by Andre Vltchek and Rossie Indira
On 13 July 2012 Amnesty International released its report Indonesia: Shiâ€™a leader imprisoned for blasphemy must be released:
The Indonesian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Tajul Muluk, a Shiâ€™a Muslim religious leader from East Java, who was today sentenced to two yearsâ€™ imprisonment for blasphemy by the Sampang District Court. Amnesty International considers Tajul Muluk to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
Tajul Muluk was displaced with over 300 other Shiâ€™a villagers on 29 December 2011, when an anti-Shiâ€™a mob of some 500 people attacked and burned houses, a boarding school and a Shiâ€™a place of worship in Nangkrenang village, Sampang, Madura island. Only one person was charged and sentenced to three monthsâ€™ imprisonment for the attacks.
Afterwards most of the Shiâ€™a displaced by the attack returned to Nangkrenang village. But Tajul Muluk and about 20 other villagers, including his family, were prevented from returning to the village by the attackers, who reportedly threatened to kill them if they returned, and by the police.
On 1 January 2012 a religious decree (fatwa) was issued by the Sampang branch of the Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI) about what they described as Tajul Mulukâ€™s â€œdeviant teachingsâ€, and two days later a police report was filed against him. On 16 March, the East Java regional police charged Tajul Muluk with blasphemy under Article 156(a) of the Indonesian Criminal Code, and with â€œoffensive actionsâ€ under Article 335 of the Code.
New York-based Human Rights Watch joined those who called on the government to drop all the charges against Tajul Muluk.
The Indonesian government, stubbornly and defiantly, did absolutely nothing.
As it has been doing for years, it silently sided with the religious bigots.
A leading Indonesian fiction writer and journalist, Linda Christanty, is one of the few who is willing to speak about the conflict:
â€œThe Wahabbis from Saudi Arabia are very much against the Shiâ€™aâ€¦ One of the reasons is because they revere the Prophet Muhammad. For Wahabbis, it is forbidden to venerate any human being, including Muhammad. KSA actually even wanted to destroy Muhammadâ€™s grave. None of the Arab countries dared to oppose the plan. Turkey was the only country that interfered, and threatened Saudi Arabia with total destruction should they dare to destroy Muhammadâ€™s grave. Thatâ€™s why we can still see Muhammadâ€™s grave, thanks to Turkey.â€
But this is not just about religious differences. It is increasingly clear, that proud and independent-minded Shiâ€™a are opposing Western imperialism in the Middle East, in the Gulf and elsewhere. Predominantly Shiâ€™a Iran is now the arch-enemy of the West, and the ally of progressive Latin America. Saudi and Qatari cadres, and their clients are targeting Shiâ€™a in KSA, Bahrain, and also in Turkey, and it seems now, in Indonesia as well.
In a short interview, Prof. Azyumardi Azra, a director of the Graduate School of State Islamic University in Jakarta, explained:
â€œSince the early 1980s, Saudi Arabia with their Wahabbism, using some Indonesian alumni from Saudi Arabia, has tried to destroy Shiâ€™a teaching, but they havenâ€™t been successful. And not all of these alumni are against Shia. Many of them belong to moderate streams of Muslim scholars here, such as the previous Minister of Religious Affairs, Said Agil Husin Al Munawar.â€
It is true about the previous Minister, but what he did not say, is that the present Minister of Religious Affairs, Suryadharma Ali throws pearls that could hardly be matched by his counterparts in other countries: â€œConverting Shiite Muslims to the Sunni Islam followed by most Indonesians would be the best way to prevent violent outbreaksâ€¦â€
More brutal is the rule of the majority in Indonesia; more difficult it is to find people willing and ready to speak up about injustice. Mr. Sangaji from Jakarta is one of the few Shiites willing to go on record:
â€œThere were many attacks on the Shiâ€™a community, in the last few years here in Indonesia. It is so unfortunate that our Sunni brothers and sisters have little knowledge about Shiâ€™a. But whenever we open the door for dialogue, they shut it in our face and refuse to come in. Our Shiâ€™a intellectuals are always ready for a peaceful dialogueâ€¦ Of course I feel discriminated againstâ€¦ â€œ
â€œIs there any influence from abroad? It is not really allowed to discuss this issue openly, but one should always be on alert, as there is always such a possibility. Our country is in a deep crisis, economically and politically; reforms have failed. Indonesians are now so easily influenced.â€
Before leaving Madura, driving towards the new bridge, we see the same scenes as in most of the poor parts of the country. Destitution and misery next to tremendous new mosques, some still under the construction, made of marble and granite. Who pays for them? Who needs all that marble when the children run barefoot?
At Surabaya airport we spotted two jumbo-jets; two Boeing 747-400 belonging to Saudi Airlines â€“ one arriving and one leaving â€“ taking pilgrims to Haj. What else comes and what else leaves with these airplanes? For years, almost everything in Indonesia is for sale. Since 1965, the lives of victims ceased to matter; the lives of the weak and of the minorities became worthless.
Last year I visited the enormous Syekh Muhammad Kholil Mosque, in the city of Bangkalan, on Madura Island â€“ built like some lavish palace in the Gulf. I found the caretaker â€“ Mohammad Hasan â€“ and asked him what he thought about then recent events in West and Central Java, where members of the Ahmadiyah sect were lynched to death, and churches burned. Without hesitation, he replied, straight to my face:
â€œAhmadiyah members should be killed. It is about faith. In Indonesia, we donâ€™t want Ahmadiyah because it deviates from the teaching of thesharia. They deserved to be killed because they are destroying the true faith of the people. When it comes to burning churches, I am against it. We are a peaceful religion.â€
I felt like bowing in front of such humanism, â€˜toleranceâ€™ and â€˜moderationâ€™.
And I felt like sending a letter to the State Department saying: â€œCongratulations! You did to Indonesia what you could have never done to Vietnam, you and your bearded clients in the Gulf. It is not just that the country is being plundered, miserable and corrupt, and its environment ruined. But you have also destroyed their entire civilization, and now the people of this once great Asian culture â€“ once really tolerant and deep â€“ are listening to your pop, stuffing themselves on your fast food, driving your cars, and murder each other over religion and ethnicity. Congratulations, really! Another nation down the drain! And who is next?â€
*Photos by Andre Vltchek
Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific â€“ Oceania â€“ is published by Lulu . His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and market-fundamentalist model is called â€œIndonesia â€“ The Archipelago of Fearâ€ (Pluto). After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website.
Rossie Indira is an independent writer, architect and consultant. Her latest book â€˜Surat Dari Bude Ocieâ€™ is about her travel to Latin American countries. With Andre Vltchek, she co-written â€˜Exileâ€™, a book of conversation with Pramoedya Ananta Toer. She was production manager and translator of 89-minute documentary film â€˜Terlena â€“ Breaking of a Nationâ€™. Rossie lives in Indonesia.
Source: Counter Punch
by Andre Vltchek and Rossie Indira