JAKARTA - The backlash against the flamboyant American pop star Lady Gaga has been brewing in Indonesia for months. However, tensions over the singer's imminent concert reached a new high in Jakarta this week. After mounting pressure from hardline Islamic groups, police announced they will not issue the permit required for Lady Gaga to perform in the country. Rights groups say the decision is a step back for the world’s most populous Muslim nation.
In announcing their decision, Indonesian police also cited concerns over safety. The Islamic Defender’s Front, FPI, threatened to deploy 30,000 members to physically prevent Lady Gaga from getting off the plane.
Although the majority of Indonesia's population is decidedly moderate, the FPI has been particularly vocal and politically influential over the past year.
Salim Alatas who heads FPI’s Jakarta branch, thanked police for their efforts.
"We from the FPI reject the Lady Gaga concert because she will destroy the morals and culture of Indonesia," he said. Alatas said Lady Gaga represents Satanism adding that the group would not reject her if she was not “pornographic.”
This week the Indonesian government warned music promoters to consider the country's culture and tradition when inviting foreign artists to perform here. The tourism ministry also emphasized that foreign performers should wear modest outfits on stage.
But many of Jakarta’s Western-minded young people believe hardline groups should not have the right to define their morals for them.
Giat, 18, is a Jakarta student who runs a Twitter page called Lady.Gaga.Indonesia.
The page has 22,000 followers -" Little Monsters" as Lady Gaga fans are known - many of whom have criticized the decision.
“Those arguments from those people who don't like Lady Gaga aren't rational to me, actually not only to me but to all little monsters in Indonesia," Giat said. "As we know Lady Gaga never asked anyone to worship Satan so it's like they are trying to lie to the public because not everyone knows Lady Gaga, so everyone will hate Lady Gaga and the concert will be canceled. It is so ridiculous to me and all little monsters.”
Despite allegations that the pop star would tarnish Indonesia’s moral fiber, she has plenty of fans in Jakarta. More than 52,000 tickets were purchased in advance, making the sold-out show her biggest in Asia.
Lady Gaga’s local promoter, Big Daddy productions, says it is still trying to persuade authorities to issue the permit, but rights groups say the damage to Indonesia’s tolerant Islamic image is done.
Human Rights Watch Asia
deputy director Elaine Pearson says hardline groups like the FPI are becoming increasingly aggressive.
“It used to be that they would only go after the minorities like the Ahmadiyah but increasingly over the last couple of years we have seen more attacks against Christian churches and so on," Pearson said. "I think now the fact they are even taking on the Lady Gaga concert shows that there are very emboldened by the failure if the state to really rein in their activities. They really want to control what people can do and see in Indonesia.”
Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way Ball”
world tour includes stops in Bangkok, Manila, Tapei, Hong Kong and South Korea.
And there have been culture clashes in those places too.
Conservative groups in South Korea complained about Lady Gaga’s skimpy costumes, leading authorities to ban minors from attending her recent show. Several of the pop singer’s tunes are banned in China.