On Dec 8, 2016 Voice of America reported: JAKARTA —
Homophobic rhetoric is nothing new in Indonesian politics. In recent months, elected officials have labeled gay Indonesians as morally corrupt, inconsistent with national values, and “worse than nuclear warfare.”
But the recent arrest of several gay men at a private party in south Jakarta’s Kalibata City was a shock for many, both because the raid was led by the right-wing Islamic Defender’s Front (FPI) party and because the police actually followed their lead.
FPI has been emboldened in recent months by the success of initiatives like their huge rallies against Jakarta’s ethnic Chinese governor, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama. With little opposition from President Joko Widodo and other mainstream politicians, the group has become brazenly divisive.
“What’s happened in 2016 is strange and unprecedented,” said Kyle Knight, a Human Rights Watch researcher.
FILE – A member of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) holds up posters protesting films screened at the Q! Film Festival in Jakarta, Sep. 28, 2010.
Earlier this year, he said, many prominent officials had a “sort of meltdown” where they goaded each other into making inflammatory statements like that of Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, who compared homosexuality to nuclear war.
“And what mainstream politicians decided to do was keep quiet, so as not to fan the flames of extremists,” Knight said. But silence had the opposite effect, and ultimately let their voices echo unchecked.
The acronym LGBT — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender — has become so symbolically loaded in Indonesia, Knight said, that politicians use it as shorthand for a whole set of liberal values. “I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them didn’t even know what it stood for,” he said.
The FPI, Knight added, has turned gay rights into a wedge issue to drum up middle-class moral outrage before regional elections in January and February.