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Indonesia

Islamist Hardliners attack Jakarta Peace Rally

An eyewitness account

Monday 2 June 2008, by Laksmi Pamuntjak

From Indonesian author Laksmi Pamuntjak

Yesterday afternoon my partner Goenawan and I were in the National Monument (Monas) area in Central Jakarta to commemorate the 63rd year
of Pancasila state ideology (and its spirit of pluralism and diversity). We were part of the National Alliance for the Freedom of Faith and Religion (AKKBB) which comprises 70 institutions of different faiths.

Suddenly, members of our alliance who had already congregated below the National Monument, getting ready for our peace parade scheduled at 2 pm, were ambushed by members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) wielding sharp bamboo sticks. At least 34 alliance members including women and children and our close friends were chased and beaten, some sustaining severe injuries.

We are okay-we had stopped briefly at the National Gallery nearby to use their toilets-and so escaped, by ten minutes, the worst of the attacks. But our thoughts and prayers are with the wounded, some of whom are still in hospital.

But we are deeply saddened and angered by this heinous crime, committed by a group bent on imposing a fascist interpretation on Islam through the use of violence upon our vast diversity and ignoring the principles of pluralism and tolerance upon which our nation was founded. Actually, the peace rally yesterday by the National Alliance for the Freedom of Faith and Religion (AKKBB) that comprises some 70 institutions of different faiths (including Indonesia’s two Muslim organizations Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah and Christian communities) was not to defend the Ahmadiyah sect (as was alleged by the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) but to reiterate a point begun in
2006, during the height of opposition to the proposed anti-pornography bill (drafted and fought for also by Islamic hardliners), ie.
1) to reclaim space, through the state ideology Pancasila, for a renewed sense of nationhood and diversity vis a vis faith-based
sectarianism, 2) to appeal to, reeducate and refresh public memory of the strength and beauty of difference; 3) to turn on their heads
deeply entrenched nation-building rhetoric such as the state ideology Pancasila and the Unity in Diversity slogan of Bhineka Tunggal Ika long used by the New Order regime under Suharto to repress civil society, by bringing them back to their pluralistic essence.

This latest assault on pluralism, as with earlier FPI attacks on human freedom and civil rights-which has seen countless pubs and restaurants destroyed or closed down or banned from serving alcohol during the Islamic Fasting Month, art exhibitions attacked for displaying works of pornographic content, and the Ahmadiyah sect as well as others living under threat-is inhuman and unacceptable. It is un-Islamic, unconstitutional and anti-Indonesia. FPI has to be disbanded.

What saddens us more is the fact that no one was arrested in the incident even though there were 1,200 police officers at the scene
when the clash occurred. One of the alliance’s cars was burned by FPI, while police officers who were barely 5 meters away, just looked on! I am flummoxed that these thugs have been roaming freely for years with alarming impunity without the police clamping down on them. The fact that the state and its security apparatus are intimidated by these Islamic hardliners of course plays a crucial role in perpetuating the situation. Indeed, there is no more a state vs civil society dicothomy as per the Suharto years. In its place, we have groups bent on imposing a single value, a fascist interpretation of Islam through the use of violence, upon this vast diversity that is Indonesia while the state is relegated to the sidelines, often as a mute spectator rather than an actor, let alone one with authority to put a stop on this criminal act. Furthermore, the statement by the Chief of Police of Central Jakarta yesterday, claiming that the alliance had been warned of a possible attack but did not pay heed, is so typical. It’s like saying, to quote a Singaporean activist friend, "You deserve to be raped because you are in a place where you can be raped." In a somewhat belated corrective P.R. attempt, Jakarta Chief of Police Sr. Commr. Budi Winarko told reporters he would arrest perpetrators beginning today (Monday, 2/6/08). However, in the same breath, he said that arresting them at the scene would only "worsen the situation." One wonders what
the police as an institution is there for in the first place if it cannot protect citizens from arbitrary, unlawful violence.

Today we just received word from the presidential spokesperson that the President has instructed the Chief of Police of the Republic of Indonesia to take legal action against FPI. We know more than to be hopeful but let’s see what will happen in the next few days.
In the meantime, I join others in hoping that the natural resources we have that make pluralism a foregone conclusion in our country-our own vast diversity that cobbles together 17,000 islands, some 450 languages and different faiths as guaranteed by Pancasila-as well as
our hard-earned freedom of expression following the collapse of the Suharto regime, will withstand this increased Talibanism. The
government will also have to toughen up, or else its authority will be destroyed, the hardliners will be emboldened, more innocent lives will be risked, and we can say goodbye to religious freedom.

Below is a more comprehensive report, taken from Koran Tempo and The Jakarta Post. To see some of the photos I’ve taken please click on:
- http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=27744&l=f3d1e&id=533987122 and here’s another useful link including photos, videos, news reports and news links:
- http://aksidamai.blogspot.com/

On 1 June 2008, the National Day of Pancasila State Ideology, National Alliance for the Freedom of Faith and Religion (AKKBB) activists
preparing for a peace parade celebrating pluralism and diversity in the National Monument (Monas) area were confronted and beaten by
Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) members wielding sharp bamboo sticks. At least 34 people from an alliance that comprises 70 institutions
including Nadhlatul Ulama, the largest Muslim association in Indonesia, The Church Community, the Cirebon Islamic Boarding School community, the Liberal Islam Network and the much-maligned Ahmadiyah sect (the last FPI’s alleged target) were injured, including women and children.

Among the injured are the Director of the International Conference for Islamic Peace Syafii Anwar, Wahid Institute director Achmad Suaedi, leader of the Cirebon-based As-Zaman Islamic boarding school Kiai Maman Imanulhaq and one of our dear friends, Utan Kayu curator and Jurnal Perempuan activist Mohamad Guntur Romli, who underwent surgery last night. Guntur ’s cheekbone and nose were fractured by repeated blows from FPI members wielding sticks.

No one was arrested in the incident even though there were 1,200 police officers at the scene when the clash occured. In a somewhat
belated attempt by the police to take some responsibility for this incident, Jakarta Police Chief Sr. Comr. Budi Winarko said he would
arrest perpetrators starting Monday. Earlier yesterday, the Chief of Central Jakarta police claimed that the alliance had been warned of a possible confrontation but did not pay heed. Meanwhile FPI spokesman Munarman told reporters that the incident was a reaction to AKKBB’s "offensive" statement in several newspapers last Tuesday, saying it endorsed pluralism and urged everybody not to be intimidated by people who threatened practitioners of different beliefs, as in the case of the Ahmadiyah sect, whose thousands of followers all around the country have lived under threat after the sect was declared blasphemous by several hard-line groups. The attack was quickly condemned by human rights activists, politicians and Muslim organisations Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah.

See other related news articles gathered by the siawi collective

Hard-liners ambush Monas rally

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta [2 June 2008]

Members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) attacked activists at the National Monument (Monas) in Central Jakarta on Sunday afternoon, leaving 34 injured.

National Alliance for the Freedom of Faith and Religion (AKKBB) activists had entered the Monas area to commemorate the 63rd year of Pancasila state ideology, when they were confronted and beaten by FPI members, Adj. Sr. Comr. Suharna of the Jakarta Police told The Jakarta Post.

"We had warned the alliance about a possible clash with Islamic groups who would be staging a protest against the fuel price increases at the same time, but they insisted on going anyway," he said.

The AKKBB earlier announced the event to the public through newspapers, saying they endorsed pluralism and urged everybody not to be intimidated by people who threatened practitioners of different beliefs, as in the case of the Ahmadiyah Islamic sect.

Thousands of Ahmadiyah followers in the country have lived under threat after the sect was declared blasphemous by several hard-line groups.

"We were warned by the police that the Hizbut Tahrir Islamic group would also be holding a protest here but we did not know that FPI members would be among them," AKKBB event coordinator Nong Darol said.

She said that after being warned, the alliance decided to hold the event for only an hour at Monas and then march on to the Hotel Indonesian traffic circle.

"We were shocked when FPI members chased and beat us with bamboo sticks, mostly those who were already inside Monas. We ran away but they had already hurt many people," she said.

When contacted, Nong was accompanying Mohammad Guntur Romli to surgery at Army Central Hospital in Central Jakarta. Guntur’s cheek bone was fractured by blows from FPI members wielding sticks.

FPI spokesman Munarman told radio reporters the incident was in reaction to the alliance’s offensive statement in several newspapers last Tuesday.

Abdurrohman Djailani of the FPI said the group would be available for a press conference at its headquarters in Petamburan, West Jakarta, on Monday.

No one was arrested in the incident. Jakarta Police chief Sr. Comr. Budi Winarko told reporters he would arrest perpetrators beginning Monday.

"Arresting them at the scene would have worsened the situation as it could have triggered bigger riots. We have already gotten video tape evidence from reporters and will arrest them in the following days," he said.

He said 1,200 police officers were at the scene when the clash occurred.

The attack was quickly condemned by human rights activists, politicians and Muslim organizations Muhammadiyah and Nahdatul Ulama (NU).

"The NU opposes any violence for any reason. There is no religious justification that tolerates violent actions. I urge the government to immediately take proper measures against the perpetrators. If the state ignores this case, its authority will be destroyed and more anarchy will emerge," Masdar Farid Masudi of the NU said.

Din Syamsudin, chairman of the country’s second-largest Muslim organization Muhammadiyah, voiced similar concerns.

"This action is not in line with Islamic teachings and will tarnish Islam’s image. It is a crime that must be prosecuted. I hope everyone can control him or herself and avoid violence and anarchism," he said.

The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) also condemned the attack, saying it urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to turn his attention to the incident and asking the police to arrest FPI members involved in the violence. (ind/alf)

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International Herald Tribune

Islamic hard-liners in Indonesian capital break up rally promoting religious tolerance
The Associated Press
- Published: June 1, 2008

JAKARTA, Indonesia: Islamic hard-liners broke up a religious tolerance rally Sunday in Indonesia, beating demonstrators with bamboo sticks and calling for the deaths of members of a Muslim sect they consider heretical, witnesses said.

About 200 Christians, moderate Muslims and members of Ahmadiyah — an Islamic group the government is considering banning — gathered at the National Monument in the nation’s capital of Jakarta to celebrate the country’s tradition of pluralism, said Gunawan Mohamad, a prominent magazine publisher who took part in the rally.

At least 12 people were injured after members of the Islamic Defenders Front rushed the square waving flags and swinging sticks, organizer Anick Tohari said.

"Repent or die," shouted men dressed in green and white Islamic outfits as they punched and kicked bleeding protesters, video footage showed.

Children and elderly women demonstrators were caught up in the clash.

Police chief Col. Heru Winarko said the rally participants deviated from a a route arranged earlier, making it impossible for authorities to prevent the attack.

Ahmadiyah, considered heretical by fundamentalists, has been targeted since a government commission recommended in April that it be outlawed.

Its followers have been persecuted for decades after religious edicts were issued by leading Muslim organizations. Many mainstream Muslims dislike the 80-year-old Ahmadiyah, which is banned in conservative Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia, because it does not consider Muhammad to be the final prophet.

"Ahmadiyah has been declared as heretical, so holding a rally can be considered as a crime," said Munarman, a spokesman for the alliance of militants. Like many Indonesians, he goes by a single name. "They are asking for it. We will not stop until they are completely disbanded."

Indonesia is a secular country with a history of religious tolerance. But in recent years an extremist fringe has grown louder. The government, which relies on the support of Islamic parties in Parliament, has been accused of caving in to that support.
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Radical, moderate Muslims clash in Indonesia

http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/
Updated June 2, 2008 13:55:14

Hundreds of members of a radical Islamic group armed with batons have clashed with moderate Muslims rallying for religious tolerance in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.

About 100 members of the National Alliance for Religious and Faith Freedom gathered in central Jakarta to rally against a possible government ban on the minority Ahmadiyah sect, deemed deviant by religious authorities.

About 500 members of the hardline Front for the Defenders of Islam infiltrated the protest, attacking demonstrators with batons until about 50 policemen intervened.

The Ahmadiyah group, which has around 200,000 followers in Indonesia and has been in the country since the 1920s, believes Mohammad was not the final prophet, contradicting a central tenet of Islam.

The country’s highest authority on Islam, the Indonesian Council of Ulema, has said the movement is deviant, and a Suharto-era state board overseeing religion in April recommended a government ban.