Authorities in Indonesia have cancelled a permit for pop star Lady Gaga to perform a June 3 sold-out show at a 52,000 seat stadium in Jakarta. The Associated Press reports that Islamic hard-liners and conservative lawmakers there “said her sexy clothes and dance moves will corrupt the youth” and that “the suggestive nature of her show threatened to undermine the country’s moral fiber.” Some even threatened physical force to prevent her from getting off the plane.
Reuters quoted a leader from one of the Islamic groups protesting Lady Gaga’s concert:
“She’s a vulgar singer who wears only panties and a bra when she sings and she stated she is the envoy of the devil’s child and that she will spread satanic teaching,” said Salim Alatas, the Jakarta head of hardline Islamic Defender Front (FPI). “This is dangerous.”
Police denied Lady Gaga’s permit out of concern that they could not guarantee her safety.
Indonesia, a nation of 240 million and has more Muslims than any other country, is secular and, as the AP notes, “has a long history of religious tolerance” but “a small extremist fringe has become more vocal in recent years.”
Indeed, last week, religious extremists tried to disrupt a book tour by Canadian author and NYU professor Irshad Manji. Groups like the Indonesian Mujahidin Council and the FPI demonstrated and threatened violence against Manji and her associates. “Things got so serious that organizers had to pull me to another floor as cops blocked the elevators,” Manji wrote on Facebook. The National Post in Canada reported that “the FPI accused Ms. Manji of conspiring to spread homosexuality among Indonesian Muslims.”
“Four years ago, I came to Indonesia and experienced a nation of tolerance, openness and pluralism,” Manji said. “Things have changed.”
Also last week, rights group Pro-Democracy People reported that officials sealed off 17 Christian houses of worship after protests from the FPI and other groups. “This is a dark time in the history of religious freedom and tolerance in [the Indonesian province of] Aceh,” said the group’s spokesperson.
Human Rights Watch today called on United Nations member states to “urge Indonesia to adopt specific measures to ensure religious freedom, free expression, and accountability for abuses.” Elaine Pearson, HRW’s deputy Asia director, said “[c]ountries should be asking Indonesia hard questions about why over the past four years violence and discrimination against religious minorities is getting worse, and why Indonesia continues to imprison peaceful activists.”