Indonesians decry attack, call for acceptance of Shia minority

Indonesians decry attack, call for acceptance of Shia minority

People attend a candlelight vigil at Proclamation Monument in central Jakarta on Tuesday night (August 28th) to pray and show support for Shia Muslims in Sampang, Madura after local Sunni Muslims attacked the community, killing two men and burning dozens of homes. Hundreds attended the Malam Seribu Lilin (Night of a Thousand Candles). [Elisabeth Oktofani/Khabar].

Top figures urge the government to eliminate the misperception that Shia is not a legitimate branch of Islam.

Indonesians are condemning the latest attack on a Shia Muslim community in Sampang, Madura, and urging the government to state publicly that Shia is not a perversion of Islam.

Local Sunni Muslims attacked Karang Gayam village on the island Sunday (August 26th), killing two men and torching dozens of homes, causing hundreds to flee. The same Shia community was attacked in December 2011.

Commenting on the events, Minister of Religious Affairs Suryadharma Ali said that violence in the name of religion cannot be justified, and urged dialogue to resolve issues in the community.

“Religion teaches peace and does not teach violence. The different opinions of religion have always been there, including about Shia and Sunni. However, it does not mean that we can use it as a reason to conduct any violence against others,” he told Khabar Southeast Asia.

“Therefore, if there is a different opinion about some issue, it should be solved with constructive dialogue.”

Marzuki Alie, Speaker of the House of Representatives (DPR), called on the government and the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) to actively educate society about the Shia sect of Islam.

“It is clear to see that there is a misunderstanding in society [in claiming] that Shia is a perverted religion. The lack of understanding has caused misperceptions and triggered anarchy in the community,” he said.

“Therefore, it is very important that the Ministry of Religious Affairs and MUI explain to society the position of Shia in Islam, to eliminate threats to civil order,” Marzuki added.

OIC, Nahdlatul Ulama view Shia as legitimate

A top figure in the human rights community urged the government to disseminate “to all levels of government institutions throughout the nation” the stance of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC), which considers Shia a legitimate form of Islam.

“There is no reason to say that Shia is a perverted religion because the OIC considers Shia and Sunni to be the same,” said Choirul Anam, executive director of Human Rights Working Group (HRWG), a coalition of non-governmental organisations working in the field of human rights.

Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), a traditionalist Sunni group that is the largest Muslim organisation in Indonesia, also does not dispute the legitimacy of Shia as a branch of Islam – even though some of its members, particularly in East Java, appear to hold sectarian views not sanctioned by the organisation.

Sunni and Shia Muslims have the same God (Allah), the same prophet (Muhammad), and the same holy book (the Qur’an), NU deputy secretary general Imdadun Rahmat told Khabar.

“Even though Shias differ on who was to take over the leadership of the Muslim community after the Prophet died, we still consider Shia to be a part of Islam and we do not dismiss Shia,” he said.

Nusron Wahid, chairman of the youth movement of NU (Gerakan Pemuda Ansor/GP Ansor), told Khabar that GP Anshor condemns the attack in Sampang and is willing to raise funds to help the Shia community rebuild their houses.

“For the sake of human rights, we will help them to rebuild their houses. We are not going to see whether they are Shia or Sunni when we are helping them,” he went on.

“I would say that it is not our right to judge them whether they are right or wrong. Only Allah can judge their beliefs as Shia followers,” he added.

Assault suspects face grave charges

Police have arrested and investigated eight suspects allegedly involved in Sunday’s assault. The suspects are facing five charges including murder, assault, group assault, vandalism and participation in a crime.

“The mastermind of the attack, whose first initial is R, has also been arrested. There are still three more suspects at large. God willing, we will arrest them soon,” National Police Chief General Timor Pradopo told reporters on Monday.

Police also seized hundreds of sharp-edged weapons including sickles, machetes, and swords from the location of the attack.

Meanwhile, during a speech commemorating the 67th anniversary of Indonesia’s independence on August 17th, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono again stressed the importance of pluralism and tolerance in a nation as diverse as Indonesia.

“Our state should be the window of tolerance and harmony. It should not be the window of community conflict or horizontal violence,” he said

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