Indonesia has laws in place to eradicate “deviant” sects of the country’s six recognized religions, and there’s often little mercy shown to those who go against mainstream religious teachings, no matter how cute their group’s name may be.
On Monday, police in the city of Serang, Banten, raided a house believed to be the headquarters of an Islamic sect named “Kerajaan Ubur Ubur” (Jellyfish Kingdom) and arrested 11 of its members. No, the members of this group do not swear allegiance to some majestic jellyfish king (police say they chose their name randomly) but officials claim their beliefs deviate so much from generally accepted Islamic teachings that they had no choice but to arrest them.
“They say the Prophet Muhammad is female. When they go on Hajj pilgrimage to kiss the Hajar Aswad (a holy stone attached to the Kaaba), they think of it as female genitalia,” Serang Police Chief Komarudin told Tempo yesterday.
Komarudin added that the group believes that Allah — God in Islam — is buried in a tomb.
“This clearly makes no sense according to Islamic teachings,” he said.
The members arrested include the group’s founders, identified as Rudi and Aisyah, who were reportedly addressed as “king” and “queen”, and a leader named Halim. The police say they held worship rituals every Friday night that ran into the next morning for the past two years, causing a “public nuisance”.
It’s not yet clear what charges the arrested members will face.
There have been several cases in the past of sect leaders being jailed under Indonesia’s controversial blasphemy laws, as Indonesia officially only recognizes six religions and criminalizes any teachings that deviate from the mainstream beliefs of those religions. One of the most recent example of this was the 5-year prison sentence given in March 2017 to the founder of the Gafatar sect, Ahmad Moshaddeq, who also claimed to be another Islamic prophet and thus had his teachings criminalized as heretical.
Another high-profile sect leader in Indonesia is Lia Eden, (the founder and leader of a cult called God’s Kingdom of Eden) who claims to be the reincarnation of Mother Mary and that her son is the reincarnation of Jesus Christ. Lia Eden, who once wrote a letter to President Jokowi asking to allow a UFO to land in Jakarta (which, as far as anybody knows, didn’t happen), has been jailed twice for blasphemy after she publicly denounced and criticized Indonesia’s officially recognized religions.