Bandung. A planned declaration in Bandung to denounce the Shiite community turned into a fiery call for jihad, or holy war, against the much-maligned minority group.
Thousands of people showed up for the event on Sunday hosted by the Anti-Shia Alliance, a gathering of hard-line Sunni Muslim organizations.
Ahmad bin Zein Al Kaff, the head of one of those organizations, the Anti-Heresy Front, said that Indonesia must be cleansed of Shiite teaching to prevent sectarian strife between Shiites and Sunnis — all the while inciting violence against Shiites.
“It’s time that we declared jihad against them,” he said in an impassioned speech to the crowd gathered at Bandung’s Al Fajar Mosque.
“We should not tolerate them any more because we can’t hold any more dialogues with them.”
West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan, who has made no secret of his distaste for minority religious groups, was expected to attend the declaration but stayed away at the last minute, instead sending his assistant for welfare, Ahmad Hadadi, who expressed support for the alliance’s cause.
Also in attendance was Ahmad Cholil Ridwan, a leader of the Indonesian Council of Ulema, or MUI, the highest Islamic authority in the country and ostensibly a moderate body.
Cholil’s message on the day, however, was anything but moderate as he called for a “purge” of the Shiites.
“As long as we [Islamic parties] are not in power, we will never be able to purge the Shiites,” he said.
“We need to strengthen our political base. The ruling coalition must be controlled by Islamic parties.”
The declaration itself called for “preventive and anticipative” action to deal with the “Shiite threat,” which observers say amounts to unprovoked attacks on Shiite communities in West Java and elsewhere, which continue to be carried out by hard-line groups like the Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI.
FPI members were present at Sunday’s gathering, dressed in black ski masks and camouflage jackets stencilled with “Heresy Hunters.”
Prior to the declaration, the West Java chapter of the Association of Jamaah Ahlul Bait Indonesia (IJABI), an umbrella group for Shiite organizations, had requested that the police not allow the gathering, on the grounds that it would incite hatred — a crime under Indonesian law.
“The police should take the necessary steps because this event will spread hatred and could invoke violence,” said Hesti Rahardja, the IJABI West Java chairwoman.
However, rather than preventing the gathering, the police deployed dozens of officers to secure the event.
“We respect freedom of expression. But we have to be careful because the presidential election is approaching,” Hesti said.
Bantarto Bandoro, a defense and security expert at the Indonesian Defense University, said it was precisely because of the upcoming election that the alliance had chosen this moment to call for the eradication of the Shiite faith from Indonesia.
“They perceive themselves as representing the majority. So they think that if any politician wants to become president, they must listen to their demands,” he said.
This was borne out in the message to the crowd from Muhammad Al Khaththath, the secretary general of the Indonesian Ulema and Congregation Forum, or FUUI, which in 2012 issued a call to build “anti-Shiite posts” to protect the Sunni faithful.
“The presidential election must be used as a momentum,” Al Khaththath said on Sunday.
“We will support any candidate who wants to make an MOU to purge the Shiites from Indonesia. If Prabowo [Subianto] is ready to do that. he will become the president,” he added, referring to the candidate from the Great Indonesia Movement Party, or Gerindra.
Bantarto urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to quickly take action to prevent he spread of the hate speech and protect Shiite communities from attacks.
“The conflict between Sunni and Shiite, which started in the Middle East, has arrived in Indonesia. We must not let ourselves be consumed by this conflict as we risk our own plurality and our unity as a nation. It will be a long and bloody conflict if we fall into the trap,” he warned.