Indonesian Muslims sign up for tattoo removal ‘to repent’ during Ramadan

By Thomson Reuters Mar 31, 2024 | 8:01 PM

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Bima Abdul Sholeh, 32, sat calmly as a doctor armed with a laser pointer zapped tattoos from his face at an event in Jakarta being held by a charity organisation during the holy month of Ramadan to give practicing Muslims an opportunity to “repent”.

Like him, more than a hundred Indonesians have signed up for tattoo removal procedures being conducted free of charge by the Amil Zakat National Agency, an Islamic charity organisation, during Ramadan which this year falls in early March to April.

“Ramadan is the perfect momentum for this programme. To erase the tattoos is a form of worship to Allah,” said Raja Zamzami, the coordinator of the event which is in its fourth year. “These people realize they want to repent … leave their past lifestyles and mistakes.”

Tattoos are considered forbidden in Islam because they count as physical mutilation of the skin. While many of Indonesia’s 220 million Muslims, predominantly Sunnis, practice a more moderate form of Islam, tattoos are still seen in a negative light due to the association with rough street lifestyles.

“At some point I thought, what’s the use of this (rough lifestyle)? There’s no end to it. I decided to repent,” Bima said, as he prepared to pray in his apartment after one of his removal sessions.

Bima is removing tattoos from his body and face after leaving behind his former life, details on which he preferred to keep private. “I stopped doing bad things,” he said.

Nila Novian, 24, who was having a small tattoo of an initial in silver on her forearm removed, said for her erasing it was “more about avoiding negative public stigma”.

(Reporting by Johan Purnomo, Heru Asprihanto; Editing by Himani Sarkar)