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Wednesday, 13 December, 2000, 15:04 GMT
Muslim groups attack Jakarta nightspots
Women praying in Indonesia
Muslims make up 90% of the 200 million Indonesians
Radical Muslim groups have been attacking bars, discos, brothels and gambling centres in Indonesia.

The attacks have escalated since the Muslim holy month of Ramadan two weeks ago.


If they refuse to shut, we close the places by force

Siroj Alwi
Gangs armed with swords and wooden poles have smashed audio equipment, furniture and bottles of alcohol worth tens of thousands of dollars, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Dozens of people have been injured during these raids.

Violence warning

Posters warning that such action will be taken against nightspots have been put up around Jakarta by the Islamic Defenders Front.

Muslim women praying
There have been calls for Islam to play a greater role in politics
One warns, "Burn the nightspots that refuse to close for Ramadan," while another vows to destroy whoever "soils the holiness" of Ramadan.

Muslims are required to fast from dawn to dusk during Ramadan.

The group, which claims 70,000 members in Jakarta and branches in 19 provinces across Indonesia, believes its attacks on nightspots can be justified by the Koran, the Muslim holy book.

"We let the owners of the discos know in advance. We write them letters," Siroj Alwi, who heads the Islamic Defenders Front's anti-vice squad, told Associated Press.

"But if they refuse to shut, we close the places by force," the part-time preacher added.

Rise of religious unrest

There has been an upsurge of religious and communal unrest in Indonesia - which holds the largest Muslim population in the world - since the fall of former President Suharto in May 1998.

Israel flag burning protest in Indonesia
There is strong anti-Israeli feeling in Muslim Indonesia
The Moluccas islands have seen some of the worst religious strife, with 5,000 people killed and more than half a million driven from their homes.

In October, US citizens were told to leave some cities following anger over the perceived pro-Israeli bias of US policy in the Middle East.

The national constitution provides for a secular government but there have been increasing calls for Islam to play a greater political role, which has been opposed by President Abdurrahman Wahid.

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See also:

30 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Jakarta alarm over militant threats
30 Oct 00 | Asia-Pacific
Indonesia reacts to radical Muslim threat
08 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: What provoked Moluccas violence?
03 Jun 99 | SPECIAL REPORT
Indonesia's religious tensions
20 Jan 99 | Asia-Pacific
Riots end Ramadan in Indonesia
05 Jan 98 | Asia-Pacific
Indonesia alcohol protest
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