Aceh, the ultraconservative region of Indonesia, has long been controversial for its strict implementation of sharia law, but in just the last week some Islamic groups and politicians in the area have been making headlines nationally for pushing even more extreme positions, such as declaring women’s soccer haram and proposing a law that would legalize and regulate the practice of polygamy. Their latest target: The soft rock stylings of ‘90s era band Base Jam.
Sunday was the closing day of the 2019 Aceh Culinary Festival held in Banda Aceh’s Sultanah Safiatuddin Park. The event was supposed to be closed by a special performance by Base Jam, an Indonesian band that reached the height of its popularity in the 1990s with songs such as Bukan Pujangga (Not a Poet).
But while Base Jam played a few songs, their show was stopped early by an angry mob of protesters who demanded that the concert be shut down. The crew at Acehkini captured the clashes between the festival’s security and the mob that led to the concert’s abrupt ending at around 11:30pm.
In the video, members of the mob can be heard swearing at the event’s organizers while demanding the concert be shut down and trying to force themselves past security.
One of the people seen demanding the concert be shut down in the video is Umar Rafsanjani, the chairperson of a local Islamic study group Zikir Tasawuf Tauhid dan Fiqih (Tassafi). On Monday, Umar told Acehkini, “We demanded that the band’s performance be suspended because their performance was not in line with their commitments”.
According to Umar, the controversy over the concert started last week when a poster for the event was released showing a female member of the band not wearing a hijab (all women, regardless of religion, are required to wear head covers under Aceh’s strict implementation of sharia law). Umar said the poster made some people angry because it was seen as bringing shame to Aceh.
Umar said that anger over the poster led to meetings between Tassafi and officials from the Aceh Tourism Office. Tassafi demanded that the poster be pulled and that the Tourism Ministry, which commissioned the poster, apologize for it — which they did.
However, officials would not agree to their demands that the concert be canceled altogether, so Umar claimed an agreement was made by which the band could only play traditional Acehnese songs and religious songs that fit with the “local wisdom” of Aceh.
Umar says he was at the festival in order to monitor the concert and make sure the band adhered to the agreement. After playing a traditional Acehnese song, Bungong Jeumpa, as their opener, Base Jam then started playing their own hit song Bukan Pujangga.
That is when the mob became incensed and started violently attempting to put an end to the concert. Security forces held them back for a while but the band decided to wrap up their performance quickly thereafter and beat a hasty retreat.
In a post on their official Instagram account after the incident, Base Jam wrote, “Thank you for the support and opportunity, Aceh. Sorry if there was something not pleasing so our setlist could not be played in full. Hopefully, it will be more fun next time.”
The Banda Aceh Police have not made any statements regarding the legality of the mob’s actions or whether they would make any arrests. But Umar told Tempo yesterday that he had heard that police had questioned two members of his organization.