On Day of Silence, Religious Tolerance Speaks Loud and Clear in Bali, Lombok

By webadmin on 09:58 am Mar 24, 2012
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Made Arya Kencana & Fitri

Denpasar/Mataram. It was an unusual sight for anywhere in Indonesia: Muslim men arriving for Friday prayers in an atmosphere of complete silence, without the usual call to prayers blaring from the mosque loudspeakers.

But the fact that they were still allowed to go to mosque on a day when virtually all of predominantly Hindu Bali remained shuttered at home for the holy day of Nyepi was itself testament to the high degree of religious tolerance on the resort island, said Ketut Teneng, a spokesman for the provincial administration.

Although religious and administrative authorities are strict about people remaining at home during Nyepi, the Hindu Day of Silence, Teneng said Muslims were welcome to go to mosque, as long as they only walked there and did not turn on the mosques’ loudspeakers.

Some of the restrictions in place during the day include no lighting of fires or use of electrical appliances, no working or entertainment and no traveling.

“Two years ago Nyepi also fell on a Friday and we all got by fine,” Teneng said. “This just goes to show how tolerant Bali is.”

In keeping with the spirit of the day, the provincial chapter of the usually conservative Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) called on Muslims across Bali not to use mosque loudspeakers and to worship at home or at a musholla, or public prayer room, if there was no mosque within walking distance.

Friday noon prayers are mandatory for Muslim men and must be held in a mosque with at least 40 people present.

Cecep Subrata, who gave the Friday sermon at the musholla at the Aerowisata Sanur Beach Hotel to 23 worshipers, said he didn’t mind not going by the rules this one time.

“We support the MUI’s approval of holding the prayers in a musholla, because it’s better than not having Friday prayers at all,” said Cecep, who works at the hotel’s lobby shop.

On the neighboring resort island of Lombok, which is predominantly Muslim, people went about their activities as usual. However, there were several concessions made for the large Hindu minority in Mataram, the provincial capital, where roads in largely Hindu neighborhoods were closed off to vehicle traffic.

“During Nyepi every year the roads in this area are closed off out of respect for the Hindus there,” said Arif, a Muslim resident of the Cakranegara area.

Many stores across Mataram were also closed on Friday to allow Hindu workers to mark Nyepi, while food vendors turned off their jingles and music.

A day earlier, Lombok residents of all faiths turned out for the ritual parading of the ogoh-ogoh , giant papier-mache demons that are later burned to signify self-purification.

One hundred and twenty of the effigies were paraded around Mataram this year, down from 151 last year. Organizers attributed the decline to the increasing costs of making the ogoh-ogoh amid uncertainty about the upcoming subsidized fuel price hike.

While the ogoh-ogoh parade is a tradition brought over from Bali, Lombok Hindus also have their own pre-Nyepi celebration in the form of the perang api , or fire war.

This involves groups of youths throwing flaming balls of dried coconut husks at each other at sunset. Like the ogoh-ogoh, it is meant to signify self-purification through the medium of fire.