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Sunday 24th of January 2021
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Indinesian Govt to Place Sampang Shiites’ Future in Sunni Leaders’ Hands

A central government plan to allow Madura Island’s persecuted Shiites to return home from exile in Sidoarjo, East Java, hinges on the proposal’s acceptance by local religious leaders — including those accused of inciting violent anti-Shia sentiment among the island’s Sunni majority.The Ministry of Public Housin
Indinesian Govt to Place Sampang Shiites’ Future in Sunni Leaders’ Hands

A central government plan to allow Madura Island’s persecuted Shiites to return home from exile in Sidoarjo, East Java, hinges on the proposal’s acceptance by local religious leaders — including those accused of inciting violent anti-Shia sentiment among the island’s Sunni majority.The Ministry of Public Housing presented its reconstruction plan for affected communities in Madura before an assembled crowd of local government, police and religious officials at Surabaya’s IAIN Sunan Ampel Islamic state college.The plan, which includes the construction of new homes and an Islamic boarding school, aims to improve facilities across Madura, not just in Shiite-heavy villages, Public Housing Minister Djan Faridz said, according to the state-run Antara News Agency.“It’s not about the [displaced people],” Djan said. “The President held coordinating meetings several times stating that the development must be pro-Madura [and aim] to build a better Madura.”Still, the return of 233 Shiites to their villages in Sampang depends on the opinions of local Muslim clerics and provincial officials, Djan said.“If the ulema and the East Java governor say ‘go,’ then we will do it,” he said.Reactions to the plan have been mixed. A representative from a Madura ulema association said Sunni leaders would welcome the Shiites home, as long as they stood by the Sampang court’s ruling that local Shia leader Tajul Muluk was guilty of committing blasphemy.“We are willing to accept them back to Sampang, but they must comply with the court’s verdict, which said that Tajul Muluk’s case was blasphemy,” said Jakfar Shodiq, of the Madura Ulemas Association (Bassra).Tajul was sentenced to two years in prison on blasphemy charges filed by his brother, local Sunni cleric Rois Al Hukuma. The cleric was accused of preying on local anti-Shia sentiment to incite violence against his brother over a family dispute. According to witnesses, Rois delivered a screed calling the Shiites heretics. A mob of 500 extremist Sunnis (Salafis) then rampaged through Shiite villages, burning homes and attacking residents in a wave of violence that left two dead.Rois was arrested following the attacks, but was later released after being found not guilty of all charges.Sampang’s Shiites spent nearly a year living in squalid conditions at a cramped sports center. The community was moved to subsidized apartments in Sidoarjo last month.An attorney representing the displaced Shiites said there was still resistance on the ground in Sampang.“It will take strong leadership from the president to solve this issue and help the Shiites,” Herstaning Ikhlas said. “There are still parties that resent the idea of them returning to Sampang. There are so many differences of opinion in the reconciliation.”President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will visit Sampang during a Ramadan tour of East Java, spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said.“We expect the president’s visit to help the settle the issues there and help the Shiites,” Julian said.But the Shiite’s lawyer warned of another push for forced conversions on the island. More than 30 Shiites have been forced to convert to Sunni Islam on the threat of violence.“They said if the Shiites want to return home, they must recant their Shiite beliefs,” Herstaning said. “Tajul Maluk has been declared guilty of blasphemy, therefore the Shiites must become Sunnis. That is dangerous because that is coercion.”A member of the East Java chapter of the Indonesia Ahlul Bait (ABI) Shiite organization said the community was willing to enter a discussion with local Sunni leaders and push for peace between the two groups.“We are ready to support the reconciliation with dialogue and friendship,” said Zahid from East Java ABI. “We don’t want to be forced. Coercion will not deliver change. We must make a change with enlightenment.”/129

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