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In the aftermath of the attacks on a minority religious group in Sampang, Madura, East Java, last Sunday, Shiite youngsters in West Java called for peace and tolerance among religious followers.
Fatimah Assegaf, a 17-year-old student in Bandung, said that she was devastated by the attacks in Sampang, in which two were killed. Hundreds are still in shelters as their houses were razed.
Fatimah added she had encountered attacks herself growing up in East Java.
“I went to YAPI, an Islamic boarding school in Pasuruan, East Java, before I moved to Bandung in 2010. At the time, an unidentified group used to throw stones at the school building almost every evening,” Fatimah told The Jakarta Post on Friday.
YAPI, known as a school run by Shiites, a minority group among the predominantly Sunni population of Indonesia, was attacked by a mob of 100 people in February last year, injuring at least four students, as previously reported by the Post.
Fatimah, who comes from a Shiite family with the exception of her Sunni mother, said that she sometimes also encountered mockery for her beliefs.
“So yes, you can say that I have gotten used to harassment,” said Fatimah.
Fatimah currently attends SMA Plus Muthahhari, which was established by scholar Jalaluddin Rahmat. In addition to developing the school, Jalaluddin also chairs the consultative council of the Indonesian Ahlul Bait Association (Ijabi), one of the few Shia organizations in Indonesia.
She maintained, however, that her teachers did not solely teach Shia teachings, but also Sunni philosophy as well. In fact, the teaching staff comprises a mix of Sunnis and Shiites.
“I want to learn more about Shia teachings but that does not mean I want to be close-minded by refusing to learn other teachings,” the youngest of seven added.
Fatimah, who decided she wanted to study Arabic literature after graduating from high school, said that she could not fathom the Sampang attacks and killings.
“I believe someone provoked the situation,” she said. “Basically, both the Sunnis and Shiites worship the same God, so why must one hurt the other?”
Similarly, Fatimah’s friend, Raihan Rizky, a Sunni, said he was shocked by the Sampang tragedy, adding that there were “so many ways” to solve differences without violence.
“[Pophet] Muhammad told his followers to be tolerant. How can they burn down people’s houses like that?” Raihan said.
He added that occasional debates between him and his Shiite colleagues were always resolved peacefully.
“We usually end our debates by searching for references at the library. I think that is healthier than balling up our fists,” he said.
Separately, Ridwan, a 21-year-old Islamic education student in Ciparay, Garut, West Java, where dozens of Shiites live, said he sympathized with the Shiites in Sampang, particularly the children.
“All Muslims should be able to feel the pain of their brothers and sisters when something terrible like the Sampang tragedy happens," he said. “I hope the adults there can continue to educate the children even during times like this.”
— JP/ Amahl Azwar