Tag: religion

Ramadan starts in Indonesia

Muslims in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, Indonesia, began observing the fasting month of Ramadan on Saturday.

President Joko Widodo welcomed the occasion with a message calling for unity amid concerns about rising religious intolerance.

“I hope that during this holy month, we will increase our devotion, our brotherhood and unity as a nation,” Joko said.

The Christian governor of Jakarta, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, was jailed for two years earlier this month for blasphemy, following protests by conservative Muslims angered by remarks he made about the Koran.

Ramadan, a month-long period where healthy Muslims must abstain from eating or drinking from dawn to dusk, is a time for increased charity and heightened religious fervour for the faithful around the world.

In Indonesia, TV programmes, including soap operas, are dominated by religious themes. Comedy shows featuring famous Indonesian celebrities accompany millions of Indonesians who eat the sahur, the daily pre-dawn meal before the start of fasting.

Ramadan also means a crackdown on vice. Authorities in the capital Jakarta have banned nightspots from operating during Ramadan.

Places such as discos, massage parlours and saunas have been ordered to shut from one day before Ramadan until one day after Eid al-Fitr, a festival marking the end of the holy month.

This year Eid al-Fitr runs from June 25-26.

Exceptions are to be made for establishments located in hotels and specially-designated entertainment centres. Similar rules also are in place in other cities in Indonesia.

Many in Jakarta welcomed Ramadan with a sense of gloom however.

“We are supposed to welcome Ramadan with joy, but those terrorists spoiled it,” said Triyoga Wahyu, a Jakarta resident, referring to a suicide bomb attack in eastern Jakarta on Wednesday which killed three policemen and wounded 10 others.

“I hope they go to the deepest hell,” he said.

Police raid gay club in Jakarta, arrest 141

Police in the Indonesian capital Jakarta raided a gay club and arrested 141 people on suspicion of involvement in “gay prostitution”, an officer said.

Ten people have been named suspects after the raid on Atlantis Gym and Sauna in north Jakarta on Sunday night, including the club’s owners and organizers of an event featuring a striptease, said local police detective chief Nasriadi, who goes by one name.

Four foreigners – two Malaysians, one Singaporean and one Briton – were among those arrested, Nasriadi said.

Rights activists condemned the arrests after photos of naked and shirtless club-goers being rounded up by police circulated on the internet.

“Such arbitrary action degrades the humanity of the victims,” said the Coalition Against Violence Against Sexual Minorities.

Homosexuals in the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country have been on the defensive following last year’s barrage of anti-gay rhetoric and actions by officials.

Last week, a court in the sharia-ruled province of Aceh sentenced a male couple to 85 strokes of the cane for gay sex.

The two were scheduled to be publicly caned on Tuesday morning, said an official at the prosecutor’s office in Banda Aceh.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch urged President Joko Widodo to intervene and stop the caning.

“Jokowi needs to be clear to Aceh’s authorities that flogging is torture for which they will be held to account,” said Phelim Kine, the New York-based rights group’s deputy director for Asia, using the president’s nickname.

Last month, police in Indonesia’s second-largest city Surabaya raided hotel rooms and detained eight men for participating in a “gay sex party.”

Tight race for Jakarta governorship after divisive campaigning

Jakarta’s residents will choose between a beleaguered Christian incumbent and a rival supported by conservative Muslims in a religiously charged gubernatorial election on April 19.

The election, which sees Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian, take on former education minister Anies Baswedan, is seen by some analysts as a test of secular democracy in the world’s most populous predominantly Muslim country.

Ahok’s bid for a second term has been dogged by a blasphemy case triggered by comments he made on the Qur’an that were deemed insulting to Islam.

Ahok won a three-way first-round vote on February 15, securing 43 per cent of the votes. Anies came second with 39 per cent.

Latest polls suggest that the race for the run-off is tight, with Anies leading by about percentage point.

“A defeat for Ahok could be a bad precedent because political parties would be led to believe that the politization of religion is effective,” said Tobias Basuki, a political analyst at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

Ahok’s remarks that there were people who deceived Muslim voters into believing that the Qur’an commands them not to vote for Jews and Christians sparked massive street protests by conservatives in November and December.

Ahok was charged with blasphemy and is facing a maximum five-year jail term if found guilty. He remains free and a verdict is expected after the election.

He has apologized for the remarks, and said that he was referring to those who misused religion for political gain.

His campaign has warned that a victory for his Islamist-backed opponent could threaten diversity and pluralism.

But in some neighbourhood mosques, congregants installed banners calling for Muslims not to vote for an “infidel,” in reference to Ahok. The banners warned that those who did so would not receive Islamic rites when they died.

Once a clear favourite, Ahok saw his poll numbers falling after the blasphemy accusations, as many conservative Muslims genuinely believe that he insulted Islam.

On the other hand, support for the US-educated Anies rose after he met one of the leaders of the anti-Ahok protests, firebrand cleric Muhammad Rizieq Shihab.

Ahok, the first Christian to lead Jakarta in 50 years, has been perceived as an effective administrator in a bureaucracy long plagued by corruption and incompetence.

He has won praise for cleaning up rivers clogged with rubbish, thereby reducing flooding, a perennial problem in the city of 10 million people.

His administration has also built more parks and children’s playgrounds.

But he has caused resentment with his decision to evict poor residents from their riverbank homes and relocate some of them to low-cost apartments, where they have to find rent money despite having been separated from their source of income.

Ahok has also drawn criticism for going ahead with the reclamation of Jakarta Bay to create 17 artificial islands for business and recreational purposes.

Anies, a respected academic, has capitalized on the discontent.

He has vowed to upgrade existing houses instead of evicting, and to cancel the reclamation of the bay, saying that the project threatens the environment and the fishermen’s livelihood.

He has denied accusations that he was complicit in sectarianism, arguing that perceived injustice and growing social division were the underlying problems.

“To bring unity, we need to tackle the issue of disparities. Disparities between the haves and the have-nots … and between the educated and the not-educated,” he said.

Indonesia struggles to curb child marriage

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Amelia and her husband pose for photograph after their wedding in Cipayung, West Java

Cipayung – Yasinta Amelia, 16, was teary-eyed as she kissed her new husband’s hand after a simple Islamic ceremony legalising their union. Continue reading “Indonesia struggles to curb child marriage”

Mother knows best: group seeks to enlist mothers to fight extremism

Jarmi felt something was amiss when two men she did not know began visiting her son at home in Surabaya, days before he was arrested for possession of explosives and a firearm in July. Continue reading “Mother knows best: group seeks to enlist mothers to fight extremism”

Failed Indonesian suicide bomber who attacked priest not lone wolf

A failed suicide bomber who attempted to attack a priest during a Sunday church service in Medan, the capital of Indonesia’s North Sumatra province, confessed that he was not working alone, police said.

“The perpetrator confessed during police interrogation that someone else had ordered him to carry out the attack,” North Sumatra police spokeswoman Senior Commissioner Rina Sari Ginting said.

The assailant tried to stab Father Albert Pandiangan with an axe when the priest was standing at the pulpit, but the 60-year-old priest of Saint Joseph Catholic Church only received a minor stab wound on his left arm, the spokeswoman said.

A picture of the assailant’s identity card provided by the police identified him as 18-year-old Ivan Armadi Hasugian. Ginting said the police were searching Hasugian’s house to search for any explosive materials.

Based on an account by a member of the congregation, Nana Manullang, the perpetrator was sitting among worshippers when he prepared something that resembled a makeshift bomb, Ginting said.

Manullang, who was sitting next to Hasugian during the service, told the police she saw batteries and pipes in the teenager’s backpack. He then stood up and his backpack produced fumes, a low explosive sound and sparks.

But it didn’t stop the perpetrator to run towards the priest and attack him.

“The pastor managed to escape as the congregation restrained [the attacker],” Ginting said, adding that none of the congregation members were hurt.

Police vacated the church and secured the surrounding area to search for more evidence.

They also confiscated Hasugian’s backpack, which contained a knife, a homemade bomb and an item that displayed a logo resembling the flag of the Islamic State, but the police did not provide details whether the motive for the attack was linked to the terrorist group.

Medan church attack2

Results of a survey conducted by the Wahid Foundation in cooperation with the Indonesia Survey Institute (LSI) revealed that of 1,520 respondents across Indonesia’s 34 provinces, 72 percent of them admitted of not being radical or unwilling to be radical, while 7.7 percent admitted to willing to be radical and 0.4 percent admitted to have been involved in radical actions.

The survey, which was released on August 1, defined potential for being radicalized as participation or willingness to participate in actions that involved violence in the name of religion, namely demonstrating against groups deemed against Islamic values or launching attacks to other religions’ houses of worship.

Muslim-majority Kazakhstan, Indonesia scored differently on social hostilities involving religion

Despite being predominantly Muslim countries, Indonesia and Kazakhstan scored differently on religious hostilities by private individuals, organizations or groups in society, according the Pew Research Center’s latest annual study on global restrictions on religion.

The study, released on June 23, 2016, showed there was a decline in the share of countries with high or very high social hostilities involving religion, which dropped from 27% to 23%.

Pew’s Social Hostilities Index measures act of religious hostility, which includes religion-related armed conflict or terrorism, mob or sectarian violence, harassment over attire for religious reasons or other religion-related intimidation or abuse.

Out of the 198 countries included in the study, Kazakhstan were among countries scored low on social hostilities involving religion at 0.0 to 1.4 points while Indonesia were among those scored high at 3.6 to 7.1 points as of the end of 2014.

According to Kazakhstan statistics agency, the country’s population was 17,280 million by July 2013 and according to a 2009 census, roughly 70% people in the country acknowledged Islam as their religion, followed by 26% Christian, while about 205 million or 88% of Indonesia’s population is Muslim and both countries’ Muslims adhere to Sunni Islam.

The low scores on social hostilities involving religion in Kazakhstan and Indonesia corresponded to another study by Pew in 2012 that asked Muslims in both countries whether suicide bombings and other forms of civilian targets are justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies. In Kazakhstan, 93% said such attacks are never justified and 81% in Indonesia responded the same.

But 46% in Indonesia and 28% in Kazakhstan said they were very concerned about extremists religious groups in the country, while 53% in Indonesia and 46% in Kazakhstan said they were mostly concerned about Muslim extremists group.

Both countries have also experienced deadly attacks by militants this year. In Indonesia, four civilians were killed in the bomb and gun attack by suspected Islamist militants in Central Jakarta on 14 January.

Six people were killed at a national guard base and firearms stores in Aktobe on 5 June and Kazakh government said the attack was carried out by “followers of radical, non-traditional religious movements”, using the term normally refers to Islamist militants in the country, according to a Reuters report.

Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev’ said in a statement posted in Kazakhstan embassy to Indonesia’s Facebook page on 8 June in light of the attack that his government would “take the most stringent measures to suppress extremists and terrorists” and urged his people to be vigilant, stop all incitement to violent and illegal acts and help the law enforcement agencies.

“Extremism and terrorism have threatened the security of not only our country, but also of the whole world. The people of Kazakhstan fully understood the necessity of strengthening the anti-terrorism measures that were taken by the law enforcement agencies across the country following the attacks,” the president said.

The attack came just after the country hosted an international conference on religions against terrorism in its capital city Astana on 31 May, with representatives from religious groups and parliamentarians from around the world in attendance.

Indonesian politicians from United Development Party (PPP) who are members of House of Representatives and People’s Consultative Assembly, M. Arwani Thomafi and Mukhlisin were among the participants.

During the conference, Thomafi said the Indonesian delegation conveyed that Indonesia is no exception in facing terrorism, extremis and radicalism as global threats and its parliament is in the process of revising its counterterrorism law in a bid to make it more effective in preventing and combating terrorism.

“Indonesia called on the participants to promote and encourage a more moderate religious understanding and a more humanistic religious messages in order to create a peaceful world,” Thomafi told The Parrot.

The conference participants issued a joint statement and took into account about “the growing importance and role of inter-religious dialogue, international cooperation, political and inter-parliamentary diplomacy in ensuring the spiritual and legal foundations of global peace and security, strengthening the unity and effectiveness of universal human principles as well as common religious values and rights.”

They urged the international community to join efforts to counter terrorism and underline the need to continue the constructive dialogue among parliamentarians and religious leaders and to support President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev’s “The World. The 21st Century” manifesto.

President Nazarbayev proposed this manifesto last year during his address at the United Nations General Assembly. It aims to establish a global anti-terrorist coalition under the auspices of the UN and to adopt a UN comprehensive document on countering terrorism, in accordance with the provisions of the Global Counter-Terrorist Strategy and the UN Security Council resolutions.

PPP lawmaker Thomafi welcomed the proposal, saying that it was also expressed in the participants’ statement that called on the international community to unite in combating terrorism.

The statement also said that the participants expressed their “shared determination to fight ceaselessly against those who create, finance and arm terrorist organizations for their own interests.”

In light of fight against terrorism funding and joint efforts to combat terrorism, Indonesia and Kazakhstan have signed memorandums of understanding to cooperate on counter terrorism and exchange of information on money laundering and terrorism funding during President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s state visit to Kazakhstan in September 2013.

Listyowati, director of South and Central Asian Affairs at the Foreign Ministry said among the five Central Asian states in Former Soviet Union, Kazakhstan has the strongest commitment for bilateral cooperation with Indonesia, which was marked by President Nazarbayev’s state visit to Indonesia in April 2012. President Yudhoyono reciprocated the visit in September 2013.

“It was the first visit of an Indonesian president to a post-Soviet state since President Suharto visited all five post-Soviet, Central Asian states in the 1990’s,” Listyowati told The Parrot.

Thomafi said the conference demonstrated that global political and religious leaders now had more concerted efforts in preventing facing terrorism, extremis and radicalism.

He also said he could conclude from the congress both Kazakhstan’s executive and legislative branches have a strong commitment in combating terrorism.

“It is evident in Kazakhstan being able to convince international figures of its efforts, not just being an initiator but also as a global pioneer, in combating terrorism,” Thomafi said.

Given its regional leadership and geopolitical situation that borders China and closely neighbors with Afghanistan, Listyowati said the country has a role to play in maintaining regional stability, which would impact on Indonesia.

“We also take into account the role of Kazakhstan and other Central Asian states to voice the interests of Muslims countries to the world,” Listyowati said.