Wrist slap for Indonesian Islamic vigilantes


Suspended chapter head of Indonesia's Islamic Defenders Front, Murhali Barda, from a 2010 Global Post video.


Patrick Winn

Here's some news that won't comfort Indonesia's religious minorities.

Attackers from an Islamic mob that nearly took the life of a Christian pastor, and left another badly bludgeoned, will soon walk free after spending a bit more than five months in prison. 

There's ample reason to believe they'd do it again.

Members of the Islamic Defenders Front, a vigilante group we profiled in this special report and video, beat and stabbed pastors from a Christian church last summer as parishioners prayed in a muddy field in Jakarta's outer suburbs. When we caught up with them, they were still afraid to return to the site, ringed with banners warning consequences if they returned.

Their leader, now suspended from the Islamic Defenders Front, has shown little remorse during his trial. Murhali Barda (as seen above) was charged with inciting anti-Christian attacks via radio, text messages and Facebook. Others connected to the assault, including those who carried out attacks, received similar sentences.

Despite his sentence, most of which is already served, the firebrand leader shows little sign of remorse.

"Do not be stupid sheep wandering into the same yard after being asked to leave," said Murhali, in a prepared message to Christians read aloud in court, according to the Jakarta Globe. "If you do not listen, do not blame the owner of that yard if he forces you out by throwing stones at you or beating you with a block of wood."

The attack on the Christians was huge news in Indonesia, but hardcore Islamic vigilantes have since topped themselves with an arson and killing spree against a breakaway Muslim sect considered impure.

Will those attackers walk the streets after a short stay in prison? The stakes are high, I'd say, as Indonesia's reputation for tolerant Islam hangs in the balance.