“There’s still a tendency to see these things in Sunni-Shia terms. But the Middle East is going to have to overcome that.” – Condoleezza Rice, January 2007.
Yes, somehow, there’s still a tendency to see the Sunni-Shi’ite conflict as a conflict between Sunnis and Shi’ites. We have seen outbreaks of persecution of Shi’ites in Pakistan, and this case only further drives home the point that while the conflict originated in the Middle East, it is a religious conflict that transcends geography. Hence the difficulty over the past millennium or so in “overcoming that.”
Perhaps they could call it progress if both parties just accused each other of Islamophobia, put out some petulant press releases, and sued one another. “East Java: a growing tension between Sunni and Shiite, fears of a conflict,” by Mathias Hariyadi for Asia News, January 19:
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – In the province of East Java there is a growing tension between the majority Sunni and minority Shiite Muslims. Human rights and interfaith dialogue activists have launched appeals for calm and call the police to ensure safety. However, a local fringe of the Nadhlatul Ulama (NU) – the most important moderate Muslim movement in Indonesia — is also invoking the intervention of the police to arrest the leader of the Shiite communities on the island of Madura. They claim he must be “kicked out” from the area, because he foments sectarian divisions and promotes a distorted view of Islam.
Since January 17 tension between Sunnis and Shiites in the island of Madura has been growing, which could lead to a “conflict” open. The Nu leader of the province of East Java (Pwnu Jatim) Kiai Hajj Mutawakil Alallah appeals to the police to “arrest” Kiai Hajj Tajul muluk, religious leader of the Shiite community in Nangkernang, in the sub-district Ombeg, Sampang regency, Madura. Police, they say, should not only target those who continue — since the end of 2011 – to attack the Shiite community of Madura, but also those who promote interfaith discord and, in particular, Tajul muluk whose teaching is “illegal” as defined by the same Nu and members of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI).
Meanwhile, several groups committed to defending human rights activists and interfaith dialogue, unlike the Sunni leader Kiai Hajj Mutawakil Alallah, ask the police to protect the security of Shiite leader Tajul muluk and restore peace within the Islamic community. Aan Anshori, Nu a young scholar of East Java, does not hide their concerns.
Indonesia, he explains to AsiaNews, shows more flaws in the protection of religious freedom and the province of East Java is revealed as the “most violent” territories of the archipelago, as evidenced by the wave of violence against the Ahmadis. He concludes: since the death of former president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid, the “spirit of tolerance is in steep decline.”