Police now investigating uploader of viral Probolinggo kindergarten parade video for possible hate speech

Screenshot: Agus Susanto II (@Cobeh09) / Twitter

A video of girls from an Indonesian  kindergarten marching in a cultural parade on Saturday while wearing niqab (face veils) and black robes and carrying prop guns recently went viral and led to accusations that the school was indoctrinating its students in radical and terrorist ideologies. But local and national officials have been quick to absolve the school of any wrongdoing, with police choosing instead to investigate the person who uploaded the original video for possible hate speech.

Officials from the TK Kartika V 69 kindergarten in the East Java city of Probolinggo held a press conference that same day to respond to the uproar and denied that the choice of costume had anything to do with radicalism or terrorism, but explained that their theme had been ‘Struggle for the Prophet to Increase Faith and Piety.” Given public pressure, the Probolinggo Police and Indonesia’s minister of education, Muhajir Effendy, both said they would investigate the school for possible wrongdoing.

But, after talking to school officials, the Probolinggo Police quickly dropped their investigation into whether the kindergarten had broke any laws by teaching banned radical ideologies to their students. Instead, they now say that they are trying to trace the person who uploaded the original video of the students in the parade so that person can be investigated for possible hate speech.

“Please be patient. We will track the uploader and call them to the police station for clarification,” Probolinggo Police Chief Alfian Nurrizal told WartaBromo yesterday.

Alfian explained that in a complete video of the parade, students from the kindergarten at the front of the procession could be seen carrying Indonesian flags, with two of the students dressed up as King “Salman” and his queen in a carriage. The girls in niqab carrying prop guns were meant to be the king’s guards. So, Alfian argued, in that context there was nothing inappropriate about the girls’ costumes.

Moreover, Alfian said there were signs that the person who uploaded the original viral video had ill intent and only showed one part of the parade in order to create hostility and anger towards certain groups, which would make them criminally liable under Indonesia’s controversial Information and Electronic Transactions Law (UU ITE).

Alfian compared it to the case of Buni Yani, the man who was sentenced to 1.5 years for uploading an out-of-context clip of a speech by former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama that led to Ahok’s blasphemy conviction.

Meanwhile, Education Minister Muhajir Effendy also cleared the school of any wrongdoing after visiting the kindergarten in Probolinggo. He said that he saw no major problems with their parade theme because it was about “the struggle of Muslims for Indonesia’s independence.” In fact, instead of sanctioning the school, Muhajir gave the school IDR 25 million (USD 1,700) in assistance fund so that it could be used for educational purposes including helping underprivileged children.

In an eye-opening essay for Indonesia at Melbourne, women’s rights activist Lies Marcos writes “Is it really a surprise that radicals might have infiltrated Indonesian kindergartens?” In the piece, she explains there is little to no oversight of Indonesia’s early childhood education system, especially in terms of curriculum, and that a large percentage of kindergartens are run by private religious organizations.

There have been growing concerns about radical and terrorist ideologies being taught in Indonesian schools, with Indonesia’s National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) claiming they had data that showed that 39 percent of Indonesian university students have been exposed to radical Islamic ideology.

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