Members of the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) attacked activists at the National Monument (Monas) in Central Jakarta on Sunday afternoon, leaving 34 injured.
National Alliance for the Freedom of Faith and Religion (AKKBB) activists had entered the Monas area to commemorate the 63rd year of Pancasila state ideology, when they were confronted and beaten by FPI members, Adj. Sr. Comr. Suharna of the Jakarta Police told The Jakarta Post.
"We had warned the alliance about a possible clash with Islamic groups who would be staging a protest against the fuel price increases at the same time, but they insisted on going anyway," he said.
The AKKBB earlier announced the event to the public through newspapers, saying they endorsed pluralism and urged everybody not to be intimidated by people who threatened practitioners of different beliefs, as in the case of the Ahmadiyah Islamic sect.
Thousands of Ahmadiyah followers in the country have lived under threat after the sect was declared blasphemous by several hard-line groups.
"We were warned by the police that the Hizbut Tahrir Islamic group would also be holding a protest here but we did not know that FPI members would be among them," AKKBB event coordinator Nong Darol said.
She said that after being warned, the alliance decided to hold the event for only an hour at Monas and then march on to the Hotel Indonesian traffic circle.
"We were shocked when FPI members chased and beat us with bamboo sticks, mostly those who were already inside Monas. We ran away but they had already hurt many people," she said.
When contacted, Nong was accompanying Mohammad Guntur Romli to surgery at Army Central Hospital in Central Jakarta. Guntur's cheek bone was fractured by blows from FPI members wielding sticks.
FPI spokesman Munarman told radio reporters the incident was in reaction to the alliance's offensive statement in several newspapers last Tuesday.
Abdurrohman Djailani of the FPI said the group would be available for a press conference at its headquarters in Petamburan, West Jakarta, on Monday.
No one was arrested in the incident. Jakarta Police chief Sr. Comr. Budi Winarko told reporters he would arrest perpetrators beginning Monday.
"Arresting them at the scene would have worsened the situation as it could have triggered bigger riots. We have already gotten video tape evidence from reporters and will arrest them in the following days," he said.
He said 1,200 police officers were at the scene when the clash occurred.
The attack was quickly condemned by human rights activists, politicians and Muslim organizations Muhammadiyah and Nahdatul Ulama (NU).
"The NU opposes any violence for any reason. There is no religious justification that tolerates violent actions. I urge the government to immediately take proper measures against the perpetrators. If the state ignores this case, its authority will be destroyed and more anarchy will emerge," Masdar Farid Masudi of the NU said.
Din Syamsudin, chairman of the country's second-largest Muslim organization Muhammadiyah, voiced similar concerns.
"This action is not in line with Islamic teachings and will tarnish Islam's image. It is a crime that must be prosecuted. I hope everyone can control him or herself and avoid violence and anarchism," he said.
The Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) also condemned the attack, saying it urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to turn his attention to the incident and asking the police to arrest FPI members involved in the violence. (ind/alf)