Hundreds of members of radical Islamic groups on Friday called for “jihad in Myanmar” during rallies in front of the Myanmar embassy in Menteng, Jakarta, to protest growing violence against Rohingya Muslims.
“It has been [going on for a] long [time], our brothers in Rohingya have been tortured by Myanmar military, Buddhist monks and Buddhist people in Myanmar. There is no other way for our Muslim brothers in Rohingya, we have to wage jihad,” said Islamic Defender Front (FPI) chairman Rizieq Shihab during a protest at Hotel Indonesia traffic circle.
The FPI, along hundreds of members of the Islamic People Forum (FUI), Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid, Islamic Reformist Movement (Garis), Indonesian Committee for World Muslim Solidarity (Kisdi), Islamic Preaching Council (DDII), Indonesian Muslim Brotherhood Movement (GPMI) and Taruna Muslim (Muslim Youth), marched to the heavily guarded Myanmar embassy on Friday, brandishing banners that read “we want to kill Myanmar Buddhists” and “stop genocide in Myanmar.”
Rizieq, shouting through a loudspeaker to whip up the crowd, called on all Indonesian people to wage jihad against violence in Rohingya.
“Let’s pray for the crime there,” Rizieq said. “We’re obliged to help. Those who can pray, please pray, send them food, clothes, drink and medicines. Those who can give their lives, let’s go there. We will do fund-raising to buy food, drink and weapon for our brothers there.”
The incidents highlight the growing anger in Muslim-majority Indonesia over a string of religious clashes in largely-Buddhist Myanmar, that have left many minority Muslims dead and tens of thousands displaced.
“We will besiege Myanmar embassy for explanation, but no violence please,” Rizieq said. “We agreed to take action based on Akhlak Kharimah [good moral], but consistent with the flaming spirit of jihad. Please do as told by the rally coordinator. If he says sit, please be seated. If he says attack, please attack.”
At least one person was killed when mosques and homes were attacked in central Myanmar this week, the latest anti-Muslim unrest to cast a shadow over political reforms in the formerly junta-run country.
“Our Muslim brothers and sisters are being attacked in Myanmar — they are being raped and murdered,” said Bambang, a 37-year-old street vendor. “I want jihad in Myanmar. Anyone mistreating Muslims should be killed.”
Protest coordinator Bernard Abdul Jabbar requested the police to mediate a dialogue between the protesters and the Burmese ambassador.
“There are 10 representatives that want to meet [the ambassador], please facilitate us to meet him,” Bernard said.
When the protesters reached Jalan Agus Salim on their march, Bernard asked the police to open the way so they could protest in front of the embassy.
“Incredible, we’re guarded by hundreds of police officers. We’re not planning a war, sir. We’re staging peace rally. We’re not terrorists. We, Islamic people, only want to question Myanmar’s responsibility,” he said.
Detik.com reported that the rallies caused traffic jams along Jalang Sudirman and Jalan Thamrin on Friday as protestors parked their motorcycles on the roads.
Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Rikwanto told Vivanews that police had deployed 1,654 officers to the rally locations.
He said that they would beef up security around the Burmese embassy in Menteng, after police on Thursday arrested two people who were planning to bomb the embassy.
“Requested or not, it’s our responsibility to secure embassy building,” Rikwanto said.
Myanmar embassy spokesman Deddy R. Guritno told Vivanews that the embassy had sent most of its staff home. Only three diplomats were in the office on Friday, while Myanmar ambassador U Nyan Lyn attended an event elsewhere.
Clashes in Rakhine state last year between Rohingya and Buddhists left around 200 dead, and tens of thousands displaced. In March a flare-up in Buddhist-Muslim violence in central Myanmar left at least 43 people dead.
A man admitted in September to planning a suicide bomb attack against Buddhists in Jakarta in response to Myanmar’s treatment of Muslim minorities, particularly Rohingya.
Indonesia has been a vocal supporter of Muslim minorities in Myanmar, and in January pledged $1 million in aid to Rakhine.
With additional reporting from Agence France-Presse