Thursday, 3 March 2011

Indonesia and echoes of the Nazis

Ahmadiyah funeralIt is less that one month since an extremist mob barbarically murdered three members of the Ahmadiyah sect in the Banten district of Indonesia. Back then I wrote an article blaming Yudhoyono, his administration and their security apparatus for creating an environment in which such brutality was encouraged and excused…yesterday they proved this point with stunning audacity.

Firstly Commander General Ito Sumardi, the National Police Chief Detective, outrageously and baselessly claimed that the Ahmadis themselves were partly responsible, suggesting that they somehow invited the vicious beatings and stonings that cost them their lives. Such sentiments, though despicable, are hardly surprising coming from the representative of a police force that has this week been implicated in the rape and torture of an underage girl and the murder of a journalist, both in the Indonesian-occupied nation of West Papua where, like the Ahmadis, the Papuan people are treated as second class citizens.

Even more disturbing than Sumardi’s comments however, was the concurrent move by authorities in West Java to strictly curtail Ahmadiyah activities. The region’s Ahmadiyah community (the biggest in Indonesia) is now legally banned from any public visibility- including signposting its mosques and schools; whilst all followers have been formally urged to ‘re-educate’ themselves and convert to ‘mainstream’ Islam. Police officers have already begun enforcing the move by tearing down signs and patrolling outside Ahmadiyah Mosques, actions which have received vocal backing from the Attorney General, Interior Minister and Minister for Religion. Strikingly, the latter has long pushed for a stronger, complete and national ban on Ahmadiyah per se.

ahmadiyahThe stage is set therefore, for further intimidation, persecution and - in all likelihood- killings. Hardliners representing a minority of the Indonesian population marched on Tuesday demanding a strict clampdown on Ahmadiya – and they appear to have got their way. Of course many of these bigots will not stop until the religion is outlawed (or judging on the lynchings they have conducted- until more Ahmadis are slaughtered) but with the current government and security forces on side they appear to be making significant process in their sickening campaign of hatred.

Amidst such murderous and oppressive state sponsored religious discrimination it can fairly be asserted that echoes of Nazi Germany, Habyarimana’s Rwanda or Milosevic's Yugoslavia are currently resounding throughout Indonesia. Some will find such a description of the situation provocative or even offensive but it is not meant to be; this is not a comparison to the scale of the crimes carried out by these regimes– they eclipse anything that Yudhoyono’s administration has undertaken thus far – but the underlying principle is the same. Just like the Jews, Kosovars and Tutsis were at junctures in history; Ahmadis and Papuans today are being systematically dehumanised by an oppressive regime – their murders go unpunished, their identities are actively and pragmatically destroyed, they are brutalised by security forces and senior governmental figures openly seek their eradication as religious and racial groups.

As the persecution continues, the myth of Indonesian democracy is fading before our eyes.

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