01/13/2017, 17.30
INDONESIA
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West Kalimantan Dayak tribal groups stop radical Islamic leader from deplaning

by Mathias Hariyadi

A group of people in traditional outfit and wielding traditional weapons "invaded" the Sintang airport runway to prevent Tengku Zulkarnain, MUI deputy secretary, from deplaning. The Muslim Islamic leader was set to meet the local Muslim community. He had previously described the Dayak as "infidels." In fact, the indigenous group has always promoted an atmosphere of harmony and dialogue with other faiths and ethnic groups.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – A group of tribal Dayak, dressed in traditional clothes and wielding Mandaus, a traditional weapon (pictured), prevented a radical Muslim leader from deplaning and attend a meeting with the local Muslim community.

The incident occurred yesterday at Sintang airport, Sintang Regency (West Kalimantan), on the Indonesian part of the island of Borneo.

The target of indigenous Dayak’s action was Tengku Zulkarnain, the current deputy secretary general of the Indonesian Ulema Council (Majelis Ulama Indonesia, MUI), the country’s foremost Islamic clerical organisation.

Yesterday’s incident is part of a broader context of growing discontent among the country’s moderate Muslim majority against (controversial) radical figures who promote confessional hatred and interethnic divisions.

This dissatisfaction also targets those groups that encourage intolerance towards ethnic Chinese and non-Muslim political and government leaders.

One such leader is Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama, the governor of Jakarta who is on trial for blasphemy. Another is an official in Bantul, who was forcibly re-assigned because Muslim extremists refused to accept a Catholic at the helm of a Muslim majority district.

Local sources report that the plane carrying Zulkarnain had just landed on the runway of Sintang airport and that passengers were getting ready to disembark. They were met by several Dayaks who had gathered on the runway in traditional clothes, and blocked the aircraft’s back exit.

For safety reasons, the Islamic leader and his companions chose to stay on board and cancel the meeting scheduled in the afternoon with the local Muslim community. All other activities on his agenda were also cancelled.

Instead, the controversial radical Muslim leader was forced to fly back on the same plane, to Pontianak, the capital of West Kalimantan province.

As is often the case in Indonesia, meetings organised by radical Islamic leaders become a venue to stir up local Muslim communities and incite riots, violence, attacks or protests against other religions, ethnic groups or non-Muslim communities.

This is why the Dayak acted pre-emptively, stopping MUI’s deputy secretary from setting foot in the city and hold his meeting.

Another reason that sparked the ire of indigenous Dayak is a tweet posted by Zulkarnain, in which the Muslim leader describes the natives as "infidels."

These words angered the Dayak community, always careful to promote an atmosphere of harmony and dialogue with other religions and ethnic groups in the region, particularly Melayu Muslims. Some Dayak have converted to Islam right after marrying ethnic Melayu.

Conversely, Zulkarnain, together with Rizieq Shihab, head of the Islamic Defenders Front (Front Pembela Islam, FPI), orchestrated two of the most important protests of recent weeks - in November and December – against the governor of Jakarta. Their goal was to put pressure on the Christian politician and force him to resign.

In recent years, Indonesian authorities have given in on several occasions to MUI’s pressures, which monitors Indonesian’s customs and morals. In Aceh, a region under radical Islamic rule, women cannot wear tight pants or miniskirts.

In March 2011, the Ulema Council lashed out at flag raising "because Muhammad never did it."

Previously, the group had condemned Facebook, the popular online social networking service, as amoral,  and slammed yoga, smoking, and the right to vote, particularly for women.

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