11/02/2011, 00.00
INDONESIA

Java: Muslim violence against statues of other religions

Mathias Hariyadi
A radical Muslim group, the Islamic Defender Front (FPI), launches an appeal for the destruction of “un-Islamic” statues, like Chinese dragons, representations of the Buddha or Christian icons if they are in public places rather than in places of worship.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The Islamic Defender Front (FPI) launched an appeal on its website on 29 September 2011 with an order to destroy all “un-Islamic” statues in the country, above all those in public places. FPI members were asked to take a stance against the making of statues that Islam does not approve. The request to reject un-Islamic statues was extended to other Indonesian Muslim groups.

The appeal follows a controversy in Purwakarta (West Java) where hundreds of hard-line Muslims destroyed puppet statues representing mythological figures used in traditional theatre in the city’s downtown.

Purwakarta mayor had offered the puppets used in traditional theatre to represent a more “native” Indonesian identity. However, for Muslim fundamentalists, the puppet statues were “religiously wrong”. On 18 September, hundreds of Muslims destroyed a number of them (see Mathias Hariyadi, “Islamic fundamentalists in Java target puppet statues,” in AsiaNews, 20 September 2011).

The FPI also denounced the existence of several “profane” statues, like a big dragon in Singkawang, in West Borneo Province, and a statue of Buddha in Tanjung Balai, North Sumatra, which are still standing despite the hostility of Muslim radicals.

“The statue of the big dragon in Singkawang is a form of evil provocation performed by locals of Chinese descent,” the FPI said in its statement.

Singkawang is about 100 km north of Pontianak, the capital of West Borneo, and has a long-established Chinese community. Despite the presence of indigenous Christian Dayaks and Melayu Muslims, the Chinese are in fact a majority in the city.

This year, Muslims destroyed three statues of Our Lady in Bekasi, West Jav. Still, the FPI said that it would not destroy Catholic statues of Jesus or the Virgin as long as they are kept inside churches. The same goes for Buddhist statues in temples. However, “if they are placed elsewhere, especially in public places, they are to be considered an evil provocation and the state should take action,” its statement read.
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