Call for jihad in Ambon

2,000 students demonstrating in the streets want a holy war to stop Muslim killings in the riot-torn area.

RADICAL Islamic leaders in Indonesia have called for revenge against Muslim killings in riot-hit Ambon, as 2,000 students took to the streets here demanding a holy war and accusing Christians and the military of “ethnic cleansing”.

Mr Eggi Sudjana, head of the 600,000-strong Indonesian Trade Union of Muslim Brotherhood, vowed that there would be a “jihad” or holy war in Ambon in two weeks’ time if the armed forces (Abri) did not contain the rioting and protect Muslims.

He told The Straits Times in an interview yesterday: “This is a warning to President Habibie and his government. If the military refuses to act in a fair and firm manner, we will have to call for a jihad. I hope it will not happen. I don’t want a religious war. I love peace. Islam stands for peace.

“But if our Muslim brothers are being slaughtered in Ambon, we will have to protect them with our blood.”

Other leaders echoed his sentiments and warned that a jihad could spread to other parts of the country if the government failed to show resolve in protecting Muslims.

“Indonesia is no longer one. We are a broken and divided society,” noted Mr Ahmad Sumargono of the Indonesian Committee for Islamic Solidarity (Kisdi), which has about 5,000 members.

“All Muslims are affected by what is going on in Ambon. If a jihad breaks out, be warned that Jakarta and other parts of the country will also be affected.”

He said calls for a holy war reflected sentiments among several Muslim leaders from organisations like Dewan Dakwah and political parties like Partai Keadilan and Partai Bulan Bintang.

As such, it would be easy to mobilise thousands to Ambon if the need arose.

“If we can get 10,000 people to go to Bosnia, why not to Ambon which is much, much nearer?”

For a start though, he disclosed that several Muslim groups planned to hold a major rally involving up to 5,000 people at the Al Azhar mosque in Jakarta on Sunday “to show solidarity with Muslims killed in Ambon”.

Meanwhile, nearly 2,000 Muslim students, in the first show of public defiance on the issue, massed just opposite the Abri headquarters chanting “Jihad! Jihad!” as they protested alleged military brutality against Muslims.

Student Lukman Lubis said many of the students were angry that soldiers were shooting-on-sight innocent people, many of whom were Muslims. “We are all willing to die for the Muslim cause.”

He and several Islamic leaders were particularly incensed by reports that troops had shot people inside a mosque on Monday after early morning prayers.

At least two people were killed and Abri chief General Wiranto has vowed that there will be “no cover up” of the incident. As a show of resolve, he sacked the Maluku police chief for what a senior Abri officer described as “under performance” and bolstered troop presence in the area.

Mr Sumargono complained that troops were taking sides in the sectarian violence in Ambon. “They are protecting the minority and forgetting about the Muslims which form the majority in Indonesia. The military is asking for trouble.”

Mr Rozy Munir, vice-chairman of the 35-million-strong Nadhlatul Ulama, the largest Muslim group in the country, however, lashed out against calls for a jihad from his radical Islamic counterparts.

“We want this violence to end and the best way to do that is by dialogue. But using the name of Islam to declare war on Christians is an invitation for disaster. Indonesia will be finished if that happens.”

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