Pop music lovers are outraged in Indonesia, following a finding by a member of the national Islamic authority or Ulema that attendance by Muslims at Lady Gaga’s June 3 concert is ‘haram’ – forbidden or un-Islamic. The Ulema, which has opined on such matters in the past and caused controversy, says that the coming performance by the American singer is “threatening” to traditional values.
Khalil Radwan of the Ulema said that no “Indonesia Muslims” should attend the show, while he voiced repudiation of the singer’s trademark and extravagant dress and gestures “My opinion is based solely on religious tradition. [She] is too sexy on stage; this could induce a carnal desire among people of different sexes,” warned the Ulema leader. He expressed fear that Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country in the world, is witnessing “a moral drift of the nation and its people.”
Radwan suggested that Muslim ticketholders should return their tickets for a refund saying that the concert is intended to “destroy the nation’s morality.” He has admitted that he has never watched Lady Gaga performed and thus based his decision on hearsay.
The Ulema has issued anathemas in the past against Facebook, yoga, smoking, and women’s right to vote. In this instance, music lovers are again taking the council to task for its moralizing. For example, Ulil Abshar Abdalla, a leader of the Islamic Liberal Network, declared “As far as I know, it is ‘haram’ to see the show without a ticket.”
Many fans that are gaga about the singer, whose real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, are unable to buy tickets for the sold-out show. All 44,000 tickets have been sold for the June concert, which is one stop of several for Lady Gaga’s tour of Asia. It is believed that the singer, who frequently wear skimpy and transparent clothing, will wear something toned down for the Muslim audience in Indonesia. More than 25,000 tickets were sold on March 10, the first day they were available for Lady Gaga’s ‘Born this Way’ tour. This is her second big concert appearance in Indonesia.
Indonesian House of Representatives Deputy Speaker Pramono Anung says no one is obliged to obey the ruling by the Ulema. there is no obligation for anyone to obey a top-ranking member of Indonesia’s highest Islamic authority who has urged Muslims not to attend Lady Gaga’s upcoming concert in Jakarta. “The remarks are just from one MUI official, so let’s consider it as part of democracy. It is up to the people if they want to attend [the concert], and if people who are influenced by [the remarks] choose not to go, so be it,” Pramono said.
Pramono, who represents the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), said authorities should not put restrictions on entertainment shows, but added that conservatives here and in the U.S. have the right to criticize the singer’s flamboyant shows. “I am not a Lady Gaga fan, but my daughter is one,” Pramono said. “My daughter has been going to Al-Azhar [Islamic school] and she knows her religion. I’m sure she will watch the show with discretion; she’s going just to enjoy herself.”
Another Ulema representative, Slamet Effendi Yusuf, said Ridwan’s ruling are merely a personal opinion. The organization has not issued a haram fatwa, a declaration of anathema, that would require all MUI chairmen to reach a consensus. He does not oppose attendance by Muslims at the concert. “I am sure they know what is good and bad,” he said. “However, I hope Lady Gaga can also wear a proper [dress] in her show.”
Lady Gaga’s mother, Cynthia Germanotta, has attended the singer’s concerts in the past. At the onset of the singer’s career, after witnessing her perform in a bikini and setting hairspray alight - her father reportedly said “I think she has a screw loose,” according to the New York Post.