The 48-year-old man, a religious teacher named Bantil, had about 50 followers who lived in their own hamlet, APT Pranoto, in East Kalimantan’s Kutai Timur district. His followers called him Syech Muhammad and he claimed to be a prophet, despite the fact that his teachings deviated from Islamic values.
Kutai Timur Police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Budi Santoso said on Thursday that followers were told to submit alms to Bantil to be purified of their sins. If they could not afford to, they were obliged to allow him to sleep with their wives as an alternate means of purification.
“We arrested him after receiving a report from a resident,” Budi said. “So far there is only one person who was reported as being deceived by the perpetrator [by giving] Rp 170 million [$17,600] to cleanse his sins. We suspect dozens of the followers’ wives slept with him to be purified. We’re still investigating it.”
Budi said police had collected several pieces of evidence, including ritualistic devices such as a turban, doll, wooden amulet, banknotes, and receipts for followers’ purification payments.
Bantil admitted to having slept with dozens of his followers’ wives to cleanse their sins. Police suspect that Bantil hypnotized his victims in order to get whatever he wanted.
He is charged with Articles 372 and 378 of the Criminal Code, on fraud and embezzlement, respectively.
Police consulted with the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and Religious Affairs Ministry about the sect, and those bodies told police that Bantil’s teachings were not in keeping with Islam. Police are still in discussions with them about whether to also charge him with Article 150 on religious defamation.
Bantil began his deviant teachings in 2006. To avoid unwanted questions from locals, he set up a special hamlet for his followers. In 2008, one resident spoke out against the false prophet, but police were unable to charge him due to a lack of evidence.