INDONESIA: Al-Zaytun critics file complaint against Intelligence chief

Authors of published material critical of the Al-Zaytun Islamic boarding school in West Java filed a complaint with the police on Friday against A.M. Hendropriyono for defamation and alleged intimidation towards them

Pacific Media Watch
Sunday, November 30, 2003

By Urip Hudiono

JAKARTA (Jakarta Post/Pacific Media Watch): Authors of published material critical of the Al-Zaytun Islamic boarding school in West Java filed a complaint with the police on Friday against  National Intelligence Agency (BIN) chief A.M. Hendropriyono for defamation and alleged intimidation towards them.

"We demand that Hendropriyono withdraw his statements and publicly apologize within three days, or face legal charges," said Al Chaidar, one of the authors.

During a visit to Al-Zaytun in May, Hendropriyono delivered a speech in which he alleged that books criticizing the boarding school were "satanic books written by envious people" and that he would use "all the power and authority" that he had to "crack down on those people."

A video recording of the speech was shown by the authors to reporters and police as evidence, along with editions of Medium and Al-Zaytun magazines containing similar remarks by Hendropriyono.

However, Hendropriyono's statements in the video and the magazines did not refer to any specific books or authors.

This was admitted by Al Chaidar, though he was also quick to add that there were only five books ever written by just three authors. In addition to the book he wrote, there were only four others written -- by his colleagues, Umar Abduh and M. Amin Djamaluddin.

Al Chaidar also said that he received several threats and has been intimidated ever since his book was published in 2000. The threats included gun shots fired at his house and phone calls harrasing him not to criticize Al-Zaytun again.

"This is truly an act of terror and an assault on the democratic principle of freedom of expression, especially if it is done by government officials," Al Chaidar said, urging police to investigate the case seriously.

The Al-Zaytun Islamic boarding school in Indramayu, West Java was inaugurated in 1996 by then Minister of Research and Technology B.J. Habibie, and is currently headed by Panji Gumilang.

It has been cautiously praised by some as a modern Islamic boarding school worthy of becoming an example for other boarding schools in Indonesia.

On his May visit to Al-Zaytun, Hendropriyono even called it a "center of excellence" for Islam in Indonesia. Hendropriyono himself was there in  place of President Megawati Soekarnoputri, to inaugurate a building at Al-Zaytun dedicated to Megawati's father and Indonesia's founding father, Soekarno.

The boarding school, however, has also seen its share of controversy, as others have alleged that it is discreetly becoming a deviationist sect and perhaps the ninth regional military command (KW9) of the outlawed militant Islamic movement of Darul Islam, which reportedly has extorted money from its new recruits in the name of "alms".

The Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI) conducted an investigation of Al-Zaytun in 2002, and concluded that there were indeed indications of deviationist teachings of Islam at Al-Zaytun.

MUI's findings, however, have never been followed up on by the government or the police.

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