Despite assurances from the local police, Shiites forced by the authorities to return to their village on East Java’s Madura Island said on Wednesday that they were still being threatened by their Sunni neighbors.
On Tuesday evening, a group of Sunnis believed to be armed with sickles and other weapons tried to enter Shia compounds in the hamlets of Karang Gayam and Bluuran, in Sampang district, a religious leader there said.
Alimullah, a Shiite cleric, told the Jakarta Globe on Wednesday that the group wanted to force Saiful Ulum, the brother-in-law of a local Shiite leader, Tajul Muluk, out of the area.
“They wanted Saiful Ulum to leave the village. The police had also asked him to leave the village, but Saiful insisted he wanted to stay,” Alimullah said.
But he said that Saiful left on Wednesday morning to prevent any further violence. “He initially refused because he was being forced to leave by the police, but he knew what he had to do. He left voluntarily,” Alimullah said.
The cleric added that the police were quick to arrive at the scene and prevented the armed villagers from entering the area.
Hundreds of Shiites in the area fled their homes after mobs of rampaging Sunnis attacked and set fire to a Shia Islamic boarding school and several houses owned by Shiite families last month.
On Tuesday, the district authorities forced some 300 Shiites sheltering at a football stadium in Sampang to vacate the place and return to their village. Four senior clerics and their families were told not to return to their homes by clerics from the local Council of Ulema and went to Malang, also in East Java, instead.
After the incident on Tuesday night, the police conducted a sweep and confiscated sickles and other weapons in the two hamlets, Alimullah said.
Muhammad Hadun, a lawyer with the Shia Islamic organization Ahlulbait Indonesia, said the incident only showed how things had not improved.
“The situation in fact got worse after the people left the shelter,” he said.
Sampang Police’s chief of operations, Comr. Danuri, said the police would do their best to prevent further attacks and keep all Shiite residents safe.
East Java’s deputy governor, Syaifullah Yusuf, had earlier suggested that Shiites “cool down” and follow local customs if they wanted to preach and spread their religious teachings.