Wahhabi war waged on Indonesia's
Shi'ites By Rossie Indira and
Indonesia's Shi'ite minority
is under heavy attack. Men, women, and children
have been assaulted, schools damaged, and villages
burned to the ground. Many have been killed. It is
becoming increasingly clear that Saudi Arabia's
intolerant brand of Wahhabi Sunni Islam -
propagated far and wide by Saudi oil money - is
behind most of assaults.
Naila Zakiyah, a
lecturer at a Shi'a school for girls in the city
of Bangil, East Java, recently explained to us:
"In light of recent events, we are
naturally worried about the safety of our
students... We feel discriminated against.
Before this year's Ramadan, the Sunni mosque
across the street broadcasted their sermon twice
a week. They had their loudspeakers directed
towards our school. They were shouting that
Shi'a teaching is misguided, and that spilling
our blood is halal [permissable under
Islamic law]. It is said that those who are
attacking us are being funded by money from
Saudi Arabia. In 2007, for example, 500 people
demonstrated in front of our boarding school;
the Saudis gave each person $2."
we visited the neighboring mosque, our hosts
anti-Shi'a pamphlets and
said that they couldn't talk to their Shi'a
neighbors "in a subtle way anymore". They added,
"If they don't want to convert, then we have to
use violence. In our opinion, they are
kafir [unbelievers]. We will not be at
peace with them until we die, even if our lives
are at stake. They have already insulted Islam! If
the police do not take action against the Shi'a,
we will resort to violence."
they use. In late December 2011, a mob of over 500
Sunnis drove 300 Shi'ites from their houses in the
village of Nangkernang, Madura Island. Countless
dwellings, including a boarding school and a place
of worship, were destroyed.
As is common
in Indonesia, local authorities sided with the
attackers. Only one person was charged for the
attack on the village and was sentenced to a
symbolic three months in prison. Around the same
time, local Shi'ite religious leader Tajul Muluk
was charged with blasphemy and sentenced to two
years in prison, despite repeated protests from
Amnesty International and other international
human rights organizations.
attack, some villagers cautiously returned, only
to face even more devastating terror few months
On August 26, 2012, around 30
Shi'ites were traveling from Nangkernang village
when they were accosted by a Sunni mob armed with
swords and machetes. According to Indonesian
press, two people were murdered as they attempted
to defend women and children. When we
investigated, the villagers told us that only one
person had been killed but at least five had been
wounded. Moreover, they said, members of the mob
had taken some Shi'ite children away from their
parents. The mob also set fire to several homes,
including one belonging to Tajul Muluk.
visited the village in October, defying an
explicit prohibition by the police force stationed
in the area. After slipping through the rice
fields in the middle of the night, we managed to
meet representatives of the local Shi'ite
"Now we are afraid to say or to
show that we are Shi'ites," said one. "Here, two
communities are living side by side. Not all
attackers came from the outside; some were from
our own village."
After the onslaught,
more than 170 people left central Madura for a
refugee camp in the city of Sampang. Even this
facility - a converted covered tennis stadium - is
out of reach for most independent journalists, and
it took great effort to negotiate our entry.
Refugees were clearly in despair. They all
wanted to return home, but the government insisted
that they would be "relocated" instead. Once again
the Indonesian government was more interested in
appeasing a cabal of sectarian aggressors than in
pushing for justice.
Indonesia's minister of religious affairs, has
left little doubt about his sympathies.
"Converting Shi'ite Muslims to the Sunni Islam
followed by most Indonesians would be the best way
to prevent violent outbreaks," he said.
The essence of domination At the
end of November, the desperate, disheartened, and
hungry refugees in Sampang sent an envoy to the
Indonesian House of Representatives. They demanded
that they be allowed to return home. They had
their back against the wall, as the local
government had announced it would stop supplying
them with food and water.
sympathy and support, the envoy had insults thrown
in his face. According to the Jakarta Post, one
lawmaker "indulged in ethnic stereotyping,
attributing the violence that befell the Shi'a to
their heritage as coarse Maduran fishermen",
adding that Indonesia's Shi'ites "must learn to
adapt to the norm". Another legislator expressed
his suspicion that "the Shi'ites had created their
own problems themselves".
We contacted our
colleagues from the NGO Kontras, which deals with
displaced and disappeared Indonesians, and asked
them for a comment.
"It is very sad to see
that only a few legislators attended the meeting.
I am afraid that they are not serious in defending
the minorities here," said Kontras coordinator
Haris Azhar. "In my opinion, the essence of
domination is when the fate of minorities is
determined by the majority. They forget that there
are rights that can't be contested."
same day we called the camp in Sampang and spoke
to one of our contacts there, Nur Kholis. He
sounded depressed. "We feel betrayed," he said.
"The government still wants to relocate us - move
us somewhere where we don't belong. We just want
to go home."
Collusion across the
seas This is the latest chapter of gross
discrimination against minorities in Indonesia.
Since 1965, Indonesian authorities have committed
at least three massacres that could be considered
genocides. Between 1 and 3 million people - mainly
leftists and members of the country's Chinese
minority - died during and after the 1965 military
coup. Indonesian forces also killed or starved
around 30% of inhabitants of East Timor. And at
least 120,000 people have been killed in Papua in
a conflict that continues to fester.
Discrimination against Indonesia's many
ethnic and religious minorities did not end after
Suharto stepped down in 1998. Since then, there
have been brutal and often deadly attacks against
"liberal" Muslims, Muslims from the Ahmadiyah
sect, and of course against Shi'ites. There have
been countless other attacks against Christians,
members of indigenous traditions, and more
recently Hindus as well.
Are these latest
attacks homegrown? That is highly doubtful.
Indonesian decision-makers since 1965 - military,
economical, political, and religious - have long
been known to collaborate with foreign powers and
interests. The attacks against Shi'ites and other
religious minorities in Indonesia mirror those
happening in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and other
parts of the Muslim world closely allied to the
"There are many madrassas in
Indonesia that have been funded by money from
Saudi Arabia," says Ali Fauzi, a younger brother
of one of the terrorists responsible for the
bombing in on Bali in 2002. "In exchange they are
expected to promote the Saudi brand of Islam -
Wahhabism. They are expected to oppose Shi'a
belief and even to attack Shi'ites, as the message
coming from Saudi Arabia is that Shi'a teaching is
Andre Vltchek is a
novelist, filmmaker, and investigative journalist.
He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of
countries. His book on Western imperialism in
South Pacific is called Oceania. His
provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and
the market-fundamentalist model is called
Indonesia - The Archipelago of Fear
Rossie Indira is
an independent writer, architect, and consultant.
Her latest book Surat Dari Bude Ocie is
about her travels to Latin American countries.
With Andre Vltchek, she cowrote Exile, a
book of conversations with Pramoedya Ananta Toer.
She was the production manager and translator of
the documentary film Terlena - Breaking of a