News / Asia

Indonesian Muslims Protest Plans to Burn Koran on September 11

A group of Indonesian demonstrators belonging to the Hizbut Tahrir, an Islamist organization, rally outside the US embassy in Jakarta on 4 Sept 2010.
A group of Indonesian demonstrators belonging to the Hizbut Tahrir, an Islamist organization, rally outside the US embassy in Jakarta on 4 Sept 2010.

Thousands of mostly Muslim protesters rallied around Indonesia Saturday in opposition to an American church's plan to burn copies of the Koran on September 11.

During the weekend rallies in Indonesia, cities protested an event planned by a small Florida church to mark the ninth anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks in the United States.

Religious leaders of all denominations have condemned the plan by the Dove World Outreach center in Gainesville, Florida, whose pastor, Terry Jones, has written a book called Islam is of the Devil.  The phrase also appears on t-shirts and a Facebook page promoting the event at the church estimated to have about 50 members.

The chairman of the Islamic group Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia that planned the protests, Rokhmat Labib, says the plan to burn the Islamic holy book is a provocation.

He says if the event happens Muslims will certainly fight back, and he cannot predict what form the retaliation will take.

Relations between Christians and Muslims are generally peaceful in secular Indonesia.  But in recent months hardline groups have staged attacks against churches, stirring concerns of escalating conflict that would damage relations between Christians and Muslims in the world's most populous Muslim nation.

The Pluralism Care Movement, a group comprising interfaith organizations and representatives from moderate Christian and Muslim centers, has called for the U.S. government to prevent the burning.  It says the reaction from Indonesia should be one that shows the country's tolerance for religious differences.

Labib sees it differently.  He says Muslims must not stay silent when their faith is threatened.

He says Hizbut Tahrir does not accept the argument that the reason for burning the Koran is because it is the source of Islamist violence.

Labib says Muslims do not have any problem with Christians as long as they do not spread their beliefs in Muslim areas.  And since Muslims are not forcing their beliefs on Christians, he says there is no reason why they should feel threatened.

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