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Indonesia urged to deal with sectarian assaults

Publication Date : 23-04-2012


Indonesian police are currently investigating violent acts in two separate areas motivated by different views of practicing Islam, the country’s predominant religion, with religious observers blaming the incidents on the lack of dialogue among them.

"The police have yet to ensure who masterminded the assault,” First Inspector Suhartanto, Jember Police officer in charge of detective operations and crime, said on Saturday.

He was referring to Friday’s incident in which hundreds of people attacked Al-Mal Robbaniy Islamic boarding school, or pesantren, at Krajan village, Karangtengah sub-district, Sumbersari district, Jember regency, East Java.

The attack was reported to have been triggered by animosities between two groups of Islamic sects revolving around the difference in their views and practices of Islamic teachings. No fatalities were reported, but a score of the school’s facilities were damaged by rocks that allegedly had been hurled by assailants.

Suhartanto said they had questioned six witnesses comprising the school’s board members and students.

The attack was reported to have taken place when the two groups were holding a mediation about their conflict with the Unified State and People’s Protection Agency.

"The police are currently guarding the pesantren in order to maintain order in Jember in the aftermath of the attack,” Suhartanto said.

The attack on the Al-Mal Robbaniy, established six years ago, left the fence and glass of several windows broken. Twelve students were at the time attending a class session in the school’s hall.

Abdul Gani, one of the students, said he did not know the motive behind the attack, during which the intruders yelled “destroy” and shouted for the students to leave the class.

Ghazali Said, head of the East Java Forum for Religious Harmony, said the conflict that led to the attack was triggered by the difference in religious practices and cultural mind-sets. Among those religious practices that had become sources of animosity, according to him, included tahlilan (a gathering to hold prayers for dead spirits) and tomb visitations.

Mainstream Muslims in East Java adhere to those practices, but a few consider them to be against the Koran and Hadith, two basic guidance texts for Muslims.

"In fact, the two groups have similar beliefs, but differ in culture and the way they practice the teachings,” Ghazali said.

Those in the Al-Mal Robbaniy are reported to be followers of Wahabbism, one of the Islamic sects found in Saudi Arabia.

"A community group follows the practices by those in Saudi Arabia, while the others stick to traditional Islam, which has long been developed in Indonesia,” he said.

He said hostilities could have been avoided if dialogue had been held intensively between the clashing groups.

"Interfaith dialogues have been ineffective because they are not touching the feuding groups,” he said, calling for legal action against the perpetrators of the attack.

The attack on Al-Mal Robbaniy took place on the same day as the attack that took place in Tasikmalaya, West Java, in which dozens of people rampaged on the mosque belonging to Ahmadiyah followers, another minority Islamic sect in the country.

Local police said they had a tape of the incident, during and after the attack on Baiturrahman Mosque at Babakan Sindang hamlet, Cipakat village, Singaparna district on Friday.

"We are still continuing investigations. Documentation on the developments during and after the attack is in our hands,” West Java Police spokesperson Sn. Comr. Martinus Sitompul said via short text message on Saturday.

Governor Ahmad Heryawan urged the police to bring perpetrators to justice. “Hostilities should not be allowed anywhere. That is a crime. I called the police chief to take legal action,” he said.

Ahmadiyah followers have become victims across the country, with some clashes claiming lives. In West Java, Friday’s incident was the second this year with the first in Cianjur on February 17, also with the mosque being the target of the attack.

Rafani Achyar, an official of the West Java Agency for Religious Harmony, called for religious elders to step in to deal with sectarian problem in the province. One of the urgent tasks for religious leaders, he said, was to help interpret the scriptures correctly and accurately.


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