Published on May 28th, 2012 | by Alan Cross


Why the Cancellation of Lady Gaga’s Indonesian Concert Should Concern Us

This cancellation is bad news.  Having just returned home after a visit to SE Asia, I can tell you definitively that there’s more at stake than just a bunch of disappointment music fans.

The status of her Jakarta show was big news in Singapore–and not merely celebrity news, either.  It was a hearts and minds issue and one with serious political and social overtones.  (Rather than rehash everything here, please go back and read the original post.)

In the end, though the hardline Islamic groups have won the day in Indonesia, a country of 240 million that’s officially a secular state.  By cancelling the concert–to which 52,000 people bought tickets–authorities have caved to the demands of a religious minority.

Here’s the kind of rhetoric we saw from people like Salim Atatas, head of the Islamic Defender Front:  “[Lady Gaga] is a vulgar singer who wears only panties and a bra when she sings and she state she is the envoy of the devil’s child and that she will spread satanic teaching.”

Really, Salim?  I don’t recall her saying any of that.  

Talk like this whipped up such anti-Gaga sentiment (which is really anti-pop/rock sentiment) to the point where officials pulled permits for the show because they were not only concerned about Gaga’s safety but the safety of the 52,000 people going to the gig. 

Hey, who knows what some whacko hardliner might have tried?  If they’ll bomb nightclubs in Bali, they’d have no trouble with a stadium in Jakarta. 

As crazy as you may think I am for writing this, the cancellation of the Gaga show in Indonesia is a blow to that country’s drive for democracy.  Let’s just say you had to be there.




About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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6 Responses to Why the Cancellation of Lady Gaga’s Indonesian Concert Should Concern Us

  1. Ryan says:

    Hey man,

    I like your blogs, and i respect your opinion. But I just gotta say that this sort of thing is not ruining chances for democracy. I am an expat from the states that lived in Indonesia for 20 years. The reason is that this sort of act by Lady Gaga is just considered rude and inappropriate to the customs and beliefs of the people of Indonesia. They see it as very insulting as a woman should not show off as much skin as lady Gaga does. Not all of them do obviously, because 52,000 people did buy tickets. But that is only 52,000 people out of millions in the capital Jakarta itself. Talk about the others from around the country. The people there are very down to earth, its just the extremists who take it too far. And honestly, there are extremists everywhere in the world. If the government didn't stop this, then there would definitely be riots. There are riots everywhere in the world for stupid reasons, and you can't just single out the Indonesians. Yes, the satanic/devil comments are too far, but you have to see it where they are coming from. Indonesia is an amazing place. These sort of blogs are a classic example of people not knowing what Indonesia really is, and quickly assuming the worst. Especially with comments such as bombings, would drive anyone potential tourists away.

  2. Ken says:

    Ryan: I would say it's the actual existence of religious extremism and the legitimate danger of violence motivated by religious intolerance in the country that will harm tourism — not blogs reporting on current events. The problem doesn't go away just because you don't talk about it.

  3. Alan Cross says:

    The thing that concerns me the most were the the threats of violence against concert-goers by members of groups opposing Gaga. From today's Toronto Star:

    Ninety per cent of Indonesia’s 240 million people are Muslim, but most practice a moderate, tolerant form of the faith. However, an extremist fringe has gotten more vocal — and violent — in recent years, sometimes attacking religious minorities with clubs and machetes. They also target transvestites, atheists and others considered “blasphemous.”

    The Islamic Defenders Front, or the FPI, which threatened to meet Lady Gaga with tens of thousands of angry supporters if she dared step off the plane in the capital of Jakarta, celebrated news of her cancellation.

    “This is a victory for Indonesian Muslims,” said Salim Alatas, one of the leaders of the hard-line group. “Thanks to God for protecting us from a kind of devil.”

    A spokesman for the group said supporters bought 150 tickets to the concert and planned to stop it if it went ahead.

    Lady Gaga fans in Jakarta expressed outrage that threats were able to force the show’s cancellation. Johnny Purba, 25, called it an embarrassment to Indonesia.

    “This only shows to the world how weak security forces are in this country, how police are afraid of a bunch of hard-liners,” Purba said. “Gaga’s two-hour show will not hurt Indonesian Muslims. For God’s sake, she is not a terrorist!”

  4. Mr Obvious says:

    Islam by its very nature encourages extremism. We all know this but it's a thought crime. The terrorists have won. Again. Because the authorities let them.

  5. Mr.ActuallyObvious says:

    "Islam by its very nature encourages extremism. We all know this but it's a thought crime. The terrorists have won. Again. Because the authorities let them."

    Congratulations. You're officially a bigger douchebag than those idiots who represent TEN FUCKING PERCENT of Muslims in Indonesia. And THEY were pretty big fucking douchebags.

  6. Sean Vedell says:

    You're either a Democracy or a Theocracy. You can't be both. Another fine example of Islam being misused to impose the will of a few on the many. I agree with Alan. This is a big deal and a damned shame.

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