• Islam Clouds Bali’s Horizon

By El Marco

Recently I returned to Indonesia to visit Balinese friends, with whom I worked for much of the 1990’s. I found a land and a people painfully changed in the aftermath of the 2002 and 2005 terrorist bombings.

Jimbaran Beach, Bali, one of the targets of the second Bali bombings on October 1, 2005.  Twenty people were killed, and 129 were injured. The murderers were al Qaeda’s  Jemaah Islamiah terrorists. Three were executed in Java today. The executions sparked joy and trepidation in Australia.

Above, a Balinese Hindu man and son walk together at sunset. Just over the horizon, to the west, is Java. The Hindu land of Bali is small and has a population of 3 million. Ruled from the island of Java, two miles away, the Balinese face increasing Muslim migration. Java has a mainly Muslim population of 125 million squeezed into an area half the size of California.

The terrorists struck these beach restaurants. These restaurants are my favorite places in the world for grilled seafood and cold, cold beer. Today they are suffering for business, but prior to the bombings they were absolutely packed with tourists from all over the world, starting about two hours before sunset. Above, very few diners watch the children, on the right, as they play football. A bridal couple can be seen on the beach to the left.


The men who were recently executed participated in the murders of 202 people and maiming of 209 others. They struck at 11:05 p.m. on October 12, 2002 at this location in the main tourist center of Kuta, Bali. One bomber detonated in Paddy’s Pub to cause mayhem and draw crowds to the area when a second, and much more powerful, bomb in a van was detonated in front of the Sari Club across the street from Paddy’s. A large swath of the buildings in the area were destroyed and the Sari Club, which was made of decorative bamboo, vaporized.

The Balinese have dedicated this memorial at the site of the 2002 Bali bombings exactly two years after the atrocity. We in America can learn a lot from the Balinese about appropriately memorializing the victims of terror. This is an entirely Balinese Hindu designed monument, which is both beautiful and symbolic.

The monument’s design contains dragons and fierce spirits which envelop and protect the dead from evil. These are very powerful Balinese Hindu symbols which not only represent, but are believed to be real physical beings. Here they protect the dead of many religions and nations. These spirits also guard the Balinese and visitors from evil in their everyday lives. Every Balinese home is guarded by statues of these spirits. Offerings of food, incense, flowers and holy water are made to the spirits repeatedly through every day by the beautiful Balinese women and girls.

A small boy walks on the edge of the fountain in the small plaza. The many potted plants are contributed and tended to by the people of Kuta.

Translation: Names of Bomb Blasting Victims of Legian Street Kuta

On the left of the black granite panel are listed eighty eight Australians. On the lower right of the photo above, Selandia Baru means New Zealand, and the two victims from that country are named.

Belanda = Holland – four dead.       Denmark – three dead.
Inggris = England – twenty three dead.   Italia  – one dead.
Jerman = Germany – six dead.

Prances = France – four dead.   Portugis = Portugal – one dead.
Polandia = Poland – one dead.   Swedia = Sweden – five dead
Swiss = Switzerland – three dead.  Yunani = Greece – one dead
Amerika Serikat = United States – seven dead. Brasil – two dead.
Equador  – one dead.  Canada – two dead.
Afrika Selatan = South Africa – two dead.

Jepang = Japan – two dead.   Taiwan – one dead.   Korea – two dead.
Indonesia – thirty eight dead.

It is apparent from the names that this list of Indonesians murdered includes many Balinese Hindus, many Javanese Muslims, and at least one Sikh man.

This is what the rebuilt Paddy’s Pub looks like today. The Sari Club no longer exists. The economic impact on all sectors in Bali is massive and ongoing. Signs of recovery from the 2002 bombings were shattered by the 2005 bombings. I spoke with a number of Balinese business leaders and they estimated a 70% total economic decline. The psychological and spiritual impact on the Balinese is also great. They are broken hearted, bankrupt, and hungry. Widespread suffering throughout the island is causing great anxiety and fear for the future of the Balinese people.

The 2002 bombings were the Balinese and Australian 9/11. The small Sari Bamboo Club’s destruction had a far more devastating impact on Bali than the twin towers’ destruction had on America. Small ethnic groups throughout the world do not have the strength and resilience of the world’s leading super power. Many Americans take comfort in military capacity and economic privilege. Complacency and fantasy are not luxuries that weaker targets of Islam can indulge in. They understand that Islam poses a threat to their existence, as individuals and as a society. Many in the west believe that only smaller societies like Bali are at risk from totalitarian Islam. This is a decadent illusion and a lack of understanding of the strength of Islamic ideology.

The Balinese have great love for America and Americans. Bali was freed from Japanese slavery by the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atom bombs. This may sound harsh, but I learned this truth in a harsh way. In Tampaksiring, Bali, an elderly priest, with whom I was doing business, upon our meeting, said the following words. “Thank God America A-bombed Japan. All our village men were taken as slaves to build tunnels for the Japanese in Candidasa. Because of the bombs I was freed.” This was a great shock to me. He was a beautiful old man and a famous carver of bone miniatures. He was also the first non European freed slave I’d ever met in my life. His name was Ida Bagus Tantra.

Balinese men and women pray for Bali in a highland temple.

All of Balinese culture and daily life is centered around temple activities. Immense amounts of time, energy and wealth are dedicated to the worship of peace and love and the spiritual struggle against evil, particularly that which is generated in the hearts on men.

A massive stone relief carving depicts daily ceremonial life. This is typical of a more modern style of religious art. Religious decorative art plays a central part in Balinese culture and sets the Balinese apart as a uniquely artistic people.

Temple dance is a most revered form of spirituality in Balinese Hindu culture. Here a twelve year old dewi, or living goddess, performs.

The Balinese are tolerant of other religions. Here my friend’s daughter embraces a life sized Buddha carved by her father. He supplies Japanese temples and has been honored in Japan by Buddhist authorities for his work. Elements of Christianity have found expression in some 20th century Balinese images. Islam however is regarded with fear. Relations with Javanese, who are increasing in numbers in Bali, have generally been cordial but separate. In private, Balinese have very little positive to say about their Muslim neighbors and have long blamed crime and corruption on the Javanese. The bombings and a rapid increase in mosque construction have shaken the Balinese to their core.

This is the man who introduced me to betel-nut chewing in the early 1990’s. In his mid 70’s,  he is incredibly strong, worries about nothing but his rice crop, and always has a smile for me and warm words.

This traditional Balinese oil painting depicts a 19th century warrior king. The Balinese are famous for their ferocity in war when provoked. The term to run amok comes from the Balinese. It means to go absolutely violent in battle. When not provoked, they are the most peaceful people in the world. When most of the Indonesian archipelago was colonized by the Dutch, Bali alone remained independent for centuries because the Dutch East India Company refused to mess with them.

Forty foot high traffic circle monument, Gianyar, Bali

In recent years Balinese authorities have constructed more and more large Hindu monuments. With these they are proclaiming to the Muslims of Indonesia that Bali is Hindu. While Javanese are allowed to build mosques by law anywhere in Indonesia, this is frowned upon and seen as religious colonialism by indigenous peoples in non-Muslim parts of the archipelago. It is not uncommon that communities stand up and force a mosque project to be terminated with the threat of violence. This happened in a new village in which my very close associate bought a small government project home. A large house was built in this Hindu neighborhood and only later it became apparent that it was actually a mosque. The entire neighborhood rose and threatened violence and the building has stood empty now for six years.

A mosque is central to community life in this industrial shanty town on the outskirts of Jakarta. Wahabi Islam is Saudi Arabia’s main export after oil, and the effects in Java and other parts of Indonesia are dramatic. Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim majority nation. In the 1990’s when I worked in Bali and Java the influence of Wahabi radicalism was growing rapidly. My Muslim friends were shocked by the growing use of head covering by young women at the universities. The fundamentalist trend funded by the Saudis accelerated through the 1990s and included Indonesians being trained by al Qaeda in Afghanistan. My friends say that six per cent of Muslims are now radical fundamentalists who support al Qaeda.

The main 7669 sq. meter building of the Central Java Grand Mosque in Semarang can hold up to 6000 people. This mosque was inaugurated in 2006. All over Indonesia there are many new mosques, and mosques under construction. The local who proudly showed me around this mosque confirmed to me that Saudi money paid for it.

The plaza, with an area of 7500 square meters, is equipped with giant metal umbrellas (closed, in foreground) that open and close mechanically. The only other ones like this are in Medina.

Is it just me, or does this architecture look like Dr. Evil’s Martian missile base?

Saudi Arabia is exporting the most intolerant and violent form of Islam to all corners of the world. Without Wahabist influence the Bali bombings would never have occurred.

Winston Churchill warned the world to be wary of the Wahabis. It’s not too late to start understanding the threat.

“The Wahabis profess a life of exceeding austerity, and what they practice themselves they rigorously enforce on others. They hold it as an article of duty, as well as of faith, to kill all who do not share their opinions and to make slaves of their wives and children. Women have been put to death in Wahabi villages for simply appearing in the streets. It is a penal offense to wear a silk garment. Men have been killed for smoking a cigarette, and as for alcohol, the most energetic supporter of the temperance cause in this country falls far behind them. Austere, intolerant, well armed, and bloodthirsty, in their own regions the Wahabis are a distinct factor which must be taken into account, and they have been, and still are, very dangerous to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina”    – Winston Churchill, House of Commons, 1921, The Culture and Glories of the Arab Race

I took this photo in the mid 1990’s. On the right, Balinese and Javanese bathe in the warm waters of Jimbaran Bay.

May the Gods Bless the Balinese people and all those who visit their land in peace.