Many of us probably expected the more conservative of Indonesia’s politicians to rally behind Malaysian opposition leader Zahid Hamidi’s attempts to score cheap political points by blaming last month’s earthquake and tsunami in Central Sulawesi on the rise of LGBT activities, specifically in the province’s capital of Palu.
But that, thankfully, has not turned out to be the case so far. Instead, Palu Mayor Hidayat has come out to debunk Zahid’s theory (albeit in his own insensitive way).
“I think deviant activities exist in every region, but I have never seen it in Palu. Maybe there are, but I ask everyone to be introspective, ask for direction from Allah,” he told Kumparan yesterday, implying that he still believes in divine punishment regardless.
“Maybe there are different views held by politicians and experts. Some might say it was divine punishment, but then there are also expert opinions from those who performed extensive research.”
National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) Spokesperson Sutopo, who has tirelessly updated Indonesia and the world with news about natural disasters that have hit the country recently (despite being diagnosed with stage four lung cancer), similarly refused to be brought down to Zahid’s level.
“To a geologist the earthquake and tsunami in Palu were initiated by the shift of tectonic plates. To a layout expert the disasters in Palu were caused by lack of disaster mitigation in spatial planning,” he told Kumparan today.
“For someone in religion, they may see this as divine punishment and a warning from Allah so people do not sin. Everybody has the right to perceive [the cause] of disasters as they see fit.”
On Tuesday, the embattled Zahid, who is currently facing 45 corruption-related criminal charges, said the twin disaster that struck Central Sulawesi was divine punishment and warned that Malaysians could face something similar if they don’t forsake their sinful ways.
“If we look at the situation in Malaysia, we are concerned over the incident of the earthquake and tsunami in Palu, Indonesia, recently, where it is believed more than 1,000 of them were involved in [LGBTQ+] activities,” he said.
“But the whole area was destroyed as part of God’s punishment.
“I would like to ask, as part of Malaysian Islamic Development Department’s (Jakim) task, (for them) to implement the Mukhayyam outreach program to help the LGBTQ+ community, and other steps taken by government agencies and other states, and to state the effectiveness of such program so we can avoid similar punishment from God, including those who clearly reject the LGBTQ+.”
The Mukhayyam program mentioned by Zahid has been described by LGBT activists as a “brainwashing” program that attempts to get transgender individuals to change their identities.
Zahid is far from the first to describe the twin disaster in Sulawesi as the result of God’s wrath. Hardline Islamic preachers in Indonesia have spread conspiracy theories that they were the result of idolatry and extremist groups have threatened several traditional Javanese cultural ceremonies, saying their animistic origins could anger God and lead to more disasters.
But it is truly appalling to see a politician from another country try to connect the earthquake and tsunami that hit Sulawesi — killing over 2,000 people and displacing nearly 90,000 — with Indonesia’s treatment of its LGBTQ+ community.
Although homosexuality is not criminalized throughout Indonesia as it is in Malaysia (not yet at least), the LGBTQ+ community has been increasingly persecuted here in recent years due to politicized moral panics, with vigilante raids, police arrests, and state-sponsored discrimination causing many LGBTQ+ individuals here to be terrified for their safety. To further stigmatize them by asserting that they are the cause of natural disasters is an insult to all logic and humanity.
But Zahid didn’t exactly have much credibility in those departments before. Last week he was officially handed 45 criminal charges relating to the former DPM’s abuse of power, including criminal breach of trust and money laundering in connection to a charity run by members of his family.