08/13/2012, 00.00
INDONESIA - MYANMAR

Indonesian Islamists attack Buddhist temples as revenge for Rohingya

Mathias Hariyadi
The fate of Myanmar's Muslim minority is becoming a "domestic problem" for Jakarta. Islamist extremists manipulate images and news to create instability. Buddhist places of worship are attacked in South Sulawesi. In Jakarta, funds are raised for the victims of violence in Myanmar.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The tragedy of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims could ignite sectarian violence in Indonesia, where Islamist extremists targeted Muslim buildings and announced more actions, violent ones included. The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) slammed the attacks, noting through its President Rahin Yunus that abuses against Myanmar's Muslim minority are not an Indonesian domestic problem. "Anarchy cannot be allowed, especially during the sacred month of Ramadan," Yunus said as he spoke about last week's attacks against Buddhist temples in Makassar and other parts of the archipelago.

Under the military regime of Suharto (1967-1998), issues like ethnicity, religion, race and interethnic relations were taboo and could not be discussed in public. Today events and facts, including international politics, that touch upon them are manipulated to cause domestic tensions. Photos, newspaper articles and distorted images are circulated to stir public opinion against various groups, undermining the authority of the central government.

This is what is currently taking place in Indonesia over the fate of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims. Appeals and pressures on the Indonesian government have now turned to actions and attacks against religious symbols.

Last Friday, groups linked to the Islamic Defence Front (FPI) attacked Buddhist temples in Makassar (South Sulawesi province), turning what was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration of solidarity with the Rohingya into a violent protest.

Newspaper articles, images and news that distorted the issue caused the attack by turning an issue in Myanmar and Bangladesh into a domestic Indonesian affair between Muslims and Buddhists, mixing ethnic, religious, political and social issues.

In an uncoordinated fashion, extremists attacked the temples of Xian Ma, Kwan Kong, Ibu Agung Bahari and Girinaga, some singing and chanting slogans.

Last Friday, at the end of the weekly prayer, at least 5,000 Muslims gathered in Depok (Bogor Regency) in a show of solidarity for the Rohingya. During the event, funds were raised for the victims of sectarian violence in Myanmar.

Other meetings and demonstrations were held without violence in the capital Jakarta.

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