The release from prison of Dr Azahari's spiritual leader, Abu Bakar Ba’asyir has been received with dismay by Australians, especially those whose loved ones were murdered in the Bali suicide bombing. Abu Bakar had given his approval to the bombing which killed 202 people, many of whom were Australians including women and children.
As if that was not bad enough, the spiritual leader of the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) called upon the families of the slaughtered to now convert to Islam. He said that conversion to Islam would give the bereaved relatives salvation and peace. He also told Australian Prime Minister John Howard to convert to Islam or face eternity in hell.
He said the families of the dead should understand that they were killed by bombs, not bombers, and that it was God's will.
Hmmm, so Abu Bakar is saying that God killed innocent 202 people. He's blaming God for his approval to the suicide bombers to kill and maim.
PM Howard was so indignant that he wrote to Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that Australia is utterly disgusted by Abu Bakar’s insensitivity, and views with ‘hostility and disgust’ the release of the JI cleric from jail. That’s very very strong language in the world of diplomacy.
Australia also protested to the United Nations' World Food Program (WFP) over its use of a group co-founded by Ba’asyir, the Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI), to distribute 95,000 tonnes of food to survivors of last month's Java earthquake. The UN group said it has now cancelled its contract with the MMI.
In my earlier posting Dr Azahari's spiritual leader freed from prison tomorrow, I wrote:
Many Indonesian high ranking officials including very senior ministers are supportive of JI as a Islamic religious organisation rather than one of terrorism, hence Indonesia’s reluctance to label it as illegal.
Well, today Yusuf Kalla, Indonesia's vice president and a known conservative Muslim said that Ba'asyir is free to express his hardline opinions. He averred that authorities could not arrest Ba'asyir for ‘his thinking and opinions’. His insensitive defiant statement would undoubtedly add more fuel to Australian anger.
On the domestic front PM Howard is in damage control as Aussie families have raised their outrage with him, so he told Indonesia to understand Australia took the Abu Bakar Ba’asyir issue very seriously.
"It's an important issue currently in the relationship and the Indonesians must understand how deeply offended Australians are, particularly the relatives and friends of those who died in the Bali attack."
He informed the Indonesian president: "As you are aware, Mr Bashir's name has been added to a list of terrorists subject to a range of international restrictions ... including an assets freeze, restrictions on international travel and access to arms."
"We will continue to pursue with the Indonesian authorities the matters I raised with the Indonesian president."
But in reality, President Susilo can't do much as the Muslim cleric is so popular in Indonesia with powerful supporters right up to cabinet level. Abu Bakar Ba'asyir is so arrogant in his awareness of his popularity that he praised JI terrorist mastermind Noordin Top, who had killed, murdered and maimed throughout Indonesia, as an Islamist warrior