Indonesians are pushing back against hardliners seeking to prevent public discussion of certain historical events and individuals they consider bad for society.
Protestors from the Central Java branch of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), Laskar Merah Putih and other groups recently tried to stop a discussion in Semarang about a book on Tan Malaka, a controversial figure in Indonesian history.
"This discussion will not be good for our society because the figure in the book is not a good example, especially with the Marxist ideology in the book," said Sibahudin, Central Java FPI chairman. "This discussion will only bring insecurity in our society."
Still, the February 17th event sponsored by local groups including Semarang's Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI), was moved to Diponegoro University. It went off without a hitch with about 500 people attending, according to Tempo.
Co-organiser Yunanto Adi said those who disagreed with the book's content should take part in an open discussion rather than try to block free speech.
"So they can understand the debate," Yunanto told Khabar. "This is part of our country's history."
Erased from history
Harry Poeze, a Dutch historian and author of the book "Tan Malaka, The Leftist Movement and Indonesian Revolution, September 1948 - December 1949," headlined the discussion. Poeze's book tour was dogged by similar protests.
An early February book discussion was cancelled in Surabaya after local police declined to issue a permit for security reasons, the Jakarta Globe reported.
Nevertheless, highly attended discussions took place February 6th and 7th at the State University of Surabaya and Airlangga University respectively, according to Tempo.
Tan was a leftist movement leader and freedom fighter during Indonesia's pre-independence years. Even though its military executed him in 1949, some people consider him one of Indonesia's founding fathers along with first President Soekarno, and others.
Though in 1963, Soekarno bestowed national hero honours on Tan, because of Tan's Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) ties, Soeharto's New Order regime expunged his contributions from books.
Recently on February 21st in his native West Sumatra, officials unveiled a bronze statue of Tan.
"Tan Malaka's story expresses the struggle for power between the Old and New Order," said Gadjah Mada University graduate student historian Sarita Rushia.
"Tan Malaka combined Islam and Marxism. That is why he became controversial for many Indonesians. For many Indonesians, the two cannot be used together," she told Khabar. "Most Indonesians value Islam as a religion, while Marxism is an ideology against Islam. Book discussions like this show how open our society is."