Mon, 10 Jan 2000

Calls for calm, jihad over Maluku mayhem

JAKARTA (JP): There were urgent calls for calm and understanding as demands for an Islamic holy war (jihad) to avenge the death of Muslims in Maluku continued to resonate over the Idul Fitri weekend.

Noted Muslim scholar Nurcholish Madjid appealed to Muslims to show their compassionate side to help pacify the emotional outbursts fueled by politicians and the Indonesian Ulema's Council (MUI).

"Becoming a Muslim is difficult. We have to know when to forgive and when to rise to destroy our enemy," he said here during a gathering on Friday night.

"You may fight back, but this doesn't mean you should overreact or become oppressive," he remarked.

On the eve of Idul Fitri, tens of thousands of Muslims, organizers claim hundreds of thousands and even dubbed the event a gathering of a million ummat, assembled at the National Monument (Monas) in Central Jakarta on Friday expressing support for a holy war in Maluku.

Clamoring together, they chanted "Jihad! Jihad!" and insisted Vice President Megawati Soekarnoputri resign from her post because of inaction over the religious conflict.

The cries for a holy war were boosted by war-like statements from MUI and top politicians, the like of People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Amien Rais.

"Thus far, Muslims have been quite patient, but even that has limits," Amien said during Friday's event.

He said he met President Abdurrahman Wahid and had given him a two-week deadline to resolve the conflict.

According to Amien, Abdurrahman told him it would be over "soon".

"But when is soon? If it's one or two more years, then Muslims in Maluku could be wiped out. It is best resolved in one or two weeks," Amien said.

The head of MUI's Edict Commission, Ibrahim Husein, said Muslims did not need a religious ruling to launch a holy war as conditions in Maluku had satisfied the criteria for one.

"In a situation like Maluku, the requirement for jihad has been fulfilled and it's now mandatory to engage in one," he said as quoted by Antara.

Ibrahim claimed that if he was still full of youthful strength he himself would go there and accuse reluctant Muslims of being without dignity.

There have been demonstrations in major cities following the escalation of violence in Maluku. It was reported that religious clashes in Halmahera and the surrounding islands alone had claimed an additional 450 lives.

While the exact toll remains sketchy, some media reports claim up to 2,000 were killed with rumors of a Muslim slaughter.

Megawati has also been the target of recrimination as she was tasked with settling the Maluku conflict.

She refuted on Saturday criticisms saying she chose to work behind the scenes on such a delicate subject.

She conceded that it was impossible to end the conflict in Maluku and North Maluku provinces in a short time due to the sensitiveness of warring parties there.

"It is impossible for only certain parties to resolve the problem, this is part of the nation's dilemma and it must be overcome by the whole nation," she said on the sidelines of an Idul Fitri open house celebration at her official residence on Jl. Diponegoro, Central Jakarta.

Fear of radical mobs deployed to Maluku is high on the President's concern.

The President, after Friday prayers here, revealed that he had ordered Indonesian Military (TNI) chief Adm. Widodo A.S. to screen those arriving in Maluku.

Citing Widodo's report, Abdurrahman said hundreds from outside Maluku were on their way there to "assist" their Muslim brothers.

"In the last two or even three days, several hundred people from Jakarta have been sent (to Maluku), and they consider themselves the defenders of Islam," the President noted.

Calls for a Muslim uprising has also led several Muslim- oriented political parties to pledge a merger of parties to form a strong unified Islamic party.

The so-called "Monas Concord" will supposedly merge the United Development Party (PPP), the Justice Party, the Crescent Star Party (PBB) and the National Mandate Party (PAN).

PPP Chairman Hamzah Haz first disclosed the new pact at Friday's gathering, saying Islamic political forces should unite to ensure their existence in coming elections.

He conceded that the merger in some respect was a reaction to a recent statement by Abdurrahman who said in the future there would only be two dominant parties -- the National Awakening Party (PKB) and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle.

The four parties are already aligned in a loose coalition known as the "axis force".

Separately, State Minister of the Empowerment of Women, Khofifah Indar Parawansa, questioned the real intent of Friday's gathering.

Khofifah, who is from PKB, remarked that it seemed more of a political gathering than a religious assembly.

She assuredly described how she perceived the gathering by saying that Abdurrahman was elected through a democratic process and any political move by dissatisfied parties could bring about a huge social cost.

"Why don't we have a fair competition in the next five years, and not through such mass action," she added. (04/prb)