately, this year they provided more benches outside the departure gate,” she said. “Last year, I had to stand while I was waiting for my friends to show up.”

By 6 a.m., thousands of would-be passengers hauling heavy luggage had packed the check-in counters. “I can’t even move my trolley,” one woman told the Jakarta Globe. “It is still early in the morning but there are people everywhere.”

The waiting rooms at the boarding gates were also crowded, with many people forced to stand while waiting for their flight. Some were even sitting on the floor.

There were also more passengers than usual carrying cartons of donuts — a time-honored treat for passengers to take from Jakarta to their hometowns.

The Globe observed hundreds of people carrying the ubiquitous boxes. “I bought eight dozen donuts,” said Dyah, a college student. “There are no famous donut chains in my hometown.”

All Aboard

Those seeking an option cheaper than flying but without the hassle of traffic jams took the train, traditionally one of the more popular approaches to mudik.

Faozan Latief, who paid Rp 150,000 ($18) for a one-way ticket to his hometown of Tegal in Central Java, said the train was the best choice, assuming one could get a ticket.

“It’s the fastest way to get to Tegal,” he said. “It only takes six hours, but if you drove it’d take an additional two or three hours.”

The only hitch, he said, was getting tickets, which during this time of year tend to be scarce and expensive.

“I’d have preferred to take the executive train, but unfortunately tickets sold out quickly,” Faozan said. “It was either the business or economy class, because I wasn’t going to go by bus and get stuck in the heavy traffic.”

Armadita, a Yogyakarta native, agreed that mudik was best experienced by rail, having previously tried to make the trip by car and plane.

“I like trains the most because they’re more comfortable and affordable. Flying is faster, but on the train you enjoy the trip more because you can sightsee along the way,” she told the Globe.

However, she said she still expected state-owned railway operator Kereta Api Indonesia to improve the level of service for passengers.

“The seats are often damaged and not that comfortable, and the floors are often dirty,” Armadita said. “You also get panhandlers and hawkers on the economy and business-class trains.”

She also called on the government to better plan for mudik by cracking down on the practice of ticket scalping, which she blamed for exorbitant prices during the holiday period.

Surprisingly Orderly

For Cameron Bates, a Web editor at the Globe, the trip to his wife’s hometown of Pringsewu district in Lampung was a combination of driving and taking a ferry. The latter involved a marathon 10-hour wait for a ferry at Merak Port in Banten.

“I spent 16 hours nonstop in the car from Jakarta to Pringsewu and only used half a tank of gas,” he said after arriving on Friday afternoon.

He said there were thousands of cars waiting to board the ferries, which were arriving at 45-minute intervals. Despite the sheer number of travelers, he said the whole process was “surprisingly orderly,” thanks to the efforts of the port workers.

Once at Lampung’s Bakauheni Port, however, the Trans-Sumatra Highway to Pringsewu was heavily pot-holed and the normally hour-long trip stretched to three hours.

“It looks like they’ve purposely dug up the road. I’ve never seen anything like it in 10 years of driving to Lampung,” Bates said. “It seems like they’re purposely preventing people from arriving.”

He added that a friend who had left Jakarta a day earlier on the same route had managed to beat the rush.

Cheap, but Risky

Motorcycles are by far the most popular form of travel for mudik.

Rahma Yunita, a kindergarten teacher in East Jakarta, told the Globe it took her and her husband six and a half hours by motorbike to reach their hometown of Garut, West Java, last year.

“It costs less than taking the executive bus,” she said, adding that bus tickets cost Rp 85,000 per person. “We only spend about Rp 50,000 on fuel and we can overtake the cars whenever there’s a traffic jam.”

She added that she was aware motorcyclists accounted for the majority of casualties every year during mudik, but she stressed they took all necessary precautions for a safe trip.

“We got lots of sleep earlier because we can’t afford to be sleepy on the road,” Rahma said. “We also keep what we’re bringing to a bare minimum because when you’re riding a motorcycle, you don’t want to take any risks.”

Eager to Quash Breast Exam Reports, Garuda Tries PR Offensive in S. Korea

The Jakarta Globe

Keen to scotch reports it was conducting medical checks on the breasts of potential recruits, airline Garuda Indonesia this week invited South Korean journalists to talk directly to flight attendant candidates from the country about what had occurred in their interviews.

On Wednesday, Garuda held the final entry test for applicants and invited seven local media outlets to meet the candidates.

“We feel very embarrassed and uncomfortable with the report on the breast-check allegations and that we were asked to be naked during the medical examination,” one of the applicants was reported as saying by Chosun, a Korean news Web site.

She said that if a breast check had occurred, they would have spoken out.

“We would not have remained quiet and said nothing, because we are not stupid,” said the applicant, who was not identified.

She added that during the health examination, doctors only checked their chests and all the aspiring flight attendants were wearing a brassier and hospital gown.

Previously, news agency Agence France-Presse reported that an applicant for a Garuda cabin crew position in South Korea, who requested that her name not be published, said dozens of candidates were required to strip down to their panties so a doctor, who was male, could check for tattoos and breast implants.

A spokesman for Garuda’s Seoul office said the medical tests should have followed routine procedures, which did not include breast examinations.

Ikhsan Rosan, a spokesman for Garuda, denied reports of breast checks.

“It needs to be clearly noted that we have never asked applicants to get naked for the health examination or the interview because we do not have any procedure for such a breast examination,” he said.

“Even if we had, we must follow the procedure where there should be no cause for sexual harassment, by, for instance, doing it by X-ray.”

Ikhsan declined to give details on the applicants, citing clauses protecting their confidentiality.

Garuda, he said, has started hiring foreign flight attendants to improve the airline’s service on international routes by taking on staff members with language skills that would make communication with passengers easier.

Since the start of last year, the airline has hired foreign flight attendants to assist on routes from Indonesia to South Korea, China and Japan, Ikhsan said.

Garuda, and its low-cost carrier offshoot, Citilink, are in the process of expanding their networks to other destinations.

FPI to Besiege SCTV Studio Over Controversial ‘?’ Film

The Jakarta Globe

The Islamic Defenders Front has plans to besiege the SCTV studio in Jakarta on Saturday for its plans to air the controversial “?” film on Takbir night.

Habib Salim Alatas, the Jakarta Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) leader, claimed approximately 1,500 of its members were going to gather outside the SCTV premises and demand it cancel all plans to air the film.

“We do not understand why SCTV is willing to air “?”, while the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) has clearly said the movie damages Islamic values and morale,” he said.

The film “?”, by Hanung Bramantyo, is a study of the role and state of Islam in modern Indonesian society.

However, Hanung’s bold portrayal of the religion has caused many critics and hard-line followers of the faith to call it blasphemous.

MUI issued a religious edict in April forbidding Muslims from watching the movie, saying “?” implied it was alright to abandon Islam since it showed the alternative paths to God.

Alatas said SCTV knows that demands were made for Mahaka Pictures to prohibit the controversial movie.

He added that the FPI would not leave the SCTV studio until they promised to take “?” off air.

He said the group has sent a letter outline their proposed protest to the Jakarta Police.

“If SCTV still airs “?”, we will take serious action,” he said.

SCTV spokesman Uki Hastma said the station would take time to listen to FPI.

“However, I cannot say yet what other steps we will take. That will be decided after we talk with FPI,” Uki said.

Garuda Denies Breast Check Allegations

The Jakarta Globe

Elisabeth Oktofani & AFP

Garuda Indonesia on Wednesday denied allegations by a South Korean job applicant that male doctors were examining aspiring flight attendants’ breasts to detect any implants.

Pujobroto, the flagship carrier’s corporate secretary, said the routine medical examination that formed part of the recruitment process did not involve a breast examination.

“It is not true that we have hired a … doctor to give breast examinations to check whether or not applicants have breast implants,” he said.

The applicant for a cabin crew position in South Korea, who requested that her name not be published, said dozens of candidates for 18 highly coveted female flight attendant positions with Garuda were required to strip down to their panties so a doctor, who was male, could check for tattoos and breast implants.

A Garuda official was quoted by South Korea’s Yonhap news agency as saying, “The breast examination by hand was done since those with implants can have health issues when air pressure falls during flights.”

He went on to say that cabin crew are banned from having tattoos, and workers hired oversees, including in Japan and Australia, were subject to a similar process.

A spokesman for Garuda’s Seoul office said the medical tests should have followed routine procedures, which did not include breast examinations.

“We are investigating the matter by questioning managers and the doctor who was in charge of the checkups,” Park Sung-hyun said.

“This is very embarrassing.”

But a Garuda spokesman, Ikhsan Rosan, denied all this, including the claim that applicants were naked during the exam.

“We’ve checked with our Korean office and they said such an examination never happened,” he said, adding that they would investigate further if deemed necessary.

Pujobroto also said the physical checks were performed by a trusted team of Garuda doctors from Indonesia.

“All doctors are assisted by a female Korean staff member during the examination,” he said, adding that five of the 27 Korean applicants failed the test. He did not give the reason.

The news has baffled industry peers and angered women’s rights groups, which called the process intrusive.

“We’ve never heard of or done such a checkup on flight attendants,” said a spokesman for Korean Air, calling the Jakarta-based airline’s tests “bizarre.”

“I wonder if that means passengers with breast implants should not fly also,” he said.

Mariana Amiruddin, editor in chief of women’s rights magazine Jurnal Perempuan, said such examinations were unwarranted.

“For me, this is such a weird and unnecessary medical checkup requirement,” she said.

Garuda is expanding its services to the North Asian country, which has a large number of expatriates living in Indonesia.

Passengers Now Free to Surf the Web As They Ride the Rails With Wi-Fi

The Jakarta Globe

Taking the train has always been one of the travel methods of choice for those unwilling to spend hours stuck in gridlock for the annual Idul Fitri hometown trek known as mudik . But now there’s another reason to go by rail: a Wi-Fi Internet connection.

State railway operator Kereta Api Indonesia said on Wednesday that it had outfitted all 82 executive-class trains serving its cross-Java routes with Wi-Fi. Seven key stations also have the facility.

“A working Internet connection is not an exclusive public facility anymore,” Sugeng Priyono, a KAI spokesman, told the Jakarta Globe.

“It’s become a necessity for people to get access to information. That’s why we wanted to improve our facilities by providing a Wi-Fi connection for passengers so they can have Internet access when traveling by train.”

Sugeng said that although Wi-Fi had been introduced for mudik, it would remain in place after the holidays as part of efforts by KAI to improve the commuting experience.

“It’s a long-term plan to improve our services to train passengers, and there’s a possibility that we’ll expand it to routes outside Java,” he said.

The railway operator introduced the Wi-Fi facility in cooperation with IM2, a private Internet service provider.

Indar Atmanto, president director of IM2, said the company had provided two wireless networks for the trains: IM2-KAI and INDOSATNet.

“The IM2-KAI network can be accessed for free by all users from any [Internet-enabled] gadget for Web browsing,” he said.

“However, it cannot be used to download files or watch or listen to streaming audio or video.”

The INDOSATNet option, meanwhile, has a higher bandwidth but is not free.

“INDOSATNet is a prepaid Internet connection, which costs Rp 0.5 per Mb, and it allows premium Internet connection facilities such as downloading,” Indar said.

The password to access the IM2-KAI network is indosatm2-kai. Those planning to use the INDOSATNet network need an existing IM2 account or they can buy a prepaid IM2 SIM card with Rp 10,000 or Rp 25,000 in credit.

The trains on which the service is already available are the Parahyangan line from Jakarta to Bandung; Sembrani and Bima (Jakarta-Surabaya); Taksaka (Jakarta-Yogyakarta); Argo Lawu (Jakarta-Solo); Sancaka (Surabaya-Yogyakarta); Jakarta-Semarang (Argo Muria); and the Argo Wilis line, from Surabaya to Bandung.

The participating stations are Gambir in Jakarta, Bandung Hall in the West Java capital, Tugu in Yogyakarta, Tawang in Semarang, Balapan in Solo and Turi and Gubeng in Surabaya.

For Many, Pawning Is a Smart, Not Desperate Move

The Jakarta Globe

In the days before Idul Fitri, the scene is always the same — long lines of people at pawnshops who want to get some quick cash to fund their annual trek to their hometowns.

This year, though, customers leave with a bit more sparkle in their eyes after pawning their jewelry as gold prices sit at an all-time high.

A gram of gold is now priced at about Rp 530,000 ($62) on the local market, a jump of more than 40 percent from going rate before Idul Fitri last year.

This means, for example, that 36-year-old Sumiatun can borrow as much as Rp 18 million from state-owned pawnshop operator Perum Pegadaian, in exchange for pawning her 25-gram gold necklace and 15-gram gold bracelet. A person can borrow a maximum of 85 percent of the estimated price of a pawned item.

The entrepreneurial woman, who works primarily as a cleaning lady, is holding much of her and her husband’s savings in the precious metal, and this is the first time she’s going to pawn them.

“I want to take advantage of the high price of gold now,” Sumiatun said while waiting her turn at the pawnshop in Keramat Raya, Central Jakarta.

“I am going to use the cash to go back to Tegal [Central Java] to celebrate Lebaran with my family, and I will buy traditional Muslim outfits in Tanah Abang and sell them back home,” she said, adding that she would use the profit from selling the clothes to redeem her gold jewelry after a couple of months.

Many Indonesians still lack bank accounts and access to conventional bank loans. At the pawnshop, they can borrow between Rp 20,000 and Rp 200 million — often enough to pay off bills or tide them over during a crisis.

In the lead up to Idul Fitri, extra cash is often needed to pay for the trek home, known as mudik , and to buy new clothes to flaunt during the celebrations. Irianto, a spokesman for Perum Pegadaian, said that the holy month usually sees a 5 to 10 percent increase in business.

Indeed, around this time every year, 43-year-old Indriyani can be found in the waiting room of a pawnshop. This year, she’s going to pawn her 15-gram gold bracelet.

“One thing that I like about the pawnbroking system is that it is quick, and I do not have to pay high interest,” she said.

Perum Pegadaian allows customers four months to pay back a loan, plus interest, or to extend it for another four months. Interest rates range from 0.75 percent to 1.3 percent per 15 days, depending on the amount of the loan, plus a 1 percent administration fee.

But aside from that, Indriyani says she feels it is a secure place to keep her precious assets while she is away.

“I just feel safer leaving my jewelry at the pawnshop rather than bringin g it with me, as I do not want it to be stolen on my way back home to East Java,” Indriyani said.

KAI Tries to Bring Order to Train Stations

The Jakarta Globe

Camelia Pasandaran, Dessy Sagita & Elisabeth Oktofani

As the country entered the last week of Ramadan, when people traditionally start traveling back to their hometowns, confusion reigned at train stations where new policies were put in place.

Unlike in past years, train stations in the capital have prohibited passengers from waiting at the platforms until their trains are scheduled to arrive.

Mateta Rijalulhaq, a Kereta Api Indonesia spokesman for the Greater Jakarta area, said the new system had been created to avoid confusion and to help prevent passengers from boarding the wrong train.

“They will be called up an hour before their train comes, so they will know exactly which train they should take and they can wait more comfortably without the crowds,” he said.

“We want nothing more than to make the system more orderly. This is for the passengers’ own convenience.”

Mateta said many passengers had in the past camped at the stations for hours before their trains arrived. “Some even came a day before their scheduled train. They camp up here in the station and leave garbage strewn everywhere,” he said.

He conceded that while there had been protests from passengers on the first day its implementation, the new system would be strictly applied during the week leading up to Idul Fitri on Tuesday, and for 11 days after. “This system is expected to teach people to be more patient and to follow the regulations,” Mateta said.

Aida Wahyuningtyas, a 25-year-old university student, said she was happy with the state railway operator’s new policy. “I appreciate that KAI really cares about its passengers by providing us with chairs and newspapers outside the waiting area,” she said. “It’s so much better than all the passengers waiting inside.”

However, she said a better public announcement system was needed to alert people of when to board their trains.

Mardi, 56, and Parman, 64, two long-time Jakarta residents planning to head to Yogyakarta from Senen Station in Central Jakarta, were still without tickets about four hours before their train was scheduled to leave.

“We are usually able to get a ticket on the spot, but I do not know why it is taking longer this time,” Mardi said. “Other than that, I didn’t see any ticket scalpers around.”

Earlier on Tuesday, a spokesman for Vice President Boediono, Yopie Hidayat, said KAI had been ordered to better inform the public of its policy changes.

Boediono, Yopie said, had also asked Transportation Minister Freddy Numberi to work more closely with ship, train and flight operators over Idul Fitri.

Freddy said he had already warned three airlines about selling tickets above the government imposed price ceiling, but he declined to name the companies.

I Ketut Fery Utameyasa, a spokesman for Angkasa Pura II, which manages Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, said passenger numbers were up about 5 percent on Tuesday but expected traffic to peak on Friday.