Muslim Mob Burns Down Churches, Storms Courthouse

Thursday, February 10, 2011

by Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

JAKARTA, Indonesia (Worthy News)-- More than 1,000 Muslim protesters have stormed a courthouse and burned two churches in central Java, Indonesia.

The attacks in Temanggung happened after a Christian man was sentenced to five years in jail for distributing leaflets deemed insulting to Islam.

Indonesian police said the crowd considered the sentence too lenient and were demanding the death penalty.

The incident came two days after Muslim villagers in western Java killed three members of a minority Islamic sect.

A police spokesman told the BBC that the angry crowd began attacking the court building in Temanggung after the verdict was read out.

The violence spread to surrounding neighbourhoods where two churches were set on fire and a third was damaged.

Police fired warning shots into the air to disperse the crowds.

'Extremist groups'

In a separate development, a video has emerged of Sunday's deadly attack on members of the minority Ahmadiyah Muslim sect.

The footage apparently show how a group of about 20 men were forced by an angry crowd to strip before they were beaten so violently that several died.

The Ahmadiyah sect has been labelled by the government as deviant, but is not banned.

A body which advises the US government on religious freedom has said Indonesia must act against "extremist" attacks.

"Indonesia is a tolerant county that should be more intolerant of extremist groups. It's time the Indonesian government brings them to account for the violence and hatred they spread," said Leonard Leo, chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population but it is a secular nation.

International human rights groups say more hardline fringe groups have been harassing religious minorities in recent years. The Indonesian president has been criticised for not doing enough to protect the rights of all citizens.