The public in Tolitoli, Central Sulawesi, was shocked in March by a video of five female students from State Senior High School 2 who were seen mixing Islamic prayer movements with dancing.
The video was widely circulated via cell phones among the general public on March 29, when residents at the Tambun Market in Tolitoli crowded round to watch the video. They recognized the girls in the video as they were attending additional tuition sessions to prepare for the national examinations (UN).
The school authorities were immediately notified and they took firm action by expelling AR, RM, YL, MR and SI from the school and barring them from taking the exams.
“The case is being dealt with by the police and the girls could be charged with violating the Blasphemy Law,” said the school’s principal Muallimin.
The Tolitoli Police have named them suspects.
The chairman of the Central Sulawesi chapter of the Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI), Ali Muhammad Aljufri, said, however, that the expulsions were carried out too hastily without any consideration for the girls’ futures.
“They are still young and need guidance from their parents and teachers. Expelling them is not a good example of guidance. The school authorities should instead be punished for their action,” said Ali who is also chief caretaker at the Alkhairaat Islamic boarding school.
The children, he added, were probably unaware of their wrongdoing.
“We also fear that other delinquencies could arise due to the depression they may suffer,” he said, adding that they should be offered guidance and provided with religious knowledge to face the consequences of their deeds.
“The video showed that those involved in educating them, be their parents and teachers, as well as the MUI, should be more active in teaching the teenagers moral values in accordance with religious teachings,” Ali said.
In the video, which lasted five-and-a-half minutes, the girls displayed prayer movements combined with music from the Maroon 5 band. Allegedly, they committed their act due to the popularity of the Harlem Shake flash mobs.
Muallimin acknowledged the school authorities were confused as to what action to take. He added that they felt forced to expel the students to prevent a public outcry.
“The public, especially the Muslim community, was angry; they could not accept the act,” he said.
Ali said the community was currently in an unhealthy condition. Children who should be guided are instead treated mercilessly by the community.
“What if their children are treated in a similar way? In my view, the children are not wrong; their parents and teachers are wrong,” said Ali, a graduate from Al-Azhar University in Cairo.
He urged the police to close the case and return the children to their parents. He also urged relevant agencies to provide emotional guidance for them to prevent mental distress after being ostracized by locals.
“The MUI also expects them to be allowed to immediately take their UN. Should the school authorities have any qualms about the case, they could send the girls to Palu to sit the UN at Alkhairaat,” said Ali.
Alkhairaat Teachers Association (PGA) chairman Mansur A. Baba said youngsters who mocked prayer movements by dancing indicated the poor guidance being carried out in schools. He urged the school principal, the students’ counselor and teachers to retract their decision and revoke the police report.