Ethno-Religious Militias in Jakarta

Justin Stern (MUP ’12) spent his summer in Jakarta, Indonesia working with BAPPENAS, the National Ministry of Economic Development and Planning. During his time abroad he familiarized himself with the day-to-day operations of the Ministry and participated in high-level internal meetings.

Reporting directly to officials at BAPPENAS, UN HABITAT and the faculty of architecture and planning at Tarumanagara University, Justin researched the preponderance of premanism (street thuggery or gangsterism) in Jakarta. For two weeks he shadowed Lutfi Hakin, head of the FBR (Betawi Brotherhood Forum), Jakarta’s strongest and most widespread ethno-religious vigilante group. Justin addressed the organization’s ruffian tactics and control over informal commercial activities, in addition to the group’s wider quest for legitimacy through community outreach, philanthropic activities and political lobbying. Additionally, he shadowed the FPI (Front Pembela Islam or Islamic Defender’s Front), to investigate the relationship between premanism and religion. Famous for raiding bars, restaurants and nightclubs across Jakarta, the FPI, along with similar ethno-religious militias, has been growing in numbers over recent years, particular among students.

Justin’s final project was to map the spatial territories of ethnic and religious vigilante groups, identify sites prone to violent clashes and territorial disagreement, and suggest policy innovations that support urban resilience. He hopes his research, which was submitted to relevant ministries and organizations in Indonesia, will help inform how the government manages the ongoing threat of everyday terror and group-based criminal activity in Jakarta.