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From: Daud
To: Imam AbdulQudoos Al-Azhari
Sent: Thursday, July 27, 2000 8:31
AMSubject: Letter to Mr Downer

P.O. BOX 6238, St Lucia, Qld 4067, Australia

"And hold fast, all together to the rope of Allah, and be not divided among yourselves" (3:103)

19 July 2000

The Honourable Minister of External Affairs
Mr Alexander Downer, MP
Parliament House
Canberra ACT

Dear Mr Downer

Re: Australian Government Acquiescence
with Ethnic Cleansing of Muslims in the Moluccas during 1999

The Australian government has acted in an ignoble manner in ignoring the early mass killings and destruction of Muslim communities by Christians groups, initiated firstly in Ambon in the early part of 1999, and subsequently the horrific mass murder of Muslims that was perpetrated in Halmahera between Boxing Day 1999 and News Years Day this year. In the latter event around 800 Muslims were believed killed by their Christian neighbours in one night! This incident which sparked the current breakdown in security throughout the Moluccas, was never reported fairly in the Australia media.

It seems well substantiated that Christian groups initiated the mass killings in a clear attempt at ethnic cleansing of Muslim communities in these two parts of the Moluccas. No doubt Muslims have retaliated and they certainly have the right to protect their families; however the major evil clearly lies with those who initiated the waves of killing.

Your Ministry has a clear duty to provide reliable information to the media and restrain them if they are distorting the news as they have been doing in the case of the early Christian-Muslim clashes in the Moluccas. The newspaper reporting after the initial Halmahera massacres, especially on ABC and SBS television, was for me the nadir of Australian broadcasting!

The failure to lay the blame for these initial massacres clearly at the feet of the Indonesian Christian groups has major implications:

  • either your Ministry was incapable of accessing reliable news sources in Halmahera, or
  • your Ministry sided with elements in the media that were deliberately distorting the picture and laying the blame at the time more on the Muslims than the Christians.

The situation at the present time is quite the reverse and the matter has escalated badly. We are truly saddened by the current dismal situation and lack of peace. But does the world expect to see the Indonesian Muslims who after all make up 85% of the population, accept ethnic cleansing of Muslims by Christians in their own country!

It is not surprising that a so-called "pasukan jihad" force was raised and trained in Java to go to the aid of their severely oppressed brothers and sisters in faith. The Australian media have failed to enlighten the Australian people on the reason (ie. the wholesale massacre of Muslims) why the force was set up. You know very well that there was a major demonstration against the Wahid government early in April 2000 due to the Indonesian government's procrastination and failure to bring the culprits who planned and initiated the massacres to justice. The "pasukan jihad" was the result of exasperation of Muslims in Java to what was happening in the Moluccas and the failure of the government to act decisively.

There have been rumours in Indonesia that a missionary radio station was used to incite the violence in Halmahera. That is unsubstantiated. However, the fact that:

  • ethnic cleansing in Halmahera and Ambon was initiated by Christian groups
  • a Uniting Church leader, Rev Professor James Haire, has been regularly aired on the government-sponsored media (ABC Foreign Correspondent, 4/7/00; SBS News, 17/7/00) calling now for foreign intervention in Indonesia - I believe in his last call he said Australia should intervene (a similar statement was made by US Secretary Cohen)
  • purchase of the ABC's main radio transmitter broadcaster located in the Northern Territory by Christian groups to broadcast to Indonesia, and
  • the stated aim of Christian groups in the 1980s to turn Indonesia into a Christian country within 25 years

suggests there is a deliberate strategy by Christian groups to fragment Indonesia.

In all of this the Australian government seems to be just following these groups, rather than acting impartially and calling for peace, justice and moderation. The sale of the Radio Australia transmitter does suggest complicity of the Australian government in supporting an international Christian stratagem to sever parts of eastern Indonesia from the rest.

The consequence of the evidences and inferences that you are supporting stratagems by Christian groups in Indonesia, is that contrary to calls by Reverend Haire and US Secretary Cohen, Australia is an unsuitable candidate for the mediator role to resolve the current turmoil in the Moluccas. Muslims should be deservedly suspicious of the Australian government's role to date in this matter.

As a third generation Australian-born representative of a Muslim community in Brisbane, I call on the Australian government to:

  • enforce accuracy of news reporting in the Australian media and fine those bodies that deliberately distort the news, especially on ethnic turmoil in Indonesia
  • require that government-funded media also interviews Muslim leaders about events in Indonesia to provide a more balanced coverage
  • rectify the distorted view of Australians who do not appreciate that the ethnic cleansing and mass murders in the Moluccas were initiated by Christians
  • show neutrality between different ethnic and religious groups
  • restrain Christian broadcasting from acerbating tensions in Indonesia
  • refrain from encouraging Australian Christian groups to fragment Indonesia
  • in public statements take the side of justice and fair play in keeping with our core Australian traditions.

We look forward to a more balanced and enlightened approach of your Ministry to the handling of these matters in the future. We pray for peace and reconciliation of people from different faiths in Indonesia that they return to the relative harmony in which they previously lived.

Peace be upon him who follows the right path. I therefore invite you to the fold of Islam, the True Path in this life that leads to salvation and a magnificent reward in the hereafter.

Yours sincerely

Dr Daud Batchelor
President, Islamic Society of St Lucia

Cc: (1) Br. Abbas Ahmad, President, the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils
    (2) His Excellency, the Ambassador of Indonesia
    (3) Br Sultan Deen, President, Islamic Council of Queensland
    (4) Imam Abdul-Quddoos Al-Azhari, Ameer, Brisbane Council of Imams

Attachments: Relevant news articles and e-mails

"Seeking knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim"
Saying of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

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