Jakarta – A rainbow flag was flown alongside the Union Jack at the British Embassy in Jakarta on May 17. A number of groups subsequently criticised the flying of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) flag.
May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. According to the World Health Organisation's (WHO) official website, the institution removed homosexuality from the international classification of illnesses on May 17, 1990.
"Yesterday, on the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia, we flew the LGBT+ flag and held an event, we are all part of one human family", read a press release by the British Embassy for Indonesia on its official Instagram account on Saturday May 21.
Britain clearly showed that it sides with the rights of LGBT people and is encouraging other countries in the world to end discrimination against LGBT people.
A short time later, there was a storm of protest against the flying of the LGBT flag at the embassy. The majority of the criticisms came from religious groups. The following are some of these criticisms:
The chairperson of the central leadership board of the Islamic mass organisation Muhammadiyah, Anwar Abbas, reacted with the assessment that the British Embassy does not respect Indonesia because it flew the LGBT flag.
"Muhammadiyah deeply regrets the British Embassy's position which does not respect the state of the Republic of Indonesia by flying the LGBT flag. They must know that the Indonesian nation has the philosophy of Pancasila, where the Indonesian nation deeply respects the values of religious teachings", said Abbas in an explanation on Saturday May 21.
Islamic Ulama Council
The chairperson of the edict division from the country's peak Islamic body the Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI), Asrorun Niam Sholeh, said that the actions of the British Embassy could trigger tensions because it is not in accordance with the polite ethics of fraternal relations.
"The move to show it sides with and or is campaigning for norms which conflict with the norms of Indonesian society is an act which is not in accordance with the polite ethics of fraternal relations", said Sholeh when contacted by Detik.com on Saturday.
"Ignoring the norms which exist in Indonesian society is harassment", he continued.
East Java Nahdlatul Ulama
From the provincial capital of East Java (Jatim), the East Java regional branch of the Islamic mass organisation Nahdlatul Ulama (PWNU) strongly criticised the flying of the LGBT flag. East Java PWNU Deputy Chairperson Abdussalam Shohib asserted that the flying of the LGBT flag was the same as not respecting Indonesia.
"Of course we, from PWNU Jatim deplore this and they should respect Indonesia's position on LGBT. Indonesia, as a majority Muslim country with an Eastern traditional culture, has been explicit that LGBT is illegal", asserted the man who is known by his friends as Gus Salam when speaking with Detik Jatim on Saturday.
It is because of this that Shohib is asking the British Embassy to immediately remove the LGBT flag and apologise to the people of Indonesia.
UI international law expert
University of Indonesia (UI) international law expert Hikmahanto Juwana said that the flying of the LGBT flag at the British Embassy was not a good move. The British Embassy must of course be aware of the majority current in Indonesia which does not like LGBT.
"In fact the flying of the LGBT flag was perceived by the majority of the Indonesian public as a provocative act", Juwana told Detik.com on Saturday.
Although the flag has been taken down, Juwana is asking that the Indonesian foreign affairs ministry (Kemlu) to summon the British ambassador for Indonesia, Owen Jenkins.
"In the aftermath of the flying of the LGBT flag at the British Embassy it would be best if the Kemlu immediately summon the British ambassador to Indonesia", said Juwana.
House of Representatives (DPR) Commission VIII Deputy Chairperson Marwan Dasopang from the Islamic based National Awakening Party (PKB) conceded to being concerned over the flying of the LGBT flag at the British embassy. The foreign affairs ministry should question the intention behind the flying the flag.
"LGBT in Indonesia is still prohibited, because in all of the laws related to marriage, none of the articles allow it. So, when [we] were deliberating the law on the elimination of sexual violence [TPKS] earlier, why did it become difficult and protracted, because it was sectioned up with [sexual] desire. So this reflects that what Indonesian society means by human rights is rights that do not conflict with norms", said Dasopang.
Gerindra East Java
East Java Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) Regional Leadership Board Chairperson Anwar Sadad said that Britain should try to maintain its good relationship with Indonesia. One way of doing this is not to raise the LGBT flag.
"It wasn't appropriate for the British Embassy to fly the LGBT flag at its office in Jakarta. The British-Indonesian friendship should not just be understood physically, but also in terms of respect for our individual principles and beliefs", said Sadad in a press release received by Detik Jatim. (dnu/lir)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Ramai-ramai Kecam Kedubes Inggris Gegara Kibarkan Bendera LGBT".]