Lifestyle & Belief

Indonesia: Islamic vigilantes threaten Ramadan booze patrols

BANGKOK, Thailand — Ramadan has commenced in the world's largest Muslim-majority nation, Indonesia, where most in the Southeast Asian archipelago will swear off food and sex before sundown. Even at night during the holy month, Muslims are meant to put piety before partying.

But those who can't stay out of the club are warned: if the cops don't shut you down, hardline Islamic vigilantes will take the law into their own hands.

The Islamic Defenders Front are well-known in Indonesia for threatening — and sometimes attacking — any group they consider impure. Past targets have included a Playboy publisher, a pop star who appeared in a sex tape, Lady Gaga concertgoers and loads of everyday boozers, prostitutes and even Christian churchgoers.

This year, as in previous years, they have vowed to conduct "raids" on shops, clubs and bars serving alcohol during Ramadan, according to Agence France-Presse.

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At a glance, this would seem redundant: police in the capital, Jakarta, already force nearly 1,800 bars, massage joints, pool halls and other alcohol-serving establishments to limit their hours or shut down altogether during the holy month. Senior officials have instructed the Islamic Defenders Front to stand down and let the cops do their job.

But the vigilantes are undeterred. One senior member of the Front told the Jakarta Globe that "it's common knowledge many law enforcement officers back immoral establishments," and threatened sweeps against any bar regardless of its ties to the police.

The vigilantes are particularly hellbent on ridding Indonesia of alcohol, which is widely available and widely consumed in Jakarta's wild nightclubs.

"If you do evil in your own home, that is you private matter with God," Tubagus Muhammed Siddiq, a co-founder of the Islamic Defenders Front, told GlobalPost in 2011. "But if you do it in the open, before my eyes, that is a matter with me. Because if we see it, we must eradicate it." 

More from GlobalPost: Vigilante jihad: Inside the Islamic Defenders Front