13 September 2008

Entertainment and Ramadan

As is the case during every Ramadan that I have spent in Indonesia, entertainment venues go into reduced hours mode. Entertainment is not just your bars, clubs, and massage joints, but pool halls as well. Another oddity is that alcohol generally continues to be served with food and in coloured plastic cups or coffee mugs.

I went out last night and shot some pool with a good mate. We normally shoot pool in a place called "After Hours" and saw no need to change the habit, so that is where we went. Everything was pretty much as it always is, except for the drinks. The beer was not served in a beer mug, but rather it was served in a coffee mug. The beer was still ice-cold and apparently, according to the girl serving us those ice-cold beers, the coffee mug actually held slightly more beer than the regular beer mug. So, we were actually getting to drink more beer for the same price during Ramadan.

I did not take the camera [mental note -- take the camera with me everyday] so I do not have a picture. Maybe, I will shoot a few games next week and take the camera this time, get the photo of the beer-filled coffee mug, and add it to this post.

I have often wondered whether there are "entertainment venues" that continue to entertain unaffected by the holy month. I might have lived here and in Jakarta a long time but I am not knowledgeable on these things. Maybe some one will drop by who does know these things and enlighten me.

I find it interesting that the authorities clamp down on entertainment during the month of Ramadan. It is interesting because I have always understood the fasting month to be about resisting temptation, over-coming your urges, and through this struggle purifying yourself of the sins of the previous year, a cleaning of the slate if you will. The authorities seem to think that fasters need a helping hand by legislatively removing the temptation by closing places down.

Another fascinating aspect of the fasting month is that the law and order fellas ramp up the operations against prostitutes and others deemed undesirable, arrest them, and the send them off to some re-education camp to learn a trade like sewing. Surely, if prostitution is bad then it is bad all-year round, right?

For those of you that are fasting -- good luck!


Anonymous said...

It still doesn't make sense to me about all these pretences that we would all act holy during fasting month. When I was still a kid and went to a public school, all the students were sort of "threatening" me if I ever dared to eat any snacks during the pause since I "had to" respect those who were fasting.

Seriously, don't they go to heaven faster when they can keep fasting amidst all those "earthly" temptations?

treespotter said...

Vin+ continues to serve wine, except but serves only in decanter.

i was just thinking about it. I was chatting with one of the owner. It wasn't about the appearance really, i don't really care if they disallow alcohol in public places during the holy month. Personally, i think Jakarta needs some clamp down - look at the underage drinking, there's no carding system whatsoever here and it's out of control with drunk driving.

I'm more concerned about the part of breaking the laws. In their experience, they have full license and all, so no worries for them guys. The police came and checked their papers and examined the establishment, and all was declared good. so they stay open normally.

it's those little things that make jakarta so much fun to live in.

Rob Baiton said...

Writer One...

I eat and drink in the office as normal. I respect that there is an obligation on Muslims to fast, I am not a Muslim and I am not required to fast.

I do not believe in the idea of sympathy fasting. I work and live at my desk during the day, so I eat and drink there as well.

It is what it is and I think most people accept it for that reason.


Couldn't agree more. It is these sorts of things that makes the experience of living in Jakarta all the more memorable.

Is it frustrating at times, yes. Perhaps some times it is just downright weird. Yet, it is these things that make Jakarta what it is.

therry said...

I don't get why during the month, restaurants have to cover their windows either.

Combined with all the things you've listed, it makes fasting such a HUGE deal that even those who aren't, must also participate in it.

Ironically, the visitors of my brother's internet cafe often get their motorcycles stolen the most during this month. Crime rates always increase, when it's all supposed to be "holy" and everything. Oh the irony...

I like your term "sympathy fasting", btw.

Rob Baiton said...


I read somewhere that the two weeks leading up to Eid are the most active for theft.

Funny you should mention that, In 2005 in the middle of Ramadan our house was burgled and we were robbed. In the middle of the day no less and directly opposite a pangkalan ojek and about 150 meters from the Satpam post.

It is kind of bizarre considering it is the holiest of months.

I suppose the embarrassment of going home to the Kampung with nothing is more embarrassing than being caught stealing.

Silverlines said...

Most bars and caf├ęs in 4 - 5 stars hotels and malls are not affected by Ramadhan, neither Jalan Jaksa, Cork and Screw, Eastern Promise (they open only one entrance door, though). Am not sure if the fact that Habieb Rizieq is still detained contributed to these ;-)

And if you ask them why they serve the drink in a mug, it is not because serving alcohol is bad during Ramadhan (as you said, if prostitution is bad it is bad all year round), but business is business you can't always afford having to restore your wine-glass all the time.

As for increased crime rate during the Ramadhan, I believe that it is the urge to send more money for the Idul Fitri pressured them to do anything they can do. Including breaking the law. And by saying this I am not saying that "We have to have big party on Idul Fitri" but that's the fact how some people see it. Fact that we are living with at the moment.

And you may continue drinking and eating (and smoke, if you do) anytime anyplace you wish. Eating in front of us people who fast does not break any law. Neither it breaks any law for us to eat Burger King in front of a refugee camp in Darfur.

Rob Baiton said...


Most places work on reduced hours, even those in 4 and 5 star hotels. Less likely to serve beer in coffee mugs though.

The After Hours decision to use coffee mugs for beer has nothing to do with restocking beer mugs. I always ask that kind of question.

The eating in front of those that fast is a politeness and courtesy issue, don't you think?

Anonymous said...

ooh please, don't compare eating in front of those fasting like eating burger king in a refugee camp in Darfur. We all know how different it is and it's hardly fair to compare those.

What I meant about eating in front of those fasting people is not directly eating IN FRONT of them, but we're considered to have sinned just eating normally like we do, that's also why the reason the restaurant has covered windows and we have to eat secretly like we have committed serious crime or so. I learned about that since I was a kid, and so all my classmates (who are fasting) hold on to that belief (and probably force people) not to eat when there are Muslim around. Is it fair?

We're not the ones who are fasting yet we have to feel like eating outside the wall of our house is a sin.

Rob Baiton said...

Writer One...

The analogy for BK and Darfur is a bit harsh. By implication it suggests that eating in front of Muslims during the fasting month is wrong.

I ignored it to see if anyone else would comment first. Darfur is a tragedy of grave proportions where hunger, disease, death, and genocide are rampant.

The analogy is simply wrong with respect to Ramadan and fasting. Muslims are fasting in order to fulfill a religious obligation and they do so voluntarily. There is little that is voluntary for the refugees that inhabit the camps in Darfur and other surrounding places.

Silverlines is right. Eating, smoking, or any of the other things that Muslims must abstain from during the daylight hours can still be enjoyed by non-Muslims.

Yet, it seems that to do so equates to eating BK in front of a refugee camp. I guess this means that all Muslims who practice the fast are similar to refugees?

Anonymous said...

That's exactly my point Rob. Fasting is voluntarily, if you feel like drooling when looking at people eating heartily in a restaurant then don't do it. Refugees in Darfur don't have a choice whether to fast or not. Therefore, it's not the same thing.

I believe I know about politeness and courtesy but it's a bit too much if we have to eat behind the thick curtains just because other people need to fast. Can't we just do whatever business we need to do? Each to their each own way and I believe we're grown up enough to respect other people whether they're fasting or they're not.

tere616 said...

As far as I know, several years ago, when we were waiting for the "buka puasa" time, one of my friend drink a beer in a tea mug.

The reason because it's Ramadhan.

But as Rob's question, as a non moslem, I also have the same question. Especially since my husband, which is a good Moslem, stated his disagreement of the law during Ramadhan.

Acording to him, the tolerance during Ramadhan, doesn't mean that we have to close down the restaurant.

Eating in front of fasting people, according to my husband, is a matter of tolerance for the non moslem.

Fasting is a personal relation with GOD, only that person and GOD who knows whether that person are fasting. Therefore, if fasting people explicitly inform the non fasting people that they are in the middle of fasting, then there's a deteorating in the value of fasting.

We can not equate refugee in Darfur with fasting people.

I always respect fasting people, but one thing that I always questioning is the law to close down the restaurant.

In my religion, I also have to fast 40 days, even though there's a difference, the most difficult one is we have to do our abstain from something we like, e.g. smoking for example, besides to fast every Friday.

In that case, if somebody smokes in front of the smoking abstain or eat in front of us, doesn't mean its similar with Darfur Refugees.

Silverlines said...

The equation of eating in front of us who fast with eating your burger in front of the refugee camp in Darfur is that both of them has no legal implication, if so what you asked for.
But both of them is fully decided by your own call. Noone should put you in legal jeopardy for doing so.
That, is the equation. Not mathematical the way you all kinda put it. I cannot believe I even have to explain it here.

No, we Muslim here in Indonesia might not be as unfortunate as those who experienced genocides in Sudan and being put in the camps. But fasting is not voluntary (as one of you put it in your comment) it is an obligation, the purpose is to know how it feels to have to deprive from food, drink, etc. That is why it is never suggested to have very big meals when it is time for us to eat, because then we lose the whole purpose of fasting.

I hope I give some of you an enlightment on why we fast during Ramadhan (and any other day during the year, for that matter).

Rob, yes those places I mentioned are NOT affected by Ramadhan, they still serve the drinks in its own glasses. And to my knowledge the rest who serves the drinks in mugs is to be less obvious serving the drinks vis a vis the sweeping etc. That, is what I meant by restoring the wine glasses, not washing the dishes per se. I also could not believe I have to explain that bit.

The Writer, noone will consider you a sinner by eating in front of those who fast. For all I care, you can eat and drink whatever thing in front of us. It is the 'toleransi beragama' that matters whether you are doing it or not, and no we don't drool over it.

Rob Baiton said...


No one is asking you to explain. However, for me, the choice of analogy is all wrong because of the implication that it makes. It goes beyond merely comparing a judgment call on the part of the non-faster. The analogy you chose equates Muslims fasting in Indonesia with the way more tragic plight of refugees in camps in Darfur.

If you cannot see this then so be it. That is your judgment call.

Fasting is not voluntary? It is an obligation in the Qur'an but is there any one forcing you to be Muslim? Or is your choice to be Muslim voluntary? If you are choosing to be Muslim (your reasons are irrelevant for doing so) then your fulfilling of any obligation contained in your holy texts is voluntary...that was my point on voluntary. Similarly, I cannot believe I have to explain that here!

My point was why bother when it is not illegal to serve alcohol? The sweeping for my mind is illegal and therefore the sweeping analogy highlights that the law enforcement is not doing its job.

The whole idea of "toleransi beragama" is in fact a subtle way of saying that if you eat in front of a fasting Muslim you are being intolerant. I beg to differ. It is always nice when someone trots out the religious tolerance argument. It seems that some Muslims are not so tolerant when it comes to things like Ahmadiyya.

Religious tolerance needs to be a two-way street if it is going to work effectively. If I am to tolerate your decision to fast then should you not also tolerate my decision to eat and drink?

Just a thought.

Rob Baiton said...


Religion is a personal choice and therefore how you choose to fulfill any obligations your religion imposes on you is between you and your God!

Tolerance has to be a two-way street! The simple question people end up asking is, "why should I be tolerant of you when you are not tolerant of me?"

The world is not perfect, but we can all strive to make it a better place.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

"Religious tolerance needs to be a two-way street if it is going to work effectively. If I am to tolerate your decision to fast then should you not also tolerate my decision to eat and drink?..."

hear hear... :D

tere616 said...

Rob, I think you have misunderstood silverlines explanation of fasting in Moslem way.

According to Moslem there are 5 rules that they are obliged too, Rukun Islam, 5 rules from God and one of it is Fasting.

Therefore, fasting is not voluntary for Moslem people, they have to obey.

Different with voluntary, in voluntary there's no rule to follow in terms of religion matters. You can fast any month, any day, any time.

That's what Fasting / Ramadhan in Moslem way.

In regards with the statement of tolerance, well, it's like a chicken and an egg.

For me, it's lay down on our own. The problem here is the MUI and FPI make it worst by implement the law of closing down the restaurant or entertainment area and finally labelled the entertainment area as haram place.

Once again, we can all strive to make our world a better place by understanding each other and not push our own lens towards others.

Rob Baiton said...


To the contrary, I did not misunderstand Silverlines. However, you have misread or misunderstood my point on what would constitute voluntary.

Religion is a personal choice even where the State requires you to have a religion on your identity card.

It might be an obligation of the religion. However, I believe you said your religion was between you and your God. If that is the case, whether you fast is also between you and your God.

The point though is not worth arguing any further. You will not convince me as I will not convince you.

Silverlines said...

Rob, when I decided to be a Muslim, there are things that I do voluntarily and there are things that are obliged for me to do. (Whether or not and why I am doing it is irrelevant, as I believe, as you also said, that religion is between myself and God only).
Fasting in Ramadhan month is considered an obligation, not voluntary, when one has become a Muslim. But, whether or not I am fasting, is between me and God.

I did say, to me, personally, you can eat and drink in front of me, I won't and never drool over it. I won't call or think you are intolerant, nor a sinner. I am more sleep deprived during Ramadhan, to be honest.

And yes, I do agree the sweeping part is illegal, but that does not stop people from deciding to serve beer in a mug, does it? Indeed the legal force failed to protect them. But I was not even talking about whether serving beer in a coffee mug is legal compare to the FPI sweeping etc. Please don't mix things up as I was only explaining WHY do they serve things in coffee mug. I drank wine from a tea cup and surely it tasted different.

And about the tolerance, I don't know about other people or other Muslim that you referred, but whether or not someone is Ahmadiyyah or any other "kind" of Islam, or even a non Muslim, it is not the way I see nor interact with people. Yes it is a two-way street, that is why also my daughter attended her friend's birthday party in the middle of the day in a restaurant during Ramadhan. That is called courtesy.

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