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Organised persecution of Shiites launched
Publication Date : 21-04-2014
More than 1,000 people attended an anti-Shia declaration on Sunday at the Al Fajr mosque in the West Java capital of Bandung, in what appeared to be the first organised attempt to persecute Shiites in Indonesia.
Supported by a dozen high-profile clerics, the Anti-Shia National Alliance called on the public to fight what they said to be the proliferation of Shia influence, which they deemed a “heresy” in Sunni-majority Indonesia.
The alliance, formed to spearhead Shia persecution nationwide, also called on the public not to support presidential hopeful and Jakarta Governor Joko “Jokowi” Widodo as his party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), had promoted a top Shia figure to become a legislative candidate.
The alliance’s chairman, Athian Ali, declared four points in the organisation’s guidelines, which included approving the use of violence to prevent “heretical” teachings.
“There’s growing public concern about the spread of the Shia [branch of Islam]. It’s our duty to protect society,” said Athian, who has a degree from Al Azhar University in Egypt.
Aside from Athian, other luminaries attending the event included Abdul Hamid Baidlowi, a Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) cleric. His father helped found the NU, the country’s biggest Muslim organisation, known for supporting tolerance and pluralism.
NU cleric Ahmad Cholil Ridwan, a graduate of the Islamic University of Madinah in Saudi Arabia, is also one of the alliance’s staunch supporters.
Cholil said the alliance would fight on the political front in response to the PDI-P’s decision to choose Shia figure Jalaluddin Rakhmat as its top legislative candidate for the West Java area in the April 9 legislative election.
It remains unclear whether Jalaluddin has secured a legislative seat.
“Don’t choose Golput [to abstain] in the coming presidential election. It will pave the way for Jokowi to become the president. If he’s elected, Jalaluddin will be his religious affairs minister. Do you all want that?” said Cholil before the crowd.
A Shia-linked organisation, the Indonesian Ahlul Bait Association (IJABI), has sent letters to the West Java Police, the West Java governor and the commander of the Siliwangi Regional Military Command to protest the alliance’s declaration.
“We do not object to the activity but to the statement of hatred,” IJABI chairman Hesti Rahardja said.
In the past five years, the persecution of Shiites has increased, with the Syrian conflict feared to be exacerbating the violence.
The National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) has announced that at least 70 Indonesians have flown to Syria and joined rebel groups that are attempting to topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a Shiite reportedly backed by Shiite-majority Iran in his attempts to remain in power. The BNPT has voiced its concern that if the Indonesian combatants return home, they will act against Shiites in Indonesia.
Having the world’s largest Muslim population, Indonesia is estimated to be home to at least 3 million Shia followers, with West Java home to one of the highest concentrations of Shiites.
The anti-Shia declaration
1. The alliance is a preaching forum to promote virtues and prevent abominable acts.
2. The alliance will take any necessary measures to maximize the prevention of the proliferation of heretical teachings by Shia followers.
3. The alliance will forge good relations with other preaching organisations.
4. The alliance will demand that the government immediately ban Shia and revoke all licenses for foundations, organisations and institutions owned by Shiites.