Local branches of mainstream Muslim organizations have supported the recent demand to instate sharia law in Bekasi, regardless of negative responses from the public.
Deputy secretary for the Bekasi branch of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Abdul Mutholib Jaelani, told The Jakarta Post on Monday that the organization was actively involved in a recent Islamic congress as well as other efforts to thwart the spread of Christianity in the area.
Cofounded by the country’s pluralism guru, late former president Abdurrahman Wahid, the organization is currently preparing the establishment of the Aswaja Brigade paramilitary group for physica confrontation with Christians.
“We have asked all 56 NU subdistrict branches in the city to send at least 10 people to join the newly established [paramilitary] group,” Abdul said.
A congress of Bekasi-based Islamic organizations called on Bekasi regency and municipality administrations on Sunday to instate sharia law in the area to curb “the ongoing attempts to convert people to Christianity”.
Apart from recommending the enactment of sharia law, the congress also called for the establishment of the Laskar Pemuda (Youth Troops) paramilitary group for possible conflict with local Christians.
Abdul Rouf, the chairman of the Bekasi branch of Muhammadiyah, earlier voiced support for the move to stop the spread of Christianity.
“There is nothing Muslims can do now except to unite and deal with this issue together,” Abdul said Sunday at the public gathering at the Al Azhar mosque, one of the largest mosques in the city.
Although not invited to the congress, the local branch of the Islamic-based Justice and Prosperous Party (PKS) expressed support for the congress’ proposal.
The party, however, questioned the urgency of the establishment of the Laskar Pemuda paramilitary group. “It makes the sharia law demand look militant,” Heri Koswara, a city councilor and an official with the Bekasi branch of the PKS, told the Post.
The PKS is well known for its political efforts to support the implementation of sharia law in the
On Monday, Bekasi municipal administration spokesman Endang Suhariyadi refused to comment on the demands, saying the administration “had not received any information about the congress.” Calls to Bekasi regency administration secretary Dadang Mulyadi were unanswered.
Rapid development in residential and industrial estates has turned Bekasi, located outside Jakarta, into a more culturally and religiously diverse city, making it vulnerable to religious conflict, mainly between Muslims and Christians.
Last week, a group of local Muslims raided a baptism ceremony at a house in the upscale Kemang Pratama Regency estate.
The residents said they were suspicious after seeing hundreds of unidentified people — some of them in veils — arriving by bus to a house belonging to a Christian social foundation.
The situation was settled after police arrested the house owners and instructing the people, who had come from areas in Jakarta, to go home.
Bekasi ‘45 Islamic University sociologist Andi Sopandi, who also lives in Bekasi, said the joint call for sharia law signaled that inter-religious conflict in the city had escalated to alarming levels.
“The government should immediately persuade Muslim and Christian leaders to hold intensive dialogue,” he said.
Osi Nevina, a resident of Kota Harapan Indah estate, said the groups’ “declaration of war” against Christians tarnished the image of local Muslims. “I believe that settling any dispute through dialogue would be better for society,” the 24-year-old bank employee said.