Vigilates with dubious religious credentials and white Muslim robes showed up at a Dutch film festival in South Jakarta today. The same group has been threatened Jakarta’s most popular bars and massage parlors in the past. Today, violence was prevented by the cops. Similar clashes of culture take place in Holland.
About 10 years ago the same group of vigilantes — which has taken a page from the KKK with their fright-white costumes — caught me at the Tanamur. There were no cops that night. The story was recently published in a book review review and is excerpted below.
By 1998 Suharto and the Tanamur were slipping into emeritus status. That was the year I arrived. The scene had all but moved to JJ Duit, Fahmy’s chill-out spot next door. The “why” of it all doesn’t matter so desperately anymore. But here it is, and it’s good to have. In 2005, after three decades of peaceful rebellion—Fahmy’s “flower power”—Animus closed its doors for good.
There were some counter-offensives. I remember how energy levels, normally pretty high at a Jakarta disco, soared when the DJ cut the music and turned on the lights one night at JJ’s. It was the prophet’s birthday (which I now observe more carefully). Clueless for a second, we looked outside as countless dump trucks unloaded a sea of men dressed in white. They began to chant and—rather ceremoniously—throw stones, breaking a few windows. As frightened as we were, it turned out the well-paid mercenaries had orders to visit a long list of establishments that night and soon left (after a brief eternity). However, this event contributed to the eventual demise of both of Fahmy’s clubs located in Tanah Abang Timur.
In the late 60’s the young Ahmad Fahmy went to Europe to pursue an education in textile production. He witnessed a social and musical revolution there. But, he said, when he returned to Jakarta in 1969, I found “my own country was just as exciting.” Opening without splash in 1970, the Tanamur went on to rock the boat for 35 years. It was said to be a place—and this doesn’t even make sense as the theme for a club—where everybody felt comfortable: gay, straight, rich, poor, Muslim, Christian, black, white, drunk and sober. Far out.
The Arab-Indonesian hippy sheik admitted Jakarta was off-kilter, but thought it would settle down one day. And then, someone “with a dream” would open “another Tanamur.”