Azyumardi Azra is professor of history at Universitas Islam Negeri, Jakarta.

Indonesian Muslim organizations have been asked to remind followers not to follow in the steps of recent church attacks in Malaysia, following a Kuala Lumpur court ruling lifting the ban on the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslim Malaysians.

Noted Muslim scholar Azyumardi Azra said although Indonesian Muslims were more tolerant regarding the use of “Allah” by non-Muslims, there remained the possibility of similar attacks by a few small but radical Muslim groups here.

“It could likewise happen in Indonesia because there are a few small groups here that might go to such lengths. They have often caused disturbances, albeit on a small scale,” Azyumardi told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

He urged the government to coordinate campaigns against church attacks by involving Muslim organizations such as Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Muhammadiyah, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and other institutions including the police and the Religious Affairs Ministry.

“What’s important is to inform the public not to let similar incidents happen in Indonesia,” Azyumardi said.

He added the police should monitor the security of local churches, but reminded them against doing so conspicuously.

“If it’s too indiscrete, I’m afraid it could spark unexpected reactions instead,” Azyumardi said, suggesting that police officers monitor covertly.

He also urged police to harshly punish any groups or individuals committing such acts.

Firebombs were thrown at three more churches in Malaysia on Sunday and another was splashed with black paint, the latest in a series of assaults on churches, the Associated Press reported Sunday. Four were reportedly attacked Saturday.

Prominent NU and Muhammadiyah figures called on Indonesian Muslims not to draw inspiration from the Malaysian church attacks.

“Don’t be influenced by the incidents in Malaysia. Don’t attack churches. It is against the teachings of our religion and the laws of our state,” NU deputy chairman Shalahuddin Wahid was quoted as saying by Koran Jakarta daily on Saturday.

Former Muhammadiyah chairman M. Syafii Maarif, meanwhile, emphasized the need for religious organizations such as NU and Muhammadiyah to call on their followers to avoid settling problems through violence.

“Having NU and Muhammadiyah communicate directly with their followers is a more effective approach as these organizations can reach the grass roots,” Syafii said of two largest Muslim groups in Indonesia, which claim to have 40 million and 20 million followers, respectively.

Executive secretary of the Indonesian Bishops’ Council (KWI), Father Benny Susetyo, said what happened in Malaysia was merely a language problem.

“This is actually a mere matter of language use. A group says the use of the word “Allah” is exclusive to Islam. Yet the naming of God is a supernatural matter, in which mankind gives a name to a power beyond their own,” Benny said.

The KWI’s deputy head of religion and humanity relation, Ismartono, expressed his sympathy for the Malaysian government, which has condemned the church attacks.

He asked the Indonesian public to not immediately relate the attacks with disputes over the use of the word “Allah” by non-Muslim Malaysians. — JP