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Prominent politician claims 'powerful individual' behind attacks on religious figures

CNN Indonesia - February 22, 2018

Abi Sarwanto, Jakarta – United Development Party (PPP) chairperson Muhammad Romahurmuziy suspects that there is a "powerful individual" behind the recent spate of attacks on Islamic scholars and religious figures.

According to Romi, as he is known to his friends, this suspicion is based on the results of an investigation by a fact finding team formed by the PPP after communicating with people in the area where the attacks occurred.

"It showed that there are suspicions of a former powerful figure in this republic who is systematically carrying it out", Romahurmuziy said at the CNN Indonesia editorial office on Thursday February 22.

The aim of the attacks, said Romahurmuziy, is to create a perception among the public that the government of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo does not have the capacity to deal with security matters and simultaneously the need for a firm and strong leader.

"Because [of the attacks] what is needed is a government that has a strong security capacity", he asserted.

Nevertheless, Romahurmuziy was reluctant to confirm that the attacks are being carried out by a former strong man with a military background. He said only that there are two groups who might be capable of carrying out such a design.

"But I think there is an interest group, the number of such groups in this republic are very, very limited, only one or two groups in this republic could possibly have the capacity to work systematically [like this]", he said.

A pattern of attacks such as this he said resembles a series of incidents that befell leading religious figures in the lead up to the fall of former president Suharto's New Order regime.

"We suspect that this pattern is the same as the pattern in the lead up to Suharto's fall in 1996, when many Nahdlatul Ulama kiai [Islamic teachers] at the lowest levels, mosque ustad [Islamic teachers], prayer room ustad, were accused of being black magic practitioners and killed", he said.

Based on his records, there have been at least 20 attacks against ulama and 15 of the perpetrators have been identified as suffering from mental illness. These attacks are believed to have been carried out in a systematic manner by these forces.

According to Romahurmuziy, it is impossible that the attacks on ulama and religious figures were carried out by the ruling administration. The government, he said, would only harm itself by doing such a thing. Moreover, the current government would be incapable of carrying out such systematic attacks.

A series of attacks against religious leaders have been taking place since late January.

The first attack occurred at the Al Hidayah Cicalengka Islamic boarding school (ponpes) in Bandung regency, West Java. The head of the boarding school KH Umar Basri was attacked and assaulted following dawn prayers on January 27.

On February 1 there was an attack on Islamic Union (Persis) leader Ustaz Prawoto and on February 11 an attack on the Santa Lidwina Bedog Church in Sleman, Yogyakarta.

National police criminal investigation chief Commissioner General Ari Dono has revealed that there have been 21 attacks on religious leaders in six provinces: Aceh, Banten, Jakarta, West Barat, Yogyakarta and East Java.

According to Dono the largest number of attacks have occurred in West Java with a total of 13 incidents followed by East Java with a total of four incidents (arh)


1. Although Romahurmuziy does not say who the alleged "powerful figure" is, it is clear that he is referring to former Special Forces (Kopassus) commander and Greater Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) leader Prabowo Subianto, who was responsible for the abduction and disappearance of pro-democracy activists in 1997-98 and is believed to have orchestrated the 1998 anti-Chinese riots in Jakarta prior to the fall of former president Suharto's. Subianto, who is widely expected to run against incumbent President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo in the 2019 presidential election, is portrayed by his supporters as a "firm" and "strong" military leader who can maintain security and public order.

2. Over several months starting in October 1998, around 150 people were murdered in a mysterious killing spree in East Java. Initially the victims were alleged practitioners of "black magic" (dukun santen) who were abducted and killed by organised groups of "ninjas", so called because they wore black masks and clothing. The killings later spread to Muslim scholars and teachers – particularly members of the Islamic mass-organisation Nahdlatul Ulama. Several prominent people at the time claimed that the killings were orchestrated to spread unrest in the run-up to the 1999 elections.

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was PPP Duga Ada Orang Kuat di Balik Penyerangan Tokoh Agama.]

Source: https://www.cnnindonesia.com/nasional/20180222174145-32-278123/ppp-duga-ada-orang-kuat-di-balik-penyerangan-tokoh-agama/.

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