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Indonesia strikes back at Islamist hardliners

ICC NOTE: the Government is finally taking some action against Islamist extremists. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population and a significant portion of this Muslim majority frequently attack the church in Indonesia in a violent manner. In the past, the government has done little to protect the Christian population; therefore, this is a big step forward for the government in acknowledging the problem and need for government intervention.

By Gary LaMoshi

Asia Times

June 13, 2006

DENPASAR, Bali – Last week was a rough one for jihadis in Indonesia . President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration launched a long-overdue comprehensive campaign against violent Islamic extremists. In the country with the world’s most Muslims, the outcome of Yudhoyono’s initiative could prove far more significant in the global war for the hearts and minds of Muslims than the assassination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Since the fall of General Suharto’s New Order regime in 1998, Islamic extremists have asserted their right to enjoy the fruits of democracy and impose the will of Indonesia ‘s Muslim majority as they presume to interpret it. They’re unperturbed that most Indonesians, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, oppose their agenda. These radicals are no democrats. Politically educated under Suharto’s reign of physical intimidation and intolerance of dissent, they merely wish to substitute their own version of autocracy and repression.
A handful of radical Islamic groups use violence as a first resort against their opponents, often with a wink from authorities. Violent extremism’s renaissance began with police using vigilantes to extract protection money from reluctant bar owners and blossomed with the military’s logistical support to send thousands of jihadis to the Malukus and central Sulawesi to undermine Abdurrahman Wahid’s presidential election victory in 1999. Armed mobs draped in the white robes of Islam routinely attack churches, homes and businesses they accuse of various heretical views while police take no action and perpetrators escape prosecution. Government reluctance to stand up to thugs gives the impression of implicit approval, or that the extremists serve a higher authority.
Disrupting public order
Last July, thousands of vigilantes stormed a community of 700 members of Amadiyah, a Muslim splinter group in Bogor , a hill town outside Jakarta where President Yudhoyono makes his family home. The national Attorney General’s Office promised to investigate Ahmadiyah, not the attackers, as “disruptive to the public order”. Strikes on other Ahmadiyah facilities as well as a wave of attacks on Christian churches followed.
This April, a violent Islamic extremist campaign spearheaded by Islam Defenders Front (known by its Indonesian abbreviation FPI) stopped publication of a nudity-free local edition of Playboy magazine (see Playboy and hardcore violence, April 21). Mobs threatened and attacked news vendors and distributors, seized magazines and stoned the publisher’s office while police passively stood by. Mainstream groups joined the campaign against Playboy, offering mild regrets over any violence in pursuit of the righteous cause.

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