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Indonesia, What is Behind Anti-Shia Movements?

The “Anti-Shia Alliance” in Indonesia has attracted attention from news agencies and raised serious concerns among human rights NGOs over Shia rights in Indonesia following their first anti-Shia rally on Sunday. According to reporters many Indonesians attended an anti-Shia rally on Sunday at the Al Fajr mosque in the West Java capital of Bandung, where an anti-Shia declaration was announced. The declaration called for the official ban of Shia Islam among other things. What has not been reported is that this “alliance” was organized immediately after it was revealed that Jalaluddin Rakhmat, a prominent Shia scholar and professor at Paramadina University, was being considered for appointment as Minister of Religious Affairs.

Two days before the announcement of the “Anti-Shia Alliance,” Shia groups in West Java contacted local authorities and expressed their concern about growing anti-Shiism, but the governor did not take any action. While the alliance spread fear in the Shia community and exacerbated the threat of human rights violations in Indonesia, it must me stressed that the creation of the anti-Shia Alliance was orchestrated by politicians for political interests. Indonesian activists reported to SRW that the gathering that took place on Sunday was a direct reaction to the potential appointment of a Shia Muslim to a key government position.

Shia Rights Watch believes that all citizens have the right to participate in their government and advocates for all citizens to use their democratic rights to promote peace, harmony and cooperation without regard to race, ethnicity or religion. Further, SRW advises Indonesian politicians to refrain from using religious differences to spread hatred among people for political gain. We also invite Indonesians, from all backgrounds and with all religious affiliations, to boycott discriminatory groups and events. “Collectively, we can end human rights violations and discrimination in all nations through the overwhelming power of peace. Every citizen should participate in spreading the message of peace and cooperation in their own cities, towns and neighborhoods,” said SRW director Mustafa Akhwand.

Historically, Indonesians from all faiths have lived in peace, and Indonesia has been known for its diversity. However, during the last decade, anti-Shia movements have created an atmosphere of fear in the Shia community in Indonesian. As SRW reported in its Shia Ethnic Cleansing in Indonesia publication, many Shia Muslims have been attacked and lost their homes in 2012. Their battle to return to their homes continues.

Fomenting alliances against others based on their faith is illegal and must be addressed by the Indonesian government. Indonesia now has about 4.5 million Shia and they deserve to have their right to live in peace with others protected and recognized by their government.


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