Lady Gaga Meets Radical Islam in Jakarta

A decision by Indonesian national police to ban a sold-out June 3 performance in Jakarta by the American pop star Lady Gaga, which has already sold a whopping 52,000 tickets, has pushed the country’s laid-back urbanites into outrage at the country’s thin crust of Islamic militants.

Indonesia's hardline Islamist organizations including the thuggish Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), which regularly assault women who do not adopt conservative dress, said the American pop star’s performance would corrupt the nation's moral fiber.

Lady Gaga’s followers, however, called “little monsters,” were outraged, saying the national police had knuckled under to Islamic fundamentalists who don’t represent anything but a small number of rural Indonesians. It was expected to be the singer’s biggest concert on her Asia tour, which has taken her to South Korea, Hong Kong and other cities.

The ban appears to have ignited considerable anger, with some observers claiming the 26-year-old entertainer, nee Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, has as many as 1.3 million rabid fans in the country who have been permanently turned against the Islamists.

Over the past several years, a growing war has been going on for Indonesia’s laid-back, moderate conservative soul, with analysts saying the main reason hardliners have been making strong gains is that President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has been indecisive in dealing with them, and that the National Police have a discomfortingly close relationship with the hardliners, particularly the FPI, which they use to do their best to intimidate anybody who violates convention. Recently police in Aceh province flogged youths they described as “punks.”

Despite the growing Islamic fundamentalism, ticket sales for the sold-out concert have continued strong, with promoter Big Daddy released another 2,000 tickets Monday. The Indonesian Council of Churches (PGI), a Christian organization, also threw its support behind the concert Tuesday, explaining that Indonesia’s constitution protects freedom of expression. Gomar Gultom, secretary general of the PGI, said it was the job of religious leaders — not pop stars or the police — to keep the nation’s moral fiber intact.

“It is the duty of religious figures to guide people to have a clear mind and stand against pornographic temptations,” he said.

Although the concert was canceled in Jakarta, the possibility remains that Lady Gaga could perform in another Indonesian city, probably in more laid-back Bali as long as local police support the event, the Indonesian news portal reported.

One Indonesian lawmaker, Ahmad Basarah of the House of Representatives' legal affairs commission, said the National Police cannot choose to only ban imports pushing western ideology when Middle Eastern influences often run counter to Indonesia's Pancasila ideology, which stresses tolerance for all religions.

"The government shouldn't discriminate when upholding the law," the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician said. "If they dare to cancel shows that push a liberal-capitalistic ideology like Lady Gaga, then they should also take firm action against demonstrations pushing ideologies from the Middle East."

The FPI called the pop diva a “dangerous” influence on Indonesia’s youth. The organization’s Jakarta chairman Salim Alatas told Agence France-Presse that FPI members would mobilize 30,000 supporters to forcibly prevent Lady Gaga from stepping off her plane.

“We will stop her from setting foot on our land. She had better not dare spread her satanic faith in this country,” FPI Jakarta chairman Salim Alatas told AFP. “Her style is vulgar, her sexual and indecent clothes will destroy our children’s sense of morality. She’s very dangerous.”

The Muslim Defenders Team, a legal aid organization known for representing Islamist and terrorist groups, claimed that Lady Gaga teaches fans to worship the devil.

Michael Rusli, president director of Big Daddy, dismissed the claims as ridiculous on Monday. Rush was not available for immediate comment on Tuesday after the announcement of the cancellation.

Democratic Party lawmaker Nova Riyanti Yusuf criticized the National Police's decision, adding that Lady Gaga's concert wouldn't corrupt the nation's sense of morality.

"Whether someone goes to hell or heaven doesn't depend on whether they watch concerts or not," Nova said. "It depends on their deeds and their hearts."

But a Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) lawmaker expressed support for the National Police's decision, calling Lady Gaga's dress too "obscene" and her dances too "erotic."

"[Lady Gaga's performance] is obviously against the national culture and immoral," Indra said. "[The concert] would violate the Pornography law." Indra said that going ahead with the planned concert would likely cause chaos in the capital.

(With reporting from Jakarta Globe)