Indonesian Muslim Clerics in West Java Protest ‘Un-Islamic’ Bima Statue

Posted on August 17, 2010


Purwakarta, West Java. Clerics of the Indonesian Ulema Forum staged a mass demonstration outside the local administration’s office on Friday, demanding that they remove the district’s statue of Javanese puppetry figure Bima.

In a speech, KH Abdullah Joban, chairman of the forum’s Purwakarta chapter, urged the administration to demolish the statue, claiming “it is against the city’s Islamic identity”.

The huge statue of Bima stands on Jalan Baru in the Nagri Kaler subdistrict of Purwakarta. In its official statement to the administration, the Ulema Forum claimed that the statue of Bima had a negative impact on the public because it is an image of a figure which only exists in people’s “superstitious beliefs.”

“It is a way to recall a figure from superstitious beliefs. From the economic point of view it is wasteful and from the legal point of view it is causing public restlessness,” Abdullah said, adding that the statue should be replaced with an Islamic figure. Purwakarta district head Dedi Mulyadi has apparently had two other statues based on Javanese puppetry erected in the district.

The demonstration comes less than two months after the Bekasi administration in West Java pulled down the 17-meter-tall “Tiga Mojang” (“Three Girls”) statue, which took a year and at least 50 people to build, at a cost of Rp 2.4 billion ($268,800).

After pointed objections by hard-line groups, which included protesters spray-painting the statue and covering it with a white sheet, Bekasi Mayor Mochtar Muhammad ordered the developer of the complex at which the statue stood to remove it. When developers failed to do so, the Bekasi administration took the statue down in June. In mid-May, more than 1,000 members of hard-line Islamic organizations had rallied outside the Bekasi administration office to protest against the statue.

The leader of Bekasi’s Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), Murhali Barda, said the Tiga Mojang statue, aside from having lacked a building permit, was un-Islamic.

“The women are wearing tight costumes,” Murhali said. “And above all, Islam prohibits statues and paintings that try to copy real living beings.”

Tiga Mojan designer Nyoman Nuarta said his public sculptures usually portray real beings because Indonesians are generally not interested in abstract art. He also said Indonesians tend to forget their cultural roots and readily adopt anything foreign, both good and bad. “We take on American or Arabian culture as if we were not proud of our own,” he said.

Posted in: Asia