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Shia refugees live in uncertainty

Beleaguered minority Shia Muslim refugees from Sampang, Madura, East Java, are now facing further uncertainty as the local government stops supplies of their daily needs.

Shiite leader Iklil Al Milal said in Surabaya on Sunday that the refugees from Karang Gayam village faced difficulties in getting food and clean water over the last month as the local administration started to cease supplies of the two without reason.

Up to 274 Shia followers have been forced to take shelter at a local sports center after the majority Sunnis attacked and burned their village, homes and farm lands, killing two people on Aug. 26 — based simply on the belief that the Shia teachings were heretical.

Iklil added that many refugees are distressed as husbands and wives could not lead normal lives due to the poor conditions of the camp.

“We decided to stay at the refugee camp due to the absence of security for our lives,” Iklil said, adding that the refugees had been forced to use their own money to buy food and water.

The refugees face a quandary as they have run out of money but can not return to their profession as tobacco farmers.

Misbahah, 36, one of the refugees, hoped the displacement case could be ended as soon as possible so that she could work again as a tobacco farmer.

“Karang Gayam is my birth place where my relative’s graves are located. I don’t want to be evicted from my village,” said Misbahah, who left with her husband Samsuri, 36, and son Hamam Maulidi, 3.

“We used to live happily without any pressure from anybody,” she said. “But the happiness is now gone. Aside from being attacked, we have also been forced to convert as our belief is said to be heretical.”

The Shia Muslims met with the House of Representatives in Jakarta last week, hoping the lawmakers would help them deal with their problems. However, the lawmakers answered their requests for aid with ethnic slurs and indifference.

Coordinator of the Surabaya office of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence (Kontras) Andy Irfan said that without a solution from the government, which was in line with their will, they would further face difficulties in ending the Shia refugee problem.

The only solution offered declares that Shia followers must be relocated and moved away from Sampang, he said.

Young Muslim intellectual Ulil Abshar Abdalla said on Sunday that the problem with Ahmadiyah, Shia and the like consisted mainly of differences in interpreting religious teachings that could not be categorized as desecration.

“I think what is said to be a religious desecration simply constitutes hate speech,” he said.

As a member of the House of Representatives, Ulil supported a plan to revise Law No. 1/1965 on religion desecration linked to different interpretation of religions with a new law on religious desecration on hate speech.

Thousands of members of the Indonesian Ahlul Bait Association (IJABI), which represents minority Shia Muslims, observed Asyura Day peacefully in Bandung on Saturday.

IJABI executive Samsudin Baharudin said dozens of Islam Defenders Front (FPI) members arrived at the Lucky Star Convention Hall, where the Asyura commemoration took place, and demanded that the Shia community call off the meeting.

IJABI members ignored the FPI members and continued with the commemoration.

Samsudin said IJABI members in Bandung were lucky to be able to celebrate Asyura without widespread rejection from the local community. According to him, IJABI members in several cities were barred from commemorating Asyura.

Muslims celebrate Asyura Day on the 10th day of the first month of the Islamic calendar to commemorate the death of Imam Hosein, Prophet Muhammad’s grandson and the third imam of Shia who was killed during the battle of Kerbala.

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