It is both heartening and depressing to see Indonesia’s major Muslim organizations asking President Susilo Bambang Yudhono to crack down on thugs who commit violent acts in the name of religion.
It is heartening because these groups that represent almost 90 percent of Indonesia’s Muslims – the Nadlathul Ulama, the Muhammadiyah — are in keeping with the openess, tolerance and rationality that is representative of most Indonesian Muslims.
It is depressing because the fact that they have to come out openly to demand action from the President is a reflection of the inertia, lack of responsiveness, neglect or plain cowardice in the part of the government to act against daylight thuggery, just because the perpetrators veil their acts in the name of Islam.
Those familiar with developments in Indonesia will notice that some of these groups have been getting bolder by the day and going about harassing anyone with a different point of view with impunity.
The Islam Defenders Front, the Betawi Brotherhood Forum are two such groups. Their acts are not only are pure forms of thuggery but they give the world a wrong impression of the tolerant Islam being practiced by the vast majority of Muslims in Indoensia.
Consider the Betwai Brotherhood Forum, for instance. Its members ostensibly support the controversial anti-pornography bill. Nothing wrong with that. But for its chairman Fadloli El Muhir to say during a live TV broadcast that the women who participated in a rally opposing the anti-pornography bill were “evil, wretched women without morals”? It is misogynistic, bigoted and just plain insulting to human intelligence.
The Brotherhood has also been responsible for wrecking bars and nightclubs, especially around the month of Ramadhan.
Likewise the Islamic Front ransacked several cafes in the Bekasi suburb of Jakarta after its members mass rally to support the anti-pornography bill.
Every society has its share of hard heads and red necks but in most countries where law and order prevail, none of these groups can go around acting with impunity and even challenging the police.
There was an incident recently when the police had arrested six of the Betawi Brotherhood’s members. Irritated by the fact that the police dared to arrest its members, the Brotherhood gathered its followers to demonstrate in front of the police station. They quarreled with the police and at some point had a fist fight with the police. The police ended up letting the Brothers free.
Continued inaction will only embolden these thugs to ever more preposterous heights of violence. One wonders what the police and the government are doing to fail so miserably in responding to this blatant challenge to authority.
The government and the police should get tough with these people as it is clear that what they are doing has little to do with Islam, a religion based on tolerance. The call to action by the two largest Muslim organizations in the country will only add to the support and legitimacy of the government taking a firm hand against these thugs.
Failure to act would see the government’s authority eroding further, respect for law and order crumble and elements in society coming to the inevitable conclusion that they may have to take matters in their own hands if they want to see fairness and justice. it would be a disaster for Idonesia then.
So why is the government sitting on its big behind and not acting?