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Indonesian govt under pressure to act against extremists
JAKARTA (AFP) — The Indonesian government faced criticism on Tuesday for failing to act against a group of Islamist extremists who declared war on a minority sect and attacked a rally for religious tolerance.
Police have failed to make a single arrest after Sunday’s violence, when hundreds of stick-wielding fanatics stormed the peaceful rally in central Jakarta and severely beat dozens of people.
Victims of the unprovoked attack joined with rights activists and the media in condemning the government for allowing a tiny minority of fanatical extremists to threaten basic rights in the world’s most populous Muslim state.
“We condemn the government that for the umpteenth time failed in its job to defend people in exercising their constitutional rights, first with regard to freedom of religion and now freedom of expression,” The Jakarta Post said in an editorial.
“The latest threat comes not so much from those who want to take our freedoms away, as from the failure of the state to protect us from exercising our rights.”
A little-known extremist group affiliated to the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) has claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they were “defending Islam” by beating women and unarmed men at the rally.
The rally had been called to express support for constitutionally enshrined religious freedoms amid a debate over the minority Ahmadiyah Islamic sect, which the government is considering banning over its “deviant” beliefs.
FPI leaders held a press conference on Monday to announce they were preparing for war with Ahmadis and would fight “until our last drop of blood” to resist any government attempts to arrest them.
Many have questioned why the government was considering banning Ahmadiyah, which has peacefully practised its faith in Indonesia since the 1920s, while doing nothing about violent Islamic vigilante groups.