JNN 06 May 2012 Jakarta : The government will study anti-Shiite groups’ movements in the regions of West Java and East Java “very seriously”, a high-ranking official says.
Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Nasaruddin Umar warned that outlawing mainstream Shiite followers in the country would be “a very serious problem”, saying that conservative Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia have never banned the denomination.
“We must also be very careful with this issue, because it may disturb our relations with countries like Iran, which has many citizens who follow the Shia teachings,” he said.
The deputy minister was responding to a query on the anti-Shiite sentiments in West Java and East Java.
In East Java, some Wahabi ulema in Madura and other areas throughout the province had asked the local administration to endorse a regulation to limit the spreading of Shia Islam, arguing that the Shia teachings matched the 10 criteria for heresy issued by the Indonesian Ulema Council in 2007.
Last December, hundreds of people burned four houses, a musala (prayer house) and other facilities at a boarding school run by Tajul Muluk, a Shiite leader. Tajul is standing trial for blasphemy charges.
Meanwhile, in West Java, Wahabi clerics have warned people against spreading Shiite teachings in the area.
Nasaruddin, a lecturer of Koranic interpretation, said that while all citizens were free to propose regulations from local administrations, bylaws should not contradict the Constitution.
Responding to complaints against the many bylaws restricting religious teachings, mainly those of the Ahmadiyah, the Home Ministry has said such regulations do not violate the Constitution or the regional autonomy law.
Contacted separately, Muslim scholar Komaruddin Hidayat, said that Shia followers have always been a part of the history of Islam, and that people debating their existence “had never studied history”.
“Shia followers in the past had contributed a lot to Islam in terms of knowledge. Therefore, Sunni ulema, particularly in Saudi Arabia, have never debated their existence,” he said.
He urged the government to protect the Shia followers from attacks, saying that the government must preserve interfaith harmony by avoiding bylaws that could destroy the nation’s unity.
Meanwhile, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) executive board chairman Said Aqil Siradj, said that while Shiite teachings differed from mainstream Islam in Indonesia, the NU had never asked the government to ban Shia followers.
“The Prophet Muhammad told us that we must not fight each other regardless of our differences,” he told The Jakarta Post.
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