INDONESIA--A year ago Barack Obama returned to Indonesia, where he lived as a boy, as President of the United States. In a speech at the University of Indonesia, he reminisced about catching dragonflies, flying kites and running through rice paddies in the Jakarta of his youth. "Indonesia is a part of me," he told the audience, while lauding the nation and its people for their new democracy, commitment to the rule of law and tolerance for religious diversity. Obama's affection for Indonesia is understandable. But as he prepares to go to Bali on Nov. 19 for the East Asia Summit, he needs to ditch the nostalgia and deliver a stern message to his onetime home for not living up to its purported ideals.
A key measure of the level of justice and compassion in any society is how it treats its minorities — often its most vulnerable citizens. On that score, Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, is failing. In the past year, public violence against religious minorities, who together make up about 12% of the 240 million population, has been relentless: there has been a slew of incidents, from burnings and bombings of churches to attacks by radical Muslims on moderates. The authorities appear unable or unwilling to firmly intervene.
That seemed to be the case when I was in a packed courtroom outside Jakarta a few months ago. On trial were 12 men charged in connection with a mass assault early this year on members of the peaceful Ahmadiyah sect. Ahmadis believe that their Indian founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) was also a prophet, after Muhammad — a claim orthodox Muslims find heretical. This plus other differences have made Ahmadis a target for hard-liners in Pakistan, Bangladesh and, of late, Indonesia too. The attack on the Ahmadis was brutal. A hundreds-strong crowd gathered at opposite ends of a remote rice-farming village on the western edge of Java and converged on an Ahmadi home. The people inside were surrounded and attacked with machetes, sharpened sticks and stones. Three men died; five were badly injured.
At the trial, before the judges entered the chamber, an Islamic cleric in a white robe stepped from the gallery and led the courtroom in prayer. Those inside — plus many more pressed against the outside gate — prayed for the mob, not those killed. People in the crowd told me the Ahmadis had it coming, that the mob was provoked and the violence spontaneous.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Time Magazine: Persecution of Religious Minorities in Indonesia "Relentless"
I'm totally confused. Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance. I know it's a religion of peace, because our leaders and the media keep saying it over and over again. So now I'm stuck trying to figure out why Muslims are persecuting and killing non-Muslims in Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria, Indonesia, and everywhere else Muslims have control over a large area. Don't these Muslims know that Islam is defined by the media, and not by Muhammad's commands?