Indonesian mosques that host government staff are spreading radicalism and calling for violence against non-Muslims, according to Jakarta’s intelligence agency.
The Indonesian State Intelligence Agency said it had studied about 1,000 mosques since July and found imams were preaching extremism to civil servants in Jakarta.
The organisation found about 17 imams in one Jakarta district dominated by government employees expressed support or sympathy for so-called Islamic State and encouraged worshippers to join Isis in Syria and Marawi, the Philippine city on Mindanao seized by foreign extremists last year.
In May in Indonesia’s second-biggest city, Surabaya, several churches were bombed during Sunday services, killing 12 Christians. The extremist organisation Isis claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Some imams encouraged worshippers to commit violence and spread hatred or vilify Indonesia’s minorities.
“The majority of people who go to these mosques are government workers so that’s why this is alarming,’ agency spokesman Wawan Purwanto told the media.
“These are people who are running the country.”
The study also said it found signs of radicalism at seven university campuses.
“We have to avoid this because we don’t want Indonesians fighting against each other,” Purwanto said, adding that radical imams would be urged to spread a more peaceful message.
A caretaker at a Jakarta mosque recently said a man was stealing from the donation box, resulting in the latest of hundreds of vigilante killings across Indonesia in recent years.
Last year’s murder of 30-year-old Muhammad al-Zahra attracted attention. He was set ablaze for allegedly stealing a mosque amplifier in the deprived Jakarta Bekasi district, as onlookers cheered and videoed his death.
Al-Zahra repaired electronics for a living, his widow told the media.
Six people were sentenced to between six and seven years in jail over the murder.
Stealing from a mosque is often seen as an attack on Islam itself.
“The main problem is a lack of trust in the authorities,” said Professor Agustinus Pohan, a legal scholar at Parahyangan University.
“Those with power or money get special treatment. That’s why people refuse to trust the police and decide to take matters into their own hands.”
A World Bank report recorded nearly 34,000 vigilante attacks in Indonesia involving serious injuries and 1,600 deaths between 2005 and 2014.
The figure was based on media reports covering only about half the archipelago’s population, suggesting the lynchings might be even more common.
Jakarta-based security specialist Sidney Jones said the government should go further than just trying to persuade imams to become more moderate to address the dangers of rising extremism.
“Generally it’s not enough to talk to the preacher: you have to get to the mosque development committee and look at the financing,” she said.
“And you have to understand why there is support from the community.”
Indonesia’s reputation for religious tolerance is being questioned. Picture credit: Wikimedia