Punks at gig punished under strict Islamic law

Punk rock is under serious attack in Indonesia’s most conservative province, after a group of young punks were arrested by baton-wielding police and taken for “moral rehabilitation.”

Police raided a concert for a local orphanage at Budaya Park in the Sharia-ruled province Aceh on Saturday, arresting 64 people in total — 59 men and five women, who had travelled from across the country to attend the event.

Objecting to nothing other than the outlandish style of the punk rockers, with their Mohawk hairstyles, pierced faces and ripped clothing, police claimed the youths were tarnishing the image of the province, and posed a threat to Islamic values.

After the arrest, police began “cleansing” the youths. They took away their “disgusting” clothes, replacing them with clothes worn in prayer, removed their piercings and shaved off their spiky Mohawks. Even the few female rockers in the group were subject to a compulsory haircut, as female police officers cut their hair in the regulation police haircut – short, blunt bobs.

The youths, who were thrown into pools of water and given toothbrushes as part of their “spiritual cleansing,” face 10 days of  “re-education,” with military-style discipline training and religious classes, including Koran recitation.

Banda Aceh deputy mayor Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal who ordered the arrests told AFP: “We feared that the Islamic sharia law implemented in this province will be tainted by their activities.”  He added: “We hope that by sending them to rehabilitation they will eventually repent.”

20-year-old punker Fauzan said “Why? Why my hair?! We didn’t hurt anyone. This is how we’ve chosen to express ourselves. Why are they treating us like criminals?”

Local police chief Iskandar Hasan reportedly agreed with the mayor: “We need to fix them so that they will behave properly and morally. They need harsh treatment to change their mental behaviour.”

Complaints from young punks about harassment from the authorities has increased recently, but this raid on the concert, which had 100 attendees, was the biggest bust yet.

Several human rights activists in the area have claimed that the camps violate the youths’ human rights, but police have denied this, claiming the programme is an “orientation into normal Indonesian society”.

The popularity of punk rock music in Islamic Indonesia has rocketed over the past few years, with more and more Indonesians embracing both the music and the fashion.

The Islamic punk music scene began in 2003, inspired by novel from American convert, Michael Muhammad Knight. Knight wrote The Taqwacores, which imagined a community of Muslim punk radicals: Sufis with mohawks, riot grrrls in burqas with band patches and skinhead Shi’as.

Aceh, on the northernmost tip of Sumatra island, adopted partial sharia law in 2001. Nearly 90 per cent of Indonesia’s 240 million people are Muslims, but the vast majority practise a moderate form of Islam.