News / Asia

    Rising Religious Violence in Indonesia Gaining National Attention

    A police officer inspects the damage at the house of a member of Ahmadiyah sect after it was attacked by Muslim mob in Pandeglang, Banten province, Indonesia, February 7, 2011
    A police officer inspects the damage at the house of a member of Ahmadiyah sect after it was attacked by Muslim mob in Pandeglang, Banten province, Indonesia, February 7, 2011

    Multimedia

    In Indonesia religious violence has been on the rise for the past few years but the recent brutal attack on the Ahmadiyah sect has focused national attention on the problem.

    President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has called for disbanding any Muslim groups involved in violence.

    One video shows more than 1,000 Muslim men attacking 20 Ahmadiyah followers in western Java. Human rights organizations distributed the video, which shows brutal scenes of a mob throwing rocks, setting fires to cars, and chasing down and beating people to death. Parts of the video were too graphic for TV news organizations to air.

    There have been a rising number of attacks on religious minorities in the past few years. The Setara Institute, a nongovernmental group that monitors religious freedom, says violent incidents against Ahmadiyah have gone from three in 2006 to 50 in 2010.



    Human rights organizations have called upon the government to do more to protect minority rights in Indonesia, a country of more than 200 million Muslims. While Indonesia’s secular government allows other religions, Christian groups they say are often restricted by regulations that make it impossible build new churches and freely worship.

    Many Muslims here consider followers of the Ahmadiyah sect to be heretics, because they do not believe Muhammad was the last prophet. Human Rights Watch Indonesia researcher Andreas Harsono says for many, this label and a 2008 government ban preventing Ahmadiyah from trying to attract new members legitimize attacks against the group.

    "Once you discriminate [against] a minority, you will open the gate, the toll gate, the gate for violence against this minority and it has been proven,” he said. “There are hundreds of attacks against Ahmadiyah over the years."

    Fundamentalist Muslim organizations have been accused of organizing the violence against religious minorities here. Murhali Barda, the Islamic Defenders Front leader in Bekasi was at the center of the 2010 anti-Christian protests. He says while he supports diversity, his group will not tolerate other groups trying to convert Muslims or insulting their religion.

    He says when it comes to core principals like the prophet or Allah, for instance, insulting Allah, in the name of Allah they will raise their weapons.

    Murhali was later arrested for alleged involvement in the Bekasi violence.

    After the video showing the attack on the Ahmadiyah, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said groups involved in planning violence will be disbanded.

    Sunny Tanuwidjaja is a political analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta. He says the rise of religious violence threatens the country's democratic foundation.

    "If you allow this to flourish, in the long run it will become a security threat whether you like it or not,” he stated. “And a political threat and destabilize the region."

    He compares the threat to terrorism. Indonesia continues to take strong action to dismantle Islamic terrorist groups. Police have arrested or killed hundreds of suspected terrorists. Abu Bakar Bashir, a radical cleric who was alleged to be involved in deadly 2002 bombings in Bali, is currently on trial for the third time.

    In contrast the video of the attack on Ahmadiyah members shows police either unable or unwilling to stop the violence.

    Tanuwidjaja says the president has in the past been reluctant to act because he needs the support of Islamic organizations sympathetic to fundamentalist groups.

    "The government has to act,” he said. “The question is does the government have the will and have the political interest to act on this."

    To curb religious violence in Indonesia and to sustain the country’s democratic development, Tanuwidjaja says, the government needs to support the rule of law over mob rule.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora