The vice-president of the Council of Muslim Theologians said he was against the opening of the museum, proposed by the local Jewish community. The German ambassador to Indonesia was present at the opening. Many Indonesian Jews, however, still prefer not to go public about their faith.
Jakarta (AsiaNews) - Holocaust Remembrance Day had never received much attention in Indonesia before this year, when the Indonesian Council of Ulama (Majelis Ulama Indonesia, MUI) declared that the Holocaust museum in Minahasa, recently opened, should be dismantled.
Muhyidin Junaidi, vice president of the MUI, explained that the museum would only provoke outrage in Indonesian society. He added because of this 'itshould be razed to the ground'. The Muslim theologian also argued that the museum is an offence against the Indonesian Constitution: "A tough action is expected from the administration as the presence of the museum is politically tendentious and a provocation to cause uproar among the people".
"Instead of a museum about the Holocaust,' Junaidi continued, 'the government should open a museum depicting Dutch colonial rule in Indonesia. Or it would make more sense to show the Zionist violence against the Palestinians; this would be a way to support their right to self-determination.
There are about 200,000 Jews in Indonesia, but they rarely exhibit themselves in public. Many, for example, no longer wear a yarmulke for fear of receiving death threats. A single synagogue still exists in Tondano, 25 km south of Manado, in North Sulawesi, where local Jews usually gather to pray.
Both the synagogue in Shaar Hasyamayim and the Holocaust Museum were proposed for construction by the region's Jewish community. Other Jews reside in Java, Surabaya and East Java, where another synagogue once stood, but was razed by radical Islamists in 2013.
Last week, German Ambassador to Indonesia Ina Lepel attended the opening of the museum in North Sulawesi. Due to the tense atmosphere, many Jews preferred not to attend the opening. "What an honour to be in Minahasa and speak at the opening of its Holocaust museum," tweeted the head of the German foreign mission. "Germany will always uphold the memory of this 'universal lesson' and fight against racism, anti-Semitism and all forms of intolerance," he added.
The Holocaust museum in Minahasa is probably the first ever built in Southeast Asia.
In response to Mui's remarks, the deputy governor of North Sulawesi, Steven Kandouw, commented that the establishment of the Holocaust museum had gained international attention. During Ambassador Lepel's visit, he added that 'interfaith tolerance in North Sulawesi is good'.