Friday, August 22, 2008

Indonesia, "Allah Akbar," and Muslim Tolerance

I still hope that Islam really is a "peaceful religion," and that a region in which Muslims are a majority can tolerate people who don't measure up to whatever Islamic standards the local imams say are 'true Islam.'

What's happening in Indonesia isn't helping me maintain that assumption.

For 20 years, students the Arastamar Evangelical School of Theology in Jakarta have been praying and singing hymns. What news services call 'hard line' Muslims, naturally, don't approve. They feel that it's proselytizing. They say.

So, the Muslims used bamboo spears and Molotov cocktails to drive the Christians out.

Indonesia's reputation for tolerance isn't entirely gone. The Christians were allowed to live, and even permitted to move into a small office building on the other side of the Indonesian capital.

Those Thieving, Singing, Burglarizing Christians

Well, singing, anyway.

From one point of view, the Christians must be at fault. After an attack on the Christians on June 26, 2008, east Jakarta district chief, Murdani, blamed the Christians for the raid, saying that both "warring" parties should stay calm.

Besides, there was a rumor that one of those Christian students stole a motorcycle from a neighboring village.

A July 25, 2008, attack began when stones fell on the school's dormitory roof. At the same time a voice on a nearby mosque's loudspeaker cried "Allah Akbar." "God is great" in Arabic.) It's hard to shake the notion that the Allah Akbar/incoming rocks was more than mere coincidence.

This time, the rumor was that a Christian student had broken into a residence. Police dismissed the accusation, but the Akbar bunch didn't.

Making Nice with Radical Islam, and Leaning on Property Owners

There's a possibility that recent attacks on the school were more about economics than religion. Someone made the school an offer to move out, and the school refused.

It's not hard for me to see the attacks as an 'offer they couldn't refuse.' Particularly since the school can be torn down now.

A few years ago, locals had burned construction shelters, when the school tried to build on new land. More land for the school meant less land for the Muslims, so naturally someone torched the construction equipment. Makes sense, in a lawless sort of way.

There doesn't seem to have been much done about whoever forced the school out. Arastamar Evangelical School of Theology's chairman, the Rev. Matheus Mangentang, said, "Why should we be forced from our house while our attackers can walk freely?"

Part of the answer may be that there's an election coming up. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's government doesn't want to seem anti-Islamic, by treating attacks on Christians and other minorities as crimes.

A Jesuit priest, Prof. Franz Magnis-Suseno, has lived in Indonesia for a half-century. "People are still tolerant, but there is a growing suspicion among Muslims of others," adding that police haven't prevented attacks on minorities, and forced closures of both Christian churches and nontraditional mosques. "The state has some responsibility for this growing intolerance, namely by not upholding the law," he said.

Equal-Opportunity Bigots

Muslims have burned several mosques of the Muslim sect Ahmadiyah. The firebugs feel that the Ahmadiyah sect is heretical.

Indonesia has been a good example of how a largely Islamic nation can tolerate diversity and freedom. I sincerely hope that the country does not begin running its affairs along "Islamic" lines, as Saudi Arabia does.

Indonesia intolerance in the news: Related posts, on tolerance, bigotry, racism, and hatred.

1 comment:

Brian H. Gill said...

Eid gifts to Pakistan,

I think I understand what you mean.

Unhappily, outside the Muslim world, everyone does not know about Islam.

Indonesia has had a very good record, as a predominantly Islamic country with a high level of tolerance for non-Muslims.

The recent incidents, and the apparent lack of official action against the unpeaceful people, do not help outsiders believe that Islam is a peaceful religion.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.