The specter of religious violence reared its head again on Wednesday when Yogyakarta’s Gadjah Mada University cancelled a speaking event featuring liberal Muslim activist Irshad Manji, citing pressure from a group of hundreds of people who showed up at the university on Tuesday night and demanded the event not occur.
It was only several days ago that Manji had to be escorted out of a similar event in Jakarta after hundreds of Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) members and supporters showed up to demand it cease at once, and Gadjah Mada University (UGM) officials said they were worried something like that could happen again.
“UGM deems it important to be extra careful, given the recent unfavorable security situations,” UGM spokesman Wijayanti said.
Manji, a Canadian national, recently released a book entitled “Allah, Liberty and Love: The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom,” and that’s what she was scheduled to talk about at UGM. Her book was also the subject of the event in Jakarta, which took place on Friday at the Salihara cultural center.
Wijayanti said she didn’t know if the people who came to UGM on Tuesday night were from any particular group or organization. She said that the university wasn’t against Manji but that the decision to the cancel the event had been made after consulting with other parties.
Anis Maftuhin, managing director of Rene Book, Manji’s publisher, said UGM should have stuck to its guns and let the event go on as planned.
A similar Manji discussion at Walisongo Islamic State University in Salatiga (STAIN), Central Java, on Tuesday went over smoothly, he said.
“STAIN took a firm stance,” he said, adding that the discussion there had been “interactive and warm.”
The FPI activists from Friday’s event accused Manji of trying to spread homosexuality among Indonesian Muslims and demanded that the government deport her.