Shia followers hide in hunger
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Nangkernang village in Sampang regency, East Java: (kompas.com)Followers of Tajul Muluk, the Shiite cleric sentenced to two years for blasphemy by Sampang District Court in July this year, fled in panic after an anti-Shia group attacked their settlement in Sampang, Madura, East Java at around 9:30 p.m. local time on Aug. 26.
A Tajul Muluk follower, Kiswoto, 35, said many children and adults were hiding along the river to avoid attack. “We have been hungry since yesterday. After our village was attacked, we immediately fled to safety,” he said.
Though it was not the first time Kiswanto had experienced such violence, he said, he would never change his faith.
The first attack took place on Dec. 29, 2011. In the aftermath, a Tajul Muluk follower Mochamad Kosim, 50, was hacked to death. The mob also attacked and wounded three members of the Shia community and set fire to 37 homes.
After the attack, 250 of the 500 members of the Shia community were evacuated more than 8 kilometers from their village, while hundreds of armed personnel from the police and Indonesian Military (TNI) scoured the area for Tajul Muluk followers still in hiding.
Convicted of blasphemy, Tajul Muluk, 39, was proven guilty of spreading religious teachings deemed deviant by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), such as three prayers daily, using an invalid Koran, considering Prophet Muhammad’s companions infidels, allowing siri marriage and the denial of the haj pilgrimage to Mecca.
Religious figures and clerics in Sampang have urged the Shia community and Tajul Muluk followers to return to Sunni teachings, as a prerequisite to resolution of the conflict.
Sampang MUI head Buchori Maksum said the conflict would not be resolved while the Shia community in Sampang remained loyal to Tajul Muluk.
“According to them [anti-Shia group], this is not the end. It’s like oil and water that cannot mix. I cannot promise the conflict will end,” Buchori told The Jakarta Post on Monday.
Tajul Muluk has been held at Sampang prison since April 12. An attacker who set fire to three homes and a Shia mosque, Maskirah, was only sentenced to five months.
East Java Governor Soekarwo said eight people arrested during the latest attack would be prosecuted according to existing laws.
East Java chapter the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) coordinator Andy Irfan said this was unfair law enforcement on the part of the state. When Tajul Muluk was sentenced, the issue should have been resolved, but in reality it was not.
“Police were too slow to prevent the riot escalating. The Sampang Police chief promised a shoot-on-sight policy if the riot recurred, but in reality the police were not present. The two or three platoons that were dispatched to the scene at around 12:30 p.m. were obviously insufficient, compared to the crowd of thousands,” said Andy.
According to Kontras, concrete effort is necessary to protect the minority Shia community and their rights.
“There is no firm and clear solution. The government allows the conflict to continue. Regional officials allow measures taken by the anti-Shia group. Facts in the field show efforts to evict Shia followers from Sampang,” said Andy.
Surabaya’s Sunan Ampel State Islamic Institute (IAIN) rector Abdul A’la said the riot in the name of religion in Sampang was connected to heated political conditions in Sampang ahead of the regional leadership election slated for Dec. 12.
“Other regency candidates wish to topple the administration currently headed by Regent Noer Tjahja of the Democratic Party,” he said.