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Indonesian police in limbo over hate crime against Shiites
Publication Date : 22-04-2014
Indonesia's National Police force is reluctant to act against the alleged hate speech made at an anti-Shia declaration, an event attended by more than 1,000 people in Bandung, West Java.
Police spokesperson Insp. Gen. Ronny F. Sompie said the force required an evaluation from the Religious Affairs Ministry and the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) to determine whether the declaration promoted religious intolerance or not.
“The National Police need support from the MUI and the Religious Affairs Ministry, considering the case is not only about a call to use violence [against Shiites]. The case has a very sensitive background,” he said on Monday.
In the declaration on Sunday, Sunni clerics declared the Shia to be heretical and said they would take any measure to prevent the spread of Shia teachings.
Besides denouncing Shiites, the clerics also called on their attendees not to vote for presidential candidate Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, since his party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) had nominated a Shia leader as a legislative candidate.
Ronny suggested that only the Elections Monitoring Agency (Bawaslu) and the General Elections Commission (KPU) had the authority to evaluate the alleged smear campaign.
“Should the Bawaslu determine that it is an election violation and take the case to the National Police, we will follow it up,” he added.
According to the law, every event involving the public must gain approval, in the form of a permit letter, from the regional police.
West Java Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Martinus Sitompul said the anti-Shia declaration was conducted without a police permit, considering it was a religious event.
“It was a religious event inside a mosque. The police do not need to issue a permit for that,” he said.
The gathering was held at Al-Fajr Mosque in the capital of West Java, a province known to be home to the largest number of Shia followers.
Some of the clerics who spoke out in the declaration have backgrounds in Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the country’s largest Islamic organisation.
NU deputy secretary-general Muhammad Imdadun Rahmat told The Jakarta Post on Monday that NU considered Shiites their Islamic brothers.
“We don’t need an anti-Shia declaration. As brothers in Islam, we should respect each other,” he said, citing ukhuwah Islamiah (Islamic brotherhood) as being able to bridge differences.
Imdadun added that NU had cooperated with Shiite-majority Iran and often invited the Iranian ambassador when the organisation held an event, he said.
However, NU intellectual Siti Musdah Mulia said the declaration showed that intolerance in Indonesian society had grown.
“It also reflects that the government has failed to enforce Pancasila values,” Siti said.
She added that the public’s understanding of the Constitution was still weak, which meant such a declaration could be launched.
“We can also see that the public’s knowledge of Islam is not deep enough. They forget the essential values in Islam, like tolerance,” Siti said.
She urged the government to take action against those who encouraged people to be intolerant, so that future tensions could be prevented.