Asia Watch: Temple Bombed in Jakarta

Sharyn Mittelman

Temple Bombed in Jakarta

Jakarta was rocked on August 4 by a bomb exploding at the Ekayana Buddhist Centre – injuring three people among the 300 who had gathered to hear a sermon. A note found at the scene stated: “We respond to the screams of the Rohingya”, indicating the attack was in response to violence against Rohingya Muslims in Buddhist-majority Myanmar (Burma).

The Ekayana Buddhist Centre had been previously hailed as a symbol of Indonesia’s tolerance towards ethnic Chinese Buddhists in Jakarta. However, the bombing has led to concern that the violence between Muslims and Buddhists in Myanmar may now be spreading to Indonesia.

In April, Human Rights Watch accused Burmese¬†authorities and members of Arakanese groups of having committed “crimes against humanity in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in Arakan State since June 2012.” Violence against Muslims has also spread to other parts of Myanmar – with reports that around 200 people have been killed and 10,000 homes destroyed in the past two years. Extremist Buddhists are blamed, including the radical monk Ashin Wirathu, leader of the nationalist Buddhist movement “969” and known as the “Burmese bin Laden”, who has been previously jailed by the former military junta for anti-Muslim violence.

In Indonesia, many fear that the persecution of the Rohingya Muslims has become a rallying cry for Islamist militants there. Last year, members of the Islamic Defenders Front vandalised Buddhist temples in Sulawesi during a pro-Rohingya rally. In April, a riot between Muslim and Buddhist refugees from Myanmar at an Indonesian refugee camp killed eight people. In May, two men were also arrested with explosives in a backpack as part of a suspected plot to bomb the Myanmar Embassy in Jakarta. Following raids, the police arrested 13 suspects.

Indonesian officials have been quick to condemn the Ekayana bombing. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono tweeted, “We are disturbed by the Ekayana temple bombing at the end of Ramadan,” while the Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali said, “This is a damned and uncivilised action.” However, whether such condemnations will be enough to restrain extremists remains to be seen.

UN accredits Mahathir Mohamad’s NGO

In another blow for UN legitimacy, the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP), on July 30 granted accreditation to five non-government organisations, including the Perdana Global Peace Foundation, founded by Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.

The UN accreditation sparked widespread criticism given Mahathir’s long history of making comments considered antisemitic and anti-Western. For example, in a 2003 speech he said, “the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them. They invented socialism, communism, human rights and democracy so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong so they may enjoy equal rights with others. With these, they have now gained control of the most powerful countries.” Nor has Mahathir subsequently withdrawn or apologised for such comments, last year stating on his blog “Chedet”, “I am glad to be labelled anti-Semitic.”

However, Mahathir’s notorious reputation is not the only issue. A quick look at Perdana Global Peace Foundation’s website reveals the organisation’s conspiratorial agenda with articles such as “The Moral Decoding of 9-11: Beyond the US Criminal State, The Grand Plan for a New World Order”, and “Israel is an Example of an Economy Hijacked by Military-Security Interests”.

Israel responded by slamming the CEIRPP for its bias against Israel, its Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor said, “The CEIRPP has always been known for its unashamed slant which turned it into one of the major propaganda tools of the Palestinians… The only activity of this organisation has been, since day one, to foster animosity toward Israel and to promote the most rejectionist Palestinian positions. It has not been involved in the past peace efforts, even with the remote control. So admitting Mohamad’s NGO comes as no surprise at all.”

Hillel Neuer, the Executive Director of the Geneva-based NGO UN Watch, said the fact that the Committee “would join hands with and celebrate one of the world’s foremost anti-Semites is obscene – and it underscores the true nature of the world body’s vast anti-Israel infrastructure.”

Neuer’s point about anti-Israel biases at the UN was endorsed by no less an authority than UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, who on August 16 admitted to students in Jerusalem, “Unfortunately, because of the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict, Israel’s been weighed down by criticism and suffered from bias – and sometimes even discrimination,” adding “It’s an unfortunate situation”. Unfortunate it may be, but despite Ban’s acknowledgement of the problem, moves like the CEIRPP approval of Perdana suggest such discrimination is likely to continue to worsen rather than improve at the world body.