Concerns rise over attacks on religious leaders in Indonesia

Author: ISMIRA LUTFIA TISNADIBRATAMon, 2018-02-26 19:25ID: 1519651986896959900JAKARTA: Indonesia’s National Police chief Gen. Tito Karnavian has announced the formation of special units to investigate a recent rise in attacks on religious leaders and places of worship across the country, as the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) demanded answers on what appears to be a coordinated series of events.
“The special teams are conducting thorough investigations into the underlying cause of the series of attacks against ulema and religious figures,” National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Mohammed Iqbal told Arab News.
The MUI has urged police to come up with a better answer to the attackers’ motives after they originally dismissed the assaults as being the work of people suffering from mental disorders.
Between December and February, the authorities recorded 21 assaults against Muslim clerics, priests, monks and places of worship, and claimed 15 of them were carried out by “lunatics.”
Most of the cases took place in Indonesia’s most-populous island, Java, where three provinces will elect new governors in June.
MUI Secretary-General Anwar Abbas told Arab News the police had assured him they would have an explanation for the assaults within two weeks, following a meeting on Feb. 21 among the MUI Advisory Board, the National Police’s Criminal Investigation Unit and the National Counterterrorism Agency.
“We demanded that the police explain how people with mental disorders could carry out attacks almost simultaneously aiming for similar targets — ulemas and religious leaders,” he said, adding that the MUI did not want the issue to be “open to wild interpretations.”
“We want the hubbub around the attacks to end soon, especially since we are approaching the election years,” Anwar said, referring to regional elections this year and presidential polls next year.
Din Syamsuddin, chairman of the MUI Advisory Board, expressed concern that the attacks seemed to be orchestrated.
“It seems that from December until now is the season for lunatics to appear,” he said.
On Feb. 18, a statue in a Hindu temple in Lumajang, East Java, was vandalized by an unidentified perpetrator, while on the same day in Lamongan, also in East Java, a man attacked a cleric who heads an Islamic boarding school managed by Muhammaddiyah, Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim organization.
A man tried to vandalize a mosque in Tuban, East Java, on Feb. 13, and two days earlier a sword-wielding attacker injured a German priest, a policeman and two churchgoers as the priest was leading Sunday mass at St. Lidwina church in Yogyakarta.
Two similar attacks also took place in West Java where a Muslim cleric died after he was attacked in his house in early February. Another cleric affiliated with Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, was attacked after morning prayers in late January this year.
During the MUI meeting, chief detective Commander Gen. Ari Dono Sukmanto dismissed the idea that the attacks were orchestrated or religiously motivated, calling them “purely criminal.” But he did acknowledge that police had been premature in labeling some of the perpetrators as mentally disturbed.
“It triggered public confusion, and on behalf of our institution I apologize that some of us jumped the gun,” he said, adding that police are now investigating five suspects for allegedly spreading fake news about the incidents.
Main category: WorldTags: IndonesiaAsiareligionrelated_nodes: Pope to meet with Myanmar religious leaders‘No direct link’ between Daesh leaders and Indonesian militants, says terror expertFrance’s religious leaders call for unity and solidarity after church attack

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