August 09, 2013

Makeshift Bomb Detonates in Buddhist Temple in Indonesia's Capital

Alex Caring-Lobel

On Sunday evening a bomb blast rocked the Ekayana Buddhist Centre, a temple for Jarkarta’s Chinese Buddhists in the western area of Indonesia’s capital, leaving three members of the 300-person congregation with minor injuries. A second explosive device was found undetonated, smoldering in a bucket, with a note that read, “We respond to the screams of the Rohingya.”

Although loaded with “buckshot, batteries, and other materials,” the explosives were incapable of a major blast, a police spokesman told the Wall Street Journal, noting that the explosion failed to break the glass of a nearby door.

While Chinese-Indonesians have long been persecuted within Indonesia, and were disproportionately targeted and executed during the anti-communist genocide of 1965–66 (dramatized in the recent film The Act of Killing), Islamist bombings targeting Chinese-Indonesians as Buddhists are novel, and incredibly misguided considering their lack of ties to Burmese Buddhists.

The attack has raised worries of a more widespread global terrorist response to Burma’s sangha–led anti-Muslim pogrom, which, in addition to a strong grassroots base, enjoys support from the highest levels of government. The year 2012 saw a resurgence of anti-Muslim violence against the Rohingya of western Burma, a disenfranchised minority named one of the most persecuted in the world by the United Nations. General anti-Muslim hate quickly spread to the Buddhist-majority mainstream, prompting violence and demonstrations against Muslims in some of the country’s largest cities, including Mandalay, home to the Buddhist-extremist 969 Movement and its monk-leader, the “Buddhist Bin Laden” Wirathu.

The recent bombing, however, has as much to do with the interests of Indonesia’s Islamist groups as it does the Rohingya. The most populous Muslim nation in the world, Indonesia has a long history of jihadist and radical Islamist activites: Islamists commonly attack Christian churches and minority Muslims such as the Shi’ites and Ahmadis in the country, and Al Qaeda-linked extremists carried out numerous attacks there just over a decade ago. More recently, authorities disrupted a plot orchestrated by an Islamist terror network to attack Burma’s embassy in Jakarta using pipe bombs.

The plight of the Rohingya has been used as a rallying cry and a recruitment tool for Indonesia’s various Islamist groups. The “aggressive public response” has bolstered their popularity in the majority-Muslim country.

Part of this response has been to disseminate disinformation and misattributed photos regarding a nonexistent Rohingya militia, which was picked up by several unscrupulous reporters and bloggers, and cleared up by The Irrawaddy.

Unconfirmed reports of links between Islamic militants and the Rohingya have been used to “further fuel anti-Muslim sentiments” in Burma.

“This is an effort to provoke sectarian conflict,” said Indonesia's Religious Affairs Minister Suryadharma Ali. “I ask Muslims and Buddhists not to fall for it.”

—Alex Caring-Lobel

Image 1: Police investigators at the spot where the bomb is thought to have been placed. (AP)
Image 2: Armed police secure the compound of Ekayana Buddhist Centre after bomb detonates inside. (Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty Images)

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alstroemeria's picture

I speak as a committed Western Buddhist in expressing my repugnance at Aung San Suu Kyi's failure to condemn racism and violence against Muslims in Burma. This is a shocking and inexcusable moral lapse on her part. Her stature as a moral exemplar has plunged; cynical politicking indeed. Furthermore, the Dalai Lama should continue to speak out forcefully against these appalling attacks. The supposedly liberalized Burmese government shows its true colors, as do the Western countries which once again place economic values above human rights.

deanp's picture

Islamist targeting in Indonesia of Non-Muslims and Non-Muslim sites is hardly "novel", and has been occurring for decades. This is just a small piece to hit the media due to coincidence with problems in Burma. Buddhists are considered to be "idol worshipers" or "polytheists" under Islam, which relegates them lower than other monotheistic faiths, destined for certain "hellfire", and as such are open targets for all and sundry within Islamic majority States. The issues in Burma are yet another excuse for such groups to engage in violence. The Indonesian Religious Affairs Minister's remarks are ridiculous, implying that Buddhists could even engage in some form of "conflict" against Muslims, which would spell their immediate demise or worse.

Hktony's picture

More pro Islam from so called Buddhist authors. This is poorly researched if i may say. What is wrong with you all??? This is just more liberal PC writing. Really, get the facts about the Islamic caliphate and the Saudi and other rich oil countries drive to dominate other countries aided by the PC writings above or stick to religious writing. India is struggling with Muslims, Indonesia, the philipeans, France, uk, and on and on. But you still refuse to see is it as a threat. Nothing has changed since nalanda disappeared or recently the Buddhas in Afghanistan. Islam means to conquer not hold your hand. Stop helping them kill Buddhists in Burma I sure it has other problems to deal with . Do you want to destroy Buddhism? Well keep defending Islam and you will!