HRW activist arrested and harassed for researching persecution of Shia Muslims

by admin

Does the following news item also shed some light on why mass murder of Shia Muslims has been ignored by human rights organizations in Pakistan?

Australian, Indonesian Activists Detained Researching Minority Muslim Sect
Source: Jakata Globe

Prominent Human Rights Watch activist Andreas Harsono and an Australian researcher were taken into custody by police in Sampang, East Java, on Monday as they attempted to investigate the local Shia Muslim population.

The Shia and Ahmadiyah, another minority Muslim sect, are facing growing persecution and discrimination from local people in Indonesia. The rising intolerance against minority groups in the country has received international condemnation, including from HRW.

Setara Institute and Democracy researcher Ismail Hasani, said Andreas and his colleague — who did not wish to be identified for fear of further recriminations — were interviewing a Shia follower in Nangkernang village when a group of people blockaded the access road leading to the village.

“These people, for a long time, have despised Shia followers in the area and have long sought to isolate the village,” Ismail said.

He said the pair were taken to Sampang Police headquarters and interrogated for nine hours but then released because the Police could not charge them with anything.

“However, since [the Australian researcher] had left her passport in their lodgings, the pair were handed over to the Surabaya Immigration office,” Ismail continued. “The questioning in Immigration continued until dawn and they were asked to come back again earlier today.”

Ismail believed the Immigration office in Surabaya was attempting to deport the Australian for not having a research permit and for failure to notify the government about the purpose of her visit.

Andreas told the Jakarta Globe that they were still waiting for the Australian’s passport at the Tanjung Perak immigration office in Surbaya.

“The Sampang police handed us to the immigration office at 3 a.m. today. We were questioned at the police station for entering a ‘conflict area’ midday Monday,” he said by text message.

“These are small town cops, it’s quite messy in Sampang and Surabaya. I want to get rid of these problems soon.”


Shiites Fear They Are the Next Target
Nivell Rayda | March 14, 2011
Shiite Muslims performing Friday prayers in South Jakarta. The country’s Shiite community fears violence as hard-line groups ratchet up anti-Shiite rhetoric, labeling it a ‘deviant’ sect and calling for its disbandment. (JG Photo/Nivell Rayda)

Related articles
Australian, Indonesian Activists Detained Researching Minority Muslim Sect 3:34pm Sep 20, 2011
Mob Destroys Four Wayang Statues 7:29am Sep 19, 2011
Ombudsman To Refer Bogor Mayor to SBY Over Church 11:43am Sep 19, 2011
Kalla Calls for End to Religious Segregation 9:38am Sep 14, 2011
Indonesians Feel Ahmadis Should Be Protected as Fellow Countrymen: Poll 11:30am Sep 9, 2011

The small Al Khasanah Mosque in East Jakarta was half-full when Farid Okbah took to the podium to deliver his sermon.

Fifteen minutes into his fiery speech, the place of worship was packed with around 150 people eager to hear the firebrand cleric lash out against what he called deviant beliefs.

Minority sects “are thorns in our flesh,” he told his followers. “They are far more dangerous than the infidels. They weaken Islam from within, spinning Islamic verses to suit their own political agendas.”

He cited the Ahmadis, the Sufis and moderate Sunni Muslims. But whatever criticism he had for these groups was eclipsed by the sheer vitriol targeted toward the Shiites.

One Shiite in Indonesia is one Shiite too many, the cleric said.

‘Need to Be Exterminated’

Though Farid preaches in a small mosque, his sermons are picked up by groups like the Ikhwanul Jannah Foundation and the As Salafi Foundation and circulated on the Internet.

Audio clips of his teachings and those of other anti-Shia clerics like Salim Al Muhdor and Salim Yahya Qibas are available online for download.

Farid is a Salafi, a follower of the ultra-orthodox interpretation of Islam that holds that only the version of the religion as espoused by the Prophet Muhammad and his companions and the two generations after them is valid.

For Farid, now in his 60s, alternative or moderate interpretations of the Koran or the Prophet’s teachings constitute a form of deviancy.

The practice common among many Muslims in Indonesia of making pilgrimages to the tombs of Islamic missionaries and clerics is for Farid a “sinful modification of Islam.” Likewise, he deems the high regard in which Ahmadiyah founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is held by his followers “heretical.”

But he pays special attention to Shiites, having spent much time collecting books about the branch to find “evidence” of their heresy.

In an interview with the Jakarta Globe, Farid brought out four books that he said proved the Shia interpretation of Islam made the Shiite community “more dangerous than Ahmadiyah.”

“Their ideals are so deviant that their teachings need to be exterminated,” he said.

Worried Shiites

The main difference between the Shia and Sunni branches of Islam is that Shiites regard Ali, Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, as the divinely appointed successor to the Prophet.

Shiites also only accept the hadith, or teachings, credited to Muhammad’s close family and associates, while Sunnis only accept those credited to his companions.

Like the Ahmadis, Shiites are a minority in Indonesia. But unlike the Ahmadis, they have been defended by top religious figures in the country, including Habib Rizieq, chairman of the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front (FPI).

However, at the grassroots level, Shiites say they are starting to feel the heat.

“Although I don’t agree with Ahmadiyah, the persecution of Ahmadiyah members has left us worried,” Fahrurozi Shadiq, a Shiite, told the Globe.

“Some of my friends have discussed the possibility that we may be the next target [of hard-liner attacks].”

He said he used to pray according to the Shia tradition at the mosque at his predominantly Sunni university campus in South Jakarta.

“I used to think, ‘Why should I be afraid?’ Yes, there are people who are curious about the way I pray. But that was usually it,” he said. “Now they’re growing intolerant. Last month, I was told not to pray there anymore. ‘Take your sect elsewhere,’ they said. Can you imagine? Intolerance at a campus filled with scholars and educated people?”

Musa Kazhim Al Habsy, another Shiite, said many followers were uncomfortable about displaying their faith in public, even in multicultural Jakarta.

“Some people have lost their jobs because of their faith. Entrepreneurs have lost business deals after their clients discovered they were Shiites,” he told the Globe.

But while Shiites in big cities like Jakarta endure discrimination and verbal abuse, those living in small towns and villages face physical assault and vandalism of their property, he said.

“My late father was a Shia cleric in Bangil [in East Java]. When I was little, people would throw garbage in our front yard or write ‘infidel’ on our doors and walls,” Musa said.

“But in the past five years it’s become more violent. Some of our pupils have been harassed and our boarding school vandalized.”

Sunni and Shia in Indonesia

Azyumardi Azra, a professor of Islamic history at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University (UIN) in Jakarta, said the Shia community in Indonesia dated back to the arrival of Islam here, but grew rapidly after the Iranian revolution in 1979.

“Around the same period, Saudi Arabia tried to spread Wahhabism,” he said, referring to the hard-line form of Salafism adopted by the ruling Saud family of that country.

“At the time, Saudi Arabia was a rising oil giant and trying to spread Wahhabism, including to Indonesia.”

Tensions between the Wahhabis and Salafis on one side and Shiites on the other escalated during the Iran-Iraq war, but later died down, Musa said.

“I guess tensions arose again after the fall of Saddam Hussein and the rise of the Shiites in Iraq,” he said. “With the Middle East in turmoil once again, the scale of the problem will only grow larger.”

The Islamic Cultural Center in Jakarta, deemed the center of Shia propagation in Indonesia, says it is hard to estimate the number of Shiites in the country because many choose to practice their faith in secret.

There are around 150 Shia foundations, mostly under the name Ahlulbayt, or Lovers of the Prophet’s Household.

The Pasuruan Incident

Tensions between Sunnis and Shiites erupted most recently on Feb. 16, when dozens of demonstrators hurled rocks at the Alma’hadul Islam boarding school in Kenep village in Pasuruan, East Java.

Four Shiite students were severely injured in the attack.

A source told the Globe the attackers were Sunni Muslims, but police and government officials called it a “student brawl” unrelated to any religious issue.

Dedy Prihambudi, former head of the Surabaya Legal Aid Foundation (LBH), said that the attack took place after a prayer meeting in Pasuruan.

“It’s not clear what was said at the meeting, but shortly afterward they headed to the school in a convoy and attacked it,” he said.

He added that confrontations between Sunnis and Shiites last occurred in 2006 and 2007 in Pasuruan, but none reached this level of violence.

Jalaluddin Rakhmat, a leading Shia figure, said the situation in Pasuruan had been resolved through dialogue. However, local media reported that anti-Shia organizations have objected to several points in an agreement drawn up by the local administration, such as not calling Shia a deviant sect or seeking its disbandment.

“It looks like centuries of feuding between Shiites and Sunnis in the Middle East has found a new battleground in Indonesia,” Musa said.

Preview of What’s Ahead?

Buoyed by the weak response from the authorities to the recent attacks against Ahmadiyah communities, firebrand clerics like Farid are ratcheting up their rhetoric against Shiites.

“I never suggested violence, but if the people are growing restless because of the Shia movement and if they take the law into their own hands, then who’s to blame?” he asked. “Of course it’s the Shia’s fault.”

Musa said that in his hometown of Bangil, Salafi-affiliated groups have grown more vocal about shutting down Shia boarding schools in the area.

“They hold rallies where they say it’s halal to spill the blood of the Shiites,” he said.

The Ahmadiyah community knows the significance of such calls all too well. In the period leading up to the bloody attack on an Ahmadiyah community in Cikeusik subdistrict in Banten, clerics made similar justifications about killing members of the sect.

The attack in February saw three Ahmadiyah members killed, but the local administration blamed the sect for proselytizing.

“Differences between Muslim sects have always been and will always be irreconcilable,” said Azra, the UIN professor. “We have to address the root causes of these acts of violence. Unfortunately, the government has no vision [for addressing the issue]. Instead, it turns a blind eye to the problem.

“The government is supposed to protect all citizens regardless of their faith, but now we see them blaming the victims. People will now think that violence committed by large crowds will never be prosecuted.”


enakajah12:53pm Mar 14, 2011
“I never suggested violence, but if the people are growing restless because of the Shia movement and if they take the law into their own hands, then who’s to blame?” he asked. “Of course it’s the Shia’s fault.”
This is the sort of statement worth of notables like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mugabe and other who were/are completely insane and unthinkable despotic mass murderers.
If this is not a public statement that clearly condones people to breaking the law, then I am not sure what is. The most worrying factor is that there are literally thousands of black hearted crows and vultures like this across the country spreading their vicious and malicious vitriol to the masses.
Islam gone insane, a new breed of mortals that set themselves up as new class of Islamic priests, specifically prohibited by the Qur’an, indoctrinating the massess with societal poison that will explode and destroy this country.

devine11:27am Mar 14, 2011
Thank you for the confirmation: Islam the religion of peace and love.

Leslie_Williams11:26am Mar 14, 2011
The ongoing and seemingly spreading levels of animosity between Indonesia’s Muslims is so damaging to the overall credibility of the religion but more importantly to Indonesia’s standing in the eyes of the World through the spread of violent acts.
On Saturday I was fortunate to be asked to work as a volunteer at RSKB Cinta Kasih Tzu-Chi in Cengkareng. This Budhist organisation has members from across all faiths and on Saturday was conducting free medical screenings which had been advertised to the general public.
Attendees covered all religious faiths – Muslims in traditional dress (including a number of student groups from Muslim Boarding Schools) were all there for a common goal – the possibility of having a very necessary but otherwise unaffordable operation. They were unconcerned if the person next to them was Budhist, Hindu, Christian, Catholic, Shite, Sunni, Ahmadi or agnostic – just grateful to be the recipient of Tzu-Chi’s generosity and not in any way offended by the depictions of Budhist beliefs at the hospital’s meeting room.
I – as I am sure any thinking person would be – am saddened by the waste of money, energy and lives through ongoing persecution and violence.
Maybe FPI and other hard-line organisations should take a leaf out of the Tzu-Chi book and practice tolerance and understanding in accordance with Indonesia’s Constition.
I will be back again next weekend to demonstrate my personal support and show that it IS possible here in Indonesia to have “Unity in Diversity”.


Tabuiks (funeral biers) being lowered into the sea at a Muharram procession in West Sumatra, Indonesia. The Muharram event is known as Tabuik (Minangkabau language) or Tabut (Indonesian).

2 Comments to “HRW activist arrested and harassed for researching persecution of Shia Muslims”

  1. Shiites Banned in ‘Tolerant’ Malaysia
    Eileen Ng | January 16, 2011
    Shiite Muslims praying at a mosque in the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. A Malaysian police crackdown on one such gathering in December, in which 100 followers were arrested, sparked outrage among the Shiite community and raised fears of an increasingly prejudiced state. (AP Photo)

    Kuala Lumpur. In this Muslim-majority country, it is acceptable to be Christian, Buddhist or Hindu. But not Shiite.

    Malaysian religious police raided a three-story shophouse last month and detained more than 100 Shiite Muslims who had gathered to mark the death of one of their most beloved saints, Prophet Muhammad’s grandson, who was killed in the year 680.

    It was one of the largest such sweeps in years, sparking outrage and fear in the country’s small but growing Shiite community.

    Some religious scholars see it as a worrying sign that Islamic authorities are becoming more hard-line. “Malaysia is trying to become a country a la Taliban that only allows one school of thought,” said Asri Zainul Abidin, a prominent scholar.

    Despite its reputation for religious tolerance, Malaysia has been quietly discriminating against its own for years.

    The state recognizes only the Sunnis and prohibits all other Muslim sects, including Shiites, the world’s second-largest Islamic group.

    Shiites face discrimination elsewhere, but Malaysia appears to be the only country that actually outlaws them.

    “We are the oppressed people,” said Kamil Zuhairi Abdul Aziz, the Iranian-trained religious leader for the Lovers of the Prophet’s Household, the Shiite group raided by the religious police on Dec. 15.

    The event they were commemorating helped seal the split between the majority Sunni Muslims and the Shiites, whose strongest base today is in Iran.

    Kamil estimates there are at least 40,000 Shiites among Malaysia’s 16 million Muslims, though the number could be higher as many conceal their faith to avoid trouble.

    A few Shiite Muslims have been detained in the past, and some sent to faith rehabilitation centers, but there is no official data on the number of arrests.

    Malaysia’s ban was issued in 1996 by the National Fatwa Council of top Islamic clerics and seen as unusual in the Muslim world.

    The council is under the government’s Islamic Advancement Department, so its decrees are de facto law.

    In Bahrain, the government cracks down on Shiite Muslim activists, fearing they could be a back door for Iranian influence.

    Sunni extremists have bombed Shiite gatherings in Pakistan, and much of the violence in Iraq has been between Sunni and Shiite militias as the two sides vie for power.

    It is not clear what prompted the recent raid in Malaysia, but Islamic officials defend the ban as crucial to prevent unrest among Muslims.

    “Shia is an Iranian sect,” said Harussani Zakaria, a cleric from the National Fatwa Council.

    “It has expanded secretly and now has many supporters who are starting to practice their faith in public,” he added. “We do not want any religious differences. They are a threat to Muslim unity in Malaysia.”

    In defense of the raid, several Islamic officials said Shiism could give rise to fanatics as it permits the killing of Muslims from other sects, a claim denied by the Iranian Embassy and Shiites here.

    Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said Shiites did not pose a threat to national security.

    Some Malaysian Shiite families have practiced for generations, while others were exposed and subsequently converted to Shiism after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.

    Many members meet in one of 40 hauzars, or houses of knowledge, in the country.

    The one that Kamil leads, the most prominent and largest with 500 members, is on the top floor of a shop in a suburb of Kuala Lumpur.

    Some 100 followers filed in for prayers on the first Tuesday of the New Year. A wall mural depicting Noah’s Ark greeted them as they entered a long, carpeted hall draped with banners in Arabic and separated into sections for men and women.

    During the one-hour worship session, Kamil led prayers over a loudspeaker. Afterward, poems were read to continue the mourning for the grandson of Prophet Muhammad.

    “Here in Malaysia, they cannot accept the differences,” Rashid Ahmad, a 46-year-old follower, said before the service. “There has been a campaign of demonizing us by the religious authorities. They are jealous of our influence. In the whole world, Shia is awakening.”

    He requested not to be photographed to protect his identity since his child was receiving a government scholarship. He feared it could be withdrawn.

    Associated Press

  2. Tabuik

    Date: 2011-11-27 – 2011-12-7

    Loading images…
    Tabuik is the local manifestation of the Remembrance of Muharram among the Minangkabau people in the coastal regions of West Sumatra, Indonesia, particularly in the city of Pariaman.

    The festival includes reenactments of the Battle of Karbala, and the playing of tassa and dhol drums. Tabuik is also the term used to refer to the high funeral biers carried around during remembrance procession. Although originally a Shi’a festival, nowadays most inhabitants of Pariaman and other area’s where similar Tabuik-festivals are held by 564 all Muslims and even non-Muslims.

    The remembrance is referred to as Tabut or Tabot in Indonesian.
    Tabuik is made from bamboo, rattan and paper. During the week of Tabuik many activities are held including kite races, traditional plays such as Tari Piring and traditional plays. The remembrance draws a large crowd including dignitaries such as the provincial governor, to see Tabuik in the morning before it is slowly taken to the beach. At noon, before it is thrown into the sea, there is a lot of activity with Tabuik. After they are thrown into the sea many people go swimming looking for ‘memories’ of the Tabuik. has several hotels close to Tabuik like The Hills Hotel & Convention, Benteng Hotel and Pilubang Resort Syariah. Further down on the page you can find a list of all hotels that http://www.indo 564 has in Padang. and the event/art/culture project we will collect information about 1000’s of places in Indonesia and display then together with other places of interest for tourist and the other visitors. Please send us feed back if there is other places you want us to add in to the system: INIS Contact Form

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: