Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Tension is still high on
Madura island, Sampang regency, the scene of violent clashes between Sunni and
Shiite Muslims. Hundreds of police and soldiers are patrolling the streets, but
there is a high risk of further skirmishes between the two sides. Yesterday
four people died - two per side - plus eight were wounded and at least forty
houses destroyed. The toll is provisional and may increase if the government
does not intervene decisively to restore calm in an area where open interfaith
conflict has been threatening to break out for months (see AsiaNews 19/01/2012 East
Java: a growing tension between Sunni and Shiite, fears of a conflict), the population points the finger at
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and the central executive in Jakarta, unable
to quell the violence in all these months.
Yesterday the majority Sunni attacked the Shiite minority area, after months of tension triggered by a family feud between the two groups. The police have not been able to contain the riots, and the government - add several analysts and intellectuals - was unable or unwilling to take the necessary measures to stop the outbreak of tension, which now threatens to spread throughout the country.
Several organizations have launched accusations against the head of state, which they claim is doing nothing to stop the violence and eradicate the seed of hatred among the faithful of Muhammad in the most populous Muslim country in the world. For this reason, many moderate leaders and representatives of the Islamic Front fiercely criticize the work of Yudhoyono.
Among these is Kiai Hajj Arifin Husaein, better known as Gus Nuril, leader of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) in central Java, who says that the president "has done nothing to resolve the issue." He adds that "no potential conflict can be eradicated" if the central authority in Indonesia "makes no commitment to take deterrent measures" to "put an end to the hostilities." He is echoed by Ahmad Mujahid, who also criticizes the actions of the police who targeted the Shiite leader Tajul Muluk for "no reason" accusing him - unfairly - of spreading "illegal" teachings.
The human rights activist Usman Hamid, Jakarta, also criticizes the actions of the executive under the leadership of Yudhoyono, the powerful Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI) has also issued a statement in which it explains that the Shia sect has made no "unlawful" teaching.
Speaking to AsiaNews from his office in Yogyakarta, Mohammad Machasin, professor of Islamic studies at the Islamic Sunan Kalijaga High School, calls on the authorities to crack down on provocateurs who "manipulate" opinions and ideas according to their own interests. As an expert on Islamic history and cultures, he adds that it is not easy to decide whether the Shiite community of Sampang is "illegal" or "legal" because of the many "varieties" of the different movements. But the fact remains that the government should promote that part of civil society that wants "peaceful dialogue" to resolve "conflicts between majority and minority confessional groups."