Drama Challenges Extremism in Prisons and Living Rooms
14 February 2012
Many people would argue that football, or soccer as it is known in the
United States, is as much a spiritual experience as it is a physical
activity. As the World Cup and other regional league and club games have
shown, it has the ability to move people, both in positive and negative
ways. It can be seen as positive in that it brings people of various
backgrounds together through a shared activity, negative in that
fanaticism among its followers can lead to outbursts of violence. One
may even claim in jest that football is a religion.
The Muslim world has a huge football fan base. The sport has permeated
local cultures, academic inquiries, art forms, politics and even
religion itself. Indonesia is one example of the latter.
Arguably, the most extreme example of the mixing of football and
religion in Indonesia is the fireball game. The game involves using a
coconut shell, which is set ablaze and used as the football. It is
played in the Yogyakarta, Bogor, Tasikmalaya and Papua regions of
Indonesia, usually to celebrate the coming of the month of Ramadan when
Muslims fast. The pre-game rituals are just as important for the players
as the game itself. Players follow special rituals that supposedly make
them impervious to fire, including daytime fasting for 21 days before
the match, reciting special prayers, avoiding foods cooked with fire and
those containing elements of life (eggs and meat) and fasting for 24
hours without sleep.
Given its importance in the country, football has the potential to
demonstrate to Muslims in Indonesia—a country currently troubled by
religious radicalism and extremism—that working together to achieve
common goals is better than resorting to violence. Challenging radical
and extreme ideologies is important, especially in the places where they
are most likely to generate and spread.
One place where football is bringing people together and challenging
extremism is in Indonesian prisons, one of the ideological battlegrounds
in Indonesia where convicted terrorists are actively spreading their
ideology. Indonesian authorities readily admit that they are having
difficulties stopping radical teachings from spreading in prisons.
Generally, prison inmates already embrace opposition-based, rather than
collaborative, solutions to conflicts caused by differences, making them
vulnerable to ideologies that legitimize and encourage radicalism.
For these reasons, the international conflict transformation
organization Search for Common Ground (SFCG), in consultation with the
Indonesian Corrections Dept., is producing a television miniseries
called Tim Bui (The Prison Team), which is set in a fictional
Indonesian prison and encourages viewers to consider new ways of
resolving conflict in their daily lives.
Tim Bui tells a story about life in prison. The main plot of each
episode revolves around two prison guards who have different approaches
to various conflicts, including ethnic and religious ones. These
problems exist in daily life because of misunderstandings, existing
stereotypes and misinformation between people of different backgrounds.
The hero of the show, one of the prison guards, adopts football to
demonstrate a new model of cooperative behavior. The show also tackles
such issues as institutional reform, corruption and gender equality.
The director of the series, Sugeng Wahyudi from SFCG’s local production
partner SET, said, “Football is a medium to achieve a purpose, a common
goal and unity. Football is one-third luck, one-third skill and
“A drama series set in a prison,” adds executive producer Garin Nugroho,
“is interesting, considering prisons are generally considered a melting
pot of various undemocratic values. This series presents values that are
important to viewers, especially those in conflict areas, [and]
particularly emotions tied to group identity, how to channel aggression,
Tim Bui is part of SFCG’s multination, award-winning episodic
drama The Team, which has merged the global appeal of football
with soap opera to help transform social attitudes and diminish violent
behavior in countries grappling with deep-rooted conflict. Each
production follows characters on a football team who must overcome their
differences—be they cultural, ethnic, religious, tribal, racial or
socio-economic—in order to work together to win the game. The latest
countries where The Team has been produced are Angola, Nepal,
Pakistan (where the sport depicted is cricket), Zimbabwe and now
The preliminary feedback from prison authorities who were consulted in
the production of Tim Bui has been generally positive. If this
series is as successful as its counterparts in other countries, then
Tim Bui will become another positive force to be reckoned with—and
one that challenges the purveyors of radical ideologies.
* Suci Haryati is a senior program officer in Jakarta for Search for
Common Ground’s (SFCG) Indonesia program. Tim Bui was launched on
Feb. 9, 2012, and started showing on the Metro TV channel on Feb. 26.
This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).
Source: CGNews, Feb. 14, 2012, <www.commongroundnews.org>.
Copyright permission is granted for publication.