BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) — Police in Indonesia’s most conservative province raided a punk-rock concert and detained 65 fans, buzzing off their spiky mohawks and stripping away body piercings because of the perceived threat to Islamic values.
Dog-collar necklaces and chains also were taken from the youths before they were thrown in pools of water for “spiritual” cleansing, local police chief Iskandar Hasan said Wednesday.
After replacing their “disgusting” clothes, he handed each a toothbrush and barked “use it.”
The crackdown marked the latest effort by authorities to promote strict moral values in Aceh, the only province in this secular but predominantly Muslim nation of 240 million to have imposed Islamic laws.
Here, adultery is punishable by stoning to death. Homosexuals have been thrown in jail or lashed in public with rattan canes. Women are forced to wear headscarves and told, please, no tight pants.
It’s not clear why police decided to hone in on punks.
Though pierced and tattooed teens have complained for months about harassment, Saturday’s roundup at a concert attended by more than 100 people was by far the biggest and most dramatic bust yet.
Baton-wielding police scattered fans, many of whom had traveled from other parts of the sprawling archipelagic nation to attend the show.
Hasan said 59 young men and five women were loaded into vans and brought to a police detention center 30 miles (60 kilometers) from the provincial capital, Banda Aceh.
They would spend 10 days getting rehabilitation, training in military-style discipline and religious classes, including Quran recitation, he said. Afterward, they’ll be sent home.
Twenty-year-old punker, Fauzan, was mortified.
“Why? Why my hair?!” he said, pointing to his cleanly shaven head. “We didn’t hurt anyone. This is how we’ve chosen to express ourselves. Why are they treating us like criminals?”
The women, some in tears, were given short, blunt bobs.
Hasan insisted he’d done nothing wrong.
“We’re not torturing anyone,” the police chief said. “We’re not violating human rights. We’re just trying to put them back on the right moral path.”
However, Nur Kholis, a national human commissioner, deplored the detentions, saying police have to explain what kinds of criminal laws have been broken.
“Otherwise, they violated people’s right of gathering and expression,” Kholis said, promising to investigate.
Aceh — where Islam first arrived in Indonesia from Saudi Arabia centuries ago — enjoys semiautonomy from the central government.
That was part of a peace deal negotiated after the 2004 tsunami that killed 170,000 people in the province convinced both separatist rebels and the army to lay down their arms. Neither side wanted to add to people’s suffering.
Some local governments in other parts of the country — which has seen tremendous changes with lighting-speed economic growth and modernization since the ouster of longtime dictator Suharto one decade ago — also have tried to ban “immoral” behavior, like drinking alcohol, gambling and kissing in public.
They’ve met with limited success, however, largely because most of the country’s 200 million Muslims practice moderate forms of the faith.