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Hard-line groups target
Christianity with sharia
law

A joint congress of Muslim organizations demanded the Bekasi regency and municipality administrations immediately implement Islamic sharia law to deter the growth of Christianity in the area.

“We will urge the [Bekasi] regency and municipal administrations to pass more sharia-based bylaws and regulations to limit apostasy and squeeze out attempts to weaken Muslim unity in the city,” Sulaiman Zachawerus, the chairman of the Bekasi branch of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), said Sunday at the conclusion of a congress of more than 500 participants at Al Azhar mosque.

Apart from hard-line Muslim groups in the area, the congress, which was held on the past two Sundays, was also attended by local branches of two mainstream Muslim organizations, Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama.  

“[Christians] have gone too far,” Abdul Rouf, the head of the Bekasi branch of Muhammadiyah, said.

The congress also called for the establishment of the Laskar Pemuda (Youth Soldiers) paramilitary group to thwart “possible conflict with local Christians” following the organizations’ joint call to fight what they called attempts by Christians to convert the local population.   

“We are planning to station members [of the group] in every mosque in the city,” said Tunggal Sawabi, an official with the Bekasi branch of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI) who was appointed as one of the “field commanders”.

This first-ever joint forum in the area was held after a series of clashes between Muslims and Christians.

Rapid development in residential and industrial zones has turned Bekasi, located in the outskirts of Jakarta, into a more culturally and religiously diverse city, making it vulnerable to religious conflict, mainly between Muslims and Christians.

In the past, such conflict has flared up around the city, mostly triggered by disputes over allegedly unauthorized churches.

This year, the number of inter-religious conflicts has grown.

Last month, a Christian school in Pondok Gede was attacked after a former student allegedly posted a picture showing him putting a copy of the Koran in a toilet in the school’s blog.

A few weeks later, after protracted pressure from hard-line Islamic groups, the Bekasi municipal administration finally decided to forcefully take down the Tiga Mojang (Three Ladies) sculpture from the entrance to the Kota Harapan Indah residential complex, following the groups’ allegations that the sculpture was obscene and symbolic of the Christian Trinity.

Yunahar Ilyas, a chairman of Muhammadiyah, admitted that there were innate “ethical” problems with religious missionaries in the country.

The “unwritten” rules among missionaries, he said, stipulated that one should not attempt to convert those who had already embraced a religion.

“Once the rule is broken, it becomes a sensitive matter and the local administration must play an active intermediary role in preventing the conflict from escalating.”

Yunahar, however, said the sharia law proposal ran counter to interfaith dialogue in the area, which should have solved the issue.

“This case proves interfaith dialogue is merely a superficial process that has little impact,” he said.

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