Govt calls HRW ‘naive’ for report on growing intolerance

Presidential spokesperson Julian Adrian Pasha is calling Human Rights Watch (HRW) “naive” for its report released on Thursday highlighting abuses against religious minorities in Indonesia.

“They should see Indonesia in its entirety, with its diversity and pluralism,” Julian said. “Even in a homogenous country there is friction between groups,” he said.

The 107-page report released by the New York-based group, titled In Religion’s Name: Abuses Against Religious Minorities in Indonesia, said that President Susilo Yudhoyono’s has been inconsistent in defending religious freedom.

The report also said that the government had been complicit in the persecution of religious minorities by failing to enforce laws and issuing regulations that breached minority rights.

Phelim Kine, the deputy director of the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, said on Thursday that Yudhoyono was “failing to sanction those members of his government, his government’s officials and members of the police and security forces who have been passively or actively complicit in acts of religious intolerance and violence”.

Religious hard-liners have carried out hundreds of attacks local religious minorities such as the Ahmadis, Shia, Christians and Bahai.

The intimidation and attacks have been part of a growing trend of religious intolerance in Indonesia, according to HRW. Setara, a local organization monitoring religious freedom in Indonesia, documented 264 cases of violent attacks against religious minorities in 2012, up from 244 cases in 2011 and 216 cases in 2010.

In August, for example, one man was killed as a mob of 1,000 Sunni Muslims razed 37 homes belonging to Shia Muslims in Madura, East Java, while in February 2011, three Ahmadis were killed as 1,500 Islamist militants attacked an Ahmadi community in Cikeusik, Banten.

The report said that the perpetrators have mostly come from militant Sunni groups that were “at times acting with the tacit, or occasionally open, support of government officials and police”.

The central government has also not prioritized the investigation of incidents of religious intolerance and violence for police and security forces, the report said.

The HRW also reported the so-called Coordinating Board for Monitoring Mystical Beliefs in Society (Bakorpakem) for inhibiting religious freedom, saying that Bakorpakem, which is under the Attorney’s General’s Office, had been influential in pressing the decision to ban religious communities.

The report said that under Yudhoyono, Bakorpakem has had an active role in prosecuting people espousing views it deemed blasphemous to Islam, such as imprisoned Shia leader Tajul Muluk and the Alexander Aan in West Sumatra, who was imprisoned for posting pro-athiest statements on Facebook.

While Human Rights Watch also said that a 2008 joint ministerial decree that banned Ahmadis from propagating their beliefs was a license to violate the rights of religious minorities, Julian said that the extra-judicial attacks against Ahmadis in 2011 resulted from their non-compliance with the decree.

Julian also denied that the police did not have a clear direction under Yudhoyono.

“When they [police] are faced with a clash that involves a violation of the law, it’s very difficult for the police to protect others — that doesn’t mean that they do not protect the right to live and human rights.”

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | National | Fri, March 01 2013

Report with 107 pages:
In Religion’s Name: Abuses against Religious Minorities in Indonesia

Slide Show with 18 photos: Rising Violence against Religious Minorities


Indigenous Dayaks struggle to hold on to their lands

 Village meeting: Yua (far left) and village leader Yohanes (second from left) participate in a local community gathering in Sekatak district, Bulungan regency. Yua witnessed the forceful eviction of indigenous people in Bulungan during the Soeharto era to make way for a wood manufacturing company. (JP/Prodita Sabarini)

Village meeting: Yua (far left) and village leader Yohanes (second from left) participate in a local community gathering in Sekatak district, Bulungan regency. Yua witnessed the forceful eviction of indigenous people in Bulungan during the Soeharto era to make way for a wood manufacturing company. (JP/Prodita Sabarini)

Yua is a small man with fine lines on his face. He does not know how old he is but he remembers vividly the time when he was newly married and saw men with green uniforms holding rifles entering his village in the forest near the Sekatak River in Bulungan regency.

He is from the Bulungan tribe, one of the 400 Dayak ethnic groups in Kalimantan. He said that the men in uniform came into his village in the early 1970s and forced the people to move closer to the river. Four decades have enabled him to recall the forceful relocation with humor.

“They soaked them,” Yua said, chuckling. He was sitting on the floor in the house of Yohanes, 35, a village leader in Sekatak district. Yohanes explained that those who resisted the relocation were made to go into the river by the soldiers and stay neck-deep in the water for hours.

“They stripped them,” Yua added. “They pointed their guns.”

Under former president Soeharto’s rule, many indigenous groups in East Kalimantan that are connected to the land and forest around them have been forced to relocate, their ancestral lands given away as concessions for mining and timber production.

Yohanes said that seven indigenous settlements from the tribes of the Punan, Kenyah, Tidung, Belusu and Bulungan were relocated to what is now the Sekatak district. The central government gave the ancestral lands to Intraca Wood Manufacturing, a timber producer, owned by Hartarti Murdaya, he said.

The Reformasi era after the fall of Soeharto, which included decentralization, did not do much to change the plight of indigenous people. Their lost lands remained in the hands of private companies.

Internationally however, the rights of indigenous people are starting to gain ground through the non-binding UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People, which includes the rights of indigenous people to “free, prior and informed consent” of projects in their customary lands. In Indonesia, legislative members are deliberating a bill on the recognition and protection of indigenous people.

In Samarinda, the National Alliance for Indigenous People (AMAN) East Kalimantan coordinator Margaretha Seting Beraan said that the tension between the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia (NKRI) concept and indigenous people’s rights could be seen in the difference between the latter’s suggested draft of the bill and the legislature’s. In the bill, recognition for indigenous people’s rights was conditional on the principle of NKRI.

“Actually, I don’t agree with the concept of NKRI if they homogenize groups. I only agree with the NKRI concept if pluralism is respected,” Margaretha said. “Basically we come from different cultures with different customs and laws that come together in one country,” she said.

Back in Sekatak, village leaders say their people rely on the forest and land. Having been pushed out from their ancestral forest, many of their people have been criminalized for illegal logging. “We have at least 50 people jailed for illegal logging,” said Zainal Abidin, 37, leader of Ujang village in Sekatak.

He said that people used the wood to build their houses, climbed the trees searching for honey from giant beehives and planted fruit trees and rice.

Margaretha, who comes from the Dayak tribe called Kayan, said that Kalimantan’s indigenous people came from Yunnan, the southwest part of China that borders Southeast Asian countries such as Laos,
Vietnam and Burma.

“Some come from Sumatra and some come from the Philippines,” she said. “The Punan was believed to be the oldest group that came here and the rest mixed with people who came later and created subgroups,” she said.

Each group would settle on a plot of land and develop its language and customs, she said. The borders of each group’s land are usually determined by the hills and rivers. “If the water from the mountain flows down toward a tribe’s village then it’s considered part of that tribe’s land. If the water flows the other way, then that belongs to another tribe,” she said.

Each ethnic group understands the respective borders, she added, and customary leaders usually settled disputes using customary law. The authority of administrative governments and their power over land however, undermines customary ways. This not only worked to the government’s advantage in giving concessions to private companies, but also caused conflict between villages like in the case of Muara Tae, West Kutai, according to Margaretha.

Kutai Barat regency has made concessions on Muara Tae’s land to a palm oil company. Masrani, a village leader, said the palm oil company started to bulldoze the ancestral forest there, which belonged to the Dayak Benoaq in Muara Tae, after a neighboring village claimed that Muara Tae’s land was theirs. He said that people from Muara Ponak village gave away land that was within Muara Tae’s customary village border to a palm oil company in 2010.

While bulldozers have started to cut off the forest, the regent, Ismael Thomas, released a decree saying that the 638 hectares of land that were cleared were Muara Ponak’s. “But this is our land that has been passed on for generations. Our village border with the neighboring village is nature’s border. We have different rivers with Muara Ponak, there’s a hill and that becomes our border,” he said.

Margaretha said that disputes of customary land could be solved using customary law, but that the government’s commercial interests in those lands undermined these laws.

In West Kutai, customary leaders even had to be officiated by the administrative government, which made it easier for the regional government to control local communities there. “The customary leaders become government pawns because their position depends on the government,” Masrani said.

As the national law does not explicitly recognize the protection of customary land, Margaretha said that the Muara Tae had community fought for their rights through various avenues, including by filing a complaint to the Kuala Lumpur based-Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. Despite these efforts, the palm oil company continues to operate on their lands.

East Kalimantan province has a slogan for its 2009-2013 development plan: “Building Kaltim for all”. The government is preparing big projects to speed up development. One of them is the Maloy Industrial Zone and International Port. Margaretha is worried how it will affect indigenous people in the area.

When Governor Awang Farouk Ishak was asked whether the development would consider the rights of indigenous people, he answered: “We do not differentiate between religious groups or ethnic groups. Every one should enjoy progress.”

Margaretha says indigenous groups are concerned because experience shows that the government’s approach has exploited nature, while the groups themselves have learnt to live and care for their natural surroundings.

JP/Prodita Sabarini and Nurni Sulaiman, Bulungan/Samarinda

The Jakarta Post | Special Report | Fri, January 18 2013

Sampang revisited – where’s compassion?

Nearly seven  months ago, I went to Sampang, a small town in Madura Island off the northeastern tip of Java. Around 200 Shiites were taking refuge in a indoor tennis court. Their houses razed to the ground by an angry Sunni mob. I went there and talked to the people: the stories can be read here, here and here.

I’ve worked on different stories since and however disheartening what happened in Sampang, it slowly slipped my mind. Until a few days ago, I thought of them, and wondered about how they were doing. When I was there, the Sampang regent was adamant that he would not let them return to their houses, even though they were forcibly displaced by religious vigilantes. Has he changed his mind?

Apparently not. Andy Irfan, from East Java Commision of Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) said they were still in the same tennis indoor court.

Worse still as their fate is in limbo, the court ruled the only person the police arrested over the attack as not guilty. No one from the thousand of people who burned down people’s houses is held accountable.

Madura is famous for the many Islamic boarding schools in the island. They call it the land of ulemas. But, why is there no compassion and justice in that island?

*Human Rights Watch released last month a report on religious intolerance and violence. See HRW’s report here and the government’s response here.

Sampang villagers caught up in faith feud


On the morning of Sunday, Aug. 26, a crowd descended on Shia minority villages in Sampang, Madura in East Java. Two died in the attacks and dozens of homes were razed. Until today dozens of families remain in a make-shift shelter, while authorities have offered to “relocate” them elsewhere. The Jakarta Post’s Prodita Sabarini reports from Sidoarjo, Pamekasan and Sampang, where the Shiites were also attacked last December. The local ulema have demanded a ban on the teaching of Shia.

Rumsiah stood in a tobacco field next to her burning house. She held her 3-year-old daughter tight to her chest. In front of her, the orange flames crackled as they burned the woven bamboo walls and the fire quickly ate them up. But for Rumsiah, the voices from the mushola (small mosque) speakers drowned other sounds.

“Muslimin and Muslimat, come out all of you!”

“Don’t be afraid!”

“Be unified!”

“Let’s face them together!”

“We will burn them and turn them into satay!”

Rumsiah, 30, ran to the tobacco field with her children and husband as a mob of over a thousand people came to Blu’uran and Karang Gayam villages in Sampang.

On Aug. 26, the day of the Lebaran Ketupat, the local Madurese custom marking the end of Ramadhan, families of the Shiite Muslims in both villages were preparing to send their children back to the Shiite Islamic boarding school (YAPI) in Bangil, East Java.

But local Sunni leaders in Blu’uran stopped the rented minibus and denied them entry to the rocky roads of the village, Ummu Kulsum, wife of imprisoned Shiite leader Tajul Muluk said.

Tension between Sunnis and Shiites has been high since the ulema in Sampang declared the Shiites, led by Tajul in Sampang, a deviant Islamic sect.

Last December, a mob burnt down three houses, including Tajul’s. Not long after, Tajul was sentenced to two years in prison for blasphemy.

“Come if you dare!” shrieked an incensed Shiite at his neighbors who had advanced toward their house. As the mob approached, Molotov cocktails were thrown exploded. “They [the Shiites] were prepared to fight,” Noer Tjahja, the Sampang regent said.

Blu’uran and Karang Gayam now have patches of charred ruins where houses used to stand. Chickens peck aimlessly around what was once a rice mill, and rifle-slinging Brimob officers stand guard. Too little, too late.

The mob razed 37 houses of Shia followers. Mohammad Khosim, or Hamama, 50, died in a carok (duel); hacked to death by Husein, 48, from the Sunni crowd, who later died himself in hospital from machete wounds. Hamama’s brother, Thohir, 46, a Shiite, is still in a critical condition.

Some eight people were injured, including the Omben precinct police chief.


A woman in an ochre prayer dress sits alone on the carpet of the Sampang indoor tennis court. She faces Mecca.

Behind her, children chase a ball or dance to the blaring songs played by volunteers from Tagana (the Social Affairs Ministry’s Disaster Response Team). The tennis court has become a makeshift refugee camp.

On her right a large banner separates two sides of the court. Over the separator are rolled mattresses, pillows and the personal belongings of refugees.

The 37 burnt houses belong to 64 families according to Kontras (the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence); around 270 people are staying at the camp.

There is not much to do here. The children play with the volunteers, but the adults just sit around and wait. They would return home, if it were safe.

But Noer says they can only return with the approval of the community there, when they “repent”. Tajul Muluk’s wife, Ummu Kulsum and his brother Iklil have become leaders of the refugees.

Kulsum carries a calm maternal air with her, silently enraged by what she calls Sampang regency’s  “incompetence”.

“If the regency could handle these differences properly, it would not be like this. They protect the guilty instead of the innocent. My husband is innocent and he is in prison,” she says flatly.

Most of the faces in the mob were strangers to Kulsum, but she could name her neighbors as leaders of the mob. Yet police have arrested only Tajul’s brother and arch-enemy Roisul Hukamah as the sole suspect. Kulsum said she did not see Rois, as he is popularly known, at the scene. But it was Rois, an official said, who summoned the people using text messages and phone calls.


Selected differences of Sunni and Shia

While both the Sunnis and the Shiites share most fundamental Islamic beliefs and theological laws, the distinctions between the two major denominations stem from historical political differences gradually transformed into a number of spiritual

• Successor
The Sunnis believed that the new leader of the Muslim nation after the death of the Prophet Muhammad was Muhammad’s close aide, Abu Bakr, who was appointed by the Prophet to become the first Caliph of the Islamic nation.

Meanwhile, the Shiites believe that the leadership remained within Muhammad’s family tree, which means that the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, Ali ibn Abu Talib, should be the leader instead.

• Religious leadership
While the Sunnis accepted that the first four Caliphs, Abu Bakr, Uthman ibn Affan, Umar ibn Al Khattab and Ali, were the rightful followers of Muhammad, they are not considered infallible.

Shiites, meanwhile, believe that imams were the descendants of the Prophet. Shiites often worship the imams as saints and perform pilgrimages to their tombs and temples to seek blessings.

• Religious practices
Shiites allegedly resented some of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad, such as Abu Bakr and Umar, who narrated the Prophet’s life and spiritual practices, and thus did not base religious practices on the testimony of those individuals.

• Marriage
The Shiites supposedly allow the nikah mut‘ah, or fixed-term temporary marriage, which is not tolerable within the Sunni community believing it as planned and agreed fornication.

• Rituals
When leveling their heads to the ground during prayers, Shiites place their forehead onto a piece of naturally occurring material, often a clay tablet said to be from Karbala, Iraq, the place where the son of Ali, Hussein ibn Ali (d. 680) was martyred, instead of directly onto a prayer rug.

In addition, some Shiites perform their prayers back to back, sometimes worshipping two times consecutively and thus praying five times a day but with a very small break in between the prayers.

From various sources (asa)


Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post | Reportage | Tue, September 04 2012

In the land of ulema, the price of breaking with the past

The attacks and killings in Blu’uran and Karang Gayam villages did not only send tremors through Sampang, but have shaken Jakarta’s elites. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono held an impromptu meeting with aides and sent his top officials to Sampang. Jakarta blames poor intelligence for not detecting the seeds of conflict sooner.

In his office in Sampang, Rudy Setiadhi, the official in charge of local political security, showed rows of photographs, including those of meetings with the ulema in Madura, officials in Sampang and the cleric Tajul Muluk.

Rudy said Jakarta was mistaken. “I’ve been involved in mediation here since 2006,” he said. “This is proof that the Sampang government has tried its best to resolve the conflict.”

Rudy said that Tajul had offended the Madura ulema by bringing Shia teachings to Sampang. “Tajul is quite an arrogant person. He thinks that kampong clerics are nothing compared to him.”

Around March this year, Tajul’s brother and arch-enemy Roisul Hukamah, a convert to the Sunni denomination, distributed a recording of Tajul speaking to a follower on the phone to clerics in Madura.

In the transcript, shown to The Jakarta Post, Tajul blasts the Sampang regent for sucking up to the ulema for political gain.

He also said that in Sampang, uneducated clerics could become head of Islamic organizations. “Isn’t that showing disrespect to the ulema here?” Rudy asked.

Culture is important in Madura.There is a hierarchy of respect on the island. Both Rudy and Sampang regent Noer Tjahja say they adhere to this cultural convention: Buppa’ Babbu’ Guru Rato.

Buppa Babbu refers to parents, Guru to clerics and Rato to the government. Hence, the words of clerics hold higher value than those of the government.

A local cleric from Pamekasan says the informal education system of Islamic boarding schools is entrenched in Madura culture. Parents who can’t afford to send their children to public schools send them to Islamic boarding schools instead.

Alumni of Islamic boarding schools can be ulema in their villages, so each village has at least one ulema. Alumni continue their relationship with their teachers, their gurus, and make yearly visits to present donations to their them.

In 2004, Ali Kharrar, a revered local cleric, requested the help of the government to deal with the spread of Shia teachings by Tajul. The Sampang government, Rudy said, were more than happy to facilitate.

Tajul and Iklik meanwhile decried Kharrar’s sermonized warning about Shia as the beginning of their persecution.

Ulema rejection of Tajul was not merely a question of faith. Rudy said that Tajul disrupted the social order in Sampang with his ways.

Indeed, Tajul refused to accept envelopes filled with money from villagers. This was a break from the local customs, where people would give money to ulema for their preaching. A big name cleric can get a fee of Rp 2.5 million (US$262), while less prominent ulema can expect Rp 50,000 (US$5.24) to
Rp 100,000. Ulema also receive money from attendance at functions when villagers shake hands with them.

Tajul also said he stopped individual celebrations of the Prophet’s birth (Maulid), only holding a celebration at his home. In Madura, each house has a small prayer house, families hold feasts and invite a cleric to come and give a sermon.

“I changed the practice because I saw people there are under the poverty line … I gave them a solution so the cost of Maulid celebrations would not go through the roof.” Yet, this particular change reduces the popularity and, crucially, the income of local ulema.


A young cleric, Ahmad Muzakir quickly kisses the hand of Kyai Kharrar in front of his Islamic boarding house Daarut Tauhid in Proppo, Pamekasan, a neighboring town to Sampang. Wearing a white turban, Kharrar nods his head.

Kharrar wears his beard in a neat trim. A busy cleric, he excused himself to meet his wife in the female boarding house of his school. “Please excuse me, I will sin if I do not visit my wife. I have been out all day,” he said.

Kharrar had been out giving two sermons during the day and immediately led a sermon for his male students.

Kharrar is the brother-in-law of Tajul and Rois’ grandfather, Ahmad. Ahmad’s son, Makmun became a Shiite after reading books and bulletins about Shia after the Iranian revolution.

Ahmad cursed his son for converting to Shia to the day Makmun died, Kharrar said. Makmun, who was quite respected locally, did not teach Shia to other villagers. However, he sent his two teenage sons Tajul and Rois to YAPI.

“Kak [elder brother] Ahmad was against that and took them out from YAPI and sent the two to my boarding school,” Kharrar said.

“He [Tajul] bickered every day with the other santri because his thinking was already different”, Kharrar said. Tajul and Rois stayed at Daarut Tauhid for a mere three months and returned to YAPI.

Rudy said that in 1993, Tajul left for Saudi Arabia as a migrant worker. Kharrar however said that Tajul went to Iran and lied about Saudi Arabia. According to Kharrar, after his return to Sampang, Tajul started to teach Shiite beliefs to people in the village.

In 2005, Kharrar set up a meeting to convert Tajul back into Sunni teachings. He invited Sampang officials, police and clerics from the Sampang chapter of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and ulema from five cities in Madura.

“I told him, ‘Child, I am here not to debate but to ask you to return to the road our ancestors took.’”

Kharrar’s proselytizing toward Tajul and his warnings toward other ulema about Shia continued.

In 2006, Tajul finally relented and signed a statement saying that he was returning to Sunni teachings.

“But he is always wishy-washy. In a meeting with us, he would comply, but once he is back, he would return to his ways,” Kharrar said.

In 2006, hundreds of people intimidated Tajul and his followers into returning to Sunni teachings.

Till 2009, Rois was with Tajul as a Shiite, until Rois’ desire for a young woman, called Halimah, was disrupted by Tajul.

Halimah, 19 has a long oval face and big eyes. Her house was one of those burnt on the Aug. 26 attack. At the refugee camp, she said that Rois confessed his love to her when she was 15. “But I did not want to
marry him.”

According to Tajul, Kulsum and Rudy, Rois has a womanizing streak. Marrying women just to divorce them in a couple of months.

One day, a close follower of Tajul, Dul Azid, came to Tajul to intercede for him and ask Halimah’s parents for her hand in marriage.

Tajul then proposed to Halimah for Dul Azid and the parents accepted. Rois became enraged, Halimah said. He summoned her parents and Dul Azid’s parents to meet him. Tajul told them not to come lest Rois would judge them and hit them.

Rois was furious with Tajul. “If that is the case, it is as if you have taken my wife. From now on, I will use my bajing power against you,” Tajul recounted what Rois said. Bajing power in Madurese means every dirty way there is, Tajul said. When Rois defected to the other side, pressure against Tajul increased and in 2011, the Sampang government asked him to relocate to Malang for a year until the situation cooled off.

Tajul accepted Rp 50 million from the government for relocation costs. But he continued to visit Sampang, Rudy said. And it infuriated the people there.

Despite mediation through the National Commission of Human Rights in October 2011, a month later, a Sunni mob attacked Tajul’s family, burning down three houses.

Rois then reported Tajul to the police for blasphemy. The Sampang chapters of the largest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, and Sampang’s chapter of MUI also released edicts that Tajul’s teachings were deviant. In July, Tajul was sentenced to two years in prison.

From prison, Tajul has said that he would like to return to Sampang after his release.

But Sampang regent Noer Tjahja, who will be running for reelection next year, ruled this out. “I am on the side of the ulema, that is clear. They are the ones who own Sampang. I don’t mind violating human rights, as long as I save the majority of my people”.

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post | Reportage | Tue, September 04 2012

Sampang regent ‘sides’ with the ulema

Sampang Regent Noer Tjahja is upset. A protracted disagreement over faith has turned deadly in his little town of less than 1 million people in Madura.

And worst yet, according to him, since the news of the attack against followers of the imprisoned Shia cleric Tajul Muluk surfaced, no one had got it right.

Some 300 meters across the road from where hundreds of Shiites take shelter at an indoor tennis stadium, Noer was sitting on the side of an outdoor tennis court.

Taking a break from his Saturday morning tennis, he met with The Jakarta Post. His brows furrowed, his deep big voice echoed across the court while he lambasted the media, the Jakarta political elites and human rights organizations for their comments.

Two people died in the Aug. 26 attack against Shiites in Blu’uran and Karang Gayam villages by a Sunni mob of over 1,000 people. The mob razed 37 houses in Blu’uran and Karang Gayam villages, displacing around 270 Shiites.

Since the attack, many had put in their two cents. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono blamed lack of police intelligence, poor early detection, and a solidarity alliance in Sampang accused Madura clerics and the regent of being behind the anti-Shia movement in Sampang.

Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi and Constitutional Court judge Mafud MD have said that the government would protect the rights of the Shia minority, promising to rebuild the houses of victims and guarantee their safety.

But Noer, elected in 2007, said any information about the conflict and its solution in Sampang from anyone other than him was wrong. He said he would like to meet the President to give his opinions on the conflict.

“I’ll tell him the true chronology, ‘If [Yudhoyono] receives information other than from me. It’s wrong. It’s wrong even if it’s from your aides. Don’t listen to it’,” he said.

“In all actuality we don’t have a Shia problem. The problem is about a family feud and a defiant sect — blasphemy…” Noer added.

The regent was referring to a feud between Tajul and his brother Roisul Hukamah, a convert to Sunni from Shia whose report on Tajul over blasphemy had brought the latter to court.

The court sentenced Tajul to two years in prison. Rois, as he is popularly known, is currently the sole suspect in the Sunday attacks.

“This is like a minority group is forcing their will on the majority. You shouldn’t turn it the other way around. Those in Jakarta are twisted. I have 900,000 residents. Of course I will prefer the dominant position,” he said.

Last Thursday, Iklil, Tajul’s brother, who has been staying with the rest of the refugees at the tennis stadium, walked across the street to the regent’s office. He has been wearing the same outfit for days, a white T-shirt and blue jeans. His house was among those burned by the mob.

That day, legislators from the House of Representatives visited Sampang from Jakarta to learn about the conflict. The members of Commission III had lunch with the regent and his staff at his office. Sampang ulema from Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and The Sampang chapter of the Indonesian Muslim Council (MUI) were also present.

Iklil said that he was asked to come there.

“I walked to the pendopo [the regent’s office] but they were already finished. So, I walked back here,” he said.

Noer visited the refugee camp once, a day after the attack. But, until Saturday, he has been tight lipped on Sampang’s administration’s plan for the victims.

Sampang MUI and NU leaders, Bukhori Maksum and Syafi’uddin Wahid, who hold a lot of clout in Sampang politics, have stated that Shiites will not be accepted on their land.

As of writing, the refugees are still sleeping on mattresses inside the stadium.

“We want to return to our lands,” Iklil said. Rumors about relocation plans have been flying around. Iklil flatly refuses to be sent away. “It’s our homeland and we’re also worried that if we become banished people from our own land, how can we be sure that we would not face the same problem elsewhere?” he said.

From jail, Tajul echoes his brother’s statement. He also said he refuses “relocation” plans because it would give a bad image of Sampang people.

In a Sidoarjo jail, Tajul wears the orange T-shirt of prisoners. He has been transferred to Sidoarjo after the Aug. 26 attack in Sampang. Tajul and his lawyers deem that it would be safer for Tajul to not be in Sampang.

Tajul’s view is that the Sampang administration want to kick his followers out of Sampang, just like they did to him. In 2011, the Sampang administration made him move to Malang to appease the ulema in Sampang.

Ever since Tajul returned from the Middle East in 1999, and started to become a local cleric, teaching his Shia beliefs to the community in his village, local clerics have persistently pressurized Tajul to return to Sunni teachings and stop his clerical activities. The cleric who first attempted to make Tajul “repent” in 2005 was Ali Kharrar, Tajul’s
grandfather’s brother in-law.

Noer Tjahja refuses to call Tajul Muluk followers Shiites. Shia, a denomination in Islam, believes the leadership of Islam was to remain with the prophet Muhammad’s bloodline. Despite the differences with the mainstream Sunni teachings, the national MUI has never released an edict that Shia is deviant.

The Sampang court found Tajul guilty of blasphemy on the basis that he stated that the current holy Koran was not authentic. Noer believes that the refugees are adhering to a deviant teaching based on that court’s decision.

Noer also says that he follows the Sampang MUI and NU who have released edicts that Tajul’s teachings were deviant.

Noer says that unless Tajul followers “repent” and the community accept them back, rebuilding homes in the area is not an option. “If the houses were rebuilt, it’s like sending people to hot embers,” he said. Due to strong rejection of the Shia minority from the community, if the latter refused to leave, “lives are at stake here”, he said.

Tajul’s lawyer Abdullah Djoepriyono said that faith was a personal issue that the government could not force on anyone.

But, Noer said that he did not care if he violated human rights, as long as he saved the majority in Sampang.

To illustrate the community’s hostility toward the Shia group, Noer said that when the body of Muhammad Khosim or Hamama, 50, the Shiite who died of machete wounds, was taken back to his village, his neighbors refused to let him be buried in the public cemetary.

“The community rejects not only Tajul but the whole group,” he said.

The Blu’uran and Karang Gayam villages where Tajul’s followers come from are small farming communities. In the dry season, such as now, the produce from the fields is tobacco leaves. These fields turn into rice fields during the rainy season.

After the attack, three companies of Brimob officers were deployed to the area. Next to tobacco fields and village houses, officers holding rifles stand guard.

At Blu’uran villagers are sitting inside a bamboo gazebo. A man and a woman stack tobacco leaves into a pile. Others watch television. Mela, 30, a young mother feeds her toddler instant noodles.

“Yes I know that there are Shia people there,” she says. “I don’t know them though,” she added. The burned house of the Shiite family was separated by one house from the gazebo. She said she did not know anything about the attack.

Young men in sarongs standing in front of village houses also say they did not hear anything on Sunday.

According to a Brimob officer from Surabaya, the people in Blu’uran were very private and kept their distance from outsiders. He said that he had asked for days about what happened there, but all he got was “I don’t know”.

A Madurese Brimob officer, Junaidi, told the Post that people in these villages lived together and knew each other. Both Shia and Sunni people worked together in the fields.

He said that people became suspicious of Tajul when they saw how from three to four people coming to Tajul’s small mosque on Friday prayers, his congregation grew until the mosque could not contain the followers. “They overflow outside the mosque,” he said.

But, not all people were disturbed by the increasing popularity of the Shia group. Muhyin, a 21-year-old Shiite, said that a Sunni family hid him when the burning was going on.

According to Tajul, politics is at play in the persecution of Shiites in Sampang. He said that the pressure and eventual attack against Shiite groups happened because Noer continued to follow the wishes of local ulema there.

Noer acknowledges that. Running for election in December to secure his current position, he said he will do whatever the ulema wants.

“The ulema owns Sampang, I am merely a worker for them,” he said, adding that he follows the local customary convention in Madura in which holds the ulema in higher respect than the government.

For Noer, whatever the ulema say in Madura, is his command.

Wahyoe Boediwhardana contributed to the reporting.

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Sampang, East Java | National | Sun, September 09 2012

By the way … Putting men in a tight spot

I propose that men be banned from wearing tight pants that leave little to the imagination. Those pants are often provocative and distracting. Let’s ban tight pants because they are — to use the words of our Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali — pornographic.

The minister heads the anti-porn task force and has to make a list of criteria of what is considered pornographic to effectively ban it.

Our Pornography Law doesn’t help him much as it has a sweeping definition on pornography: “Sexual materials made by people … that can arouse sexual desires and/or violate public moral values”.

So far, skirts that are worn above the knee have made it onto his list. By that logic, tight pants would be on that list, too. They are not only highly suggestive but also troubling.

Everyone, from punk rockers to corporate workers and men in uniform — whose tasks are, among others, to maintain public order — wear tight pants. It’s hard to do your job well when your derriere is the source of public curiosity.

See, I — and maybe some other women out there — get aroused by what those pants hide, or rather, emphasize. When those cops are waving their hands on the street, they think they’re helping the traffic to flow better. But we don’t! At least, I’m too busy checking out their cute butts.

For public decency and men’s own safety, no visible contours of a man’s behind in the streets should be available for public consumption. This is a matter of great importance.

Tights pants are so disturbing; they make me want to rape those beautiful men. Rape is bad. It’s awful. But it’s not entirely my fault to have such a desire to dominate and emasculate men when they dress so outrageously.

I’ll stop being a wisecrack and address some serious questions to my male compatriots. How did you feel about a sexual fantasy of raping you because of your “provocative” clothing? Do you find that normal and acceptable? Unless you’re into some dominatrix sex, it’s safe to say many of you will feel disgusted, offended, hated, objectified and violated.

Think about those feelings. Think about the shock, anger and shame that swells inside of you when you read my comments.

This is exactly how many women feel when they walk the street and get wolf-whistles, or when men in power try to control what women should wear in the pretext of protecting them women from rape.

Many of our male politicians seem to condone the hostile behavior of men toward women.

When a spate of sexual assaults on Jakarta’s public transportation system happened late last year, Governor Fauzi Bowo’s first reaction was to tell women not to wear miniskirts on buses.

When sexual assaults hit the House of Representatives, Speaker Marzuki Alie moved to ban mini-skirts in the legislature, adding an irresponsible comment along the way: “You know how men are.”

I beg to differ. Let’s suppose that not all men are weak-willed creatures who are helpless at keeping their sexual urges in check.

A man confident in his sexual behavior would never see a woman wearing a miniskirt as an invitation for rape. Real men would know how to appreciate beauty and to enchant a woman with his personality. A real man does not rape — he charms.

Only very frustrated men would object to seeing women wearing miniskirts. Their frustration stems from knowing they have no chance of wooing these women, either by virtue of their lack of confidence or by being in a committed relationship with another person.

Well, tough luck. As Mick Jagger sang to his then lover, “You can’t always get what you want”.

But, in a world where men have a sense of entitlement over women, it is difficult to get across to them that women are individuals and not sexual objects nor reproductive machines.

Sexual assault is a degrading crime. Humiliation comes when the offender takes away the victim’s control over his or her body, robbing them of their autonomy and dignity as free human beings.

The suffering of rape victims is horrendous enough without other people putting the blame on the victim for how they dress.

No one has the right to violate another person. There are no excuses. The danger is in the eye of the beholder, not in the object of beauty. The culprit is the rapist, not the victim’s torn clothes.

— Prodita Sabarini

The Jakarta Post | Headlines | Sun, April 22 2012

Noam Chomsky: Remember the Santa Cruz massacre

American philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky said justice was escaping human rights abuse victims, as he spoke of Indonesia’s dark period in East Timor (now Timor Leste) with the Santa Cruz Massacre 20 years ago, and the West’s complicity in that episode of violence.
Noam Chomsky: BloombergNoam Chomsky: Bloomberg

The prolific left-wing thinker gave his lecture on “Revolutionary Pacifism” in Sydney’s Town Hall recently as he received the Sydney Peace Prize awarded annually by the Sydney Peace Foundation.

“Another anniversary that should be in our minds today is of the massacre in the Santa Cruz graveyard in Dili just 20 years ago, the most publicized of a great many shocking atrocities during the Indonesian invasion and annexation of East Timor,” he said.

Twenty years ago on Nov. 12 in Dili, the military fired on civilians attending a memorial service of a resistance fighter, killing 270 people. Sixteen years earlier, with the backing of the US and Australia’s encouragement, Indonesia annexed East Timor.

Although the Indonesian government considers the chapter of its violent past in East Timor closed since it acknowledged a bilateral truth commission’s report that concluded — without naming individuals — that Indonesia committed gross human rights violations during East Timor’s 1999 break for Independence, Chomsky, citing the UN’s Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, considers it to be a continuing offense.

“The demands of justice can remain unfulfilled long after peace has been declared. The Santa Cruz massacre 20 years ago can serve as an illustration,” he said. “The fate of the disappeared is unknown, and the offenders have not been brought to justice, including those who continue to conceal the crimes of complicity and participation.”

Human rights organization Amnesty International recently urged the Indonesian government to reveal the details of the shooting in Santa Cruz.

Chomsky’s reminder of the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators and those who were complicit in the violence carried out in East Timor was an illustration of his general theme of his lecture on “Revolutionary Pacifism”. He quoted American pacifist thinker and social activist A.J. Muste, who “disdained the search for peace without justice”. Chomsky quoted Muste’s warning 45 years ago: “The problem after a war is with the victor. He thinks he has just proved that war and violence pay. Who will teach him a lesson?”

In his lecture, Chomsky recalled Australia’s dismissive attitude on the invasion, quoting former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans a couple of months before the Santa Cruz massacre as saying, “The world is a pretty unfair place … littered … with examples of acquisitions of force.” At the same time, Australia and Indonesia made a deal for East Timor’s oil.

The former foreign minister stood his ground that Australia had nothing to answer for morally in the annexation of East Timor by Indonesia. Chomsky said that this stance “can be adopted and even respected by those who emerge victorious”. He added, “In the US and Britain, the question is not even asked in polite society.”

Chomsky said that bringing the offenders and those who concealed and were complicit in the crime was the one indication of “how far we must go to rise to some respectable level of civilized behavior”.

The director of the Sydney Peace Foundation, Stuart Rees, as he introduced Chomsky to a standing ovation audience at Sydney Town Hall on Nov. 2, said that Chomsky was chosen for the peace prize as he had been committed to peace with global justice, to human rights and freedom of speech.

In the US, Chomsky has been criticized for his response on the assassination on Osama bin Laden. Chomsky reiterated his criticism on the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11 and the killing of Bin Laden in his lecture in Sydney. Chomsky said that the killing of Bin Laden abandoned the “doctrine of ‘presumption of innocence’”.

Chomsky joined Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Arundhati Roy, Sir William Deane and former secretary-general of Amnesty International Irene Khan as recipients of the Sydney Peace Prize.

Some 2,000 people attended his lecture at the historical building of Sydney Town Hall. In his soft-spoken manner, he mentioned that the public had the power to question the victors of war. In the case of East Timor, he said that in 1999, the pressure from the Australian public and media convinced former US president Bill Clinton to tell the Indonesian generals “that the game was over, at which point they immediately withdrew allowing an Australian-led peacekeeping force to enter.”

Chomsky said that there was a lesson for the public in that episode, as Clinton could have delivered the orders earlier, which would have prevented the massacre.

The social thinker read his lecture sentence by sentence in a calm and monotonous tone. His manner of speech did not boast any exemplary oratorical skill; however, the content was clear and his message was direct; and included in that message was that the strategy carried out by the US in the war on terror was destabilizing and radicalizing the Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

A professor of linguistics at MIT, Chomsky has long been criticizing American foreign policy.

According to The Guardian, he joins Marx, Shakespeare and the Bible as one of the 10 most-quoted sources in humanities and the only one among the writers who is still alive. With the Sydney Peace Prize, Chomsky won a A$50,000 (US$51,030) prize.

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Sydney | People | Fri, December 02 2011

Indefinite mandatory detention for asylum seekers harmful

A vignette of a short film started the night.

Two women, both who fled their home countries to avoid political persecution, were on the screen: a Chilean, Maria Fernanda Gonzales, who flew to Sydney in 1985, and an Iraqi, Zahoor Askari, who flew to the country a little over a decade later.

Maria stayed in the Villawood hostel in Sydney for refugees with her three boys and a baby on its way for seven months. The staff treated her kindly and she and her family were able to walk around outside the compound.

In Zahoor’s time, the place had turned into a detention center with two big wire fences surrounding the complex. “I woke up in the morning and thought to myself  ‘Where am I? I am in jail!’ I left Iraq because it was like a jail, only to be put in prison,” Zahoor said in the film.

The film started a public talk on Tuesday on Australia’s policy in the treatment of asylum seekers. Speaking at the talk, human rights advocate and lawyer Julian Burnside said Australia’s policy of indefinite mandatory detention was inhumane and unnecessary. Burnside also added that Australia’s tough measures on people smugglers was cutting the last chance of refugees
to seek escape.

Organized by State MP from the Greens Party Jamie Parker, the talk also featured a Hazara Afghan refugee and Francis Milne from the Uniting Balmain Church.

“Indefinite mandatory detention is completely unacceptable and it must end. This is an opportunity to begin a practical debate about the genuine alternatives,” Parker said.

In Australia, more than 4,000 asylum seekers are kept in detention centers. Since 1992 under the John Howard administration these incarcerations were mandatory and indefinite for people who came to Australia by boat without papers.

The detentions could last from six months to two years before the asylum seekers found out whether they would be granted protection visas or not.

Indefinite periods of detention have caused serious mental problems for detainees. The ABC Four Corners recent report showed that detainees harm themselves by cutting and many have attempted suicide. The frustration among asylum seekers being locked up for months have caused riots in detention centers on Christmas Island, with detainees setting ablaze the compound in March of this year. A month later, asylum seekers set fire to the Villawood detention center.

Burnside said that health and security checks should be limited to 30 days. Asylum seekers should be allowed in the community while immigration assessed their eligibility for protection visas.

Burnside said that asylum seekers who arrive by plane using tourist or student visas are allowed in the community through bridging visas. The percentage of people coming in by plane to be granted protection visas were a mere 20 percent, compared to 82 percent of the boat people who eventually receive asylum after spending time in detention. Hence, he questioned the need for indefinite periods of incarceration for people who are potentially granted refugee status as many end up having mental health problems after detention.

Burnside retold the story of Abdul Hamidi, an Iranian man who was detained at the Curtin detention center. He was granted asylum four years ago, but is now unable to work due to mental health problems. He was imprisoned in a small room and tortured in Iran. In Curtin, he tried to harm himself and attempted suicide. During times when Abdul has his bouts of frustration, detention center security guards place him in solitary confinement.

When the Labor government took power in 2008, the Immigration Department released seven new directives on detention centers. Among them were “detention in immigration detention centers is only to be used as a last resort and for the shortest practicable time” and “conditions of detention will ensure the inherent dignity of the human person.”

Burnside said if these directives were followed and more asylum seekers were allowed in the community awaiting their visas, the government would decrease their spending on detention centers and solve the problem of overcrowding in detention centers.

Burnside also commented on the government’s tough policies on people smuggling. Both leaders of the Liberal and Labor Parties have vilified people smugglers as evil people who make profits over the misfortune of others. In 2009 after a boat explosion that killed three asylum seekers, former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd was quoted by ABC lambasting people smugglers as the “absolute scum of the Earth”. Burnside said that while Rudd lashed out at people smugglers, his own hero, German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was a people smuggler who evacuated German Jews to Switzerland. “Oscar Schindler is a people smuggler,” Burnside added, saying that he too did it as a business. And to make his point clear, Burnside said that the nuns in The Sound of Music, who helped evacuate the Von Trap family, were also people smugglers.

A recent report from ABC Radio National shows that the problem of fishermen-turn-people smugglers in Indonesia has a connection to Australia’s tough maritime border security. The Australian government burned some of the fishermen’s boats considered to be trespassing Australian waters. Having no means of livelihood, the fishermen who knew the way to Australia become people smugglers instead. Some are only teenagers.

For asylum seekers who ended up in Indonesia, their refugee granting process through the UNHCR might take 10 to 30 years. Burnside said he was sure that Australian leaders, if they were in the same position as the refugees, they would choose to go on a boat rather than languish for decades in uncertainty. Yet these leaders are cutting the refugees last chance to freedom by punishing people smugglers, he concluded.

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Sydney | Features | Thu, November 24 2011

LGBT groups fight for their rights

Come out: People wave gay movement flags (left and right) and the Brazilian flag during a march against homophobia in Brasilia, Brazil, on May 18. AP/Eraldo Peres
Come out: People wave gay movement flags (left and right) and the Brazilian flag during a march against homophobia in Brasilia, Brazil, on May 18. AP/Eraldo Peres

As people become more aware on LGBT issues, protests follow. Hartoyo, the secretary-general of LGBT rights organization OurVoice, said that was normal.

“As more [LGBT people] appear, rejection from certain groups will come too,” he said giving examples of groups such as the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) and the Muslim Forum (FUI). These groups protested an international LGBT event in Surabaya last year, intimidating the organizers to the point they canceled the event.

Hartoyo said he believed that Indonesian society was tolerant. “Hatred toward the LGBT group is based more on lack of non-judgmental media communication,” he said.

That is why his organization uses the Internet platform through writings on their website and videos on Youtube. “Through our website we try to express what we feel is happing inside of us,” he said. “OurVoice can be a media form where everyone has the right to disagree but they also have to listen to what LGBT people are going through,” he said.

He said the LGBT rights movement in Indonesia developed from being composed of patron type organizations — such as the transgendered women’s group that holds dance events to organizations that focus on the rights of LGBT people. In its third decade the advocacy movement has progressed far from the days of the 1980s when homosexual men and women and transgenders networked exclusively through the first and — at that time — the only gay magazine GAYa Nusantara.

Hartoyo’s organization OurVoice, and Arus Pelangi, Ardhanary Institute, are working more on the human rights issues concerning LGBT.

“After the reform era, organizations based more on human rights issues emerged and they hugely contribute to Indonesia’s LGBT discourse,” he said.

Eventually, Hartoyo said that the group aimed to gain political power that could ensure the state provides policies on LGBT rights.

Prodita Sabarini, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Feature | Sat, May 21 2011