Restraint Urged as Islamic Protests Spread to US Embassy in Jakarta
Arientha Primanita & Bayu Marhaenjati
Government officials and Islamic leaders on Friday urged Indonesia’s Muslims to remain unprovoked as hard-line groups staged a demonstration in anger over a recently released anti-Islamic film.
“All elements of society must maintain religious harmony, so that the security and comfort of the people can be fulfilled,” said Coordinating Minister for Political and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto.
The Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI) on Friday also asked Muslims here not to be provoked by the movie “Innocence of Muslims,” but at the same time demanded that legal action be taken against the film’s producer.
Amid increasingly violent anti-US protests in the Middle East in response to the movie, MUI deputy chairman Amidhan said Muslims should stay cool-headed and advised against conducting protest rallies.
“Don’t overreact,” Amidhan said in Jakarta, adding that MUI nevertheless condemned the movie.
“Whoever made the movie must be punished. The [Indonesian] government should respond to this quickly because this movie degrades the Prophet Muhammad.”
A similar call came from the Islam-based United Development Party (PPP), which demanded that the movie be banned while, along with the nation’s largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama, asking Indonesian Muslims to exercise restraint.
“We hope that the Indonesian Muslim community doesn’t get provoked by the circulation of the movie to commit actions that are against the law,” PPP deputy chairman Arwani Thomafi said on Friday.
Officials have expressed concern that violence in reaction to the film could spread to Indonesia following violent protests in Egypt, Yemen and Libya, where an attack killed the US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans at a US consulate in the city of Benghazi.
In Jakarta, more than 350 Muslim fundamentalists and their supporters staged an anti-US demonstration on Friday, spewing anger at the United States over the anti-Islamic film.
Outside the US Embassy, the protesters — men and women with children in tow — carried banners that read “We condemn the insult against Allah’s messenger,” and the Koranic verse “There is no God but Allah.”
A speaker from the pro-Caliphate organization Hizbut-Tahrir, which organized the protest, told the crowd: “This film insulted our prophet and we condemn it. The film is a declaration of war.”
The crowd shouted back: “Allahu akbar!” (God is greatest), while police clad in riot gear stood guard nearby.
Another speaker declared: “The US does not deserve to stay here,” as the crowd roared that Americans be expelled from the world’s largest Muslim nation.
Protests have erupted since Tuesday outside US diplomatic missions in several Arab and Muslim states against the low-budget movie, made in the United States and deemed offensive to Islam.
Washington has sought to keep a lid on the demonstrations by spelling out that the controversial film, made available on YouTube, was produced privately by individuals with no official backing.
Jakarta Police spokesman Rikwanto said about 400 officers had been deployed to guard the US Embassy in the capital.
The embassy posted a new security message for US citizens on its website, saying that in light of the protests “we strongly encourage you to follow good personal security practices, maintain a heightened situational awareness, and remain vigilant of your surroundings at all times.”
The US ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans were killed when heavily-armed extremists launched a sustained four-hour attack on the US consulate in Benghazi late Tuesday.
Additional reporting from AFP & Antara