Leaders of the newly established National Anti-Shiite Alliance (Annas) at the group’s inauguration in Bogor on Sunday. (JG Photo/Vento Saudale)

Indonesia’s Least Tolerant City Now Home to National Anti-Shiite Movement

BY :VENTO SAUDALE

NOVEMBER 23, 2015

Jakarta. Islamic hard-liners in Indonesia’s least tolerant city have declared a national anti-Shiite movement, in a clear-cut case of hate speech that the police have blatantly chosen to overlook.

The movement, calling itself the National Anti-Shiite Alliance, or Annas, was inaugurated on Sunday in Bogor, the Jakarta satellite city recently ranked as the most religiously intolerant city in Indonesia.

Organizers of Sunday’s event had to make a last-minute change of venue after Bogor Mayor Bima Arya Sugiarto said he would not allow the inauguration of such a movement go ahead.

Tellingly, however, he failed to send in police and public order officers to break up the gathering, as he has numerous times against the GKI Yasmin Protestant congregation that remains locked out of its church despite a Supreme Court ruling ordering the city to unseal the building, and against Shiites who, in October, were barred from celebrating the holy day of Ashura.

The mayor was also listed on leaflets circulated in the past week by the Annas organizers as one of the keynote speakers at Sunday’s event. He has admitted to receiving an invitation to speak, but said he declined to respond. (The other keynote speaker was Didin Hafiduddin, a senior cleric with the Indonesian Council of Ulema, or MUI, the country’s highest Islamic authority.)

Muhammad Nur Sukma, the newly appointed Annas chairman, told attendees at Sunday’s event that Annas’s mission was to “preach the truth” that Shiites were not true Muslims and that the faith posed a serious threat to national integrity. He did not explain why this was so.

He said that as part of the group’s campaign, it would send volunteers to preach at schools, stressing the importance of teaching children from an early age to view Shiites and their faith with suspicion.

It remains unclear why the police allowed Sunday’s gathering to take place, given Mayor Bima’s claim that he had prohibited the event. Even without a ban, the police should have been able to crack down on the event on the grounds that it was clearly spreading hate speech against a given group, following an instruction by the National Police chief last month for all officers to take a hard line on hate speech.

The problem, said Sugeng Teguh Santoso from the social affairs NGO One Justice Foundation, or YKS, is that the mayor has failed to be clear in his policies on religious tolerance.

He questioned why Bima would criticize the formation of an anti-Shiite organization while at the same time banning Shiites in the city from observing a religious holiday.

“The mayor has been far from consistent in his own stance, and a lot of people are disappointed in him,” Sugeng told the Jakarta Globe.

He also called on the Bogor administration to keep a close eye on the newly established Annas, warning that if left unchecked, its activities could give rise to more conflicts.

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