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2 Apr 2010

Hostility, not homosexuality, flies in the face of true Koranic teachings

The recent cancellation of a planned Asian-wide conference of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in Surabaya reveals how far our society is from respecting human rights — and how close it is to slipping into religious fascism, writes Bramantyo Prijosusilo.

The police, who had earlier issued a permit — which is not really required by law — chose to bow down to Islamo-fascist groups such as the notorious thugs known as the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), who stormed hotels where they thought delegates of the conference were staying on Friday and demanded that all non-heterosexuals leave Surabaya. Reading journalists’ reports on the commotion and comments on news Web sites and on Facebook walls, it is obvious that any sexual orientation other than hetero is widely believed to be an illness that is contagious and immoral. Homophobia is alive and well in Indonesia.

Even the sultan of Yogyakarta, who prides himself and his city as being pluralist, issued a statement rejecting the idea of having the conference there.

Although Indonesia has aligned itself with international standards of human rights, the twisted logic of the thugs terrorizing the conference delegates is widely accepted without reservation. The FPI actually accused the conference delegates of being terrorists — morality terrorists, that is.

Unenlightened Islamic scholars and organizations, the media and most of the rest of us seemed to swallow this argument: Homosexuality is a contagious disease, and if we allow gays and lesbians to publicly exist they will corrupt our children and maybe even us. If we don’t suppress them, the thinking goes, we will incur God’s wrath like the population of the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all of us will suffer.

While Islamofascists get violently excited about homosexuality, the reality is that homosexuality is not at all uncommon in Islamic communities. At traditional Islamic boarding schools, known as pesantren, where the segregation of male and female pupils is upheld at all times, it is widely known that some young men and boys engage in homosexual relationships, known as mairil. The sexual activities of the female pesantren (Islamic boarding schools); students are much more secret and it is commonly believed that all girls are asexual until they are married.

Men who act and dress as women, on the other hand, are openly accepted by Islamic scholars, and even have this acknowledgement enshrined in classical texts of law. In a way, one could say that men who dress like women have more status and rights than women, for according to classical Islamic thinking, men who act like women can lead women in prayer, while women cannot lead men at all.

The patriarchy of Islamic culture is further evident in the fact that women who dress up and act as men are not recognized in any way except as sinners. Islamofascists are of course very hypocritical about homosexuality, and when forensic scientists found evidence that Noordin M Top played the receptive role in homosexual sex, they chose to ignore this, saying it was character assassination by the police.

To complete our hypocritical and ignorant image, we have been told over and again that homosexuality is contrary to our basic values, culture and religion. But this is a distortion of the facts. True, the mainstream interpretations of Christianity and Islam tend to condemn homosexuality, but there are alternate interpretations from within these religions.

Progressive female Indonesian Islamic scholar Siti Musdah Mulia regularly points out that one can read the Koran and find that it does not condemn homosexuality and that God is not an almighty homophobic thug. Traditionally, the leaders of East Java’s Ponorogo dance troupes — the dance that created so much fuss here when it appeared in a Malaysian tourist advertisement — have to live a disciplined life of homosexuality to retain their magical powers.

Parents traditionally offer their adolescent boys to these leaders for education and jobs, knowing full well that the young men will become the warok's (a man believed to have mystical powers who stages ritual dances in order to bring good fortune to the community) boy toys.

In the Indian epic Mahabharata, which is popularly thought of as a source of ethics and morals by most traditional Javanese Muslims and non-Muslims, the main hero, Arjuna, who is the alpha-male of the universe and is said to have hundreds of wives, is a bisexual; one of his favorite “wives” is the male Srikandi, who often assists Arjuna in his battles against evil.

All this proves that those who say that homosexuality is a foreign, Western depravity and not part of our culture are either ignorant or plain liars. And the fact that the police and government allowed the FPI to terrorize the delegates in Surabaya shows that our leaders and law enforcers do not understand the law, but will instead give in to mob pressure.

But there is a positive side to the recent harassment of homosexuals in Surabaya. The actions of the protesters there have demonstrated that gays, lesbians and transsexuals are peace-loving, law-abiding people who do not fight violence with violence. The incident also showed that our police fear the Islamofascists and need further training in handling religiously inspired mobs. The police need more education to better understand basic human rights and to function properly as enforcers of state law.

The public needs to be educated that homosexuality is not a disease and is not condemned in all interpretations of sacred texts like the Koran and the Bible. The FPI thugs unwittingly brought the discussion of gender and sexual orientation to the public, which gives us a platform to educate people on the realities of the matter. Perhaps the gay, lesbian and transgender communities here should publicly thank the FPI for helping publicize these issues, while demonstrating once again the backward thinking that governs its violent behavior.

It is time for a huge demonstration of people dressed in drag, carrying flowers and blowing kisses of thanks to the macho members of the FPI. Such gestures of love would remind us that those cowardly thugs, who always attack in packs, are also human beings with equal rights.

The article was first published by the Jakarta Globe on Mar 29, 2010 and is republished with permission from the author. Bramantyo Prijosusilo is an artist, poet and organic farmer in Ngawi, East Java.


Reader's Comments

1. 2010-04-02 19:22  
Wow, great article. Very informative and well written.
2. 2010-04-02 23:07  
i think as much as u think that they're at wrong, i believe that u were just lookin at ur point of view..through your own pair of glasses. i would say there's no holistic view from ur sight on this matter. nah, no need to explain much here...

*note to author

3. 2010-04-02 23:47  
Just another reason why people tend to avoid indonesia
4. 2010-04-03 00:10  
Hi flik, actually it is true that the overwhelming majority of Indonesians are actually very 'tolerant' - I hate that word! - of difference. Some of the most tolerant in the world, I might add.

That's why I was very shocked initially to even hear about Islamofascists, terrorists in Indonesia. Malaysia maybe, but not Indonesia especially if you are talking about Java.

5. 2010-04-03 00:20  
Here's more Islamic information for all who are interested in supporting out Muslim LGBT brothers and sisters anywhere they might be. (They are all scared stiff of opposing the fascists in their midst for fear of being labelled "bad Muslims" and then cast out of their communities. Their families, really. We have to be their voice temporarily as long as we remain sensitive.)

This is what I call the Islamic "equality clause" equvalent to the equality clause in all our countres' Constitutions.

There are several different translations, which is a typical problem when translating from one language to another. So, I will post just a couple of them from Quran 49:13:


1. O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware.

2. O mankind, WE have created you from a male and a female; And WE have made you tribes and sub-tribes that you may know one another. Verily, the most honourable among you, in the sight of ALLAH, is he who is the most righteous among you. Surely, ALLAH is All-Knowing, All-Aware.


Some interpret this to be an injuction against sexism and racism. I think that that is too literalist.

I read it more as a command to respect human diversity.
6. 2010-04-03 06:47  
Noordin N. Top was a bottom? This is illogical...

Comment edited on 2010-04-03 06:50:56
7. 2010-04-03 18:42  
religion is a cause of all of the worlds problems
8. 2010-04-03 21:49  
yawn, more cat fighting, gay men and women don't agree on which religion is better if any, I don't know what this has to do with being gay or how the conference makes anyone better off, I like Indonesia and think people there are great but would never try to interfere in their country's affairs or sensitive politics, let the Indonesian gay men and women solve this on their own, they are smart and will do fine and rise above all this nonsense
9. 2010-04-04 01:39  
Generally, the strongest indicator of repressed homosexual feelings is homophobia.
I recommend pointing that out to the homophobes.
e.g. "This topic gets you very excited, it seems."
"Self confident heterosexuals don't really care that much about homosexuality".
If nothing else, it really pisses them off, which is fun to observe!
So one has to wonder about those who feel it is 'contagious'.

More specifically, this article is informative.
For further insights, I highly recommend a scholarly book on the subject.
"Islamic Homosexualities Culture, History and Literature" by Murray and Roscoe, NY University Press, 1997
I found a copy in the public library here in Vancouver BC
10. 2010-04-04 05:55  
@8. Wow fakebro, not satisfied with censoring people in your own country (obviously not really the USA), you want to push the "Party" line and try and censor what people say about gay issues in eachothers' countries on an international discussion board. It would be pretty quiet if you succeeded, but I guess at least you'd get some sleep and overcome your troublesome yawning problem. And while you're asleep they can get on with executing gay people in Uganda, Iran etc., and with arresting the gay Indonesians who organised the event. I'm sure it wouldn't trouble your sleep in the least. After all, as the saying goes, you're all right Jack, not your problem, right?
Comment edited on 2010-04-04 06:40:47
11. 2010-04-04 08:41  

"...gay men and women don't agree on which religion is better if any..."

Why should we if we are at the same time asking for respect for diversity, natural or acculturated?

Why don't you, in the pretense that you are making to authoritative comment, tell us which religion is better, if it is indeed religion and not fascism that is the problem?
Comment #12 was deleted by its author on 2010-04-04 15:37
Comment #13 was deleted by its author on 2010-04-04 17:13
14. 2010-04-04 20:01  
muslims, mormons, hindus, etc are religion
for ages people fight based on religion, from the crusades or 9/11 or osama or Urumqi, China.
there is no understanding.
we say we are living now in a new age a new world, one world. yet there is still borders between country.
there is still no equality. we are all humans. you and i will say, lgbt life is like that no one cares, an outcast, treated as a criminal. it should be. everyone shld be equal man, woman, children, skin colors.

15. 2010-04-04 20:18  
@14, renegadex9; thanks for the link, good video.
16. 2010-04-04 22:26  
I like BP's idea of a huge parade but I am afraid it will not happen without a lot of carefully organised political pressure based on "human rights" without specific reference to sexuality. Enlist the aid of sympathetic organisations like the BBC & Newsweek -(add your own favourites especially Indonesian organisations)

Concentrating on homosexuality will give the "homo-thugs" an emotive "stick" to play with - I do not need to emphasise that many "gays" especially those living outside big cities are afraid of "coming out" due to the anticipated reaction of friends and family. I have known Indonesians who think that others can tell that they are gay just by looking at them walking down the street. What rubbish.

Another shibboleth that needs to be destroyed is that effeminate men are necessarily gay - not true, though the general public does seem to think this especially if they have never met an openly gay and "manly" man or indeed a "feminine" lesbian.
17. 2010-04-04 23:28  
Like the article but question on the accuracy regarding the identity of Srikandi...based on what I have read, Srikandi was a toyboy...not a boy lah.
18. 2010-04-05 09:31  
Any nation that chooses to live a medieval lifestyle ends up a steeped in poverty and ignorance. In about 3 or 4 decades the world’s oil will have run out. It may hit enlightened nations hard, but they’ll adapt, and move onto other energy sources; nuclear, solar, gas and coal. However, it will hit the supplier nations, particularly the irrational ones, hard. Starved of the petro dollars, and having squandered trillions on corruption, palm islands, imported goods and the like, they will sink into sub-sub-Saharan poverty and global irrelevance. They know this to be true, and all the mumbo-jumbo in the world can’t prevent it. They deserve the future they are building for themselves.
19. 2010-04-05 18:37  
Unfortunately, almighty either already dead or unable spread his idea, but by his slaves for many millenniums, that's y u heard many confusing "ways of life", all claim they r d right one but ironic no evident to tell which one is d legitimate one
20. 2010-04-05 21:35  
shut the fuck up Steve UK, you are an ass and no one listens to your old menapausal opinion any more, plus you are anti Jewish and your views just polarize us hot younger smart guys who express normal dissent

not everyone agrees with your old man skanky view of the universe and your own personal unhappy and bitterness and jealously of the younger gay generation who life up their middle finger to you everytime you write your crap, you always stir up shit and the pot

i just don't think we should get involved in the issues of every country affairs that's all, indonesia and uganda men are strong and very capable of helping themselves

21. 2010-04-05 21:55  
lagunabro, especially since no one has asked you to STFU when you talk crazy about your polo ponies and twins and their hot mother or whatever, I really think you should just leave SteveUK alone. I for one really enjoy Steve's contributions to this forum.

It's simple; if this website doesn't suit your interests, please just go away.
22. 2010-04-06 02:25  
helixator, you are absolutely right. However, I don't think that Indonesia will be going down that path.

Indonesia is very surely moving towards becoming a functioning democracy, and I am secretly hoping that it is they, and not yucky conservative Malaysia, who will be the true rational leader of the Muslim world. And I have come across so many ordinary Indonesians whom I consider to be very intelligent. (I speak the language.)

Indonesia is just not there yet, and in my opinion, could do with support from outside if necessary
23. 2010-04-06 02:34  
Moving on.

One reason that this I've decided to actively post on this topic is that I believe that this has larger implications.

While I still maintain that every social grouping has its share of individuals with fascist leanings, Muslim populations worldwide seem to be overtaken completely by them and silencing other Muslims within those populations with all kinds of retaliatory action including being deemed 'bad' Muslims ("What? For quoting from the same quran as them?"), and ostracizing them.

It is also this same category of Islamofascists who are spawning terrorism, and that has affected Indonesia already.

LGBTs in Singapore have been at the forefront of rolling back the fascism of those Islamofascists' Christian counterparts, which many in Singapore refer to as the Christian Taliban.

I believe that there is something inherently powerful in queer politics, particularly the feminist-impacted variety, that can help these dissipate these scourges.
24. 2010-04-06 19:04  
@ 20 fakebro - Many thanks for your, er, colourful email, and post; however I’m not going to get into abusive personal correspondence with an internet troll posing as a fictional extra from Gossip Girl, as it seems a bit redundant really.

If you want to be more successful in your pose as an upmarket American, check out the differences between US English and other types. So far as I know aztlan_oz has a personal copyright on the word “skanky”. An American should also be familiar with the correct term “anti-semitic”. Your planting of a lie about me on that score is as calculated as your infantile efforts to direct discussion away from certain issues and your baseless attacks on fridae’s news editor.

BTW, you should also keep character notes so your postings can be consistent, for example, about which religion you are actually claiming to belong to.

Nobody reads my posts? Except you, presumably. (and Kellen, thanks ;) ).

The age insults: you seem to be the one obsessed with a fear of ageing; if it wasn’t for the schoolboy level of your posts, I’d suspect you are actually a whole lot older and more wrinkly than you claim.

// Back to the issues: progress is being made in preventing the genocide of gays in Uganda because of the glare of international publicity, as requested by the gays there. Sometimes even just publicising an injustice can help remedy it, though the “Kill the Gays” bill is still before parliament and we are being asked to keep up the pressure and counter the lies of the religious fanatics. If the Indonesian organisers of this conference are persecuted and arrested, then I think the Indonesian gov. should expect to be put under the same sort of spotlight by the international community.

//@23 Percole - It's clear religion is becoming more politicised and there are fascist elements in both Christianity and Islam, as Percole says, though it is the Christian ones that seem more focussed on using gays as an "evil" to rally around, as all the other minorities are now out of bounds. We ignore this at our peril.

Comment edited on 2010-04-06 20:14:25
25. 2010-04-08 03:36  
Hi steveuk.

It is true that the Christian Taliban strategize quite differently from the Islamofascists. As you say, those Christians tend to make public noises routinely with the goal of emboldening action agaisnt LGBTs. However, Islamofascists have tended to take direct action even without campaigning against LGBTs.

A case in point was the former Taliban government of Afghanistan. Anti-LGBT action was hardly in their campaign before they formed the government. But ant-LGBT action is permantly on their agendas.
26. 2010-04-08 17:35  
@25 Percole. Yes the islamic ones don't need to use us as something to unite against as the christian ones do in the US and elsewhere, they have other bogeymen that they use for that purpose. But you're right, the islamic ones have paramilitaries that just go out and target gay people (and others) in some countries. Queerbashing taken to a ruthless and organised extreme. But the Taliban that you mention were violently targetting a lot of people, such as schoolgirls for daring to get an education.

But the US has problems too, with the arrest of 9 people from a christian militia arming themselves to fight a war against the "antichrist"; murderous christian anti-choice activists; a guy arrested for death threats against Elton John for Elton's pro-gay religious beliefs. And the American christian ones through their propaganda have spawned the possibility of mass murder of gays in Africa by governments taken over by christian fundamentalists. It has the potential to get as bad as islamic fundamentalist countries if people don't keep their eyes open.
Comment edited on 2010-04-08 17:36:19
27. 2010-04-09 14:25  
Religion may not be bad but there people who use it as a sheild for their sin and as a evil weapon to prosecute people like us. If there is god, they should be condemned to hell. Unfortunately, I dont believe he exists. So, the only way is to stand up to these barbaric, low mentality, stone age, selfish beings. Back off will only arouses their esteem. Great courage by our delegates.
28. 2010-11-04 01:35  
Is this website brave enough to lead the world forward to champion and release by every country, politcians, leaders, statesman, industry and celebrities (the latter, if we have to read about them again) and make the global community realise that being "gay" is not a choice. There are many fine people in the world and private lives are not a tabloid or boardroom issue. Thank You

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