Indonesia shrugs at rising religious violence: report Michael Bachelard

Indonesia has experienced a “sharp uptick” in religiously motivated violence, with Islamic gangs regularly attacking Christian churches as well as “deviant sects” of their own faith, a strongly worded new report has warned.

The report by Human Rights Watch warns that the Indonesian Government, police and military are “passively, and sometimes actively” condoning these new extremists, in contrast to the way they “wrestled to the ground” the terrorists of Jemaah Islamiah in the past decade.

The organisation accuses Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of responding “weakly” to the threat, with “lofty but empty rhetoric”.

“With JI they saw a clear and present danger,” said Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director, Phelim Kine.

“Now, the government is failing to recognise this less spectacular but equally corrosive and dangerous strain of religious intolerance.” Mr Kine said there were “worrying echoes” of Pakistan’s state of siege against minority Islamic sects, and if intolerance and violence continued to increase in Indonesia, “the confidence of investors in the country . . . might not hold”.

The report, In Religion’s Name, says there were 264 violent attacks on religious minorities in 2012, a 20 per cent increase on 2010. It documents violence against the Ahmadiya, a minority sect of Islam which Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Ministry has declared “heretical”, and Shiite Muslims, as well as atheists and moderate Muslims. Since 2005, more than 430 churches have been forced to close.

But Wahyu, a spokesman for Indonesia’s Religious Affairs minister, Suryadharma Ali, denied the thrust of the report, saying Indonesia was “the example, or the laboratory of religious harmony”.

“It has the best religious harmony in the world. We can judge that because . . . we make all big days of the recognised religions in Indonesian holidays,” Wahyu said.

Neither Mr Yudhoyono’s office nor the police would comment before the report was released.

Many acts of violence were committed by a number of hardline groups such as the aggressive Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), which emerged from the Sunni Islam majority after the fall of former president Suharto in 1998, the report says.

FPI recruits among the poor and disenfranchised and might be able to field 100,000 supporters. It was allegedly set up by police during unrest in 1998 to attack protesting students. Its official events have since been attended by the former governor of Jakarta, the national police chief and the religious affairs minister.

The country guarantees religious freedom in the constitution, but 156 statutes, regulations, decrees and by-laws subject “minority religions to official discrimination”, They include the 1965 blasphemy law, the 2006 ministerial decree on building houses of worship and the 2008 anti-Ahmadiyah decree.

In recent years the judicial system has often taken a harder line against minorities who are the victims of religious violence than against the perpetrators.

In 2011, when five Ahmadiyah followers were injured and three killed by an Islamist mob, police stood by, smoking and watching. The killers were not charged with murder, but “assault causing death” and were given sentences of six months or less. An Ahmadiya survivor and witness in their prosecution was later charged with provoking the attack and also given a six-month jail sentence.

A professed atheist, Alexander Aan, was last year sentenced to prison after being attacked by a mob, none of whom was punished.

But Wahyu, the spokesman from the Religious Affairs Ministry, one of the best-funded and most powerful ministries in the government, denied that recent controversies signalled a problem.

A Christian church barred by local officials from opening despite a Supreme Court ruling was “not about religious tolerance, it’s a land dispute”; violence against Ahmadiyah was not a religious problem because, “it’s not a religion, it’s a sect”; and a violent attack on a Shiite group in East Java was simply “a personal problem, it’s not about religion”, Wahyu said.

(“The Sydney Morning Herald,” February 28, 2013)

SBY Threatened to be Overthrown by FPI

Islamic Defence Front (FPI) criticized the firm statement of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono over his order to disband anarchist mass organizations.

Besides judging the president’s statement as unqualified, FPI even threatened to overthrow him such as what Tunisians did to President Ben Ali should SBY keep on making sort of statement. “If the president insists on exposing the statement on the disband, Islamic mass organisations and followers are ready to overthrow him since he is going to be considered of being in position of evil” said Advocate Chief of FPI Munawarman to Kompas.com, Friday.

Munarman judged the president’s statement as the most unqualified conveyed by a president as he blamed that Ahmadiyah was behind the violent mob in Cikeusik, Pandenglang. “He addressed the statement to the wrong addressee. Ahmadiyah caused all of the problem, how mass organisations could be blamed for that.” (LIN)
(Kompas.com)

Muslim radicals colonising the country, Indonesian bishops say

NDONESIA

Muslim radicals colonising the country, Indonesian bishops say

by Mathias Hariyadi

The bishop of Padang warns against the systematic and organised spread of radical Islamic ideology. Political authorities are criticised for failing to stop the wave of violence. In the meantime, police is out in force to prevent anti-Christian violence over the Christmas period.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Mgr Mathinus D Situmorang, president of the Indonesian Bishops of Conference’s (KWI), warned Indonesian political elites on a potentially serious threat to the national interest. The prelate, who is the bishop of Padang (Western Sumatra), delivered his word of caution during the admission ceremony for new members of the Indonesian Catholic University Student Association (PMKRI). In his address, he criticised the state for its powerlessness in the face of dozens of attacks carried out by Islamic fundamentalist groups against churches and Christians. 

“In the past, Indonesia was occupied and colonised by foreign rulers. However, the present situation is not much better even if we are ruled by fellow Indonesian citizens,” the bishop said. Here, he was referring to recent attacks carried out by the Islamic Defender Front (FPI), which stormed two places of worship in Rancaekek, Bandung Regency (West Java), forcing their closure. More broadly, he is deeply concerned that religious intolerance is spreading and taking rook among ordinary people. Muslim extremists, he explained, had no legal right to interfere with the aforementioned places of worship even if they did not have a building permit. What is more, the situation is getting worse because law enforcement is not stopping the Islamists, and it is not clear why.

Nonetheless, for the prelate, “A spirit of intolerance is finding fertile ground because of political interests”. In Parung, Bogor Regency, local authorities issued a ban against the Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church to prevent Christmas celebrations. 

“If some Christian communities in Indonesia hold religious ceremonies in the streets or in the open, it is out of necessity because they have been unable to secure a building permit for their place of worship, and this, for years,” Bishop Situmorang explained.

“If the [central] government and local authorities are stopped by every extremist Muslim group, the situation will get worse and the state’s sovereignty will be given away to illegal groups that will carry out actions against the law,” he lamented.

Still, the 3,000 parishioners who belong to the Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church will be able to celebrate Christmas at a local nuns’ compound. Indonesia’s Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro, who is Catholic, rejected the accusation, saying that any violent act would be punished. Mgr Situmorang is not so sure. For him, the state is powerless and incapable of dealing with the problem. Yet, he is still “proud to belong to a multicultural society, where the spirit of intolerance is restrained”. 

In the meantime, hours before the start of Christmas services, the country has been placed under tight security with thousands of police deployed near churches, 8,000 in Jakarta alone. In Bali, police has secured every strategic site, including churches.

A study by the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace warns that whilst most violent actions are carried out by the infamous FPI, less noticeable actions by other radical Muslim groups are equally worrisome, especially since they are increasingly supported by ordinary people and are attracting even liberal groups and moderate clerics.

There are also rumours that radical elements have infiltrated the moderate Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI), the country’s most important organisation of Muslim clerics, which wields the greatest influence in moral and political terms. According to the Setara report, beside the FPI, other important violent Islamist groups are the Islamic Reform Movement (Garis) and the Islamic People’s Forum (FUI).

The same study noted that in “2005, FUI’s chief Al Khaththath [. . .] made it to the MUI’s board of directors,” and at the organisation’s annual meeting that year, he was among those who “actively lobbied the MUI to issue an edict forbidding the practice of liberal Islam”

Indonesian Christians say no to Christmas protection by Muslim radicals

by Mathias Hariyadi

In league with Indonesia’s police chief, Islamic Defender Front leader Risieq Shihab promises to protect Christians but only if their communities are authorised. Catholics and Protestants reject the offer because it would curtail religious freedom and negatively affect relations between Christians and local authorities, who alone have the right to provide security to churches.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Indonesian Christians have criticised the Islamic Defender Front (FPI), an Islamic fundamentalist group, for saying that it would protect Christian communities during Christmas celebrations. “Why would this radical group, which is notorious for its anti-Christian violence, want to be so nice to us? We say no to their offer,” a Catholic man from Semarang diocese said. “Let Christians celebrate Christmas in peace. It is their right and all Indonesian citizens should respect that,” FPI chief Risieq Shihab said during a meeting with Police Chief Timur Pradopo on Tuesday. 

Yet, the peace and protection he has in mind would only be for those Christian communities that respect Indonesia’s strict religious laws.

For Shihab, his group would stop any Catholic or Protestant celebration held in violation of the law. 

Another Christian in Jakarta, anonymous for security reason, said that Shihab’s offer and the FPI’s close ties to police are sound reasons to be concerned. He pointed out that Chief Pradopo was present at the 12th anniversary of the founding of the FPI. 

“The extremists of the FPI want to be recognised by other parties, whilst the police uses the group (which claims thousands of members) to improve its reputation with the population,” the source said. 

Fr Benny Susetyo Pr, from the Indonesian Bishops of Conference’s Interfaith Commission, explained that it was rare for Catholics to organise security details at Christmas time. In fact, he was quite surprised by the FPI statement. 

In Indonesia, each parish organises Christmas activities in cooperation with local authorities. In addition, any involvement of Muslim groups has to be examined with members of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), a moderate Muslim group involved in interfaith dialogue. 

Andreas Yewangoe, chairman of the Synod of Christian Protestant Churches, said that the FPI did not issue any official statement in regards to security measures. Even if it had, very few Christians would actually like to see it present during Christmas celebrations, he said. 

For the past seven years, the FPI accumulated a track record of violent attacks against Catholic and Protestant communities. The recent episodes of intolerance in Bandung (West Java) are evidence of that.

On this occasion, Muslim extremists destroyed two house churches and five homes belonging to local Christians

(Milis: APIK)

FPI raids, seals church in Bandung

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Hardliners from three Muslim organizations have raided and sealed homes belonging to Christians in Rancaekek, Bandung, they claim were being used as churches. Some 200 to 300 supporters of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), the Islamic People’s Forum (FUI) and the Islamic Reform Movement (Garis), along with local public order officers began the raid at 9 a.m, on Sunday, kompas.com reported.

They sealed seven homes and called on the Christians to hold prayers in official churches.

Local Christians canceled their prayer services due to the incident. Fortunately, no clashes between Christians and Muslims occurred.

Leaders urged to embrace pluralism

[The Jakarta Post 23/07/08] Political and religious leaders must embrace pluralism, which has become part of Indonesian society and protected by the Constitution, a seminar concluded Tuesday.

Harmony and unity in Indonesia will be ruined if leaders fail to adopt pluralist values, implement them in the protection of minorities and uphold the Constitution by protecting human rights, speakers of the one-day seminar said.

The seminar panel included members of various religious and nongovernmental organizations, as well as activists and political leaders.

“We are a pluralist nation. That’s why, from the very beginning, our founding fathers declared Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity) as one of our nation’s pillars. Our constitution clearly guarantees pluralism,” Constitutional Court chief Jimly Asshiddiqie said in the keynote address.

Jakarta Archbishop Julius Darmaatmadja and Indonesian Communion of Churches chairman Andreas Yewangoe said pluralism was a given and must be accepted by all citizens.

“I always tell my congregation to be inclusive instead of exclusive in forging harmony and peace in society,” Julius said at the seminar organized by the International Center for Islam and Pluralism (ICIP), which will celebrate its fifth anniversary this year.

By accepting Pancasila as the state ideology, all religions must embrace pluralist values, Andreas added.

Embracing democracy in Indonesia means upholding the right of anybody — including those from minority groups — to disagree with the majority on any issue, even those related to religion and politics, Jimly added.

“The problem is most leaders don’t really understand the consequences of accepting pluralism. There’s a huge gap between the idea of pluralism and its implementation. Often, pluralist values are sacrificed for political gain,” Jimly said.

He cited as an example of the state’s failure to guarantee pluralism the recent attack by the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) against pro-pluralism activists staging a rally at the National Monument (Monas). The rally was held in support of the Islamic minority sect Ahmadiyah.

Noted lawyer and rights activist Todung Mulya Lubis, another seminar speaker, said the government’s decision to issue a decree banning Ahmadiyah was a constitutional violation.

“Our law enforcement is too weak to punish those violating laws and the Constitution. The ban showed majority rule has prevailed over the rule of law,” he said.

Many activists slammed President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who had said violent groups would not be allowed to hijack the country, because his decree came on the same day thousands of hard-liners gathered in front of the State Palace to demand the ban of Ahmadiyah.

Earlier this year, ICIP and the Swiss Embassy launched a book titled Islam and Universal Values: Islam’s Contribution to the Construction of a Pluralistic World, to push for a more pluralist society in Indonesia.

Commenting on the book during the seminar, Muslim scholar Bachtiar Effendy, of Jakarta Islamic State University, said there was no reason for a confrontation between Islam and pluralism, as they are compatible with one another. (the jakarta post)

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