A man holds a placard reading 'I am Charlie' on the Old Harbor in Marseille, southern France, on Jan. 7, 2015, following the deadly attack on the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. (AFP Photo/Anne-Christine Poujoulat)

Indonesia Condemns Slayings at French Weekly, Supports Call for Justice

JANUARY 09, 2015

Jakarta. Indonesia has condemned an attack on the offices of a French satirical weekly in Paris on Wednesday that left 12 people dead, and expressed its support of the French government’s attempts to bring the perpetrators to justice.

“The Indonesian government would like to express its deepest condolences to the government and people of France, especially to the victims’ families, because no act of violence can be justified,” the Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

The attack on the office of Charlie Hebdo, which in the past has drawn criticism for its lampooning of Islam, was the deadliest attack on French soil in decades. Police have identified the two gunmen as brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, aged 32 and 34, Reuters reported.

The younger brother was part of an Islamist cell enlisting French nationals from a mosque in eastern Paris to go to Iraq to fight Americans in Iraq and arrested before leaving for Iraq himself in 2005. He served 18 months in prison on a charge of criminal association related to a terrorist enterprise, Reuters reported.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno L.P. Marsudi said Indonesians currently in France and elsewhere in Europe should be “extra careful” in the wake of the shooting and reports of non-fatal retaliatory attacks against Muslim communities.

Jakarta has warned its citizens to avoid crowded places in France and to be on high alert in shopping centers, on board public transportation, at religious sites and in media offices.

The Indonesian Embassy in Paris says its citizens in France can call +33 145030760 or +33 621122109 if they need help. “We’ll be ready 24 hours,” Henry Kaitjily, the embassy’s minister counselor, told the Jakarta Globe from Paris.

With a known radical Islamist identified as one of the main suspects in the Paris attack, Indonesia will have to brace for the inevitable surge of Islamophobia generated in response, says Jakarta-based international relations expert Teuku Rezasyah.

“We have to be alert toward possible repercussions resulting from any violence done by certain radical people or groups, including what happened in Paris,” Rezasyah told the Globe on Thursday.

“Although Indonesia isn’t an Islamic country, our having the largest Muslim population in the world inevitably leaves us open to negative impacts from every act of violence carried out in the name of Islam outside the country.”

Indonesia is contending with the possibility of a potential terrorist threat on its own soil, highlighted in warnings issued in recent days by the US and Australian embassies.

In a warden message issued on Saturday, the US Embassy said it had been “made aware of a potential threat against US-associated hotels and banks in Surabaya, Indonesia.”

It urged “heightened vigilance and awareness of one’s surroundings when visiting such facilities,” but did not expound on the nature of the threat.

A senior adviser to President Joko Widodo later said the warning was related to activities by supporters of the Islamic State militant group, which is attempting to carve out a caliphate in the Middle East and is known to have drawn at least 300 Indonesians into its ranks in Syria and Iraq.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla later played down any potential threat, only to see the Australian Embassy cite the US warning in its own travel advisory issued to its nationals on Monday: “We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Indonesia, including Bali, at this time due to the high threat of terrorist attack.”

Hours after the Paris attack, Joko reiterated that Indonesia was safe and that no imminent security threats had been detected, despite the US and Australian warnings.

Rezasyah, however, said it would take more than just statements from top officials to convince the world that the security situation in Indonesia was safe.

“We have to convince the world that the recent warnings issued by both the United States and Australia are unreasonable. We have to show that Indonesia is able to manage any threats in the country, that it is a safe and peaceful country to visit,” said Rezasyah, whose brother, Teuku Faizasyah, served as the spokesman for international affairs for former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Rezasyah said the Foreign Affairs Ministry must actively inform the international community that the Islam practiced in Indonesia was a moderate version “different from other countries.”

Hikmahanto Junawa, an international law expert at the University of Indonesia, said the government had made this point by condemning the Paris massacre.

“Even Islamic institutions such as the MUI” — Indonesia Council of Ulema — “have stated that the incident goes against Islamic teaching. Through these kinds of gestures, we want to convey that  we aren’t part of the terrorist fringe,” Hikmahanto told the Globe.

“In the future, it will be necessary for the government to do more to promote the fact that ours is a peaceful country and we don’t have any agenda that could threaten the international community.”

He said that to support the government, security agencies must improve their threat detection capabilities.

“Our security services have to improve their vigilance should the Paris incident inspire hard-liners to do the same thing here. There cannot be any compromise on this point,” Hikmahanto said.

Further Coverage

Editorial: Moderation and Peace Must Prevail