Indonesian Shiites Under Threat to Convert Or Will Be Beheaded And Houses To Be Burned

Written by  Published by:Shiite News
Published in Asia
Tuesday, 13 August 2013

indonishi shiaMany Shiite Muslims returning to Madura for Idul Fitri last week were given an ultimatum that forced them to convert to Sunnism or leave the troubled East Java island.

Several Shiites in recent days revealed their experiences of intimidation upon returning to their hometowns,

with some threatened with beheading and the destruction of their homes if they did not comply.

The campaign appeared to be carried out with the support of the local government, the police and the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), as well as the national government’s National Unity and Political Agency (Kesbangpol).

“The [Sampang] district government and some kyai [clerics] have a program to lead people to return to the right path,” said one young Shiite, Nukholis, citing Mat Hasan, the local chief in his hometown Nangkernang.

“ ‘I’m not threatening you, but people here don’t want Shiites to live here,’ ” Nurkholis said on Monday, quoting Hasan.

“He also said that the Indonesian Ulema Council in Sampang wanted me to return to the right path.”

Nukholis, a souvenir seller working on Bali, said he was pressured to visit the home of Syaifudin, a Sampang cleric.

When he and four other Shiites arrived, he was met by a group of men that included Fatturohman, the head of the local Religious Affairs Agency; Rudi Setiadi, the head of the National Unity and Political Agency (Kesbangpol); Abdul Manan Ali, the head of the Sampang branch of the MUI; the Sampang district head; and the head of the Sampang Police.

“They wanted us to sign a letter stating that we want to return to the ‘right’ Islamic teaching on our own will, or [accept that] people would burn my house and kill me.”

Nurkholis, who converted from Sunni to Shia Islam in 2009, refused to sign. Syaifudin told him that there was no alternative but for him to leave the village.

Nurkholis was taken and held at a police station while a police officer collected his belongings from his house. They offered to escort him to Surabaya, but he instead opted to go to his brother’s home in Tanjung Priok, North Jakarta.

He does not know what happened to the other four Shiites at the meeting.

In a similar case, Islami, a 19-year-old woman, returned to her home village of Blu’uran, also in Sampang. Within days, she, too, was harassed by local authorities. On Saturday, Sampang district officer Kholik pressured her to sign a letter to convert to Sunnism.

“She refused, and she was escorted out of Blu’uran village to Surabaya,” Hadi Joban, a lawyer from Universalia Legal Aid Foundation that represents the Shia community, told the Jakarta Globe.

“The official said that if she refused, people would set her parents’ house on fire and would behead her. She was scared, and decided to leave.”

While Nurkholis and Islami refused, several dozen Shiites did sign the letters to convert.

“There are 35 Shiites who decided to sign under the pressure and threats of the government, religious leaders and police officers,” said Herstaning, a lawyer for the Shiites.

“They’re just ordinary village people who are not highly educated. Given such intimidation, they were scared and signed the letter. Those people told them that their security is at stake if they refused to sign.”

Kesbangpol head Rudi was not available when the Jakarta Globe tried to confirm the reports. Herstaning said he had confronted Rudi, who refused to provide reasons for the forced conversions.

“He only said he was disturbed with the media coverage that hampered the reconciliation in Sampang,” Herstaning said.

The Shiite population of Blu’uran and Karanggayam in Sampang has dwindled since a clash last August in which more than 20 people died and dozens of houses were razed.

Of the 143 Shiite families, amounting to 600 people, before the clash, 80 had opted for the safety of the Sampang sports center. But in recent months the government has forced those families to move to apartments in Sidoarjo on the Java mainland, several hours from Sampang.

Those whose homes were not burned in the incident opted to stay in the villages, despite the threat of a flare-up in intolerance.

National Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali has downplayed tensions on Madura, arguing the incidences are not religiously motivated but are the product of a rivalry between brothers: Sunni figure Roisul Hukama and Shiite leader Tajul Muluk.

But Nurkholis said he did not think the warring brothers were responsible for the oppression of Shiites.

“The conflict between Tajul and Roisul is happening, but what we are experiencing is in fact a religious conflict. The sibling rivalry was not what sparked the conflict.”

In a meeting several weeks ago attended by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Sampang government, the National Police chief and a representative of the Shiite community, it was agreed that Shiites who lived in the Sidoarjo apartments could return home soon.

Despite the agreement, there has been little effort so far to return the exiled Shiite families to Madura.

Legal aid lawyer Hadi said they still wanted to return home, but they would not bow to local government demands for them to convert to Sunni Islam.

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