[Reader-list] Islamic Hardliners attack Jakarta Peace Rally

Naeem Mohaiemen naeem.mohaiemen at gmail.com
Mon Jun 2 15:17:46 IST 2008

>From Indonesian author Laksmi Pamuntjak

Yesterday afternoon my partner Goenawan and I were in the National
Monument (Monas) area in Central Jakarta  to commemorate the 63rd year
of Pancasila state ideology (and its spirit of pluralism and

We were part of the National Alliance for the Freedom of Faith and
Religion (AKKBB) which comprises 70 institutions of different faiths.
Suddenly, members of our alliance who had already congregated below
the National Monument, getting ready for our peace parade scheduled at
2 pm, were ambushed by members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI)
wielding sharp bamboo sticks. At least 34 alliance members including
women and children and our close friends were chased and beaten, some
sustaining severe injuries.

We are okay -- we had stopped briefly at the National Gallery nearby
to use their toilets -- and so escaped, by ten minutes, the worst of
the attacks. But our thoughts and prayers are with the wounded, some
of whom are still in hospital.

But we are deeply saddened and angered by this heinous crime,
committed by a group bent on imposing a fascist interpretation on
Islam through the use of violence upon our vast diversity and ignoring
the principles of pluralism and tolerance upon which our nation was

Actually, the peace rally yesterday by the National Alliance for the
Freedom of Faith and Religion (AKKBB) that comprises some 70
institutions of different faiths (including  Indonesia's two Muslim
organizations Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah and Christian
communities) was not to defend the Ahmadiyah sect (as was alleged by
the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) but to reiterate a point begun in
2006, during the height of opposition to the proposed anti-pornography
bill (drafted and fought for also by Islamic hardliners), ie.

1) to reclaim space, through the state ideology Pancasila, for a
renewed sense of nationhood and diversity vis a vis faith-based
sectarianism, 2) to appeal to, reeducate and refresh public memory of
the strength and beauty of difference; 3) to turn on their heads
deeply entrenched nation-building rhetoric such as the state ideology
Pancasila and the Unity in Diversity slogan of Bhineka Tunggal Ika
long used by the New Order regime under Suharto to repress civil
society, by bringing them back to their pluralistic essence.

This latest assault on pluralism, as with earlier FPI attacks on human
freedom and civil rights—which has seen countless pubs and restaurants
destroyed or closed down or banned from serving alcohol during the
Islamic Fasting Month,  art exhibitions attacked for displaying works
of pornographic content, and the Ahmadiyah sect as well as others
living under threat—is inhuman and unacceptable. It is un-Islamic,
unconstitutional and anti-Indonesia. FPI has to be disbanded.

What saddens us more is the fact that no one was arrested in the
incident even though there were 1,200 police officers at the scene
when the clash occurred. One of the alliance's cars was burned by FPI,
while police officers who were barely 5 meters away, just looked on! I
am flummoxed that these thugs have been roaming freely for years with
alarming impunity without the police clamping down on them. The fact
that the state and its security apparatus are intimidated by these
Islamic hardliners of course plays a crucial role in perpetuating the
situation. Indeed, there is no more a state vs civil society dicothomy
as per the Suharto years. In its place, we have groups bent on
imposing a single value, a fascist interpretation of Islam through the
use of violence, upon this vast diversity that is Indonesia while the
state is relegated to the sidelines, often as a mute spectator rather
than an actor, let alone one with authority to put a stop on this
criminal act.

Furthermore, the statement by the Chief of Police of Central Jakarta
yesterday, claiming that the alliance had been warned of a possible
attack but did not pay heed, is so typical. It's like saying, to quote
a Singaporean activist friend, "You deserve to be raped because you
are in a place where you can be raped."  In a somewhat belated
corrective P.R. attempt, Jakarta Chief of Police Sr. Commr. Budi
Winarko told reporters he would arrest perpetrators beginning today
(Monday, 2/6/08). However, in the same breath, he said that arresting
them at the scene would only "worsen the situation." One wonders what
the police as an institution is there for in the first place if it
cannot protect citizens from arbitrary, unlawful violence.

Today we just received word from the presidential spokesperson that
the President has instructed the Chief of Police of the Republic of
Indonesia to take legal action against FPI. We know more than to be
hopeful but let's see what will happen in the next few days.

In the meantime, I join others in hoping that the natural resources we
have that make pluralism a foregone conclusion in our country—our own
vast diversity that cobbles together 17,000 islands, some 450
languages and different faiths as guaranteed by Pancasila—as well as
our hard-earned freedom of expression following the collapse of the
Suharto regime, will withstand this increased Talibanism. The
government will also have to toughen up, or else its authority will be
destroyed, the hardliners will be emboldened, more innocent lives will
be risked, and we can say goodbye to religious freedom.

Below is a more comprehensive report, taken from Koran Tempo and The
Jakarta Post.

To see some of the photos I've taken please click on:


and here's another useful link including photos, videos, news reports
and news links:


On 1 June 2008, the National Day of Pancasila State Ideology, National
Alliance for the Freedom of Faith and Religion (AKKBB) activists
preparing for a peace parade celebrating pluralism and diversity in
the National Monument (Monas) area were confronted and beaten by
Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) members wielding sharp bamboo sticks.

At least 34 people from an alliance that comprises 70 institutions
including Nadhlatul Ulama, the largest Muslim association in Indonesia
, The Church Community, the Cirebon Islamic Boarding School community,
the Liberal Islam Network and the much-maligned Ahmadiyah sect (the
last FPI's alleged target) were injured, including women and children.

Among the injured are the Director of the International Conference for
Islamic Peace Syafii Anwar, Wahid Institute director Achmad Suaedi,
leader of the Cirebon-based As-Zaman Islamic boarding school  Kiai
Maman Imanulhaq and one of our dear friends, Utan Kayu curator and
Jurnal Perempuan activist Mohamad Guntur Romli, who underwent surgery
last night. Guntur 's cheekbone and nose were fractured by repeated
blows from FPI members wielding sticks.

No one was arrested in the incident even though there were 1,200
police officers at the scene when the clash occured. In a somewhat
belated attempt by the police to take some responsibility for this
incident, Jakarta Police Chief Sr. Comr. Budi Winarko said he would
arrest perpetrators starting Monday. Earlier yesterday, the Chief of
Central Jakarta police claimed that the alliance had been warned of a
possible confrontation but did not pay heed. Meanwhile FPI spokesman
Munarman told reporters that the incident was a reaction to AKKBB's
"offensive" statement in several newspapers last Tuesday, saying it
endorsed pluralism and urged everybody not to be intimidated by people
who threatened practitioners of different beliefs, as in the case of
the Ahmadiyah sect, whose thousands of followers all around the
country have lived under threat after the sect was declared
blasphemous by several hard-line groups.

The attack was quickly condemned by human rights activists,
politicians and Muslim organisations Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah.

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