Monday, September 20, 2010

Indonesian Islamists Fear ‘Christianization’


With the GZ Mosque issue ~ rights and freedoms around Christian/ non-Muslim worship in the Islamic world become highlighted.

Indonesia, the country with the world’s largest Muslim population, is engaged in a debate about religious tolerance that might seem familiar to Americans.

Last week, one day after Americans opposed to the construction of an Muslim center in Lower Manhattan pledged to “Stop the Islamization of America,” a group of Islamists rallied in Bekasi, outside the Indonesian capital, to fight the “Christianization” of Indonesia, by blocking the planned construction of a church.

Two leaders of the small congregation of Indonesia Christians in Bekasi were seriously wounded when the rally against their planned church by vigilantes from the Islamic Defenders’ Front, or F.P.I., turned violent. Murhali Barda, who leads Bekasi’s chapter of the Islamist vigilante group, was arrested on suspicion of leading the attacks on a church elder, who was stabbed in the stomach, and a female priest, who was hit in the head with a plank.

In June, the Bekasi F.P.I. leader told The Jakarta Globe, “All Muslims should unite and be on guard because … the Christians are up to something.” He also suggested that it might be necessary for mosques to establish militias and be prepared to fight a “war” to prevent “Christianization.”

As Al Jazeera explained in a video report last week, the small Christian group said that it had obtained all the necessary signatures from local residents who agreed to allow them to build their church, but then the Islamist vigilantes pressed people to withdraw their approval.

F.P.I. vigilantes have attacked a wide range of targets in the past, throwing rocks at members of minority Muslim sects, beating gay people, destroying bars and vowing to track down the editor of Indonesia’s short-lived version of Playboy magazine, Erwin Arnada, who is now in hiding.

As Reuters explained in June when the vigilantes attacked a group of Indonesian legislators, the F.P.I. “attracts limited support in moderate, majority Muslim Indonesia, but fear of being seen as defending vice means politicians and police often turn a blind eye to their attacks on targets, such as transvestites, which are deemed un-Islamic.”

Indonesians who want to ban the group have launched a Facebook campaign to do so. Others have taken to mocking the vigilantes through posts to a fake Twitter account set up in the group’s name.

The same month, Yenny Wahid, of Jakarta’s Wahid Institute — which “is committed to the exchange and dissemination of progressive Muslim thought to promote tolerance and understanding” — told The Jakarta Globe, “Anarchism on behalf of religion is increasing, and the government seems to fear any group that uses Islam.” She added, “We do not want to be like Afghanistan under the Taliban.”

This week, members of the Bekasi Christian congregation refused to hold their Sunday services at a remote location local officials suggested they move to — citing their right to freedom of worship under Indonesia’s Constitution. As The Associated Press reported, they prayed inside a boarded-up church building watched by police officers and security guards.

New York Times

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