Defying Conservatism: This Scholar Preaches in Nightclubs

DENPASAR, Indonesia– Dressed in a Javanese head dress and 1980-style mullet, Mifta’im An’am Maulana Habiburrohman may not look like a typical Muslim preacher.

While scholars usually use mosques to preach, Habiburrohman chose to deliver sermons inside nightclubs to help people who feel unwelcome in their community mosque, Reuters reported Thursday.

“I rarely talk about heaven or hell because I believe they already know about that,” said the 37-year-old preacher who also goes by the name Gus Miftah.

“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.

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Indonesia has the world’s largest population of Muslims, and sizable Buddhist, Christian and other religious minorities.

Though no comment was available from Muslim clerics council, media quoted council members as saying Gus Miftah should follow established “rules and methods to conduct sermons.”

One the other hand, Yudith Stevanni, a manager at the Boshe VVIP club, criticized 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 humor 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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