Indonesia: Hunting For Heretics


January 1, 2008: The government is depending on public opinion (generally anti-terrorist) to keep Islamic radicals under control. Those that use, or even advocate, violence are arrested and prosecuted, most of the time. In response, many Islamic radicals are turning from attacking infidels (non-Moslems, and about 15 percent of the population fits that description) to going after Moslems who are, well, different. That applies to the majority of Indonesian Moslems, but the Islamic conservatives are playing that down. Indonesia came late to Islam, and retained many pre-Islamic practices. In the last few decades, conservative missionaries from Saudi Arabia have convinced many urban Indonesian Moslems that these pre-Islamic ("old time religion") practices are bad, even heretical. But because the majority of Indonesians still favor these old ways, the Islamic conservatives are moving slowly to "purify" Indonesian Islam. The government knows it's sitting on an powder keg here, but believes that the local Islamic conservatives will eventually be mellowed by the majority attitudes.

December 25, 2007: Seventeen thousand additional police were deployed around Christian churches, to protect against Islamic terrorism. There were attacks seven years ago that left 18 dead. This year, there were not any open threats.

December 23, 2007: In Western Java, about 30 Islamic radicals attacked another mosque of the Ahmadiyah's, a Moslem sect that Islamic conservatives consider heretical. After the earlier attack, the government ordered police to prevent future attacks.

December 18, 2007: A thousand Islamic radicals attacked two mosques of the Ahmadiyah's, a Moslem sect that Islamic conservatives consider heretical. A month ago, the conservative Indonesian Council of Ulama (MUI) issued a fatwa (religious decree) against heresy (aimed mainly at the Ahmadiyah, who incorporate many pre-Islamic religious practices in their version of Islam.) The government accepted the fatwa, and is now being criticized for allowing vigilantes to enforce it. The mob attack was organized by a new Moslem militia, led by former Jemaah Islamiyah leader Abu Bakar Bashir.




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