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July 27, 2016 / 21 Tammuz, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Indonesia’

Singaporean Who Defied Boycott on Israel Visits the Holy Land

Friday, May 20th, 2016

By Jesse Lempel/TPS

Jerusalem (TPS) – Over 40 years after breaking the local boycott against Israel and offering to house a makeshift Israeli embassy on his personal property, Singaporean businessman Seow Kee Quek visited the Jewish state for the first time this week.

“I am now 70 years old. It took me about 41 years to get to the place that I gave a small help to,” Quek told Tazpit Press Service (TPS).

The ‘small help’ refers to Quek’s bold decision to rent space in the 1970s to the Israeli government on the 4th floor of the Oversea Union Bank building, owned by the Quek family – a prominent family in the island city-state. As a landlord, Quek even took a loss in forgoing “high returns” on the rent, he told TPS.

“None of the major property owners wanted to permit a space and every single one was afraid of local terrorism and backlash by the Muslim community,” explained Rodney Rahmani, a Jewish American friend and business partner of Quek who joined him on his visit to Israel.

“Mr. Seow Kee Quek personally stepped up and against the entire old money establishment in Singapore, made his opinion known that it is the duty and obligation of all Christians and moral people of the world to stand with Israel,” Rahmani added.

“I was frankly a little bit worried,” Quek told TPS. “But I knew that with God’s help nothing bad would happen.”

The building at 15 Scotts Road was chosen for the new Israeli contingent, Quek explained, because it housed “a bank and a vault underneath, and it was secure.”

Quek, a member of Singapore’s Christian minority, described the tumultuous period of conflict after Singapore’s founding in 1965 amid violence with the country’s Muslim neighbors, Malaysia and Indonesia.

“There was bombing at the time in Singapore,” Quek said. “We had lots of trouble, and Israel was in the center of it, actually.”

The founding prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, revealed in his autobiography how Israel had been instrumental in creating the Singapore Armed Forces. Following its independence in November 1965, Singapore turned to several countries with a request for military consultants and material aid, including India, Egypt, and the United Kingdom. However, only Israel consented to help the newly formed nation, wrote Lee Kuan Yew.

At the time, however, the Israeli involvement was a closely guarded secret. Quek recalled with a chuckle how the founding prime minister spoke in interviews of “Mexicans” providing the young country – when in fact the help was coming from Israel.

“He couldn’t say Israelis because we are completely surrounded by Muslims countries, and it was very sensitive,” Quek told TPS.

Things have changed since then, as evidenced by last month’s visit to Israel by Singapore’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, son of the founding prime minister.

During his trip this week, Quek visited Bethlehem, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem – where he met with Deputy Defense Minister Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan. Quek professed that he was “very surprised” to meet the rabbinically bearded Ben-Dahan.

“As a rabbi, I could hardly picture how he could be in the position of deputy defense minister,” Quek told TPS. “He looks to me like Santa Clause – he’s so saintly and so sweet and smiley. How can a man like that be put in such a serious position?” Quek wondered.

On the subject of security, Quek was quick to say that he found Israel to be a thriving and secure country. Yet he also had some words of encouragement for the Middle East’s embattled democracy in its conflict with the Palestinians.

TPS / Tazpit News Agency

Kerry Lauds ‘Tolerance’ in Indonesia Months after Synagogue Leveled

Monday, February 17th, 2014

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry praised Indonesia for its religious tolerance on Monday, six months after the last synagogue in the country was destroyed.

“Yesterday, I had the privilege of going to the Istiqlal mosque,” Kerry said at a press conference during his visit. “And it’s my pleasure to not only say good morning to everybody here, but as-salam alaykum. It’s my honor to be a guest at this remarkable house of worship, the third largest mosque in the world, the largest in the region, in Asia, and really an incredible monument to faith and to the power of worship and the ability of people to come together and worship.

“And what is really important, I thought, was to see just a short distance away the spires of the cathedral, which really is a symbol together of the tolerance that exists here in Indonesia, a very, very critical asset and one that we admire Indonesians for embracing. Much of the world could learn a great deal from your tradition of religious tolerance and pluralism, which is so clearly embedded in the DNA of Indonesian people.”

End quote.

Last October, the JTA quoted a Ditch news site as reporting that Indonesia’s last synagogue was destroyed following a large number of anti-Israel protests. The Beth Shalom synagogue in Surabaya on the island of Java was sealed by Islamic hard-liners in 2009, according to the Jakarta Globe.

”Reports of the synagogue’s destruction have appeared in the Indonesian media since May and were confirmed last week by Indoweb.nl, which quoted the director of the Surabaya Heritage Society as saying that he intended to protest the demolition in talks with government officials,” according to the JTA dispatch,.

“It is not clear by whom and when exactly the building was demolished,” Freddy Instanto told Indoweb.nl.

The City Council of Surabaya was in the process of registering the building as a heritage site. For that reason, Instanto said, the building “should have been protected.”

Situated in in eastern Java, the small synagogue was built in the 19th century by Dutch Jews when Indonesia was still a Dutch colony. It had white-painted bricks and a Star of David painted on the front door.

The first Jews arrived in Indonesia in the 17th century with the Dutch East India Company. During the 1930s and 1940s, the community grew due to new arrivals fleeing persecution in Europe.

About 20 Jews are estimated to be living in Indonesia today.

”Reports of the synagogue’s destruction have appeared in the Indonesian media since May and were confirmed last week by Indoweb.nl, which quoted the director of the Surabaya Heritage Society as saying that he intended to protest the demolition in talks with government officials,” according to the JTA dispatch.

“It is not clear by whom and when exactly the building was demolished,” Freddy Instanto told Indoweb.nl.

The City Council of Surabaya was in the process of registering the building as a heritage site. For that reason, Instanto said, the building “should have been protected.”

Situated in in eastern Java, the small synagogue was built in the 19th century by Dutch Jews when Indonesia was still a Dutch colony. It had white-painted bricks and a Star of David painted on the front door.

The first Jews arrived in Indonesia in the 17th century with the Dutch East India Company. During the 1930s and 1940s, the community grew due to new arrivals fleeing persecution in Europe.

About 20 Jews are estimated to be living in Indonesia today.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Bennett: Israel to Aid Large Islamic Country in Agriculture

Sunday, December 8th, 2013

Trade and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett announced during a trip to Indonesia that Israel will be providing agricultural assistance to a large Islamic country which has no ties to Israel, according to a report in Makor Rishon.

At the international trade conference, Bennett spoke with Foreign Ministers from dozens of countries including Islamic countries with no ties to Israel.

The goal of many of the discussions was to see how Israeli expertise can be used to assist these countries in increasing their agricultural yields and feed their populations, as well as increasing economic cooperation in general.

Bennett, accompanied by a heavy guard detail, spoke to 157 delegates at the conference, the first Israeli minister to visit Jakarta in 13 years.

During his speech, not a single delegate left the room, and the Palestinian issue was not even mentioned at any of the meetings, according to Bennett.

Bennett said, “The only thing they want to hear from Israel was about developing technology.”

Shalom Bear

Last Shul in Java Demolished; Tough Lesson in Islamic Democracy (UPDATED)

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

SEE UPDATE AT END OF ARTICLE

Over the last few days there have been several articles bemoaning the destruction of the last standing synagogue in Java, which is one of the islands of Indonesia (south of Viet Nam, north of Australia, for the geographically challenged).

The story had a human interest news hook: six American university students were visiting Indonesia to learn about “pluralism and democracy.”  Oops.  Not only was the only synagogue on Java demolished, but it had already been sealed off in 2009 by Muslims who also burnt an Israeli flag in response to the conflict in Gaza, according to the Jakarta Globe.

The Jakarta Globe article quoted lecturers from a local university who claimed that the American students still learned one or two things about pluralism from the city.

“They learned about how the residents form a pluralist and democratic community,” said Diah Ariani Arimbi, dean of the Airlangga University School of Literature.

That sounds awfully odd.  But sadly enough, it may be true.

INCREASED LOCAL AUTONOMY, INCREASED RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE

Indonesia has long been held up as one of the more tolerant Muslim countries, but in recent years there has been an increase in religious intolerance.  In February, Human Rights Watch reported that more than 400 churches had been shut down between 2005 and 2010. And since 2009 there has been a 55 percent increase in the number of provincial districts whose bylaws are based on Shariah, or Islamic political ideology.

This unfortunate trend has, paradoxically, been attributed to the political change in Indonesia from centralized, authoritarian rule to a country where there is increasing decentralization, and granting of local autonomy.  In other words, the increasing democratization is precisely what is driving the concomitant increase in intolerance and a reduced embrace of religious diversity.

This is hardly the lesson the academic advisers who helped develop the program the young American college students visiting Java expected would be taught.

That academic program was begun in 2011, and is under the auspices of US-Indonesia Partnership Program (USIPP) for Study Abroad Capacity.  The purpose of the program is to study religious plurality, democracy and multiculturalism directly within the community.

In an interview about the program last year, Professor Lloyd Steffen of Lehigh University said that, “’Religious Plurality, Democracy and Multiculturalism’ is its theme, and that participating students were expected to learn about how democracy contributes to peaceful and respectful religious diversity.”

Steffen explained that the program came out of an agreement signed between Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and President Barack Obama, several years ago. “It’s all about friendship and collaboration. It’s about two countries getting to know one another better,” Steffen said.

He added the program was a great learning experience for participating students of both countries, in which Americans would find out more about Indonesia, Islam and other religions and how they operate in Indonesia. Indonesians, likewise, would learn more about the U.S.

The American students whose instructors thought they would learn one important lesson in political reality may have something very important – and far more difficult – to teach their own instructors.

Professor Steffen did not respond to an email query about the demolition of the Surabaya Synagogue.  The Jewish Press asked whether USIPP plan to incorporate the sad political reality that increasing democratization, at least in Indonesia, appears to be leading not to greater religious diversity, respect and tolerance, but to the opposite, instead.

UPDATE: Prof. Steffen responded to our inquiry:

The Lehigh and U Michigan students are back in the US now and I received word about the Java synagogue destruction only yesterday. I immediately contacted principles involved with the project here at Lehigh, including Stacy Berger who this year accompanied the students to Indonesia, and I received word back that the group had been having in-depth conversations about the incident. Professor Richard Matthews, who will be be lecturing the students on democracy and religious pluralism next week, said he will use this incident in his teaching, and I will follow up as well when the students are back on campus this coming Friday.

Perhaps some good will come of this sad situation.  The Lehigh administrators of the program are to be commended for their immediate response and inclination to address rather than ignore this issue.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Report: Muslim Countries ‘Worst Violators of Religious Freedom’

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Ten out of the 15 countries with the worst religious freedom abuses are Muslim, according to the recently released U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) 2013 Annual Report identifying the status of religious freedom throughout the world, and citing countries that are the least tolerant of religious freedom.

IRFA requires the President of the United States, who has delegated this authority to the Secretary of State, to designate as “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs, those governments that have engaged in or tolerated “particularly severe” violations of religious freedom.

IRFA defines “particularly severe” violations as ones that are “systematic, ongoing, and egregious,” including acts such as torture, prolonged detention without charges, disappearances, or “other flagrant denial[s] of the right to life, liberty, or the security of persons.”

After a country is designated a CPC, the President is required by law to take action to remedy the situation, or to invoke a waiver if circumstances warrant (As the late JFK put it: He may be an SOB, but he’s our SOB).

For the 2013 Annual Report, USCIRF recommends that the Secretary of State re-designate the following eight countries as CPCs: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan.

USCIRF also finds that seven other countries meet the CPC threshold and should be so designated: Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.

USCIRF also places countries on its Tier 2 list, where the country is on the threshold of a CPC status, meaning that the violations engaged in or tolerated by the government are particularly severe and that at least one, but not all three, of the elements of the “systematic, ongoing, egregious” standard is met.

The Tier 2 designation provides advance warning of negative trends that could develop into severe violations of religious freedom, thereby giving policymakers an opportunity to engage early and increasing the likelihood of preventing or diminishing the violations. USCIRF has concluded that the following eight countries meet the Tier 2 standard in this reporting period: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos, and Russia.

But not to worry – the State Department has issued indefinite waivers on taking any action against Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia. As a result of these waivers, the United States has not implemented any policy response tied to the CPC designation for either country.

Gives a whole new meaning to the slogan “Freedom must be earned.”

In Egypt, the government has failed to protect Coptic Christians, who comprise 10 percent of the country’s 90 million people. The Copts have been tortured and killed and individuals continue to be prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned for “contempt” or “defamation” of religion (Islam).

Somebody should start boycotting Egyptian products…

In Iran, religious freedom for minorities has deteriorated over the last year, a bad year for the Baha’is, Christians, and Sufi Muslims. The Report details that, “physical attacks, harassment, detention, arrests, and imprisonment” intensified.

Jews, Armenian and Assyrian Christians, and Zoroastrians have faced harassment, intimidation, discrimination, arrests, and imprisonment. Anyone who has dissented against the government, a theocratic republic, including Majority Shi’i and minority Sunni Muslims, have been intimidated, harassed, and detained. Several dissidents and human rights defenders have been sentenced to death and executed for “waging war against God.”

Human sacrifice, that must be their god’s favorite pastime.

Yori Yanover

Indonesian Muslims Rejects Ban on Female Circumcision

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

One of Indonesia’s largest Islamic organizations is causing a controversy by objecting to a UN plan to ban female circumcision, ABC News reported.

The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) says female circumcision is part of Islamic teachings and that it is their constitutional right.

MUI chairman Ma’ruf Amin has called on hospital and clinics to provide the service to people who would want their daughters circumcised.

“What we reject is the ban. If there is a request … don’t turn [the parents] away,” Ma’ruf was quoted as saying.

Ma’ruf’s comments were made in response to the approval last month of a non-binding resolution calling on UN members to enforce laws against female genital mutilation (as well as pass such laws, if they’re not already on the books).

The practice of female circumcision was officially banned by the Indonesian Ministry of Health back in 2006, because it is “potentially harmful.”

In 2010, however, the Indonesian Government issued a ministerial regulation outlining how the practice should be carried out by medical doctors. That initiative confused many.

Justina Rostiawati, from the National Commission on Violence Against Women, said that the regulation was an acknowledgement that the earlier ban on female circumcision was not working.

“When the hospital or the health services in that area refused to carry out the circumcision, the mother would take the female baby to the midwife, or just to a traditional healer, or birth attendant – where it’s even more dangerous,” Rostiawati said.

Professor Terry Hull of the Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute at the Australian National University said female circumcision is increasing in Indonesia and the practice is becoming more brutal.

“Over the past two decades, there’s been an increasing ‘medicalization’ of the practice, where medical personnel are taking part in what they interpret as Islamic rituals, and they are drawing blood and sometimes cutting away skin from the clitoris and sometimes from the labia.”

Jewish Press Staff

Islamists Target US Embassy in Indonesia

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

The U.S. Embassy and other sites connected with the U.S. were allegedly the target of terrorist attacks that were thwarted by the arrest of 11 suspected terrorists in Indonesia over the weekend.

The U.S. Embassy in the capital city of Jakarta, the U.S. Consulate in Surabaya, the local office of a U.S. mining company, as well as a plaza near the Australian Embassy and the headquarters of a special police force in Central Java were apparently the targets.

Indonesian national police spokesman Maj. Gen. Suhardi Alius told the Associated Press that the suspected terrorists were arrested in raids in four provinces.

“From evidence found at the scene, we believe that this group was well prepared for serious terror attacks,” Alius told the AP.

Bombs, explosive materials, a manual for making bombs, ammunition and a gas cylinder filled with highly explosive material was discovered in the raids.  Also seized were videos and images of attacks on Muslims in different parts of the world.

The suspects belonged to a new group called the Harakah Sunni for Indonesian Society, or HASMI.

According to the group’s website, HASMI was created in 2005, and seeks a strict interpretation of Islam, “since all innovation is misguidance.”

It is unclear whether the targeting of U.S. diplomatic posts is a new trend in Islamic terrorist activity, following the murderous assault by what U.S. officials now admit was a well-planned terrorist attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/islamists-target-us-embassy-in-indonesia/2012/10/28/

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