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Indonesian Muslim Scholar Who Preaches In Bali’s Red Light Areas And Dance Clubs

Gus Miftah also operates an Islamic boarding school in Yogyakarta, his hometown on the island of Java

Gus Miftah Habiburrahman

[Gus Miftah Habiburrohman wears Javanese head dress over his 1980s-style mullet instead of skull cap and delivers sermons in dance clubs and red light areas of Bali. (Photo: Nyimas Laula/Reuters)]

Historians have recorded that Shah Ismail Dehlvi, the renowned Islamic scholar of late 18th and early 19th century popularly known as Shah Ismael Shaheed, used to preach in Delhi’s red light areas much to the amusement and disapproval of other Muslims of his time.

About 185 years after Shah Imail Shaheed’s death in 1831, an Indonesian scholar has brought back the former’s memories, and surprisingly, the reactions of conservatives remain the same as it was in Shah Ismail Shaheed’s time.

According to an article by news agency Reuters, 37-year-old Mifta’im An’am Maulana Habiburrohman, defying the normal practice of dawah, preaches in nightclubs, dance bars and red light areas of Bali, the Inodnesian island popular as tourist hunt.

Habiburrohman, who wears Javanese head dress over his 1980s-style mullet instead of skull cap, said he upholds the right of worship for people who feel unwelcome in their community mosque because they work in clubs and bars.

“I rarely talk about heaven or hell because I believe they already know about that,” the preacher, who also goes by the name Gus Miftah, told Reuters.

“There are job demands and life demands that push them to do these jobs to survive,” he told Reuters before delivering a sermon to a group of mostly female employees at the Boshe VVIP karaoke bar and dance club on the island of Bali.

“I have no right to judge them … so I’m here to help them never forget their God,” he said.

Gus Miftah also operates an Islamic boarding school in Yogyakarta, his hometown on the island of Java. Conservative groups there say his preaching in clubs and red light districts is an insult to the Muslim religion. Indonesia’s Muslim clerics council was not available for comment. But, local media have quoted council members as saying Gus Miftah should follow established “rules and methods to conduct sermons”.

However, Yudith Stevanni, a manager at the Boshe VVIP club, said she disagreed with those who say the club is not an appropriate site for religious teaching.

“In my opinion, it is just a venue. The lessons can be conducted anywhere,” she said.

Club workers who listened to Gus Miftah’s 90-minute sermon said they appreciated his humour and informal style.

“Even though we work like this, we still have religion and we still want to do good,” said a 27-year-old female employee.

In another part of the room, a 25-year-old waitress wore a headscarf as she prayed. She said the session made her feel better about her work.

“My friends say my job is bad … but the sermon has helped me through the criticism,” she said, declining to give her name.

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