Khabar Southeast Asia

Indonesian anti-Shia declaration draws criticism

By Alisha Nurhayati and Yenny Herawati for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta and Bandung

May 01, 2014

A billboard advertising an April 20th Anti-Shia National Alliance event appears outside the Al Fajar mosque in Bandung, West Java. [Yenny Herawati/Khabar]

A billboard advertising an April 20th Anti-Shia National Alliance event appears outside the Al Fajar mosque in Bandung, West Java. [Yenny Herawati/Khabar]

Many are condemning a declaration late last month by a pro-Sunni Muslim group as inciting persecution of Indonesia's Shiite minority and violence among members of the two Islamic sects.

"This is hate speech and this is in violation of Indonesian criminal law," Bonar Tigor Naipospos, Deputy Chair of the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, told reporters in Jakarta.

He was referring to a multi-point declaration issued by a new group called the Anti-Shia National Alliance (ANAS) during an April 20th event at Al Fajar Mosque in Bandung, West Java, in which more than 1,000 people attended.

"Shia teachings … constitute a doctrine that deviates from the Qur'an and the Sunnah," the declaration says, describing Shiites as a proselytising sect that spreads "heretical teachings".

It states that leaders of participating Muslim organisations agree to "maximise anticipatory, proactive and preventive measures" to defend against "faith deception" by Shia groups, and to press the government to revoke licences of Shia institutions throughout Indonesia.

Headed by Athian Ali, ANAS has the backing of some prominent clerics. Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) member Ahmad Cholil Ridwan was listed on the official programme as a participant. Abdul Hamid Baidlowi, a Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) cleric, was among attendees, according to the Jakarta Post.

Muhammad Amin, a 26-year-old Bandung resident, was also there.

"Part of the goal of the ANAS declaration is to encourage the public to not vote for Joko Widodo and his Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) because the party has agreed to endorse Shia followers as representatives," he told Khabar Southeast Asia, referring to Jalaluddin Rakhmat, a Shiite contesting a still-to-be determined West Java seat in national legislative elections.

"A step back for Indonesia"

The declaration drew widespread criticism.

Ahmad Fuad Fanani, of the Maarif Institute for Culture and Humanity in Jakarta, described the ANAS manifesto as a call to sectarianism.

"I hope they know the short and long-term consequences of this event. In the short term, it can compromise security in Indonesia,” he told Khabar. “In the long term, it will be a step back for Indonesia in terms of religious tolerance."

National Commission on Human Rights Chairman Hafis Abbas also weighed in.

"We need to respect other people's rights. If we want to fight something that we oppose, we should follow procedures. This kind of event will only bring more segregation among Muslims," Hafis told Khabar.

Religious leaders also criticised ANAS and called for Muslims of all sects to remain calm.

"Let us sit down and find a solution for this. We hope that our government will also address this situation immediately," Bandung cleric Fakhrudin Sidik said.

As for the Shia community, it sent a letter to the Indonesian government stating its concerns about the declaration and asking authorities to intervene, said Abdi M. Soeherman, a Shia spokesman.

ANAS's declaration breached both the Indonesian constitution and one of the nation's founding Pancasila principles, Abdi told Khabar.

"Every Indonesian citizen has the right to believe in their religion," he said. "I hope whoever is responsible for hate speech like this will be brought to justice."

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