Indonesia Papua:More religions, more trouble

Indonesian Papua  

More religions, more trouble

Jul 17th 2008 | JAKARTA
From The Economist print edition

 


THE separatist conflict in Indonesia’s Papua region—formerly known as Irian Jaya and once one of the world’s great liberal causes—has become relatively quiet in recent years. Small groups of protesters still occasionally gather to wave the Morning Star independence flag and get arrested for it. But decades of repression by the Indonesian security forces, combined with the granting in 2000 of partial autonomy from Jakarta, have sapped the separatists’ ranks. However, according to a recent report on the region, there is a risk that the separatist conflict may be rekindled or replaced by religious strife because of the arrival of new and more muscular forms of both Islam and Christianity.

 

 

 

 

 

Broadly speaking, indigenous Papuans—who are dark-skinned Melanesians, like their kin next door in Papua New Guinea and Australian aborigines—tend to be Christians or animists, whereas the many migrants to the region from elsewhere in Indonesia are mostly Muslim. In recent years fundamentalist Christian groups, some started by American and Canadian preachers, have been proselytising among indigenous Papuans. Their success has also prompted the development of fundamentalist streams in the established Protestant churches.

Among the Islamic radical groups to arrive in Papua with the migrants is the Indonesian chapter of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an organisation started in Jerusalem, which seeks to unite Muslims worldwide under one government or “caliphate”. But there are also a few indigenous Papuan Muslims, some of whom have recently returned from studies in the Middle East, bringing back fundamentalist ideas.

The report, by the International Crisis Group (ICG), a think-tank, says rising religious tension has already come close to triggering violence between Muslims and Christians, as is already common in the nearby, mixed-faith province of Maluku. In Kaimana district, for example, members of the two religions had long lived together harmoniously. But in December locals came close to blows over the erection of an iron tower shaped like a Christmas tree, topped with a Star of David—often used by charismatic Christian groups but best known as a symbol of Judaism.

The new Christian groups have raised Muslims’ hackles by boasting (sometimes falsely) of their conversions of Muslims. Muslims, in turn, have become increasingly vigilant against any perceived threats either to their faith or to Indonesian sovereignty. Some Islamic radicals are prone to conspiracy theories about plots to prise Papua away from Indonesia, often involving America and its majority-Christian regional allies, Australia and the Philippines.

Increased fundamentalism has sharpened each ethnic group’s fear of domination by the other. The Indonesian government has discontinued its programme of transportation to Papua and elsewhere to relieve overcrowding on Java. But migrants are still flooding in. Official figures show that in 2004 Muslims were 23% of the region’s 2m-odd population, up from 6.5% in 1964. In reality the proportion of Muslims is thought to be much higher, probably over half now—but the government has not published accurate updated figures.

Christians believe this is a cover-up to hide the truth: that migration has made Papuans a minority in their homeland. They also fear that the government in Jakarta is increasingly endorsing Islamic orthodoxy at the expense of Indonesia’s non-Muslims. The Muslims, in turn, agree that they are now the majority in Papua—a local Hizb-ut-Tahrir leader recently claimed that Papua is 65% Muslim—but they feel that Papuan autonomy could lead to them being discriminated against or even expelled from the region.

There are some moderating influences: last year, mainstream Muslims set up a new body, the Papuan Muslim Council, to put the case for tolerance. Some of the charismatic Christian groups, far from inciting separatism among ethnic Papuans, argue for accommodation with the Indonesian powers-that- be (render unto Caesar and all that). Even so, argues the ICG, there is a danger that continuing migration, combined with the radicalisation of both main religions, could re-ignite the dormant separatist conflict.

If the heightened religious tension is not to become a catalyst for violence it would help if there was a sense of urgency about improving the dismal quality of life of almost all Papuans, whether indigenous or migrants. Autonomy has had a feeble start: central-government ministries have been reluctant to cede control to local Papuan authorities; where they have, money has been misspent, including by newly recruited Papuan bureaucrats struggling with responsibilities for which they lack skills. Last year President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono ordered his officials to speed up development programmes for Papua. As usual, his orders fell on deaf ears.

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Are 400,000 Terrorists Trying to Attack the United States? by Ivan Eland

http://www.antiwar. com/eland/ ?articleid= 13162

July 19, 2008

After having begun a series of investigative stories criticizing the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in May 2008, CNN reporter Drew Griffin reports being placed with more than a million other names on TSA’s swollen terrorism watch list. Although TSA insists Griffin’s name is not on the list and pooh-poohs any possibility of retaliation for Griffin’s negative reporting, the reporter has been hassled by various airlines on 11 flights since May. The airlines insist that Griffin’s name is on the list. Congress has asked TSA to look into the tribulations of this prominent passenger.

In a recent op-ed in the Washington Post, probably responding to the controversy over Griffin, Leonard Boyle, the director of the Terrorist Screening Center, defended the watch list, claiming that because terrorists have multiple aliases, the names on the list boiled down to only about 400,000 actual people. If there are 400,000 terrorists lying in wait to attack the United States, we are all in trouble.

But wait a minute. There has been no major terrorist attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 – almost seven years ago. Where are all these nefarious evildoers?

Boyle says 95 percent of these people are not American citizens or legal residents and the vast majority aren’t even in the United States. He rather sheepishly defends the size of the list by writing, “Its size corresponds to the threat. It’s a big world.”

That brings up a very important issue. The U.S. government regularly tries to police the world and combat threats to other nations – in the process, usually generating more enemies. Examining the forty-four organizations on the State Department’s highly politicized list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO), one finds that only a very few currently focus their efforts on U.S. targets. And the U.S. government has even flirted with one anti-Iranian group, the Mujahedin-e Khalq, which was put on the FTO list long ago.

Similarly, the State Department’s list of five state sponsors of terrorism has included Cuba and North Korea – neither of which has actively participated in terrorist attacks in decades. These two countries continued to be on the list for other reasons – namely U.S. government aversion to them. On its website, the State Department even admits that, “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was not known to have sponsored any terrorist acts since the bombing of a Korean Airlines flight in 1987.” The website also contains an implicit admission that keeping selected countries on the state sponsors list can reap ulterior political benefits for the United States. The website notes that under the umbrella of the Six-Party Talks, the United States intends to remove North Korea from the list as that nation takes actions toward getting rid of its nuclear weapons program. Even the remaining three nations on the list that do sponsor terrorism – Syria, Iran, and Sudan – don’t support groups that focus their attacks on the U.S.

Thus, the humongous terrorist watch list for airline travel and the excessively large FTO and state sponsors lists are a few more examples of the United States taking on other nations’ security burdens. Trying to be the “big man on (the world) campus,” however, comes at a horrendous cost to American freedom at home.

The terrorist watch list is downright unconstitutional. Under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, no warrants shall be issued unless there is probable cause that a crime has been committed. If the government has such probable cause that a passenger is conspiring to commit a terrorist act on an airplane, it should not hassle that person at the airport when trying to fly or ban him or her from flying; it should arrest them. But of course the government does not have the evidence to do that for the vast majority of the 400,000 people on the watch list.

And it’s apparently not easy to get yourself off the list once you are on it. Although Boyle claims that the TSA constantly scrubs the list for possible mistaken identities of people who have frequent “encounters” with the list, even if they don’t file a complaint, Griffin uncovered an innocent passenger with a common name – James Robinson – who has complained endlessly and has received no resolution of his case. Senator Edward Kennedy – also with a common name – experienced endless hassles and red tape trying to get his name off the list. If such a well-known figure has such problems, the average misidentified traveler is in big trouble.

And as the economists would say, what about opportunity cost to real security? The U.S. government should spend the time it devotes to scrutinizing 400,000 people on the watch list, and the vast majority of the 44 FTOs and all of the 5 countries who don’t sponsor anti-U.S. terrorism, on the again rising principal threat from Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and their tens of hard core al-Qaeda followers operating out of Pakistan. The American public would be much safer. As the famous Prussian military ruler Fredrick the Great (and closet economist) said, “To defend everything is to defend nothing.” Moreover, under current government policy, we have neither liberty nor security.

One Million Terrorists? — by Paul Craig Roberts

http://www.antiwar. com/roberts/ ?articleid= 13153

July 18, 2008

The Bush Regime’s “terrorist” protection schemes have reached the height of total incompetence and utter absurdity. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, a private organization that defends the US Constitution that inattentive Americans neglect, there are now one million names on the “terrorist” watch list.

One of them is that of former Assistant US Attorney General Jim Robinson, whose top security clearances are current. Every time Mr. Robinson flies away on business, he is delayed by a totally incompetent “terrorist” protection racket that cannot tell a person named Jim Robinson, who served in the highest echelons of the US government, from a Muslim terrorist.

What confidence can we have in a regime that is incapable of differentiating an Assistant US Attorney General from a terrorist?

Mr. Robinson said: “If I were convinced that America is a safer place because I get hassled at the airport, I might put up with it, but I doubt it. I expect my story is similar to hundreds of thousands of people who are on this list and find themselves inconvenienced. ”

“Hundreds of thousands of people” on a watch list that they have no business being on?

Yes. “Members of Congress, nuns, war heroes and other ‘suspicious characters,’ with names like Robert Johnson and Gary Smith, have become trapped in the Kafkaesque clutches of this list, with little hope of escape,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.

And this is America, not Nazi Germany?

How can Airport “Security” possibly protect anyone when the idiots cannot differentiate a high level American government official from a terrorist?

Do you really believe there are one million terrorists and nothing has blown up in the US since September 11, 2001 (assuming you believe the government’s account of that episode)?

How can there possibly be 1,000,000 terrorists and America still be in one piece? If there were 1,000,000 terrorists, America would be in ruins. According to the Bush Regime’s line, it only took a handful of terrorists to destroy America’s tallest skyscrapers and a section of the Pentagon and to send the President of the United States scurrying to a hiding place.

One million terrorists could bring America to its knees, and they wouldn’t need to fly on airplanes to accomplish this.

What we are witnessing with the one million person “watch list” is bureaucracy run amok. One Million Terrorists makes the danger seem overwhelming. Such overwhelming danger rationalizes the aggressive behavior of the bullies and thugs attracted by the power of confiscating your toothpaste and bottled water and riffling your belongings in your luggage.

Show your ID.
Take off your shoes.
Take off your belt.
Take off your jacket.
Empty your pockets.

Don’t complain about being searched without a warrant or you will miss your flight. You might be arrested, handcuffed, kicked and otherwise abused – the fate of many American citizens.

The morons who comprise the US government call the “watch list” one of the government’s “most effective tools in the fight against terrorism.”

What an effective tool it is! It cannot tell the difference between Jim Robinson and a Muslim terrorist.

The “watch list” has not apprehended a single terrorist, but thousands of American citizens have been inconvenienced and arrested.

The ACLU says that “putting a million names on a watch list is a guarantee that the list will do more harm than good by interfering with the travel of innocent people and wasting huge amounts of our limited security resources on bureaucratic wheel-spinning. ”

It is worse than that. What the “watch list” or “no-fly list” is doing is training Americans to submit to warrantless searches, to abandon their constitutional rights, and to submit to humiliation by thugs and bullies. A Gestapo is being trained to have no qualms about searching and intimidating fellow citizens, using any excuse to delay or arrest them. Americans are being taught to use arbitrary power and to submit to arbitrary power. In the false name of “safety from terrorists,” Americans are being made the least safe people on earth.

Crude Oil Rises to Record on Speculation Israel May Attack Iran

Crude Oil Rises to Record on Speculation Israel May Attack Iran
By Alexander Kwiatkowski

July 11 (Bloomberg) — Crude oil rose more than $5 to a record on concerns that Israel may be preparing to attack Iran, while a strike in Brazil and renewed militant activity in Nigeria threaten to cut supplies.

Oil rallied to a record high of $146.90 a barrel in New York after the Jerusalem Post said Israeli war planes practiced over Iraq, adding to speculation the country is preparing to attack Iran. A Brazilian union said it plans a five-day strike on platforms that pump 80 percent of the country’s crude and Nigerian militants pledged to renew attacks on oil facilities.

“We are now in uncharted territory here with the Iranian situation,” Tom James, head of commodities trading at Liquid Capital Markets Ltd., said in a phone interview “People are just too scared to sell.”

Crude oil for August delivery rose as much as $5.25, or 3.7 percent, to an all-time high of $146.90 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange and was trading at $146.59 at 1:46 p.m. in London.

Israeli war planes are conducting maneuvers in Iraqi airspace and using U.S. airbases in the country, possibly practicing for a strike against Iran, the newspaper reported, citing comments by Iraqi officials in local media. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev denied the report.

Iran, OPEC’s second biggest producer, this week tested missiles capable of reaching Israel.

Brent crude oil for August settlement rose as much as $5.22 a barrel, or 3.7 percent, to $147.25 a barrel and was trading at $146.94 at 1:46 p.m. local time on London’s ICE Futures Europe exchange.

Falling Stockpiles

Yesterday, the contract gained $5.45, or 4 percent, to $142.03 a barrel. Prices climbed to a record $146.69 on July 3.

Oil may rise next week because of threats to supply from Iran and Nigeria and falling stockpiles in the U.S., the biggest energy-consuming country, according to a Bloomberg News survey.

Gasoline prices in the U.S. rose to a record. Futures for August delivery rose as much as 10.46 cents, or 3 percent, to $3.6155 a gallon on Nymex.

The average price of a gallon of gasoline at the pump in the U.S was $4.11 on July 8, according to AAA, 38 percent higher than a year earlier.

About 4,500 employees of state-controlled Petroleo Brasileiro SA will take part in a protest on platforms in the offshore Campos basin to get full pay for the day they return to the mainland after a 14-day shift at sea, a union official said yesterday.

Iran’s Exports

The standoff has led to concern that Iran may come under attack from the U.S. or Israel, disrupting exports from OPEC’s second-biggest producer.

“You could survive with one of these factors, but if they come all at the same time it will drive prices up,” said Thina Saltvedt, an analyst at Nordea Bank AB in Oslo. “As soon as violent attacks increase in Nigeria it is a threat to production.’ ‘

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said attacks will resume on oil facilities. The Nigerian militant group said it will call off its unilateral cease-fire beginning midnight on July 12.

MEND’s attacks on pipelines and other installations have cut more than 20 percent of Nigeria’s oil exports since 2006. MEND says it is fighting for a greater share of oil wealth for the impoverished inhabitants of the Niger Delta.

The group declared a cease-fire after a June 19 attack on Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s Bonga deep-water oilfield, located 120 kilometers (75 miles) offshore that cut 190,000 barrels a day of oil output.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alexander Kwiatkowski in London at akwiatkowsk2@ bloomberg. netNesa Subrahmaniyan in Singapore at nesas@bloomberg. net.

Last Updated: July 11, 2008 08:50 EDT

What is “Neo-Liberalism” ?

(http://www.geocitie s.com/CapitolHil l/Lobby/8731/ neolib.html)

“Neo-liberalism” is a set of economic policies that have become widespread during the last 25 years or so. Although the word is  rarely heard in the United States, you can clearly see the effects of  neo-liberalism here as the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer.

“Liberalism” can refer to political, economic, or even religious  ideas. In the U.S. political liberalism has been a strategy to  prevent social conflict. It is presented to poor and working people  as progressive compared to conservative or Rightwing. Economic  liberalism is different. Conservative politicians who say they hate
“liberals” — meaning the political type — have no real problem with  economic liberalism, including neo- liberalism.

“Neo” means we are talking about a new kind of liberalism. So what was the old kind? The liberal school of economics became famous in Europe when Adam Smith, an English economist, published a book in
1776 called THE WEALTH OF NATIONS. He and others advocated the abolition of government intervention in economic matters. No restrictions on manufacturing, no barriers to commerce, no tariffs, he said; free trade was the best way for a nation’s  economy to develop. Such ideas were “liberal” in the sense of no
controls. This application of individualism encouraged “free”  enterprise,” “free” competition — which came to mean, free for the  capitalists to make huge profits as they wished.

Economic liberalism prevailed in the United States through the 1800s and early 1900s. Then the Great Depression of the 1930s led an economist named John Maynard Keynes to a theory that challenged
liberalism as the best policy for capitalists. He said, in essence,  that full employment is necessary for capitalism to grow and it can  be achieved only if governments and central banks intervene to  increase employment. These ideas had much influence on President  Roosevelt’s New Deal — which did improve life for many people. The  belief that government should advance the common good became widely accepted.

But the capitalist crisis over the last 25 years, with its shrinking  profit rates, inspired the corporate elite to revive economic  liberalism. That’s what makes it “neo” or new. Now, with the rapid  globalization of the capitalist economy, we are seeing neo-liberalism  on a global scale.

A memorable definition of this process came from Subcomandante Marcos  at the Zapatista-sponsored
<http://spin. com.mx/%7Ehvelar de/Mexico/ EZLN/encuentro- neoliberalism. html>Encuentro  Intercontinental por la Humanidad y contra el Neo-liberalismo  (Inter-continental Encounter for Humanity and Against Neo-liberalism)  of August 1996 in Chiapas when he said: “what the Right offers is to
turn the world into one big mall where they can buy Indians here,  women there ….” and he might have added, children, immigrants, workers or even a whole country like Mexico.”

The main points of neo-liberalism include:

1) THE RULE OF THE MARKET. Liberating “free” enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government (the state) no  matter how much social damage this causes. Greater openness to
international trade and investment, as in NAFTA. Reduce wages by  de-unionizing workers and eliminating workers’ rights that had been  won over many years of struggle. No more price controls. All in all,
total freedom of movement for capital, goods and services. To  convince us this is good for us, they say “an unregulated market is  the best way to increase economic growth, which will ultimately benefit
everyone.” It’s like Reagan’s “supply-side” and “trickle-down” economics — but somehow the wealth didn’t trickle down very much.

2) CUTTING PUBLIC EXPENDITURE FOR SOCIAL SERVICES like education and  health care. REDUCING THE SAFETY-NET FOR THE POOR, and even  maintenance of roads, bridges, water supply — again in the name of
reducing government’s role. Of course, they don’t oppose government subsidies and tax benefits for business.

3) DEREGULATION. Reduce government regulation of everything that  could diminsh profits, including protecting the environmentand safety on the job.

4) PRIVATIZATION. Sell state-owned enterprises, goods and services to  private investors. This includes banks, key industries, railroads,  toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water.
Although usually done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed, privatization has mainly had the effect of  concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs.

5) ELIMINATING THE CONCEPT OF “THE PUBLIC GOOD” or “COMMUNITY” and replacing it with “individual responsibility. ” Pressuring the poorest  people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care,
education and social security all by themselves — then blaming them,  if they fail, as “lazy.”

Around the world, neo-liberalism has been imposed by powerful financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF),  the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. It is raging all over Latin America. The first clear example of neo-liberalism at  work came in Chile (with thanks to University of Chicago economist  Milton Friedman), after the CIA-supported coup against the popularly elected Allende regime in 1973. Other countries followed, with some of the worst effects in Mexico where wages declined 40 to 50% in the  first year of NAFTA while the cost of living rose by 80%. Over 20,000  small and medium businesses have failed and more than 1,000 state- owned enterprises have been privatized in Mexico. As one scholar  said, “Neoliberalism means the neo-colonization of Latin America.”

In the United States neo-liberalism is destroying welfare programs; attacking the rights of labor (including all immigrant workers); and  cutbacking social programs. The Republican “Contract” on America is
pure neo-liberalism. Its supporters are working hard to deny  protection to children, youth, women, the planet itself — and trying to trick us into acceptance by saying this will “get government off  my back.” The beneficiaries of neo-liberalism are a minority of the world’s people. For the vast majority it brings even more suffering than before: suffering without the small, hard-won gains of the last  60 years, suffering without end.  <http://www.latino. com/opinion/ spec0324. html>

Elizabeth Martinez is a  longtime civil rights activist and author of several books, including “500 Years of Chicano History in Photographs. ”

Arnoldo Garcia is a member of the Oakland-based Comite Emiliano Zapata, affiliated to the National Commission for Democracy in Mexico.

Both writers attended the Intercontinental Encounter for Humanity and  against Neoliberalism, held July 27 -August 3,1996, in La Realidad, Chiapas.

By The Way: FPI too busy talking to God

Sun, 06/08/2008 12:01 PM  |  Headlines

Christians are so close to God that they call Him “father” in prayer, while Muslims are so far away from Allah that they need loudspeakers to talk to Him.

This is an old joke, but I couldn’t tell you earlier because I was afraid. If Rizieq Shihab had found out, he might have beaten me black and blue or, worse, burned down my house.

Thank God, he is now in police custody.

If you happen to have watched the news (not the saucy gossip shows or soap operas) or read the paper recently, you would know of Rizieq, the leader of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI).

A radical group, FPI, attacked members of the National Alliance for Freedom of Faith and Religion (AKKBB), who were rallying last Sunday at the National Monument (Monas) park to mark the 63rd anniversary of Pancasila state ideology.

The FPI made their attack because the alliance supports Jamaah Ahmadiyah, a minority Islamic sect dubbed “heretical” by a government panel which also recommended it be banned.

The hardliners had earlier attacked Ahmadiyah sect members, their houses and mosques, and called Ahmadiyah a deviant sect.

The sect leader was once accused of blasphemy, but other than that I have never heard of the sect’s members committing theft, robbery, murder or any other crimes listed in the Criminal Code.

If they have their own interpretations of some verses in the Koran, it is only God who could decide whether it is right or wrong.

In 2006, FPI members vandalized the Play Boy magazine offices in South Jakarta, when the magazine first published its Indonesian version. They said the publication could damage people’s morality, but perhaps the real reason was that they were disappointed to find the Indonesian version didn’t have the same ‘hot’ pictures as its American parent.

They had also repeatedly attacked cafes, bars and nightspots during the Ramadhan fasting month because they believed the establishments violated existing regulations and would tarnish the Holy month.

And they committed all these violent acts in the name of God. Frequently FPI members shouted “Allahuakbar” (God is Great) while conducting their anarchic deeds. They also prayed a lot.

Praying five times a day is one of the five pillars of Islam followed by, not only FPI members, but all Muslims around the world.

The Muslim call to prayer, and prayer itself, can be heard in every corner of the city. It would seem it is a case of the louder, the better, so that everyone in the neighborhood can hear it. It doesn’t matter if it is still dawn or if it’s during school hours and the mosque is right next to a school. If one mosque is next to another, they may even compete to be loudest.

On Friday, mosques are crowded with congregations who enthusiastically come to pray and listen to preachers.

Non-Muslims also perform their religious rituals devoutly. Churches are always full on Sundays, when Christians and the Catholics pray and praise the Lord.

Indonesia is indeed one of the most religious nations in the world, a fact confirmed by last year’s religion monitoring study conducted in 21 countries by the German-based Bertelsmann Foundation.

Ironically, Indonesia is also notorious for being among the world’s most corrupt countries.

Being religious, corruptors must pray first before stealing state money, or perhaps they set aside a little of the corrupted money to build mosques or churches.

Another indicator of the strength of religion in Indonesia was in the huge number of people who enjoyed the recent movie Ayat-Ayat Cinta (Verses of Love), which is heavily loaded with religious messages.

President Soesilo Bambang Yudhoyono who watched the blockbuster along with several cabinet ministers reportedly shed tears because he was so touched by the story. But many joked, saying he had cried because he shared the pain of not being allowed to have more than one wife like the leading role.

Anyway, following the Monas attack, many people (mostly Muslims) demanded the ban of the FPI and some even called its members preman berjubah (thugs in Muslim robes) as they wore long white robes and headscarves during the violence.

Not only FPI members, but it seems many other Muslims, Christians and other deeply religious people are often too busy talking to God in one-way conversations, praising and worshiping God, reading the Koran, the Bible and other holy books, while turning their backs on fellow human beings.

Of course, talking to God is important, but if they think praying five times a day or going to Church every Sunday, or even everyday, is enough to allow them climb the stairway to heaven, maybe they should think again.

By the way, if you find the opening of this piece offensive, please accept my apology. I don’t mean to upset anyone, let alone God, who must be sad enough seeing the violence and frequent religious conflicts within this so-called religious nation.

— T.Sima Gunawan

Moderate groups under fire for silence over radicals

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Thu, 06/19/2008 9:59 AM

Moderate Muslim organizations and political parties have come under fire for failing to demonstrate their religious tolerance following a government decree against an Islamic minority sect.

As major moderate groups, the nation’s two largest Muslim organizations Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah should have prevented the issuance of a joint ministerial decree against Jamaah Ahmadiyah, say Muslim scholars and political observers.

They told The Jakarta Post the decree showed the NU and Muhammadiyah were powerless to counter extremist and conservative elements in their campaigns for Islamism.

The anti-Ahmadiyah decree was issued by the government earlier this month amid intense pressure from many extremist groups, including the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia.

The government-sanctioned Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI) landed support for the decree.

“The NU and Muhammadiyah have so far been just too soft and too tolerant against small militant groups,” political expert Indra J. Pilliang of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies said.

He said the two organizations had given too much space for hard-line groups to take the public stage claiming to represent Indonesian Muslims.

Indra warned that a “culture of violence” against minority groups would rise more quickly thanks to the inaction of the NU, Muhammadiyah and moderate political parties to foster religious tolerance and pluralism in the country.

The issuance of the anti-Ahmadiyah decree and a recent attack by FPI members on pro-pluralism activists from the National Alliance for the Freedom of Religion and Faith (AKKBB), who were staging a rally for religious tolerance, were clear examples of the dysfunctionality of the two moderate Islamic groups and political parties, he added.

“They have to get tough against extremist groups and strongly condemn any attacks to avoid widespread violence that can turn into mass fascism,” Indra said.

Muslim scholar and Paramadina University rector Anies Baswedan said the NU and Muhammadiyah had failed to control the MUI with their pluralism mission.

The MUI is led by clerics from the NU and Muhammadiyah but the council has often issued extremist fatwa, banning pluralism, liberalism and secularism as well as branding Ahmadiyah a heretical sect.

“What happens is the MUI doesn’t represent the voice of Muslims as a whole,” he said.

Anies said the NU and Muhammadiyah should take the lead in preventing several Muslim individuals or groups from taking violent actions in the name of Islam.

Rafendi Jamin of the Human Rights Working Group blamed the political parties for only caring about their short-term political interests and neglecting their mission for the betterment of the country, including promoting religious pluralism and tolerance.

All the parties should work together to fix Indonesia’s international image by not tolerating violence and respecting human rights, he said.

Indra said the country’s political parties were trying to woo more voters ahead of the 2009 elections by giving support for the anti-Ahmadiyah decree or taking side with the majority Muslim groups.

Such a stance was more popular than acting otherwise, he added.

Anies warned the religious violence could increase due to the government’s failure to provide jobs for people.