Saturday, May 28, 2005

Indonesian Christian grievances should be heard

Once again, the conflict between Muslims and Christians in Indonesia is being portrayed by the mainstream media in a sort of relativist, Montague and Capulet, "All are punished" way. Granted, Christian as well as Muslim mobs have committed heinous acts of terror, but that does not mean that the two sides are equally guilty or equally aggrieved. Indonesian Christians are justifiably anxious about the Islamisation of their government, calls for the implementation of sharia law by Muslims, government-sponsored Muslim immigration into traditionally Christian areas, and creeping "dhimmi" policies such as economic incentives reserved for Muslim businesses.

Muslims in Indonesia have lately become increasingly blunt about their intention to erode secular traditions and laws that have long protected the nation's non-Muslims. Here's an article published yesterday by Reuters about the imposition of an Islamic dress code on female students in the city of Padang. The mayor wants Padang's fifty-thousand-or-so non-Muslims to learn to "adjust." Now there's a scary euphemism.
Fauzi Bahar, mayor of Padang on the west coast of Sumatra, said the ruling applied to all schools in the city of one million people. Non-Muslims should also "adjust", he said. The ruling takes effect next month and underscores the growing Islamisation of the world's most populous Muslim nation -- especially in outer regions where local governments have more authority under decentralisation laws.
... "This policy also applies to Muslims who attend non-Muslim schools. By wearing Muslim dress, these kids can avoid negative things like trying drugs," Bahar told Reuters. "Non-Muslims are not forced to follow but they are encouraged to adjust," he said without elaborating.

And in January, Richel Dursin of the Inter Press Service reported that local authorities in Padang passed a "regulation prohibiting women to go out between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.," ostensibly to curb prostitution. (IPS archives are by subscription only, so no link is available. Here is a link to a reprint of the article.)

So Reuters and other new services are aware of the grievances of Indonesia's Christians. Now they should "connect the dots" and include that information in articles about the tensions and violence between Muslims and Christians and not make it appear that neither side has a reason to fear the other.


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