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Indonesia's minority Shia Muslim group wants a dialogue, not sermon

Publication Date : 07-09-2012


A Shia organisation says it will accept an invitation to a transparent and neutral dialogue to resolve existing problems with majority Sunni Muslims in Indonesia.

"We have always been open to dialogue. I, for example, recently returned from a dialogue in Makassar," Jalaluddin Rahmat, the chairman of the consultative council of the Indonesian Ahlul Bait Association (Ijabi) told The Jakarta Post yesterday.

Rahmat, however, was critical of the government's point man on religious issues. "We can't trust Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali or his ministry because Ali has declared us to be heretics."

Nor, Rahmat added, could the police be trusted as they have consistently backed Sunni Muslims.

"If the minister sincerely plans to facilitate a dialogue in Sampang, he must also invite academics, neutral religious figures and the media so that the process will be transparent and impartial," Rahmat said.

He was responding to Ali's proposal for a dialogue in Sampang, East Java, to resolve the Sunni attacks on minority Shiites.

On Wednesday, Ali said that the ministry planned to hold the dialogue as "many things can happen after a dialogue, as in, for example, the experience where the Ahmadis [in Bogor] converted to the true Islam".

Rahmat, however, had a negative assessment of Ali's proposal.

"He [Ali] was suggesting a monologue instead of a dialogue, because he already had an agenda to convert people through the dialogue," Rahmat said.

Rahmat was also critical of Ali's view of the dialogue with the minority Ahmadhi sect in Bogor.

"We must be free of pressure to concur with any agreement achieved through a dialogue. I think that the Ahmadis that Ali referred to were under threat and forced to leave their faith," he added.

He asked the local administration in Sampang to lift its ban on the Ijabi and allow its members to enter the area to help the Shiites who have been living in a local stadium after their homes were destroyed by rampaging Sunni Muslims.

Echoing Rahmat statements, academic Zainal Abidin Bagir said that a dialogue required a two-way interaction and not the one-way interaction suggested by Ali.

"The minister is right that dialogue is the best solution to what has been going in Sampang. It is the best solution to all conflicts," Bagir, the chairman of the Centre for Religious and Cross-Cultural Studies at Yogyakarta-based Gadjah Mada University, said.

However, Bagir said, it was unclear if Ali was suggesting a dialogue or a sermon, as he already recommended that the Shiites convert to Sunni Islam.

"Attempting to convert people is the outcome of a sermon, not a dialogue. Converting people is not the job of the minister. A dialogue will work if the participants, as well as facilitators, can get some distance from their faiths and are willing to accept each others' differences," Bagir said.

Meanwhile, Joan Elga Sarapung of the Yogyakarta-based interfaith organisation DIAN/Interfidei, said that Ali and other government officials had to be impartial in reconciling religious conflicts across the nation.

"Government officials, including Ali, have failed to uphold justice when dealing with religious conflicts because they are biased," Sarapung said.

"They must know that they must serve all faith groups equally despite of their personal beliefs when running the country," she added.


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