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Indonesian Government Needs Tough Action on Hard-Liners: Analysts
Nurfika Osman & Ulma Haryanto | August 05, 2010
Indonesia. Without strong sanctions by the state, hardline groups will continue to launch attacks against other religions, political analysts warned on Thursday.
Islamic scholar Azyumardi Azra said groups like the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and Betawi Brotherhood Forum (FBR) have become more powerful because they are not punished by the government.
“Until today, police have failed to take firm action against these groups,” he said.
Azyumardi’s statement came days after violent protesters attacked the mosques of Ahmadiyah (a minority Muslim sect) in Kuningan, West Java.
Weeks prior, several churches in West Java were shut down by local authorities, following protests by hardline groups.
“The law on community organizations does not specifically bar organizations from conducting violent acts. We need to amend the existing law,” Azyumardi said.
“The emergence of these kinds of groups are unintended consequences of democracy,” he added. “We are absolutely failing to enforce our laws.”
Similarly, Syamsuddin Haris, head of the Political Research Center at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), said that the government was being negligent when it failed to keep hardline groups in check.
“This government is trapped by its own negligence. It is failing to allow its own citizens to live in peace,” Syamsuddin said, acknowledging that dissolving hardline groups is not easy since they have the right to organize.
Edwin Partogi, head of the sociopolitics bureau at the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras), said that if the state continues to turn a blind eye to simmering religious tensions, “this will prompt the birth of other such organizations that use threats and intimidations, in return for political favors.”
Such organizations, however, would never have thrived, much less existed, during the autocratic rule of the late former president Suharto, according to former left-leaning activist Syafiq Alielha. Suharto’s administration had the muscle to edge out any radical groups, he said.
“In Suharto’s time, people like [FPI leader] Habib Rizieq were not allowed in Indonesia. People like Habib were scared of the government,” Syafiq said. “The president would not have thought twice of jailing those kinds of people.”
Earlier, Syafi’i Anwar, executive director for the International Center for Islam and Pluralism, had said that the government’s inaction would only worsen the situation.
“The government has not done anything, even the House of Representatives, which is only concerned about its payroll. They leave people, like the Kuningan district head, to manipulate religious issues for the sake of politics,” Syafi’i said.
Kuningan district head Aang Hamid Suganda has been accused of ordering the closure of Ahmadiyah mosques to fulfill campaign promises made during the 2008 election.
He also said the Council of Ulema (MUI) are also accountable for the spread of Muslim radicalism.
“Their fatwas also make people intolerant. They never label violence as haram (forbidden),” he said.