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Indonesian NGOs warns Over Intimidation of Netizens by Islamic Groups

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Physician Fiera Lovita (third from left) talks about how members of the hardline Islamic Defenders Front have intimidated her over a Facebook posting last month, during a press conference in Jakarta, June 1, 2017. BenarNews
  • Supporters of a hardline Muslim group have allegedly intimidated people for posting online content critical of the organization’s leader
  • At least 59 cases of intimidation by the FPI and others have been recorded this year alone

Jakarta, June 6, 2017: A coalition advocating free speech and human rights is alerting the Indonesian public and authorities to a rash of cases where supporters of a hardline Muslim group have allegedly intimidated people for posting online content critical of the organization’s leader.

This week the Anti-Persecution Coalition held a news conference to air concerns over cases of harassment against social media users by members of the Islamic Defenders’ Front (FPI) and other groups. The coalition says these have become more frequent following the arrest last year of then-Jakarta Gov. Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama on blasphemy charges.

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The coalition of more than a dozen local NGOs said at least 59 cases of intimidation by the FPI and others have been recorded this year alone.

“Based on this data, we think it is necessary to be alert to this kind of mistreatment,” Damar Juniarto, the regional coordinator of the Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet), a member of the coalition, told the news conference in Jakarta on Thursday.

Cases that have made headlines include the alleged harassment of a female physician, Fiera Lovita, over a Facebook post that FPI members deemed as insulting to their leader, Rizieq Shihab. Additionally, a video recording that has gone viral shows alleged FPI supporters slapping a 15-year-old ethnic Chinese Indonesian boy for posting online comments that were seen as criticizing or making fun of Rizieq.

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The fugitive Rizieq is wanted by Indonesian police on suspicion of violating Indonesia’s anti-pornography law by exchanging lewd images with a woman through text messages.

Ahok, another member of Indonesia’s ethnic Chinese-Christian minority, recently lost the Jakarta gubernatorial election and last month was convicted and sentenced to two years in prison over alleged anti-Muslim comments. Critics of Ahok had wanted him to receive a stricter sentence.

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“There are plenty of people who have lost trust in the legal system … but it doesn’t give them the right to take matters into their own hands and resort to violence and intimidation,” Indonesian Legal Aid Institute Foundation (YLBHI) Director Asfinawati told BenarNews. The foundation, which belongs to the coalition, has set up a hotline number for victims of harassment to call or send text messages.

‘Under pressure and afraid’

During Thursday’s news conference, Fiera spoke about how she had suffered from alleged intimidation by FPI members.

The resident of Solok, West Sumatra, said she had been targeted for intimidation since her Facebook comment posted sometime between May 19 and 21 went viral.

“If innocent, why run away? There are 300 lawyers and 7 million members of the congregation ready to assist you. Please stop running away bib,” she said without naming Rizieq.

“The intimidation was real and I still experience it now even though with less intensity,” Fiera said, adding that she and her two young children had moved to Jakarta temporarily because of the constant harassment.

On May 22, she said, a Solok police officer came to the hospital where Fiera works. The officer showed her a Facebook post of FPI members who said they were going to hunt her down because of her comment.

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The next day, her boss called and asked that she come to the office immediately. When Fiera arrived, a top hospital executive said “there is a group of mass organization leaders, including a leader of FPI,” who wanted to see Fiera.

During the meeting with FPI members, police officers and the hospital’s board of directors, Fiera said she was told to apologize, repent for her action and made to promise not to do it again.

“I had to say it as I choked and held back my tears. I was feeling miserable, because I was under pressure and afraid,” she said.

“After I said I was sorry, the leaders took turns introducing themselves and preaching to me about this matter,” she added.

Fiera said they could not accept her post because “according to them, Habib Rizieq Shihab’s case was fabricated and slanderous.”

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Forced to sign statement

Jakarta Police spokesman Raden Prabowo Argo Yuwono said officers were quick to respond to the case of the 15-year-old. The boy, his mother and siblings were taken to police headquarters to be questioned about the incident.

“We have arrested two alleged intimidators. They are from a certain group,” Raden told BenarNews without identifying the suspects or their group. The suspects could be charged with violating child protection laws and battery.

The video shows the boy surrounded by a group of men who slap him and threaten him with bodily harm. He is forced to read a statement denouncing his posting.

Argo said the boy was being assisted by YLBHI advocates and child-rights activists.

“He could be placed under the witness and victims’ protection program,” Raden said.

FPI Secretary General Novel Bamukmin could not be reached for comment on the video showing the teenager being harassed and slapped, but an Indonesian news website said that Novel could not identify the men or confirm if they were members of his group.

“I have no idea. I don’t know them. It could be a group of men claiming to be FPI,” Novel was quoted as saying, adding they were reacting to actions they considered insulting to clerics and Islam. (Benar News)

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New, Endangered Orangutan Species Found in Indonesia

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Orungutan

Oslo, November 2, 2017, 9:17PM : A new species of orangutan has been identified in remote Indonesian forests and immediately becomes the most endangered type of great ape in the world with just 800 individuals, scientists said on Thursday.

The Tapanuli orangutan, found only in upland forests in North Sumatra, differs from the other two species of orangutan in the shape of its skull and teeth, its genes, and in the way the males make long booming calls across the jungle, they said.

“The differences are very subtle, not easily observable to the naked eye,” Professor Michael Kruetzen of the University of Zurich, who is part of an international team, told Reuters.

“With no more than 800 individuals, this species is the most endangered great ape,” the scientists wrote. Apart from humans, great apes comprise orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees and bonobos.

The Tapanuli orangutan had probably been isolated from other populations for 10,000-20,000 years, the researchers wrote in the journal Current Biology. The population had been known by scientists since at least 1997 but had not previously been considered a separate species.

The Tapanuli orangutan faces threats including from forest clearance to make way for mining or palm oil plantations. The region also had plans for a hydro-electric dam.

The scientists urged quick conservation measures. Otherwise, “we may see the discovery and extinction of a great ape species within our lifetime,” they wrote.

Laurel Sutherlin of Rainforest Action Network, who was not involved in the study, said the finding “must also serve as a wake up call to all of us from consumers, to global food and paper brands, to investors and local and national governments” to protect forests.(VOA)

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Signs of Generosity are declining worldwide but Africa continues to grow more generous: World Giving Index

World Giving Index is an annual report published by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF)

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In this Nov. 19, 2014 photo, a boy receives rice from a novice Buddhist monk near Mahar Aung Myae monastery in Hlaing Thaya, northwest of Yangon, Myanmar. Monks in the desperately poor neighborhood combine whatever food they received during morning alms into a giant pot and redistribute it to the less fortunate.
In this Nov. 19, 2014 photo, a boy receives rice from a novice Buddhist monk near Mahar Aung Myae monastery in Hlaing Thaya, northwest of Yangon, Myanmar. Monks in the desperately poor neighborhood combine whatever food they received during morning alms into a giant pot and redistribute it to the less fortunate. VOA
  • The score is a combined measure of respondents in 139 countries who were asked whether they had given money to a good cause, volunteered their time and helped a stranger
  • Globally, donating money and helping a stranger fell by nearly 2 percent
  • Myanmar held the top position of the World Giving Index as the most generous country

New York, USA, September 6, 2017: The world’s poorest continent continued to grow more generous according to a yearly index of charitable giving called World Giving Index released on Tuesday, bucking the trend of otherwise declining signs of charity worldwide.

Africa was in a 2016 survey the only continent to report a continent-wide increase of its index generosity score when compared to its five-year average.

The score is a combined measure of respondents in 139 countries who were asked whether they had given money to a good cause, volunteered their time and helped a stranger.

“Despite the many challenges our continent is facing, it is encouraging to see that generosity continues to grow,” said Gill Bates, Southern Africa’s CEO for the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) that commissioned the poll.

Numbers for donating money dip

But globally, donating money and helping a stranger fell by nearly 2 percent, while volunteering dropped about 1 percent, the index showed.

From the United States to Switzerland and Singapore to Denmark, the index showed that the planet’s 10 richest countries by GDP per capita, for which data was available, saw declines in their generosity index score.

Myanmar leads the world

Myanmar, for the fourth consecutive year, held the top position of the World Giving Index as the most generous country.

Nine in ten of those surveyed in the Southeast Asian nation said they had donated money during the previous month.

Indonesia ranked second on the combined measure of generosity, overtaking the United States which held that position in last year’s index.

Big jump for Kenya

A star performer, CAF said, was the East African nation of Kenya, which jumped from twelfth to third place in a single year.

Yemen, the Middle East’s poorest country, which has been grappling with the effects of civil war ranked bottom of the World Giving Index.

The index is primarily based on data from a global poll of 146,000 respondents by market research firm Gallup. (VOA)

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Islamic State (ISIS) Militant Group to Soon have a Strong Hold in Southeast Asia : Report

Analysts say as Islamic State (IS) militants are losing ground in Syria and Iraq, the terror group is attempting to expand in Southeast Asia

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An Islamic group member covers his face with Hizbut Tahrir flag during a protest against the decree allowing the government to disband organizations deemed to run counter to the secular state, in Jakarta, Indonesia
An Islamic group member covers his face with Hizbut Tahrir flag during a protest against the decree allowing the government to disband organizations deemed to run counter to the secular state, in Jakarta, Indonesia. VOA
  • A number of IS affiliates from Indonesia have reportedly crossed into the Philippines to support the local militants
  • In the Philippines, Islamic State (IS)  has endorsed Isnilon Hapilon – the country’s most-wanted man who has a $5 million bounty placed on his head by the US
  • Ridwan Habib warned that the situation could get worse if the ongoing conflict in Marawi is not tackled and managed properly

Philippines, August 30, 2017: Government security forces in the Philippines city of Marawi have been fighting for the past three months to rout militants suspected of ties to the Islamic State (IS) militant group in the region.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in May declared the country’s restive south under the martial rule for 60 days – which, in July, was extended through the end of the year – after an attempt by security forces to capture an Islamic State (IS) -linked militant leader failed. That set off clashes that left the city under siege.

A number of IS affiliates from Indonesia have reportedly crossed into the Philippines to support the local militants who are fighting against the Philippines military in the Marawi region.

Analysts say as Islamic State (IS) militants are losing ground in Syria and Iraq, the terror group is attempting to expand in Southeast Asia, which is home to a number of separatist and militant groups.

“This is an evidence that the people under Jamaah Islamiyah in Indonesia now have a new ‘flag’ operating under ISIS, in this case, ISIS of the Philippines,” said Ridwan Habib, a terrorism analyst at the University of Indonesia.

“Something serious is brewing and the government needs to anticipate what could happen next,” he said. “We‘re worried that this new identity.”

Extremist militant group

Jammah Islamiyah is an extremist militant group in Southeast Asia with links to al-Qaida and has carried out numerous bomb attacks in Indonesia and elsewhere in the region, including the 2002 Bali attacks that killed more than 200 people.

Islamic State (IS) has already shown signs of expanding in the region through local affiliates and sympathizers.

The group has been recruiting in Indonesia, with more than 380 people joining the terror group by January, according to the country’s counterterrorism agency. Most of those recruits have traveled to Syria and Iraq.

Greg Fealy, an associate professor at the Australian National University who studies terrorism in Indonesia, said the IS terror threat in the country has been on the rise since mid-2014.

Islamic State (IS) has reportedly tapped a leader in the Abu Sayyaf group – an extremist militant group in the region known for kidnapping and beheading foreign tourists – as its Southeast Asia chief.

Indonesian authorities also confirmed that IS posed a threat to their country.

The terror group claimed responsibility for a coordinated bomb and gun attack in central Jakarta in January that killed eight people, including the four attackers.

In March, U.S. Treasury authorities added Bahrun Naim, a prominent Indonesian militant, to the global terrorist list, saying he provided financial and operational support for IS in Indonesia and funneled money through Southeast Asia to recruit people to IS battlefields.

Also Read: UN Human Rights Chief Urges Iraqi Government to help Victims of Islamic State (ISIS) Sex Abuse

In the Philippines, Islamic State (IS)  has endorsed Isnilon Hapilon – the country’s most-wanted man who has a $5 million bounty placed on his head by the U.S. for alleged terrorist acts against American citizens – as the leader of a loosely affiliated association of small groups that have sprouted in the past three to four years around the central and southern Philippines.

Hapilon swore allegiance to Islamic State (IS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a July 2014 video, according to the U.S. State Department.

Philippines as a new destination

Some analysts say that many extremists in Indonesia who wish to join IS are now heading to the Philippines instead of Syria and Iraq because conditions in the terror group’s former strongholds have degraded due to the ongoing multi front military campaign against the group in the region.

“In terms of costs, distance, and access, the Philippines is more feasible,” Ridwan Habib of the University of Indonesia said. “Therefore, many jihadists from Indonesia chose to go to Marawi instead of going to Syria.”

Habib warned that the situation could get worse if the ongoing conflict in Marawi is not tackled and managed properly.

The analyst claimed that Mahmud Ahmad, a Malaysian militant in the Philippines who has studied in Islamabad, Pakistan, has been attempting to help establish an IS presence in the Southeast Asia region.

Ahmad was reported to have been killed in the Marawi battle in June, but Khalild Abu Bakar, a Malaysian police chief, told media that he believes Ahmad is still alive.

Gen. Eduardo Ano, chief of staff of the Philippines armed forces, said Ahmad channeled more than $600,000 from the IS group to acquire firearms, food and other supplies for the attack in Marawi, according to The Associated Press.

Also Read: Sudanese Children of Islamic State (ISIS) Militants Released in Libya

Returning IS fighters dilemma

Many fighters from Southeast Asia who had traveled to fight with IS in Syria and Iraq are returning to their home countries as the terror group is losing ground in the Middle East.

Indonesia’s government reported last year that between 169 and 300 Indonesians who fought for IS have returned home.

“Though I have said there are 50 (IS affiliates) in Bali, 25 in NTT (East Nusa Tenggara) and 600 in NTB (Nusa Tenggara Barat), their whereabouts are known to us and under control,” Major General Simandjuntak, a military commander in Bali, told reporters last week.

“They are in a sleep or inactive mode,” he added.

Abdul Haris Masyhari, chairman of the committee on defense and foreign relations in Indonesia’s parliament, worried that returning IS fighters could set up cells in their hometowns.

“In reference to Bali, I hope law enforcement would take action and preventive measures to thwart terror plots,” Masyhari said.

Opposition to Islamic State is growing in Indonesia amongst the public.

In May, a survey of 1,350 adults suggested nearly 90 percent of the participants viewed IS as a serious threat to their country. Meanwhile, several surveys conducted in the country indicate an increase in extremist ideology among the youth, who are idolizing radical figures. (VOA)