The Jakarta Post
Bima Arya, the mayor of Bogor in West Java, has come under heavy criticism from human rights groups over his decision to ban members of the Shia community in his city from celebrating their religious feast day, Asyura.
On Thursday, Bima issued a circular instructing all Shiites in Bogor to refrain from celebrating Asyura 'to keep order and security in the city'. Shiites celebrate Asyura on the 10th day of Muharram month, which falls on Saturday this year.
The National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) commissioner Muhammad Imdadun Rahmat said the prohibition was against the principles of freedom of religion, which is guaranteed by the Constitution. 'The order clearly violates religious freedom,' he told The Jakarta Post by phone on Sunday.
He added that Komnas HAM was currently preparing to issue a formal protest letter directed to Bima, telling him to withdraw his circular and to allow members of the Shia community to freely exercise their religious practices.
Separately, human rights group Setara Institute vice chairman Bonar Tigor Naipospos said that by issuing the circular Bima had curbed particular citizens' rights to exercise their religious practices and their rights to assemble.
He said that Bima's excuse of maintaining order and security in banning the celebration of Asyura was also not right because the Bogor administration could maintain security and order by providing security measures while members of the Shia community were celebrating Asyura.
'His excuse was fake,' he said.
He also criticized Bima for issuing the circular under recommendation from some parties that objected to the existence of members of the Shia community.
'Any regional government should defend their citizens' rights. They can accept recommendations from any party, but they should ensure everyone's rights are protected,' he said.
'It was very unfortunate that Bima issued the circular. Before he became a mayor, we thought he was a democrat, but he did not do what a democrat should do when he was in power,' he said.
Bima could not be reached for comment on Sunday.
Bima's circular prohibited members of the Shia community from celebrating Asyura in Bogor and banned them from mobilizing in groups.
Prohibitions against celebrating Asyura have previously occured in Bandung, West Java. Some 120 people calling themselves the West Java Ahlus Sunnah Defenders (PAS) staged a rally on Friday night at Sidolig Stadium, Bandung, as thousands of Shia followers were celebrating Asyura to commemorate the Karbala War.
The celebration initially ran smoothly without disturbance at around 7 p.m. local time. The police had been on guard at the site.
At about 8:30 p.m., PAS arrived at the site on motorbikes. They gathered in front of the stadium while spreading banners saying 'Shia is a threat to NKRI [Unitary Nation of the Republic of Indonesia]'.
The police formed a shield between the mob and the celebration venue. The Shia followers eventually dispersed under police guard.
'The celebration ran until it was finished. Alhamdullilah [Praise to Allah], the police's guard was relatively good,' said Miftah Fauzi Rakhmat of the Sekolah Cerdas Muthahhari, who joined the celebration.
Miftah, who is also a member of the legislative council of the Indonesian Ahlul Bait Congregation Association (Ijabi), said that there had indeed been parties expressing objections to the Asyura celebration in Bandung.
He said Ijabi annually conducted national celebrations of Asyura in Bandung. 'There is nothing wrong with the content of the celebration. You are welcome to check it if there is something that could be considered wrong in it,' Miftah said. (saf)