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Shariah don’t like it ...? by Howard Zindiq

‘Shariah don’t like it ...?’ Punk and religion in Indonesia by Howard Zindiq

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The influence of religion in Indonesia is substantively different to the UK, and even to Poland despite the boasts of influence by the Catholic Church there. Religion infiltrates into the state and is at the root of organised terror campaigns, the affordable schools are madrassas, pressures from society and family are intense, and atheism is unlawful. Religion wields huge power in Indonesia and it does not allow its influence to be escaped easily. The examples of openly anti-religious punk discussed above are exceptional. They are also illegal. In ‘the West’ punk opposes religion, even if religion is far less concerned with punk. In Indonesia the ‘opposition’ flows predominantly in the other direction, with religious groups actively repressing punks, while punks seek to maintain affiliation to a religious identity or culture. Any sense of an expected or ‘ordinary’ relationship between punk and religion completely breaks down. The imperialist/neo-colonial/Orientalist argument would run that Indonesian punks will become more atheistic with increasing exposure to their ‘more advanced’ or ‘further developed’ atheist comrades in the West. The influence of the global punk scene is very important, as Sean Martin-Iverson argues in one of his articles detailing the Bandung punk scene of the mid- 2000s:

[t]here is little overt aesthetic hybridity displayed in Indonesian underground music, which is more concerned with fidelity to global underground styles ... also displayed by the frequent use of English terms, phrases, and song lyrics.

It is certainly the case that Indonesian punk is recognisably a constituent part of the ‘global punk
scene’ –
both aesthetically, and in terms of international connections. Punk culture is an international
entity, with significant commonalities traversing scenes across the globe, but these scenes are also heavily localised and develop in tension with co- existing local cultures. As such, Indonesian punk has a very distinct character
– interviewees repeatedly expressed the idea of a ‘punk Indonesia.’ As described, the relationship with religion here is one of Indonesian punk’s most distinctive characteristics. The impact of an aggressively enforced religious culture results in a locally distinct relationship between punk and IslamwhichdoesnotmapontoWesternpunkcontexts. Ofcourse,itisnaïve to expect such a mapping, but this also speaks to any investigation into ‘exotic’ or ‘other’ punk scenes, and serves as poignant warning to maintain vigilance against the re-expression of neo-colonial attitudes from the privileged ‘Western’ punk perspective. 

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