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Silence is Often a Virtue

A Young Man's Outburst on Facebook Puts the Island of Bali in an Uproar and its Author in Hot Water.

(3/24/2010) In a moment of reckless spontaneity with consequences only possible in the modern world of social networking, a young Indonesian man committed the seemingly irrevocable mistake of insulting the entire island of Bali and placing in question his very future on the island when he recklessly posted a statement on his Facebook page gravely insulting Bali's majority Hindu population.

Over the Bali Hindu high religious holiday of Nyepi, the young man, Ibnu Rachal Farhansyah, made what may prove an unpardonable faux pas of comparing the sacred day of silence with feces.

Aided by hindsight and an avalanche of almost instantaneous condemnation for his statement, Ibnu now claims he made the ill-considered posting when he was frustrated by the enforced isolation of the holiday, a lack of money, and recent dressing-downs from a brother and his employer.

He immediately opened a new Facebook page begging forgiveness for his error, quickly received several thousand gracious votes of support. However, a separate Facebook page, that roundly condemned the 20 year-old and called for his eternal banishment from Bali, logged more than 25,000 angry supporters.

Trying to defuse a dangerous situation, the coordinator of a major Hindu group - The Bali's People Component (KRB), I Gusti Ngurah Harta, has issued a plea for calm and reconciliation. Harta, who also heads a 25,000 strong martial arts group in Bali, told The Jakarta Post: "We need to remember that Balinese Hinduism is a peaceful religion and when a non-Hindu somehow misinterprets the teachings of our religion then it is solely our responsibility to educate him. Violence will only escalate the tension to an unnecessary level and will demean the core teaching of our beliefs."

Joining Harta in his call for forgiveness were representatives of the Indonesian Hindu Students Association (KMHDI), Indonesia Nationalist Students Movement (GMNI), Hindu Dharma Institute (IHD) and Bali's Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Bali).

Labeling the young mans as "confused" but with "no evil intentions," Harta reminded everyone that Ibnu has apologized to the Balinese, creating an instant tradition-bound obligation among Balinese Hindus to grant forgiveness."

Ibnu's outburst was posted on Facebook on the eve of the 24-hour period of Nyepi when Balinese seclude themselves and refrain from any activity in respect to the beginning of the Hindu New Year.

Despite his repeated apologies, Ibnu must now reassess his future on the island where some have posted Facebook responses to his statement by calling for his lynching, death by fire and decapitation.