Indonesia has long been recognized as a nation ripe for fundamentalist violence, due in part to the actions of several Islamist/Wahhabist groups. In recent months, these organizations have stepped up their violent campaigns against Christians and Westerners, while also increasing the number of attacks against fellow Muslims, actions which threaten Indonesia’s delicate religious and ethnic balance. This column by Amy Chew in the New Straits Online details the rise of jihadist groups in Indonesia (thanks to Nicolei):
ARMED with sticks and stones, hundreds of Indonesian Muslim extremists descended on the Ahmadiyah, a small peaceful Muslim group in Bogor, West Java, in July.
The attackers set fire to the women’s dormitory and knock- ed down a gate fronting the Ahmadiyah complex as its followers looked on helplessly. Some 300 policemen were on guard but failed to prevent the attack.
Shortly after, Emilia Renita, 38, a Shia Muslim in Jakarta started receiving threatening messages on her mobile phone saying: “Shias are deviant. Their blood is halal.”
“I was shocked. I am Muslim and yet I am threatened. What more for those who are non-Muslims?” she said.
The surge in radicalism was partly triggered by 11 decrees issued in July by the official Council of Indonesian Ulamas (MUI) which banned the Ahmadiyah, liberalism, pluralism and secularism as anti-Islam.
More disturbing than the rise of Islamist activity in Indonesia, however, is the inaction on the part of the government:
The authorities have done little to prevent the attacks or take action against the radicals, emboldening them further.
“The Government is afraid,” said former President Abdurrahman Wahid who is also a Muslim ulama.
“Why should the Government be scared of the extremists when in fact they are only a small group,” said Abdurrahman, who is affectionately known as Gus Dur.
He headed the country”s largest Muslim organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama, for 15 years before stepping down in 1999 to assume the presidency. NU claims 40 million followers and is known as the face of moderate Islam.
The Government appears to be hesitant and uncertain about how to deal with the situation, fearing a backlash from the Muslim majority.
The Liberal Islam Network (JIL) says the radicals” newfound boldness reflects the growing conservatism in segments of the Government.
“They (in government) are not liberal. They are liberal and modern in other matters but when it comes to religion, they are conservative,” said Hamid Basyaib, JIL”s co-ordinator.
A must read article.