Islamic Conference Pushing For Religious Rule in Bekasi
In a sign of increasing religious tension in Bekasi, members of hard-line groups gathered on Sunday to discuss a coordinated response to bring the city neighboring Jakarta more in line with Islamic principles.
The meeting on Sunday of the Islamic Congress of Bekasi came after video circulated on the Internet showing a high school student in the city defacing the Koran, and after a Web site bearing the name of a local Catholic school displayed pictures and writings seen as disrespectful to Islam.
It also follows the removal of a controversial statue of three women at a Bekasi housing complex.
Abdul Qodir Aka, a local official with the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), told the Jakarta Globe that the congress’s objective was to “create recommendations for the Bekasi administration on what steps it should take in the wake of recent incidents of defamation” of Islam.
Abdul Qodir was referring to Abraham Felix, a 16-year-old student of SMA 5 high school in Bekasi. Pictures of Abraham stomping on a Koran, the Islamic holy book, and one of him allegedly putting it in a toilet were posted on a blog, enraging the local Islamic community.
Police arrested Abraham in May on suspicion of creating the blog. He was charged with Article 156 of the Criminal Code for religious blasphemy.
That same month, the St. Bellarminus Catholic school in Bekasi was attacked by a group of people over another blog post, suspected to be Abraham’s work, which displayed the school’s name and posted pictures and writings that defamed Islam.
Abdul Qodir said on Sunday that the Islamic Congress was supported by the Bekasi administration, and was the culmination of talks between members of the local FPI chapter and Mayor Mochtar Mohamad.
“We also demanded the removal of the “Tiga Mojang” [“Three Girls”] statue. It is known as the Three Flashy Ladies, according to an Islamic boarding school in Bekasi,” Abdul Qodir said.
The statue in the Harapan Indah residential complex was taken down on at 12 a.m. on Saturday by the Bekasi administration, following pressure from the FPI, which deemed the statue, which some called “pornographic,” at odds with conservative Muslims’ views.
The Islamic Congress of Bekasi is scheduled to continue on June 27 at the Al-Azhar mosque in Kalimalang.
“We have more than 200 people attending from various Islamic organizations, educational institutions, Islamic study groups, women’s groups and mosque representatives from Bekasi, so this is not an FPI congress, even though [FPI leader] Habib Rizieq Shihab delivered our keynote speech this morning,” Abdul said.
“According to Habib Rizieq, the phenomenon of ‘Christianization’ is happening not just in Bekasi but all over Indonesia.”
Also on Sunday, the congregation of the HKBP Filadelfia Protestant church in Bekasi, which has been holding services on the roadside after the city prohibited the church from holding religious activities, faced angry demonstrators demanding they pray elsewhere.
“Around 6:30 a.m., there was an announcement at the mosque next to our church calling people to demonstrate. Half an hour later around 200 people crowded in front of our church with drums, shouting statements about jihad,” said the Rev. Palti Panjaitan, leader of HKBP Filadelfia. He called the police, who drove the protestors away at around 8:30 a.m.
“When the protesters saw some members of the congregation they hurled terrorizing statements. A lot of my members cried and immediately went home, refusing to come back to church. The protesters called us names, calling us haram [forbidden by Islam], and threatened to kill us,” he said.