Indonesian Islamic Groups Stipulate When & Where to Pray
Tensions between Christians and Islamic groups continue after Islamic groups in Bandung legitmise their attack on a church and seven Christian homes on two seperate occasions in a week.
These attacks come in the wake of constant reports in the media of similar incidents whereby Islamic groups form gangs and plan attacks on those they deem to be breaking laws or engaging in offensive activities.
The three hardline groups were enforcing housing regulations whereby people may not use a house as a church, however they declined to leave this matter to law enforcement officers in preference to hands on intimidation.
The Jakarta Post reported two incidents in Bandung this week, one where three hardline Islamic groups raided and ‘sealed’ the homes of seven Christian families and another where a church service was stopped and its members scared off.
This news comes just after a suspected terrorist, Abu Tholat, was arrested in Central Java on Friday, as well as four others over the weekend, however, despite these assurances many people feel that the government is not doing enough to stop harassment by Islamic groups.
The Jakarta Globe today reported police as warning against the dangers of Christian groups worshipping in their homes.
In response to the raid of seven Christian homes, Snr. Commissioner Hendro Pandowo insinuated the effects of possible escalations of violence against Christians, and placed the burden of fault upon the minority religion to restrict their freedoms while excusing the actions of angered Islamics.
“The point is the [HKBP’s- Batak Christian Protestant Group] safety. If they use houses for their intended purpose, their lives will be spared,” he said.
He also said, “houses cannot be used for religious purposes because that can cause conflict,” and failed to see the hypocrisy of his statements in a country where millions of Muslims gather in each others houses for religious purposes every day.
Obama’s last visit a few weeks ago he congratulated Indonesians on their tolerance, but this is less and less the predominant ethic if indeed it ever was.
Several Islamic groups continue to take responsibility for enforcing religious divisiveness by harassing, intimidating and physically assaulting members of Christian groups and even other Muslims such as the Ahmadiyyah sect.
Crisis Group International said in a report released in November that Christian attempts at proselytisation is one of the factors driving Islamic groups to greater extremes, among government lack of prosecution and decentralisation of power to local authorities.
The hardline Islamic groups appearing most often in news stories regarding harassment, violence and intimidation are the FPI: Islamic Defenders Front, FUI: Islamic People’s Reform, Islamic Reform Movement.
These groups plan raids and protests on other groups that they believe are violating local bylaws, or ministerial decrees, or are just engaging in activities that are offensive to Muslim beliefs (such as the International Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender conference in Surabaya earlier this year), and carry them out with 200- 300 strong crowds.
Their threatening activities and attempts to implement the law themselves are rarely denounced by police and they do not usually face police opposition when carrying out raids or protests. It is unclear whether Islamic groups such as the FPI seek or need police approval for demonstrations, many of these which are clearly unlawful.
Islamic groups such as the FPI are in favour with police and lawmakers who attend their functions and liase with them regularly. They are respected for their piety and aggressive faith within communities of majority Muslims and thus successfully incite moral panic in order to gain consent for their activities.
Such is the power of these groups, that they are able to seal off people’s homes and instruct groups to disperse and desist in their activities, whether that be group prayer in private homes, carrying out church services or participating in conferences they deem immoral or offensive.
Reuters reported in August this year that, “Such attacks have hurt Indonesia’s reputation for religious tolerance, and could potentially threaten the status of Southeast Asia’s biggest and most-populous economy as an attractive investment destination, in turn derailing growth and development.”
It also reported the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) is, “a hardline group whose members are considered as little more than thugs and racketeers because of their suspected links to the police and use of intimidation and violence.”
Cases involving religious intolerance and outright harassment are steadily becoming the norm in Indonesian media.