Muslim Groups Talk War Over ‘Christianization’
In a move that could add to already simmering religious tensions in Bekasi, a new group calling itself the Bekasi Islamic Presidium is planning a roadshow aimed at persuading every mosque in the city to prepare for the possibility of “war” against “Christianization.”
The group, consisting of nine members representing different Islamic organizations in the city, was formed on Sunday, the last day of the Bekasi Islamic Congress at Al Azhar Mosque that was convened to address the so-called Christianization problem.
Among its recommendations is the formation of Islamic militant groups, or laskar, within each mosque and the drafting of Shariah-based policies by the Bekasi administration.
“All Muslims should unite and be on guard because … the Christians are up to something,” Murhali Barda, head of the Bekasi chapter of the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), told the Jakarta Globe.
“Apparently they want to test our patience. We are planning to invite them for a dialogue to determine what they really want. If talks fail, this might mean war,” he warned.
Murhali claimed that a certain Christian foundation had been relentlessly baptizing groups of people in the city, which has seen a number of religious conflicts in recent months.
“The last one was on Wednesday. A number of buses were seen dropping off people, some wearing jilbabs, at a house in Kemang Pratama district in Bekasi. When our people interrogated the security guard, he said they came from Jakarta and were there to be baptized,” he said.
However, Bekasi Police Chief Sr. Comr Imam Sugianto denied there had been a mass baptism. “All of them were students and they were at that house for recreation. They all went there for a swim,” he said.
Abdul Qadir Aka, secretary general of the proselytization board at FPI Bekasi, said the militant groups were important.
“When the need arrives we will have units that can be mobilized,” he said. “We cannot just depend on the FPI. We have hundreds and even thousands of mosques in Bekasi. Imagine what we can do together.”
The units, he said, would also serve as “morality police” targeting activities such as drinking alcohol, prostitution, casual sex and gambling, all forbidden in Islam.
Saleh Mangara Sitompul, the secretary of the presidium and also a member of the Bekasi branch of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim organization, said: “Their task is to prevent and guard Bekasi Muslims [against vice], and as a communication and coordination forum to elect a trustworthy leader” for Bekasi Muslims.
But Abdul stressed that the units would not be armed. “The only thing close to a weapon that we have are the poles on our banners,” he said, laughing.
“Unless necessary,” he added in a more serious tone. “But then there already are armed units” in the national Army.
The group also says it will forward to the Bekasi administration several policy recommendations that are compliant with Shariah law. “We hope that the recommendations to the government can serve as a guide for them so that there will be no religious defamation or interreligious conflicts,” Saleh said.
Bekasi administration spokesman Endang Suharyandi said: “As long as it does not violate any regulations,” the municipality will support the implementation of the Sharia-based policies and carry out the congress’s recommendations.
Organizers claim the Islamic congress was attended by almost 2,000 Bekasi Muslims representing various Islamic organizations.
Additional reporting by Zaky Pawas