Candra Malik | October 14, 2010
Sukoharjo, Central Java. First it was churches and a minority Islamic sect, then the gay community and a former Playboy editor. Now the country’s much-derided Muslim hard-liners are reportedly targeting one of its most beloved icons: Wayang.
Ki Slamet Gundono, a world-renowned dalang (puppet master) for the traditional Javanese shadow puppetry, on Wednesday said hard-liners in Sukoharjo, a town south of Solo, had broken up several performances in the area.
“A bunch of youths calling themselves Laskar Jihad [warriors of jihad] attacked a wayang performance taking place in Sembung Wetan village in Sukoharjo on Saturday night,” he said.
“They threatened members of the audience and forced them to disperse. “We strongly condemn this violence,” he added.
Gundono said he only recently learned about the incident from fellow wayang practitioners who were afraid to report it to police.
“We have decided to take a united stand to protect the arts and culture against violent acts by any group,” he said, adding people should not be afraid to hold future performances.
Joko Ngadimin, founder of Sekarjagad, a wayang and gamelan music troupe, said several similar attacks had occurred before.
“The latest incident on Saturday happened near my house,” he told the Globe.
“Two people were injured and the performance was forced to stop. The attackers from Laskar Jihad were throwing rocks and brandishing swords.”
He added the attackers all wore turbans and kept yelling “ Allahu Akbar! ” (“God is great!”) while running amok.
Joko said the attacks were usually carried out during smaller weekend performances.
“These rioters only seem to disrupt wayang performances on the weekend,” he said. “But they haven’t dared break up any by a senior dalang.”
Saturday’s attack took place at the home of Ripto Anto Mulyono, a maker of gamelan instruments in Sembung Wetan village. Ripto had invited dalang Ki Agung Nugraha Sukresna to perform at his house as part of a family celebration.
“He asked me to perform there because his son, Rahmat Nugroho, had just passed the test to get into the civil service,” Sukresna said.
He added none of the performers or musicians had been hurt in the attack.
“At first I didn’t know who was attacking us because I had been working the wayang behind the screen,” he said. “Then, in an instant, the melee moved really close to the screen.”
Separately, Comr. Sukiryono, chief of detectives at the Sukoharjo Police, said he had not received any reports of Saturday’s attack and was unaware of the incident. “However, we’ll promptly follow up on this information,” he said.
Witnesses said the attackers might have been provoked by the fact audience members were drinking alcohol during the shows, which can run from early evening until dawn.
Ki Manteb Sudarsono, another world-renowned dalang, condemned the attack and called on all wayang practitioners to stand together in a show of defiance against the attackers.
“I’ve never experienced such an incident, but violence seems to be disrupting our tranquility more and more,” he said.
“The government and police should act to resolve such cases.”