The political uncertainties and consolidation of democracy since 1998 has witnessed a rise in religious intolerance in Indonesia. International conflicts such as the Syrian Civil War or the persecution of Muslims in Myanmar add to this, writes Dr Kirsten Schulze.
The Republic of Indonesia was proclaimed on 17 August 1945 following the Japanese surrender at the end of the Second World War. However, it was not until December 1949, after almost 5 years of guerrilla warfare known as the Indonesian Revolution, that Indonesia officially achieved independence with the formal transfer of sovereignty from the Netherlands which had controlled parts of the East Indies archipelago since the 17th century. Today, Indonesia is the fourth most popular country in the world with some 242 million people. It is also the largest Muslim country with almost 86.1% of its population professing Islam. CIA World Factbook, Indonesia https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/id.html [Accessed: 21 July 2014]
There are six officially recognised religions in Indonesia: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Confucianism. Buddhism and Hinduism in the archipelago date back to the 1st century. Islam spread to Indonesia in the 13th century through Arab and Indian Muslim merchants who had already established trade routes to China. Christianity was first introduced in the Moluccas, the Spice Islands, by the Portuguese in the 16th century, while Dutch Reform Protestantism came with the Dutch East India Company (VOC) in the 17th century. In addition to these religions the archipelago abounded with a variety of local traditional beliefs including forms of shamanism, animism and dualism, many of which are still practised today.
Islam replaced Hinduism as the largest religion with the rise of the Javanese Muslim Majapahit kingdom at the end of the 13th century, leaving the island of Bali as the only Hindu stronghold. However, Islam did not spread equally across all islands in the archipelago. Nor was Islam practised uniformly. Thus a distinct religious geography emerged whereby western Indonesia with the populous islands of Sumatra and Java was predominantly Muslim whereas the more sparsely populated eastern Indonesian islands had a predominantly Christian and animist population. Moreover, more orthodox forms of Islam were practised along the coast and in areas which had historically attracted Arab traders and migrants especially from the Hadramaut (Yemen), while more syncretistic forms of Islam were practised in the interior, especially in Java where Islam incorporated elements of previous Hindu and traditional beliefs. Islam was also more orthodox in those parts of Sumatra which had seen Wahabi influences in the 19th century and in Aceh which had a long and glorious Islamic history dating back to the 17th century Sultan Iskandar Muda and which even today is known as the Verandah of Mecca. For a comprehensive history of Indonesia see M.C. Ricklefs, A History of Modern Indonesia since c1200 (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 1981, 1993, 2001)
Orthodox Islam was practiced in areas historically settled by Arab traders
Christian-Muslim tensions have a long history in some parts of the Indonesian archipelago such as Maluku. For an analysis of Christian-Muslim conflict in the context of the colonisation of Maluku see Leonard Y. Andaya, The World of Maluku: Eastern Indonesia in the Early Modern Period (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1993). While these tensions were not exclusively the product of colonisation, the colonial legacy has been a divisive one. Christianity was associated with the Dutch colonial state. Especially from the mid-19th century onwards the Dutch East Indies government drew heavily upon 'loyal' Ambonese and Manadonese Christians to fill the ranks of the colonial army as well as the better educated local Christian population more generally to fill the lower ranks of the colonial bureaucracy. In contrast, Islam became one the first vehicles for mobilising anti-colonial opposition against the Dutch in the 19th century and became an integral part of the Indonesian nationalist movement in the early twentieth century, along with socialism. Indeed, one of the first nationalist organisations was the Muslim Union or Sarekat Islam, which was established in 1913 to strengthen Muslim traders against Chinese merchants, and which later became the first Muslim political party, Partai Sarekat Islam. While there were Christian Indonesian nationalists, Christianity as a religion did not play a distinct role.
As Indonesia moved towards independence from 1945-9, the role of Islam in the state became highly contested between those who argued that Indonesia should be an Islamic state and those who advocated a religiously neutral nationalist alternative. The latter included Indonesia's first president Sukarno, who advanced the philosophy of pancasila (five principles) and who ultimately decided Indonesia's fate. The five principles upon which the state was to be based were: nationalism, humanitarianism, social justice, democracy, and belief in one God. On 22 June 1945 an accommodation was reached with those wanting an Islamic state. "Belief in one God" became the first principle and was amended to "belief in one God with the obligation for Muslims to abide by sharia law." This became known as the Jakarta Charter and has been a bone of contention ever since. Amid fears that it would encourage separatism in the non-Muslim eastern regions of the archipelago the words "with the obligation for Muslims to abide by sharia law" were removed from the preamble of the Constitution on 18 August 1945.
Religion did not play a key role in Sukarno's Indonesia. From 1949 until 1965 the country was characterised by competition between the nationalists, the communists, and the army which represented the developmentalists – those who wished to modernise the state. However, disagreement over the 'secular' nature of the state, the disproportionate presence of Christians in government posts, and the domination by Java of the outer islands resulted in Islam continuing to be a vehicle for resistance. The most notable example of such resistance were the Darul Islam rebellions from 1948 until 1963 which sought to turn Indonesia into an Islamic state and were brutally crushed by the security forces. For a detailed analysis of the Darul Islam Rebellions see C.A.O. van Niewenjuijze, 'The Darul Islam Movement in Western Java,' Pacific Affairs, Vol 23, No 2, June 1950, pp.169-183, Karl D. Jackson, Traditional Authority, Islam and Rebellion: A study of Indonesian political behaviour (Berkely: University of California Press, 1980) and C. van Dijk, Rebellion under the Banner of Islam: the Darul Islam in Indonesia (The Hague: Martin Nijhoff, 1981).
The fall of Sukarno saw Islam used as a counter-atheist philosophy
The 'anti-communist' violence that followed the fall of Sukarno from 1965-66 saw Islam playing a role as a counter-atheist philosophy. Muslim youths participated in the massacres in which at least half a million Indonesians were killed. Greg Fealy and Katherine McGregor, 'Nahdlatul Ulama and the Killings of 1965-66: Religion, Politics, and Remembrance', Indonesia, No.89 (April 2010). This, however, did not translate into a place for Islam in the New Order (so-named in opposition to the "old order" of Sukarno) established by Indonesia's second president, Major-General Suharto. Indeed, the first two decades of Suharto's rule were characterised by centralisation and developmentalism and a high degree of suspicion towards Islam as a political force. The latter manifested itself in the forced amalgamation of the Islamic parties into the defanged United Development Party in 1973, the suppression of Islamist activists, the Tanjung Priok shootings in 1984, and the requirement for all social and political organisations to adopt pancasila as their sole basis in 1985. However, in the latter years of the New Order Suharto started to court Indonesia's Muslims as a counter-balance to the increasingly critical military which had until that point been his key pillar of support. In this context the restrictions on wearing the jilbab or hijab were lifted for school girls and civil servants. Islamic banking and insurance was introduced. Suharto went on a highly publicised pilgrimage to Mecca and the Ikatan Cendekiawan Muslim Indonesia (ICMI, Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals Association) was established in 1991 with the explicit aim of promoting Muslim interests and equality particularly in areas where Muslims were underrepresented. This resulted in fears of Islamisation by Indonesian Christians, particularly in the eastern provinces.
The fall of President Suharto in May 1998 was precipitated by the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis which gave way to demands for an end to corruption, collusion and nepotism. In response BJ Habibie, who had assumed the presidency after Suharto's resignation, introduced democratic reforms known as reformasi which included the devolution of power to district level. Reformasi opened the door for a more politicised and radicalised Islam building upon the changes in the final years of the New Order. This was reflected in the proliferation of new Islamic political parties in the run-up to the first democratic elections, the re-opening of the debate on Islamic law, the new centrality of Islam to Indonesian identity, the role of Islam in communal conflict, and terrorism in the name of Islam. For further discussion on Islam in post-Suharto Indonesia see Kirsten E. Schulze, 'Indonesia –The radicalisation of Islam' in Stig Jarle Hansen, Atle Mesøy and Tuncay Kardas (eds), The Borders of Islam: Exploring Samuel Huntington's Faultlines from al-Andalus to the Virtual Ummah (London: Hurst, 2009); Martin van Bruinessen, 'Genealogies of Islamic Radicalism in Post-Suharto Indonesia', South East Asian Research 10, 2 (2002), Noorhaidi Hassan, 'Islamic Militancy, Sharia and Democratic Consolidation in Post-Suharto Indonesia', RSIS Working Paper 147 (2007); and Felix Heiduk, 'Between an Rock and a Hard Place: Radical Islam in Post-Suharto Indonesia', International Journal of Conflict and Violence Vol 6 (1) 2012.
The opening up of the political system and the scheduling of general elections for June 1999 resulted in the formation of new political parties, many of which were Islamist. Indeed, Islamists believed that they would get over 50 percent of the vote. When they only achieved 38 percent, roughly what Islamists had polled in the last democratic elections in 1955 Leo Suryadinata, Elections and Politics in Indonesia (Singapore: ISEAS, 2002), p.22., concerted efforts were made to mobilise public opinion on sharia. At the national level Islamic parties spearheaded by Partai Keadilan (PK) reopened the parliamentary debate on the Jakarta Charter. By 2002, however, it was clear that there was no support for changing the Indonesian Constitution. Thus efforts to restore sharia shifted to the local, district level where sharia-like bylaws could be easily introduced in the context of regional autonomy. Central to these efforts was a 'pilot project' in Bulukumba (South Sulawesi) focusing on social issues such as dress, prostitution, gambling and drinking which had been set up by the Preparatory Committee for the Upholding of Sharia formed at the Islamic Ummah Congress in Makassar in 1999. Once Bulukumba had passed these new bylaws, district heads and regents from other parts of Indonesia were invited to view the results and encouraged to make similar changes in their own areas. By 2006, some 40 districts and regencies across Indonesia had adopted aspects of sharia, affecting Muslims and non-Muslims alike. For instance, in Padang (West Sumatra), irrespective of religion, the jilbab became part of girls' school uniforms and in order to obtain a high school degree all students had to pass an exam on the Quran.
Efforts to establish sharia were not the only signs of a resurgence of Muslim identity. In December 1998 conflict erupted between Muslims and Christians in Poso (Central Sulawesi). In January 1999 similar violence erupted in Ambon (Maluku). While these conflicts had political and socio-economic causes, it was religion that had the power to mobilise whole communities. Religious discourse and symbolism dominated the local narratives and became the paradigm through which these conflicts were viewed by others. Both the Ambon and Poso conflicts, which lasted until 2003 and 2007 respectively, drew in mujahedin from other parts of Indonesia as well as a small number of international jihadis. These mujahedin, while motivated by the desire to defend fellow Muslims, saw these conflict areas as a source of new recruits, a way of gaining military experience, and as an opportunity for introducing localised sharia with a view towards turning Indonesia into an Islamic state. In Ambon, it was the Java-based Laskar Jihad which spearheaded the sharia efforts; in Poso it was the transnational (but Indonesia centred) Jemaah Islamiyya (JI).
Jemaah Islamiyya also spearheaded the Islamist campaign of violence that aimed at bringing down the 'secular' Indonesian government as well as striking against Christian and Western targets in Indonesia. While JI was already active in 2000 as exemplified by the Jakarta Stock Exchange and Christmas Eve bombings, it was the October 2002 Bali bombings in which 202 were killed and 240 were injured that put JI firmly on the map. Bali was targeted as the one place in Indonesia which had not suffered from the 1997 Financial Crisis. Indeed, JI calculated that the tourism revenues generated in Bali were what had saved the Indonesian state from collapse. Thus they believed that a massive attack on tourists in Bali would push Bali's and with it Indonesia's economy over the brink and allow for the emergence of an Islamic state. The attack was also seen as retribution for the Christian attack on Muslims in Ambon in 1999 and the US attack on Muslims in Afghanistan in 2001. The 2002 Bali bombings were followed by the 2003 Marriot Hotel bombing, the 2004 Australian Embassy bombing and the 2005 Bali bombings as well as involvement in the Poso conflict until 2007.
Religious intolerance in Indonesia started to increase in the last years of the New Order culminating in a series of church burnings in 1997. The chaos of the early reformasi years, from 1999 to 2001 saw the rise of Islamic vigilante groups which were used by some politicians and members of the security forces in the on-going political struggle in Jakarta. One such group is the Front Pembela Islam (FPI, Islamic Defenders Front) which led a fight against alcohol, gambling and prostitution. Infamous for its Ramadan patrols to ensure that Muslim stalls were not selling food during daytime and restaurants were not serving alcohol in the evening, FPI regularly attacked nightclubs, bars, brothels and other places of perceived immorality with impunity. Another group was Laskar Jihad whose members were able to travel to Ambon in 2000 despite explicit orders to the contrary from then President Abdurrahman Wahid. Like FPI, Laskar Jihad was committed to battling vice, but also became known for periodically 'sweeping' hotels for Americans and Israelis (though never finding any) as well as its virulently anti-Christian views in the context of the Ambon and Poso conflicts. Both organisations played a key role in destabilising the Wahid presidency. Laskar Jihad's prominence declined after Wahid's impeachment and the group disbanded in October 2002, shortly after the Bali bombings.
The current wave of religious intolerance in Indonesia started during the period of democratic consolidation under the first directly elected Indonesian president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Elected in September 2004 and re-elected in 2009, his newly established Democrat Party, did not have a majority in the parliament in either term. Thus he was compelled to form coalition governments which included Islamic parties, often leaving him with limited room to manoeuvre and having to accommodate the views of his coalition partners. His indecisive leadership and his prioritisation of the economy created a permissive environment for rising intolerance. Indeed, Islamist vigilantes saw him as weak and were emboldened by his lack of reaction to their violence.
Indonesia's Ulema Council issued fatwas prohibiting interfaith prayer, mixed marriages and liberalism
In 2005, Yudhoyono's lack of Islamic credentials prompted him just months into his presidency to tell the Majles Ulama Indonesia (MUI, Indonesia's Ulema Council) that he was open to their guidance, promising MUI a central role in matters of Islam. Soon thereafter MUI issued a number of highly contentious religious opinions or fatwas. These fatwas prohibited interfaith prayer, mixed marriages, interfaith inheritance, religious pluralism, liberalism, and secularism. In 2006, MUI called upon all provincial governments to pass anti-vice laws, especially against prostitution. MUI also supported draft anti-pornography legislation and spoke out against draft anti-discrimination legislation which would have protected religious minorities. In the same year, the government issued a Joint Ministerial Decree on construction of houses of worship which stipulated that the building of houses of worship would require community agreement, making it difficult for religious minorities to open or build a house of worship in an area where another religion held the majority. This decree effectively endorsed religious segregation and gave the green light for Islamist vigilante groups to target churches in Muslim neighbourhoods in the name of the local community. It was in this context that FPI was able re-invent itself as a force against 'Christianisation' or 'deviant' teachings.
Picking up on the shifts in the Islamist discourse and pressured by MUI, in 2007 Yudhoyono stated that 'one must be strict against deviant belief' and in 2008 the government issued an anti-Ahmadiyya decree which, while stopping short of an outright ban, outlawed the promulgation of interpretations deviant to the principles of Islam. This was seized upon by MUI which then encouraged local government to pass their own local anti-Ahmadiyya decrees and by Islamist vigilantes to take action against Ahmadiyya mosques.
During Yudhoyono's second term in office religious tolerance declined further. The Setara Institute, an Indonesian human rights organisation, recorded 200 incidents of violations of religious freedom in 2009, which rose to 216 in 2010, 244 in 2011 and 264 in 2012. Bonar Tigor Naipospos (ed), Leadership without Initiative: The Condition of Freedom of Religious belief in Indonesia 2012 (Jakarta: The Setara Institute, 2012). The Jakarta Christian Communication Forum recorded a total of 492 attacks on churches during Yudhoyono's 10 years in office, with 64 attacks in 2011, 76 in 2012, 55 in 2013, and 17 from January to May 2014. This increase in attacks on religious minorities was partially the result of the appointment of Suryadarma Ali from the Muslim United Development Party (PPP) as Minister of Religion. Ali's public statements rarely reflected the government position. Indeed, more often than not they virtually replicated the sentiments of radical Islamists. For instance, in 2010 Ali publicly called for the banning of the Ahmadiyya. In 2013 he went on record supporting the 'conversion' of Shia Muslims to Sunni Islam. The Jakarta Post, 2 September 2010 and The Jakarta Post, 12 August 2013. Another factor in the increase of intolerance during Yudhoyono's second term was the emergence of new actors on the Islamist scene. After the defeat of JI in Poso in 2007, the Indonesian jihadi movement fractured. This gave rise to new organisations such as Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT) in 2008 which, like JI, was established by Abu Bakar Ba'asyir. Unlike JI, however, it was above ground using dakwah (proselytisation) to encourage the restoration of sharia and to fight against deviance, apostasy, blasphemy, and vice. In parallel with the proliferation of new Islamist organisations there was a proliferation of Islamist news websites. These provided a platform for radical views by Indonesian Islamists as well as jihadis abroad including press releases and videos from groups such as al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab, and the Taliban. They also provided the means for reaching Indonesia's youth, which did not trust the mainstream media, and to tap into the mainstream on issues where even moderates had uncompromising views. Such as Ahmadis calling themselves Muslims. These websites were littered with anti-Christian, anti-Ahmadiyya, anti-Shia, anti-Western, and anti-liberal articles.
Leaders of religious minorities were admonished for 'inappropriate' voicing of concerns
The combination of these three factors during Yudhoyono's second term in office provided the perfect breeding ground for Islamic radicalisation and its expansion from hitherto mainly anti-Christian violence to other targets. In February 2011, a mob attacked the Ahmadiyya community in Cikeusik (West Java) killing three and injuring five. In November 2011, a mob of around 600 people burnt down a Hindu centre in Sukabumi (West Java). In January 2012, self-proclaimed atheist Alexander Aan was first attacked by a mob over a Facebook post and then arrested on blasphemy charges. In May 2012, 17 churches in Aceh were forced to close. In the same month a mob attacked the makeshift house of worship for the congregation displaced from the Filadelfia Church with rocks and bags filled with urine. In August 2012, the Shia community in Sampan (East Java) was attacked, killing at least two and displacing hundreds. In May 2013, Indonesia's last synagogue was destroyed in Surabaya. In none of these incidents were the authorities able to protect the religious minorities. The police on the ground was generally outnumbered and ill-equipped to take on Islamist vigilantes and village mobs, not least because this pitted them against local politicians without support from the government. Moreover, instead of responding to calls for action by leaders representing the religious minorities under threat, Yudhoyono admonished them for their 'inappropriate' voicing of concerns and 'politicising religion'.
The Jemaah Islamiyya For a detailed discussion of JI see Solahudin, The Roots of Terrorism in Indonesia: From Darul Islam to Jema'ah Islamiyya (Sydney: UNSW Press and Lowy Institute, 2013).See also ICG, Al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia: The case of the 'Ngruki Network' in Indonesia, Asia Briefing 20, August 2002 and ICG, Indonesia Backgrounder: How the Jemaah Islamiya Terrorist Network Operates, Asia Report 43, December 2002. ICG, Terrorism in Indonesia: Noordin's Networks, Asia Report 114, May 2006. (JI) was established as an underground, secret militant Islamist organisation in 1993 in Malaysia by Indonesian clerics Abdullah Sungkar and Abu Bakar Ba'asyir. Sungkar and Ba'asyir, who had fled Indonesia in 1985, returned to Indonesia in 1999 following the revoking of the subversion law. Sungkar died in November 1999 and was succeeded by Ba'asyir as the organisation's emir.
JI traces its roots to the Darul Islam (DI) rebellions which sought to transform Indonesia into an Islamic state. Its ideology is salafi-jihadi drawing upon the thinking of DI emir Kartosuwirjo, jihadi leaders Abdullah Azzam and Osama Bin Laden and, of course, Sungkar and Ba'asyir. The organisation's aim between 1993 and 2002 was to establish a South-East Asian Islamic state starting with Indonesia but ultimately encompassing Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, and the Philippines. Accordingly it had a regional structure with mantiqi I (region I) covering Singapore and Malaysia; mantiqi II covering Indonesia except Sulawesi; mantiqi III covering Mindanao, Sabah, and Sulawesi; and mantiqi IV covering Papua and Australia. The mantiqis were further divided into districts or wakalah, sub-districts and cells.
Counter-terror operations following the 2002 Bali bombings destroyed much of JI's financial, command, decision-making structure and regional structures. They also exacerbated internal tensions, which had been evident since Ba'asyir's succession as emir, over the strategy for achieving an Islamic state. Ba'asyir had pushed to open up the movement, taking advantage of the new openness of post-Suharto Indonesia to struggle politically for an Islamic state. However, a group of younger militants, including al-Qaeda linkman Riduan Isamudin (widely known as Hambali), saw this as anathema to Sungkar's strategy of an underground, primarily military struggle. It was this younger faction that resorted to bombings and suicide bombings with high grade explosives such as C4 and RDX under the guidance of the Malaysian engineer and university lecturer, Azhari Husin, and Nurdin Mohamed Top. With the repeated arrest, trial and imprisonment of Ba'asyir, the younger militants seized upon the opportunity to replace Ba'asyir as emir first by Abu Rusdan and then by Abu Dujana.
The killing of large numbers of Muslims in the bombings after 2002 eroded much of the sympathy JI had in the broader Indonesian population. Coupled with the arrest and imprisonment of hundreds of JI members, the capture of Abu Dujana in 2006, and the defeat of JI militants in Poso in 2007, this led to a reorientation of JI toward proselytisation. Indeed, JI became so quiet that many assumed it had ceased to exist as an organisation. However, in 2013 JI started to gain renewed support in the context of the Syrian civil war.
The Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid International Crisis Group, 'The Dark Side of Jama'ah Anshorut Tauhid', Asia Briefing No 107, 6 July 2010. (JAT) was established on 27 July 2008 by Abu Bakar Ba'asyir following his release from prison and was largely in reaction to the direction of his other organisations – Jemaah Islamiyya (JI) and Majles Mujahedin Indonesia (MMI) – had taken during his absence. JI had effectively deposed him as emir while the MMI had adopted 'secular structures' which led Ba'asyir to leave the group. Unlike JI, JAT was established as an above ground organisation with seven branches - West Java, East Java, Central Java, Banten, DKI (Jakarta), East Nusa Tenggara, and Sumatra – with a further two branches growing in Aceh and Makassar. It claims to have 3,000-5,000 members and an even larger base of sympathisers. It is open to Muslims from all backgrounds as long as they are interested in reviving sharia.
JAT does not consider the time to be right for jihad in Indonesia
JAT has a salafi-jihadi ideology, though it considers jihad to only be possible under certain conditions and it does not consider the time to be right for jihad in Indonesia. It seeks to establish an Islamic state in Indonesia and accordingly advocates the implementation of sharia as the sole legal base of the state. It believes that a Muslim state that is not based on sharia is kafir (infidel) and that its rulers are thaghut (idolaters). Central to JAT's ideology are tawhid (belief in the unity of God) and jihad. JAT opposes democracy, liberalism, pluralism and secularism as well as socialism and communism. In line with its stance on democracy it advocated a boycott of the 2014 parliamentary and presidential elections.
Alongside its aim to establish an Islamic state, JAT seeks to revitalise the Indonesian Islamist movement. Its main activity is proselytisation or dakwah through public sermons, mass rallies, the publication and distribution of books written by Ba'asyir, the distribution of CDs of Ba'asyir's sermons, and religious study sessions. Unlike JI, however, JAT does not have affiliated schools.
In 2010 police raided JAT's Jakarta office and charged three officials including Ba'asyir with funding a terrorist training camp in Aceh. In 2012 JAT was placed on the US terrorism list as it was implicated in robberies to fund weapons purchases and attacks such as the killing of several Indonesian policemen as well as suicide bombings in Cirebon and Solo.
Since the imprisonment of Ba'asyir in 2010 JAT has been led by Muhammad Akhwan. However Ba'asyir has continued to be the main ideologue, writing books, sermons and open letters as well as issuing fatwas supporting militant jihad, providing the time and place are right. Accordingly, Ba'asyir has openly called for jihad to defend the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and for Indonesians to join the jihad in Syria. In July 2014 Ba'asyir announced his support for the Caliphate established by ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in parts of Syria and Iraq. He also stated that he will be taking the oath of allegiance to Baghdadi who assumed the title of Caliph Ibrahim. At the same time he has made it clear that JAT members will not be required to follow suit but can follow their own conscience. 'Clarification by JAT pertaining to the declaration of the Caliphate', 11 July 2014, ansharuttauhid.com/read/publikasi/484/penjelasan-jat-berkenaan-dengan-deklarasi-khilafa/#sthash.MfHZ1Exp.dpbs [Accessed: 21 July 2014]
The Front Pembela Islam For further analysis of FPI see Ian Douglas Wilson, '"As Long as It's Halal": Islamic Preman in Jakarta' in Greg Fealy and Sally White (eds), Expressing Islam: Religious Life and Politics in Indonesia (Singapore: ISEAS, 2008) and Chaidar S. Bamualim, 'Islamic Militancy and Resentment against the Hadhramis in Post-SuhartoIndonesia: A Case Study of Habib Rizieq Syihab and his Islamic Defenders Front', Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, Vol 31,No 2 (2011). See also J. Jahroni, Defending the Majesty of Islam: Front Pembela Islam, 1998-2003 (Silkwormbooks, 2008). (FPI) was established on 17 August 1998 by Habib Mohammed Rizieq Shihab. FPI is a socio-religious organisation best known for Islamic vigilantism which is carried out by its paramilitary wing, Laskar Pembela Islam. It promotes a salafi interpretation of Islam coupled with anti-American, anti-secular, anti-pluralist and anti-democratic views. FPI's aim is the implementation of sharia law in Indonesia. Thus, while it has opposed the democratisation of Indonesia it has not been averse to endorsing political candidates who support the introduction sharia both at local and national level in Indonesia. Indeed, in 2014 it publically endorsed Prabowo Subianto as presidential candidate.
In the early reformasi period from 1999 to 2001, FPI is believed to have had links to and allegedly received funding from a variety of politicians and members of the security forces, including Jakarta police chief Nugroho Djajusman, in the context of the political and civil-military struggle particularly during the Wahid presidency. This was, however, never more than a tactical alliance on both sides.
FPI's activities revolve around 'enjoining good and forbidding wrong'
FPI has branches in 28 provinces. Its activities revolve around the Muslim duty of 'enjoining good and forbidding wrong', and it conducts regular, often violent, campaigns against vice, particularly alcohol, gambling, and prostitution. In this context it carries out annual 'policing' of Ramadan, forcibly closing stalls selling food during daytime and restaurants selling alcohol in the evening. It also provides grassroots-level community assistance and Islamic learning as well as aiding humanitarian relief efforts in response to natural disasters. For instance, FPI was one of the main organisations recovering bodies in the wake of the 2004 tsunami in Aceh. Further, it defends Muslims against what it sees as 'Christianisation', 'deviance', 'disbelief' and 'blasphemy'. In this context FPI has been at the forefront of efforts to close churches in Muslim neighbourhoods such as the Yasmin Church in Bogor and the Filadelfia Church in Bekasi. It also has spearheaded attacks against Ahmadiyya in East Lombok, Tasikmalaya, Parung, Garut, and Cikeusik, using traditional and bladed weapons. In June 2008 it attacked the peaceful rally by the National Alliance for the Freedom of Faith and Religion in Jakarta. It forced the cancellation of a Lady Gaga concert in May 2012 on grounds of immorality, attacked Canadian liberal Muslim author Irshad Manji who was in Indonesia to promote her book, and attacked two Buddhist temples in South Sulawesi in response to Myanmar's treatment of the Muslim Rohingya. In July 2014, a small number of FPI volunteers also departed for Gaza to defend the Palestinians from Israeli attack.
While the roots of Muslim-Christian tensions date back to the colonial period and the recent increase in religious intolerance can be blamed on inaction by the Yudhoyono administration, developments outside of Indonesia have also played a role. The Global War on Terror launched in 2001 was perceived by Muslims in Indonesia as a Western assault on Islam. This resulted in attacks on Western targets by Islamist militants including JI and FPI. It also resulted in the sharpening of boundaries between Indonesian Muslims and Christians as the latter were cast as allies of the West and fifth columnists. Liberal Muslims, too, as represented by the Liberal Islamic Network or Jaringan Islam Liberal (JIL) were seen as 'collaborators' with the West due to their promotion of a more liberal understanding of Islam. Indeed, in 2003 a fatwa was issued against liberal cleric Ulil Abshar Abdallah calling for his death for his stance on tolerance, pluralism and democracy. In 2011 Ulil was again targeted, this time by a letter bomb, after defending the rights of the Ahmadis.
The recent violence against Buddhists in Indonesia can be directly linked to the violence by the Myanmar security forces against the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state. On 30 July 2012 Abu Bakar Ba'asyir declared jihad in Myanmar an obligation for all Muslims. Daily demonstrations were held in August 2012 attended by militant and moderate Muslims alike. In the same month FPI attacked two Buddhist temples in South Sulawesi. In September Indonesian police arrested a group of men trying to make a bomb in Depok in order to target Buddhists. In early 2013 intelligence emerged that another group was planning an arson attack on Glodok (Jakarta's Chinatown) to avenge attacks on Muslims in Myanmar. On 23 April 2013, Ba'asyir again called on Indonesian Muslims to wage jihad in Myanmar. On 2 May 2013, Indonesian police intercepted several men on their way to bomb the Myanmar Embassy in Jakarta. On 4 May 2013, Habib Rizieq called for jihad to protect the Rohingya. On 5 May FPI held a demonstration outside the Myanmar Embassy calling for jihad in Myanmar and chanting 'burn down the embassy'. On 4 August 2013, two bombs exploded outside a Buddhist temple in West Jakarta.
The views expressed by this author remain solely their own and are not to be taken as the view of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.
This situation report was first published on 24 July 2014.