A week into Ramadan, we had hope that this year would be different in that there would be no news of self-proclaimed religious vigilantes “sweeping” businesses, (i.e. forcefully imposing their arguably wayward, ultra-conservative interpretation of the holy fasting month on others) as has been the case in every year past.
Unfortunately, this year is no different.
On Monday, the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) carried out a sweep on a garment factory in the regency of Sukabumi, West Java, with the goal of ensuring that the factory workers were able to observe religious worship during the holy month. Specifically, according to Novel Bamukmin (who was recently demoted by FPI and ordered not to make public statements, but here we are), FPI members were there to force the factory’s management to let their workers leave by 3pm so that they could have iftar (breaking of the fast) at home.
“This is a way to give virtue to Ramadan for the workers in Sukabumi. This is so that they can carry out their worships without disturbances, and have enough time for iftar and be able to perform the taraweh (optional evening prayer during Ramadan),” Novel said yesterday, as quoted by Tirto.
Never mind the fact that Muslims are encouraged to carry out their daily routines (minus eating and drinking, among others) as usual during Ramadan since that is part of the holy month’s test of faith. Even the regent of Sukabumi himself passed a regional regulation requiring the working day to end at 4:30pm during Ramadan. But FPI — who have no legal authority — were adamant about the 3pm rule.
“It’s so we can avoid situations like crowded streets, which would disturb the activities of Muslims who want to break their fast,” Novel said.
The factory rejected FPI’s request, saying that they would only obey the government’s regulations. Unhappy with the response, FPI members reportedly attacked people at the factory, injuring an HR manager and a driver working for the company before police came to diffuse the situation.
The police say they are interviewing witnesses but no arrests have been made.
FPI is one of the biggest perpetrators of vigilante sweeps like these in Indonesia, usually targeting nightlife venues during Ramadan or even raiding supermarkets to make sure Muslim employees aren’t wearing Santa hats around Christmas.