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Cablegate: Ramadan in Indonesia -- Amid Fasting And

VZCZCXRO6716
OO RUEHBC RUEHDA RUEHDBU RUEHDE RUEHDH RUEHDT RUEHGI RUEHJS RUEHKUK
RUEHLH RUEHPB RUEHPW RUEHROV RUEHTRO
DE RUEHJA #1465 2450939
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 020939Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY JAKARTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3227
INFO RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNISL/ISLAMIC COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS JAKARTA 001465

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP, EAP/MTS, EAP/MLS, EAP/RSP, DRL, DRL/IRF
NSC FOR J. BADER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KISL KIRF ID
SUBJECT: RAMADAN IN INDONESIA -- AMID FASTING AND
RESTRICTIONS ON ENTERTAINMENT, A FESTIVE AIR

1. SUMMARY: Indonesia's over 200 million Muslims are
observing the month of Ramadan in festive fashion with a
constant round of Iftaar (breaking fast) events. Per local
government orders, night clubs, massage parlors and saunas
are shut, while karaoke and live music venues are maintaining
limited hours of operation. Local officials have been more
forceful this year than in the past in pressing for closures.
Non-Muslim areas of this very diverse country are not
imposing bans. There have been no reports of the sort of
Islamic extremist vigilante activity that happened in the
past. Mission is hosting a series of Iftaars in honor of the
season. END SUMMARY.

FASTING--AND BREAKING FAST

2. The sounds, sights and smells of Iftaars (breaking fast
events) fill Jakarta each evening as families and friends
gather to break their Ramadan fast. (Note: Ramadan began on
August 21 and ends on September 19. Ramadan is followed by
the Idul Fitri holiday.) The vast majority of Indonesia's
over 200 million Muslims fast from dawn to dusk in accordance
with the five pillars of Islam. Despite the hardship of
fasting in a hot, humid climate and the closure of many
restaurants during the day, the anticipation and preparation
for countless Iftaars (or "Buka Puasa" in Bahasa Indonesia)
creates a festive atmosphere. In addition to the Iftaars,
many Indonesians gather before dawn to enjoy a communal meal
with friends and family.

3. The Ambassador and DCM are hosting a series of Iftaars in
honor of the season. Mission has also publicized the
President's Ramadan message.

LOCAL GOVERNMENTS IMPOSE RESTRICTIONS

4. For the Ramadan timeframe, local governments have imposed
restrictions on entertainment-related activities. Jakarta
officials, for example, have ordered the closure of over
1,0000 entertainment venues such as night clubs, massage
parlors and saunas while karaoke and live music venues have
limited hours of operation. (Note: Five-star hotels are
exempt from the ban.)

5. Local officials generally have been more forceful than in
year's past in pressing for the closures. Punishments for
violating the closure orders range from warnings to
revocation of business licenses. Officials have reported
that more and more businesses are voluntarily complying and
violations are on the decrease. In 2008, only 11 businesses
violated Jakarta bylaws versus 37 in 2005. Although most
provinces maintain similar regulations, non-Muslim majority
areas do not impose bans or force closures.

6. Analysts estimate that the entertainment industry will
experience a 60 percent drop in revenue for the month of
Ramadan as compared to other months. We have been told that
the number of Japanese and Korean tourists has plummeted due
to the restrictions. Economic hardship can be particularly
burdensome in the more religiously conservative provinces
that maintain stringent bans. That said, in a nod to
economic realities, local government and religious leaders in
South Tangerang District of conservative Banten Province near
Jakarta have announced that they would not force
entertainment venues to close because of the financial
hardships that would be incurred by workers.

7. Although overall inflation in Indonesia has remained
relatively low this year, the demand for food staples has
caused a slight increase in prices thus far. Muslims, in a
celebratory mood, tend to spend heavily during the month of
Ramadan, particularly through eating, drinking and gift
giving during their many Iftaar and other activities.

NO VIGILANTE ACTIVITIES REPORTED SO FAR

8. In the recent past, a number of hardline Muslim vigilante
groups have taken the law into their own hands and engaged in
illegal "sweeping" raids of entertainment venues during
Ramadan. Peaking in 2005, these raids have been on a steady
decline, with only occasional flare-ups throughout the
country since then. To date, there have been no reports of
vigilante violence so far. Despite the calm, extremists are
still a presence in Indonesia and government officials remain
alert.


HUME

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