Indonesia will soon turn into a Southeast Asian version of Wahhabi Saudi Arabia.
Fundamentalists in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation have succeeded in forcing the authorities to cover a giant statue of a Chinese god on the main island of Java.
According to Tempo.co, an Indonesian daily, a massive rally was held outside the East Java House of Representatives building in Surabaya’s Jalan Indrapura on Monday. They threatened to demolish the statue if the same was not done by the authorities.
Worried, the authorities decided to cover the statue with a huge white sheet.
According to Western media, the protesters were largely Islamists, whose demands were in line with their goal of turning the secular Indonesia into a Sharia-compliant country.
The 30-meter-tall statue is of a 3rd century general called Guan Yu. In Confucian faith, he is seen as a god. The statue stands on the grounds of the Kwan Seng Bio temple in Tuban, East Java.
One of the protest leaders said that the statue “should not be that high…and inside the temple”. “This statue is so tall, it’s as if the god of war has taken over Tuban, and we can’t permit that!” he is quoted as saying.
But according to Gatot Santosom, who heads the Regional Association of Chinese-Indonesians in East Java, the Islamists “misunderstood” the statue.
“They misunderstood and thought the statue is of a General, that we are showing respect to a war general, but that’s not true…What we respect is what he symbolizes – loyalty, our loyalty to humanity – and he defends justice,” he is quoted as saying.
And while it may appear that the mob threatened to demolish the giant Chinese statue because the look of the statue was an ‘affront to nationality’, media reports indicate that they had an objection to the depiction of an ‘un-Islamic’ god on their land.
The Islamists have been reportedly destroying statues and Buddhist temples all over Indonesia for a long time now. Demands of replacing the core ideology of ‘Pancasila’ (Panchashila or Five Basic Principles) with a completely Islamic Sharia law have only been strengthened in recent years.
The rise of Islamic fundamentalism in the country can be gauged from how Islamists hounded Jakarta’s second Christian governor and first of Chinese ancestry, Basuki “Ahok” Purnama, out of office for so-called ‘blasphemy’.
The Islamists turned violent and Basuki was later sentenced to two years imprisonment.
Secular Indonesians have been expressing their fears of finding their country in the grasp of violent, intolerant Islamic fundamentalists.
But why is Indonesia becoming so violent and how?
It is not that fundamentalism never existed in Indonesia; it was there at the time of the country’s independence from the Dutch in the 1950s but at that time, the government was powerful enough not to succumb to fundamentalism.
In last few decades, however, one particular fundamentalist nation has become very influential – Saudi Arabia.
When Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, the King of Saudi Arabia, arrived in Indonesia as part of his around-the-world holiday tour, any statue that came in the way of his entourage in Indonesian city of Bogor was covered.
The reason was that Wahhabism, the puritanical Islamic ideology which is followed in Saudi Arabia, forbids any statue in any Islamic land.
The Saudi King’s next stop in Indonesia was Bali, the only Hindu-majority region of the country. It was, therefore, expected that local government in Bali would cover all of the statues of Hindu gods and heroes such as Krishna and Arjuna so as not to hurt the Wahhabi sentiments of the Saudi King.
But that was not to be. The Governor of Bali, Made Mangku Pastika, refused to do what Bogor did. Thus the statues remained uncovered while the Saudi King enjoyed on the beaches of the island nation.
But Indonesia has been steadily falling in the Wahhabi trap. Fundamentalists in the country are increasingly becoming dominant largely because of an increase in the import of Wahhabi madrassas in the country.
This has been one of the key concerns of the secular Indonesian Muslims as well.
“The advent of Salafism (Wahhabism) in Indonesia is part of Saudi Arabia’s global project to spread its brand of Islam throughout the Muslim world,” Din Wahid, an expert on Indonesian Salafism at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University (UIN) in Jakarta, told The Atlantic in March this year, coincidentally at the time when the Saudi king was touring the country.
Things have only gotten worse in Indonesia.