Concerns rise over attacks on religious leaders in Indonesia

Indonesia's National Police Chief Gen. Tito Karnavian. (REUTERS)
Updated 26 February 2018

Concerns rise over attacks on religious leaders in Indonesia

JAKARTA: Indonesia’s National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian has announced the formation of special units to investigate a recent rise in attacks on religious leaders and places of worship across the country, as the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) demanded answers on what appears to be a coordinated series of events.
“The special teams are conducting thorough investigations into the underlying cause of the series of attacks against ulema and religious figures,” National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Mohammed Iqbal told Arab News.
The MUI has urged police to come up with a better answer to the attackers’ motives after they originally dismissed the assaults as being the work of people suffering from mental disorders.
Between December and February, the authorities recorded 21 assaults against Muslim clerics, priests, monks and places of worship, and claimed 15 of them were carried out by “lunatics.”
Most of the cases took place in Indonesia’s most-populous island, Java, where three provinces will elect new governors in June.
MUI Secretary-General Anwar Abbas told Arab News the police had assured him they would have an explanation for the assaults within two weeks, following a meeting on Feb. 21 among the MUI Advisory Board, the National Police’s Criminal Investigation Unit and the National Counterterrorism Agency.
“We demanded that the police explain how people with mental disorders could carry out attacks almost simultaneously aiming for similar targets — ulemas and religious leaders,” he said, adding that the MUI did not want the issue to be “open to wild interpretations.”
“We want the hubbub around the attacks to end soon, especially since we are approaching the election years,” Anwar said, referring to regional elections this year and presidential polls next year.
Din Syamsuddin, chairman of the MUI Advisory Board, expressed concern that the attacks seemed to be orchestrated.
“It seems that from December until now is the season for lunatics to appear,” he said.
On Feb. 18, a statue in a Hindu temple in Lumajang, East Java, was vandalized by an unidentified perpetrator, while on the same day in Lamongan, also in East Java, a man attacked a cleric who heads an Islamic boarding school managed by Muhammaddiyah, Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim organization.
A man tried to vandalize a mosque in Tuban, East Java, on Feb. 13, and two days earlier a sword-wielding attacker injured a German priest, a policeman and two churchgoers as the priest was leading Sunday mass at St. Lidwina church in Yogyakarta.
Two similar attacks also took place in West Java where a Muslim cleric died after he was attacked in his house in early February. Another cleric affiliated with Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, was attacked after morning prayers in late January this year.
During the MUI meeting, chief detective Commander Gen. Ari Dono Sukmanto dismissed the idea that the attacks were orchestrated or religiously motivated, calling them “purely criminal.” But he did acknowledge that police had been premature in labeling some of the perpetrators as mentally disturbed.
“It triggered public confusion, and on behalf of our institution I apologize that some of us jumped the gun,” he said, adding that police are now investigating five suspects for allegedly spreading fake news about the incidents.

Hague hearing offers ray of hope to Bangladesh’s Rohingya

Updated 10 December 2019

Hague hearing offers ray of hope to Bangladesh’s Rohingya

  • International Court of Justice seeks to address atrocities committed by Myanmar

DHAKA: Several members of the Rohingya community in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar expressed optimism on Monday that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would rule in their favor once it began its three-day hearing against Myanmar on Tuesday.

The case was filed by Gambia on behalf of all Muslim nations from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) with the ICJ over the alleged persecution of the Rohingya by the Myanmar military.

On Nov. 18, the court decided to hold the hearings from Dec.10 to 12. Gambia’s justice minister will lead his country during the hearings.

Both Canada and Bangladesh have been supporting Gambia by providing different data and information regarding the atrocities against the Rohingya.

Myanmar’s state councillor and its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has already reached  the Netherlands to lead the defense lawyers on behalf of her country at the ICJ.

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque will remain present at the courtroom to witness the process.

He will lead a 20-member team, comprising government officials and civil society representatives.

Rohingya at Cox’s Bazar are highly optimistic of securing justice at the ICJ.

“We think justice will be ensured because all international human rights groups, different UN organizations and the international community have got evidence of the persecution on the Rohingya. All of them have visited the refugee camps many times and listened to the plight of the Rohingya,” Sawyed Ullah, a community leader from Jamtoli, told Arab News.

“Also, we have strong evidences of atrocities committed by the Myanmar government to root out the Rohingya from their birth place, Rakhine,” Ullah added.

“Without ensuring accountability, there will not be any safety and justice in Rakhine. Once the accountability is restored,  all of us will be able to go back home.”

Ramjan Ali, another refugee from the Kutupalang camp, said: “Myanmar’s government has forcibly displaced the Rohingya from their own land and that compelled us to shelter here at the refugee camps. Isn’t it enough evidence to justify our allegations against the Myanmar government?”

Ramjan Ali added: “Still the situation in Rakhine is very bad as we receive information from our relatives over there. We need protection from the international forces before any repatriation, and the ICJ’s decision will be helpful for us in this regard.”

Rohingya human rights activist Nay San Lwin, co-founder of the German-based Free Rohingya Coalition described the ICJ’s move as historic.

“It is first ever since we are persecuted. We have been seeking for justice since very long time,” Lwin told Arab News, adding that “finally the case is now at the world court and although it will take several years we are now excited for provisional measures from the court.”

Lwin, along with some 200 Rohingya rights activists from around the world, is set to hold a protest rally at the Hague from Dec. 11 during the ICJ’s hearing.

“We are expecting very much from the ICJ. Regardless whether Myanmar follows the decisions of the court this will have a huge impact. There won’t be any other justice mechanisms if this international court of justice can’t ensure the justice for us,” added Lwin.

Expressing his frustration on the repatriation process, Lwin said that the Myanmar government still had a “genocidal policy” on the Rohingya.

“I don’t think repatriation of the Rohingya will take place soon unless the government is considering to fulfill our demands,” he said.

The ICJ’s final decision will hold strong significance as any decisions taken by the ICJ are binding on member states.

Both Gambia and Myanmar are signatories of the Genocide Convention.