Alya Nurbaiti, Jakarta – Elisabeth Gunawan, 49, was worried when she opened her pork restaurant, Warung BeDua, in Batu, East Java, in 2014.
She said she feared some people might raid her restaurant or force her to close it down as pork is non-halal, meaning Muslims, who make up the majority of the population in Indonesia, are forbidden from consuming it.
Yet, as pork is a staple for millions of non-Muslim Indonesian, Elisabeth's business has thrived; but her fears are justified nonetheless.
In August last year, a Muslim organization in Makassar, South Sulawesi, protested against two local restaurants for selling pork dishes, saying they were "disturbed by the smoke and smell".
A similar commotion occurred in February last year, when a Muslim man in Cengkareng, West Jakarta, scolded his neighbor for cooking pork. He said the smell of the pork was "polluting" the neighborhood.
However, stories of tolerance toward the consumption of pork have also emerged, even beyond the Hindu-populated Bali and Jakarta's Chinatown.
"I think that in many areas in Indonesia, there are more tolerant Muslim communities than there are intolerant ones," head of Banyumas Gusdurian interfaith community Chumedi Yusuf said on Saturday during an online discussion with owners of restaurants that serve pork.
He said that in his small town of Purwokerto in Banyumas regency, Central Java, restaurants that served pork ranged from upscale restaurants to angkringan (sidewalk stalls).
"One of the restaurants [that serve pork] is even located 100 meters from our Gusdurian headquarters and we certainly have no problem with that," Yusuf said. The Gusdurian is a community that promotes the pluralist thoughts of Muslim scholar and former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid.
The owner of Depot Baksen pork restaurant in Salatiga, Central Java, Grace Fransisca, a Christian, said that when she first opened her restaurant, her Muslim friends paid a visit to show their support.
"During Ramadan, they sometimes break the fast at my place, even though they buy the food from other stalls in the food court area," she said.
She went on to say that whenever she held an event or invited her friends over for dinner at her house, she always informed her Muslim friends which dishes contained pork so they could avoid eating them.
"I always try to be honest, it's like an unwritten ethical rule to make sure Muslims don't eat non-halal food unknowingly. I don't want people to feel tricked or cheated by me," said Grace.
Gusdurian member Ory Wulandari, a Muslim, shared a similar story of when she visited her non-Muslim friends. "Even before I ask, they already warn me that some dishes are not for me because they contain pork," she said.
Ory said it was a shame that some Muslims were unreasonably afraid to receive food from non-Muslims when non-Muslims were very considerate of them.
"And I think to myself, why would they tell me? I could have [accidentally] tasted pork if they did not," joked Ory. In Islam, a Muslim is forgiven if they eat pork accidentally.
To Grace's surprise, many of her Muslim friends also reacted to her warning with disappointment, as they were low-key curious about the taste of pork. "Yet, I never buy their jokes and do the opposite. I never have the nerve, I swear," she said.
Yusuf said that whether someone ate pork or not was their right but that it should not be a reason to hate or bully people who held the contrary view.
"If you believe eating pork is wrong then just don't do it. But you have no right to prevent others from selling or eating pork. Besides, no law restricts the selling of pork dishes," he said.
He added that a religious person should not be busy looking at others.
"Faith comes from within. I thank the pork restaurant owners instead. If there are many pork restaurants and I keep my faith, doesn't that mean my faith is strong?" Yusuf said.