The government may have warned hardline groups against conducting raids against restaurants and other businesses they think are disrespecting Muslims during Ramadan, but, as has been the case in recent years, law enforcers themselves may also be considered guilty of acting overzealously during the holy fasting month.
Yesterday, the Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) in the West Sumatra capital of Padang went around the city to look for restaurants that remained open during the day while Muslims were fasting.
As reported in a press release from the agency, which was shared on Facebook by the city administration's Public Relations Department, the Satpol PP officers found 10 restaurants that remained open yesterday. When asked by the officers, the owners of the restaurants said they only served their food to non-Muslims.
That explanation proved to be acceptable for the restaurants to remain open, under the condition that the Satpol PP officers were allowed to put up a banner saying, "Only for non-Muslims" at the front of each restaurant.
"I hope that the restaurant owners do not take down the banners we put up. If the banners are gone from the restaurant then we will take stern action against them," Satpol PP Padang Chief Al Amin said in the release.
As it turns out, Padang's Satpol PP actually had legal jurisdiction to put up the discriminatory banners. Last week, West Sumatra Governor Irwan Prayitno said, just like "every year", the province would enforce a regional bylaw requiring all restaurants and eateries to stay shut during the day during Ramadan.
Restaurants serving non-Muslims are the only exemption from that rule, although regulations require they put up a sign clearly stating that.
The long-existing bylaw does not seem to accommodate Muslims who are not required to fast during Ramadan, such as pregnant/breastfeeding women, small children and those who are ill, as the regulations essentially prevent restaurant owners from serving them during the day.
Another problem with the regulation, as some have alluded to in the Facebook post's comments section, is that it would be difficult for Satpol PP to determine whether the patrons of a restaurants are Muslim or not, save for infringing on their privacy by checking the religion column on their KTP (ID cards).
The presence of these Ramadan bylaws in numerous regions in Indonesia has led to a number of controversial incidents in which authorities themselves have been accused of being inhumane in their enforcement.
One notable incident from 2016 involved an elderly woman's warung in Serang, Banten, which was raided by the city's Satpol PP for serving food during the day. The officers threw out her food, despite her desperate pleas that they were destroying her livelihood.
After video of the incident went viral, her story ended up having a happy ending when hundreds of Indonesian netizens, including President Joko Widodo himself, donated hundreds of millions of rupiah to help her recover.