Blast rocks Indonesia’s largest mosque

Some say the explosion, which injured three, may be an attempt to stir up religious tensions ahead of the polls.

AN EXPLOSION rocked Indonesia’s largest mosque yesterday, in what military and religious leaders said was an attempt to stir up religious tensions ahead of the general election.

“It is obvious from the target chosen that those responsible wanted to pit one religious group against another to create chaos across the country,” Jakarta commander Djaja Suparman told The Straits Times after surveying the badly damaged ground floor of the Istiqlal mosque office complex.

The complex houses offices of several Muslim organisations.

Pieces of shattered glass were strewn all over the floor after the afternoon explosion ripped through more than 21 adjoining offices, injuring seriously three people who were praying then.

The wall beams and building pillars remained intact, which a bomb expert at the site said suggested it was “perhaps an explosive device and something less powerful than a bomb”. The military and police remained tight-lipped on the device that was used saying that they would release their findings only after a week.

This is the second explosion to hit Jakarta in just over two weeks.

The most recent was a similar explosion in a shopping centre in Glodok, a predominantly Chinese area. Senior armed forces (Abri) sources said that “a pattern is emerging slowly, in which ethnic and religious groups are being used as proxies in the power struggle between the elite”.

Maj-Gen Djaja said that preliminary investigations showed that the motive was to create an implosion.

“It will be much easier to play with people’s emotions, especially Muslim clerics, who might call for retribution. It is potentially explosive and can cause rioting after rioting.

“I call on all Muslims to exercise restraint and calm. We must not fall for the ploy of these people.”

The executive secretary of the Istiqlal mosque Adang Syafa’at expressed similar sentiments. He said: “This is a deliberate

act by someone from the outside to create conflict between religions in the hope that we will put the blame on another religious group. Never.”

Mr Rosi Munir, the vice-chairman of the 35-million-strong Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Muslim organisation in the country, said the group’s leaders were still trying to ascertain the motive and which group was behind the act.

The organisation, led by the enigmatic Mr Abdurrahman Wahid, represents the moderate strain of Islamic politics in Indonesia.

More right-wing and extremist Islamic elements, however, lashed out at what they perceived as a “terror campaign” being waged against the Muslims.

Mr Eggi Sudjana, the chairman of the 600,000-strong Trade Union for Muslim Solidarity, blamed “non-Muslims” for escalating political tensions in the capital. “The minorities have to understand that the Muslims form the majority in Indonesia. They need to know the rules of the game. Otherwise, there will be no peace.”

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