Vigilante groups ‘could battle’ Muslim radicals
Posted by Human Rights in Islamic Countries on May 15, 2012
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Tue, 05/15/2012 8:00 AM
Muslim activists are warning that people might form vigilante groups if the government takes no action against the violent campaigns carried out by a number of hard-line organizations.
Wahid Institute pluralism activist Rumadi said members of the public were likely to take the law into their own hands because they believe the police have been protecting hard-line groups .
“It is possible because the police continue to side with the hard-line groups and people know they can’t rely on the police anymore for protection,” Rumadi said on Monday.
After harassing minority groups across the country, some radical groups recently turned their attention to attacking individuals and institutions that promote liberal ideas.
Last week, such groups disrupted book discussions featuring Irshad Manji, a Canadian liberal Muslim activist, both within and outside of the capital.
Muslim scholar Ulil Abshar Abdalla said that the violent actions taken by firebrand groups had raised the ire of some members of the community.
Ulil said that communities could set up a “neighborhood watch” to contain the movement of radical groups.
“It’s not an ideal solution to the problem, but it would probably do for now because we can’t expect much from the police,” he said.
Ulil, member of the Democratic Party’s central board, said that he once suggested that the government disband these hard-line groups.
But the government declined to do so because it lacked the legal grounds to take the action, Ulil said.
On May 4, members of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) broke up Manji’s discussion at the Salihara Cultural Center in Pasar Minggu, South Jakarta.
Five days later, the rector of Yogyakarta’s Gadjah Mada University (UGM) cancelled Manji’s speech, organized by the Center for Religious and Cross-Cultural Studies, citing “security reasons”.
UGM said that it had been under pressure from a number of groups to cancel the talk.
The following day, members of the Indonesian Mujahidin Council (MMI) ransacked the office of the Institute for Islamic and Social Studies (LKiS) in Yogyakarta, where Manji was expected to participate in a discussion.
The mob vandalized the publisher’s office and tore pages out of Manji’s books, which had been displayed for sale.
Manji and her assistant suffered minor injuries in the attack.
Witnesses have said that no police officers were seen during the attack.
Between January 2011 and May 2012, as many as 20 attacks on minority groups were recorded in
Ahmadiyah communities, Shiite groups and Christian congregations were among those targeted.
Irfan Abubakar, the director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Culture, said the government could no longer promote Indonesia as a model for a pluralist society to the rest of the world.
“This has turned into an empty slogan used by the government in international diplomacy,” Irfan said.
His comments came as Siti Ruhaini Dzuhayatin from the Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission (IPHRC) said that Indonesia should protect the rights of minority groups.
The IPHRC oversees human rights issues for the Organization of Islamic Conference’s (OIC) member countries.
She said that member countries should protect minority groups with the same zeal that they have called for protection for Muslim minorities in other countries.
She also said that OIC has the authority over what was considered Islamic and non-Islamic.
“The OIC has never banned the Ahmadiyah and Shiite movements, and this should mean something to Indonesia,” Siti said. (tas)