The intolerance and outright vigilantism displayed by a group of thugs in Jakarta last weekend, mostly youths, trying to stop people from enjoying themselves during the fasting month, has become all too rampant in this country, and it is not an understatement to say that such hardcore behaviour can morph into acts of deadly terrorism.
The Prophet’s Defenders Council, which appears to be taking a line from the militant-minded Islamic Defenders Front, which previously delighted in thrashing bars where people were drinking “sinful” alcohol, is certainly not a defender of the peaceful Prophet. But its leader, Habib Bahar, said it was “usual” for his group to target places of entertainment during Ramadan because patrons “get drunk, so action must be taken.” Indeed action must be taken, against Bahar and his disciples’ for their crimes.
The courts must deal with them firmly for breaking the law by damaging property and endangering people’s lives as they wielded machetes and swords at terrified customers in a bar. There must be no going easy on these hardliners just because they are Muslim, as we have regrettably seen in the recent past.
The holy fasting month of Ramadan currently underway is a time for introspection and spirituality; it is a cleansing period, of body and of mind. Anyone who carries out such heinous acts as this group, at this time or any other, not only sullies the great name of Islam but does a disservice to themselves during Ramadan, reversing the entire purpose of the month. Instead of purging themselves of badness, in an act of extreme hypocrisy they invite evil in. Tolerance is not a word they know.
And so the authorities, most especially prosecutors and judges, must be as tough with such transgressors, of laws and faith, as they are with other such criminals, of whatever creed.
Failure to clamp down would send entirely the wrong signal to hardliners and ensure instability and bigotry for a long time to come.