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The government’s plan to relocate the Shia community from their homes in Sampang, Madura, East Java, has been rejected outright by Shia group Ahlul Bait Indonesia (ABI), which perceives the proposal as a way to alienate the group.
“Shia communities are not only located in Sampang; they are spread out from Aceh to Papua. Is the government planning to relocate all of us?” ABI secretary-general Ahmad Hidayat said in a press conference on Friday.
Muhaimin Hamama, 15, the son of Muhammad Hasyim (not Kosim, as reported earlier), or Hamama, who was killed during Sunday’s attack, said he and his family had no other option but to stay in Sampang.
“I am still afraid of going back to our village, but I’ve been there my whole life, as has my family,” Muhaimin told The Jakarta Post.
He added that one of the attackers was a neighbor, who lives only 20 meters from his parents’ house, and that the Shiites were still facing threats from their attackers.
“I want the President to act directly to protect us, instead of relocating us to another place,” he said.
Zaini, 28, the son of Thohir who was in critical condition after the attack, said he was very disappointed with the government’s miserly efforts to ensure their safety.
“I’m voicing the shared opinion of all the residents who are still in the temporary shelter; our decision is unanimous in that we reject the relocation plan,” Zaini said.
Zaini and Muhaimin arrived in Jakarta on Friday morning to seek protection from the Witness and Victims Protection Agency (LPSK).
Ahmad of ABI urged the government to ensure the safety of the community instead of kicking them out of their homes for the sake of calm in the region. The government should start rebuilding the homes of the 600 Shia followers in Sampang who were now homeless, he said.
He added that the government should also denounce the statement by the East Java branch of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), which declared the Shia sect heretical.
“Shia is a part of Islam and it is not heretical. The MUI statement, on the other hand, should be declared heretical,” Ahmad said.
ABI chairman Hasan Alaydrus said collective fury and attacks against Shiites had increased following the East Java MUI’s announcement in 2007.
“The situation worsened after statements — such as Shiites’ blood is halal — were made by some mubaligh [Islamic preachers], which ignited a fire of hatred toward Shia followers,” Hasan said in a press statement.
According to Ahmad, Shiites in Sampang suspected that one of Tajul Muluk’s relatives, Abuya Ali Karrar, a prominent Sunni ulema in the region, was also behind the attack.
“Abuya sent hate messages to Shia community members via his sermons and through his media statements, which provoked the neighborhood,” Ahmad said.
He said Sunday’s attack was a form of public hatred, although half of those who attacked the Shiites were victims of provocation themselves,” he added.
“Some people are trying to turn what was a family conflict into a religious conflict, as well as conflicts between the ulema, when in fact most of the Sunnis and members of Nahdlatul Ulama [NU] accepted Shia followers, and they all lived together peacefully before the provocation,” he said.
Meanwhile, Iklil al-Milal, the elder brother of Shia leader Tajul Muluk, said the Shiite victims of Sunday’s attack had forgiven the perpetrators and they would not be seeking revenge.
Together with 278 Shia followers, Iklil sought refuge after his house was burned down by an anti-Shia mob.
East Java Police security unit chief Comr. Supardi Astiko said police would be sending a case file to East Java’s Provincial Prosecutor’s Office after naming Rois al Hukama a suspect in Sunday’s attack.
“We have questioned 30 witnesses so far,” he added. (nad)