Pop singer Lady Gaga announced today that she was canceling a planned concert in the Indonesian capitol of Jakarta following protests and threats from Islamic groups. With the police refusing to issue a permit for the event unless Lady Gaga promised to censor her show, and the hardline Islamic Defenders Front threatening to “burn the stage” if the show went on at all, the singer’s management decided that the only way to address their security concerns was to pull the plug.
While Indonesia is a secular country, it has a large Muslim population. Officially, the country is considered politically moderate. This conflict only highlights growing concerns in the region about the increasing influence of hardline Islamic groups, who have spent recent years pushing more and more restrictive laws and attacking “enemies of Islam,” including Christians and Muslim minorities. Just this month, the FBI and similar groups have been implicated in attacking a Muslim gay rights advocate and assaulting Protestants with bags of urine and rocks outside their church. The police have done little to sanction them.
Despite the strong bastions of Islamic conservatism within the country, there are also many Indonesian fans of the controversial and unabashedly liberal performer; over 50,000 people bought tickets to the much-anticipated event. Promoters have promised refunds to everyone who hoped to attend the show.
Habib Salim Alatas, the FPI’s Jakarta spokesman, has called Lady Gaga “the devil’s messenger.” He told the AFP news agency, “FPI is grateful that she has decided not to come. Indonesians will be protected from sin brought about by this Mother Monster, the destroyer of morals.”
He addressed disappointed fans directly as well, telling them: “Lady Gaga fans, stop complaining. Repent and stop worshipping the devil. Do you want your lives taken away by God as infidels?”
Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Minister, Suryadharma Ali, issued a less inflammatory media statement, saying he believed the cancelation would benefit the country, and that “Indonesians need entertainment and art which have moral values.”
Lady Gaga has apologized via Twitter to her disappointed Indonesian fans, telling them she is “devastated” by the need to cancel the concert. In response to the FPI’s charges of blasphemy, she had only this to say: “There is nothing Holy about hatred.”
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons