09/15/2011, 00.00
INDONESIA – UNITED STATES
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Accused or proselytising, American family attacked by Indonesian extremists

by Mathias Hariyadi
Only the intervention of the police prevented serious consequences for the parents and their two boys. The father had started two weeks earlier to teach English at a local Protestant school. The attack, which took place in South Sulawesi, was ordered by a radical local Muslim leader.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Only the intervention of police saved the lives of an American family that was attacked by an enraged mob spurred by a local religious leader. Muslim fundamentalists were incensed by charges that the head of the family was engaged in proselytising in the predominantly Muslim area. The latest of its kind (a few days ago clashes between Christians and Muslims left people dead and wounded in Maluku, this incident is further proof of Indonesia’s steady slide towards extremism, a situation that threatens the country’s constitutional foundation, namely its pluralism.

The attack came at night on 5 September in an area west of Palu, provincial capital of South Sulawesi. An American family, David Ray Graeff, 41, his wife Georgia, also 41, and their two sons Benjamin and Daniel, had been staying at Bukit Kabonena Permai housing compound for the previous two weeks. Mr Graeff had been hire to teach English language and literature at a local Protestant divinity school in the village of Uwera, Sigi District.

On that night, an extremist mob, spurred by a local Muslim leader, Muhammad Saleh bin Abubakar Alaydrus, from the local Nurul Khairaat praying group, attacked the family, accusing them of proselytising in the mostly Muslim area. For them, the presence of Americans was itself a “serious threat”.

In the course of their attack, the mob set fire to the family’s property, including a minivan.

Police, who had already been deployed in the area to pre-empt acts of violence, was able to intervene and prevent the worse.

However, the family had to be moved to avoid possible deaths and injuries, Southeast Sulawesi Deputy Police Chief Senior Superintendent Ari Dono Sukmanto said.

Indonesia’s good reputation as a pluralistic, multi-confessional society, has been tarnished by the attack in South Sulawesi and the clashes on the Maluku Islands.

Comments and articles in Indonesia’s press have highlighted the matter, as many see such incidents as a confirmation of the country’s possible Islamisation.

Indeed, Muhammad Saleh bin Abubakar Alaydrus, the Muslim leader that ordered the attack on the American Christian family in Palu, had joined in 2001 a government peace plan agreed in Malino to end sectarian violence between Christians and Muslims in Maluku.
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