|Muslims watch how Bali accusations play
By Kafil Yamin
Salim Umar, a Muslim preacher in Bandung, says the Bali
bombings are "not a religious matter at all", so he did
not discuss them at the mosque at Friday prayers.
Rather than have the "politically colored" Bali
bombing take center stage, he says, the discussions in
many mosques focused on preparations for the holy month
of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting that this year
starts in November.
"Besides, our congregation
members are not excited in listening to that issue," he
said. "People tend to point fingers at each other in
search of the culprits. We don't want to engage in
Asep Saeful Muhtadi of Pusat Dakwah
Indonesia (Center for Indonesian Preaching) is aware
that some foreign countries and international
institutions have accused Muslim radicals of plotting
the October 12 attacks that killed nearly 200 people,
mostly Australians. This, he says, upsets him and many
other Muslims in this country of 220 million people, 85
percent of whom are Muslims.
"First, we are
taught not to be prejudiced against anyone, or any
party, if evidence is not there," Muhtadi said,
referring to accusations by Indonesian officials that
al-Qaeda was behind the attack, without citing evidence
so far, and then by speculations that it might be the
Jemaah Islamiyah, which seeks the establishment of a
pan-Islamic state in Southeast Asia. "Second, even if
the radicals are found to be behind the incident, they
do not represent Indonesian Muslims," Muhtadi pointed
out, noting that Indonesia, the world's most populous
Muslim country, has two of the largest organizations -
the Nahdlatul Ulama with 40 million members and
Muhammadiyah with 30 million. "These groups have nothing
to do with the terrorist activities. So foreign
countries have no reason to accuse Indonesian Muslims,"
On Sunday, Indonesian police arrested
Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, 64, leader of an Islamic boarding
school in East Java and supposed leader of Jemaah
Islamiyah, for being involved in a series of bomb
attacks in Southeast Asia and a plot to assassinate
Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri last year.
Police have also arrested a second man, Habib Rizieq,
leader of the Islam Defenders Front, on similar charges.
However, Indonesian authorities said that
Ba'asyir's arrest does not mean he will be put in jail
or that he is a suspect in the Bali bombings. Indonesia
had been under pressure to take in Ba'asyir even before
the Bali attacks. Ba'asyir is accused by the United
States of involvement with Omar al-Faruq, an alleged
al-Qaeda operative who was arrested in Jakarta in June,
but later handed over to the US authorities.
Evidence given by al-Faruq points the finger at
Jemaah Islamiyah's responsibility for various bomb plots
in Southeast Asia since September 11 last year.
Few Indonesians doubt that the arrest of
Ba'asyir and Habib Rizieq comes in response to mounting
pressure from the United States, Australia and Britain
to crack down on extremist groups inside Indonesia.
"We all know the police is under pressure by
foreign countries to catch him [Ba'asyir]. We all know
our police have no capability to investigate even small
bomb attacks in Jakarta," Muhtadi said.
he argued, even months ago local news reports had been
saying that the two were threats to the government, but
they have only been arrested now after foreign
governments stepped in after the Bali attacks.
Others, such as Muslim scholar Fachry Ali, go
further, saying that the response by the Indonesian
police to the Bali bomb blast is clearly biased because
they had closed their eyes to earlier problems.
"People around the bomb blast site know that the
night spots have been imposing racial services," he
said, referring to their practice of barring Indonesian
guests into their premises. "The Sari Club, Peanuts and
Gowa discotheques have been acting racially for more
than 10 years. They do not receive Indonesian guests in
this very Indonesian country. It is bluntly against the
law and the police are aware of it. But the police did
not do anything about it," he said.
A senior US
official warned late on Friday that "Indonesia is now
very much at a crossroads" and has to demonstrate its
determination to pursue suspected terrorists or risk the
On Friday, Megawati signed an
emergency decree that gives the Indonesian police powers
to hold suspected terrorists for up to a week without
charges, and to extend the detention period based on
intelligence information. Anyone who commits, or
threatens to commit, an act of terror faces sentences
that include life in prison or death by firing squad.
The new decree has been accepted by the big
Muslim organizations, although Masduki Baidlowi, deputy
secretary general of the Nahdlatul Ulama says the
authorities should also be careful not to abuse the
regulations and must only act on hard evidence.
Syafii Maarif, chairman of Muhammadiyah,
dismissed concerns that the regulations would be used to
arrest Muslims who take a more hardline approach in
Even before the Bali attacks,
Indonesia had been under international pressure to act
against groups linked by foreign intelligence agencies
to terrorism, but the government has been treading
carefully in order to avoid a backlash.
Indonesia's Muslims are known to be mostly
moderate, but many fear that the US-led "war on terror"
could be used to attack Islam in general and to
undermine rights concerns.
"I still remember, in
the past Western countries strongly criticized Malaysia
for being authoritarian for its brand of anti-terrorist
regulation," says Moeflich Hasbullah, a senior lecturer
at the Bandung-based State Islamic University.
"They said it was against people's human rights.
But now they hail the regulation and encourage Indonesia
to do the same thing," he argues. "So human rights can
change, depending on [Western] interests."
(Inter Press Service)