Jakarta residents are applauding police for arresting members of a hardline group that raided a bar for serving alcohol during Ramadan, and enlisted teenagers for the illegal vigilante attack.
About 150 members of the Prophet’s Defender Council (Majelis Pembela Rasulullah, or MPR) swarmed into Cafe’ de’Most in South Jakarta late on July 28th and ransacked it, shattering windows, breaking bottles, and assaulting employees.
Police apprehended the group as they left the club on motorbikes, and seized a machete, a sickle, four samurai swords, a golf club and four wooden poles, as well as musical instruments stolen from the bar.
“We arrested 62 people. But we released 39 juveniles without charges because they were not directly involved in attacking the bar,” South Jakarta police chief, Senior Commander Imam Sugianto, told Khabar Southeast Asia.
Among the 23 not released were two juveniles who were carrying a sickle and a machete, Imam said.
“They could face up to six years in prison under the Emergency Law No 12, 1951 for carrying weapons, and two and half years for destroying private property,” he said. Also arrested was MPR’s 29-year-old leader, Habib Bahar bin Smith, who organised the attack and was able to influence minors to take part in it, according to Imam.
Bahar and another adult identified only as S.Y. have been charged with the same offenses as the teenagers but face up to 12 years in jail terms because they are adults.
The remaining suspects were charged with aggravated assault on several bar employees and could face up to five and a half years in prison.
Mia Trisnawati, a waitress at a bar in South Jakarta, was happy to hear it.
“I have always been afraid to work during the fasting month because a number of hardline groups have threatened bars and night clubs,” Mia told Khabar.
“But I think that the police have done something different to protect their citizens by arresting the hardline group that acted as if they were the police with their raid,” Mia said
Vigilante organisations, notably the Islamic Defenders’ Front (FPI), say they are acting to protect Islam, but critics say their tactics are violent, illegal and also redundant, as authorities have already moved to limit the activities and operational hours of nightclubs and other entertainment venues during Ramadan.
In fact, police shut down Café de’ Most on July 29th because it was selling alcohol during Ramadan in violation of local regulations.
The involvement of minors in the raid is a cause for special concern. Arist Merdeka Sirait, Chairman of the National Commission for Child Protection, said parents and officials must declare a campaign against violence in society and make efforts to deter teenager involvement.
“Basically, teenagers tend to copy their idol’s behaviour. Therefore, it is very important for us, parents, teachers, government and religious leaders, to show how to live in peace and omit violence from daily life,” he told Khabar.