Guingamp’s supporter hold signs reading ‘Je suis Charlie’ (I am Charlie) to pay tribute to the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attack during the French L1 football match between Guingamp and Lens at the Roudourou stadium in Guingamp, western France, on Jan. 10, 2015. (AFP Photo/Fred Tanneau)

Jokowi Condemns Paris Attacks, Calls for Respectful Creative Expression


JANUARY 13, 2015

[This story was updated at 9:50 p.m. to rewrite and add details and background]

Jakarta. President Joko Widodo on Monday condemned a series of deadly attacks by Islamic militants in Paris last week, but urged the media and individuals to respect the religion of others when expressing themselves creatively.

Joko’s statement, made days after the massacre, however, was considered to be lacking and made far too late.

Twelve people — including some of France’s leading cartoonists and two police officers — were gunned down last Wednesday when three men stormed into the office of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. Over the next two days, five more people were killed in what became France’s worst terrorist attacks in decades.

Speaking in Bandung on Monday, Joko said the Indonesian government “condemned and lambasted” the violence.

The president then added: “However, when expressing ourselves [creatively] through writing or visuals, we must also remember to respect and appreciate one another’s differences.”

On Sunday an estimated 3.7 million people, including numerous world leaders, marched through the streets of Paris in support of Charlie Hebdo and freedom of expression.

The controversial magazine, which has made a habit of satirizing not just Islam but also other religious groups, is readying a massive print run of its latest issue — its first edition since the attacks.

Agence France-Presse on Monday revealed the cover, which shows a cartoon depicting a crying prophet Muhammad holding a sign that reads: “Je suis Charlie” (“I Am Charlie”). The words “Tout Est Pardonne,’’ or “All Is Forgiven,” are scrawled below the masthead.

Indonesia, once expected to bridge the gap between the West and Islam, is seen as backpedaling from the role of mediator as analysts here expressed their concerns over tensions growing between Muslims and Europe’s secular society following the recent terror spree in Paris.

The attacks came following the publication of a cartoon depicting a member from the jihadist group Islamic State beheading Muhammad.

Nevertheless, international relations and security expert Bantarto Bandoro of the Indonesian Defense University stressed that Indonesia should be able to take some action in alleviating the growing tension between Islam and the West.

He said as the world’s third-largest democracy and the nation with the largest Muslim population, Indonesia, under the leadership of former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, took up the proposal that it should play a mediating role and bridge the gap between Islam and the West — a notion also voiced by US President Barack Obama when he visited Jakarta in 2010.

Yudhoyono initiated the annual Bali Democracy Forum (BDF), which has drawn the participation of several world leaders and is seen by some as the former president’s attempt to showcase Indonesia as a role model for Muslim nations, where Islam and democracy can harmoniously work side by side.

His successor, President Joko, however, has not shown indications that he is planning to continue that role.

Observers also regret that the president was very late to issue a statement regarding the deadly incident in Paris. Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi’s silence is also seen as Indonesia giving little attention to the matter and the subsequent growing animosity between Muslims and the West. The Foreign Affairs Ministry has addressed the issue with a brief press statement simply saying the government of Indonesia condemns the act of violence and extends its condolences to the victims’ families.

Executive director of the Indonesia Center for Democracy, Diplomacy and Defense, Teuku Rezasyah, said that although he understood the focus of Joko’s foreign policy on international matters that directly concern Indonesia, such as the protection of Indonesian migrant workers overseas, the president must not neglect the Islam versus the West debate.

The matter, he said, plays a relevant role in Indonesia’s context, with the archipelago facing growing security threats from IS’s spreading influence among local Islamic fundamentalist groups.