Muslim groups in Malaysia, Indonesia call for end to violence in Israel

A plume of smoke rising over Gaza City during an Israeli airstrike on Oct 9. PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR/JAKARTA – Muslim groups in Malaysia and Indonesia have called for an end to the violence as the war between Israeli and Hamas forces in the Gaza Strip continued to escalate, with more than 1,200 people killed.

They have urged the United Nations Security Council to intervene, while some are organising solidarity gatherings in support of Palestine, saying that the root cause of the conflict is Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian territory.

The UN Security Council met behind closed doors in an emergency session, but failed to achieve a unanimous decision needed for a joint statement.

The leaders of both South-east Asian countries also issued statements condemning the war, which was sparked when Islamist militant group Hamas launched an unprecedented attack on Israeli towns last Saturday.

Israel retaliated by declaring a state of war, launching air strikes and ordering what its Defence Minister Yoav Gallant has called “a complete siege” of Gaza. It has mobilised some 300,000 reservists, a sign it could be planning a ground assault.

Most of the Western world have condemned the Hamas attacks and expressed solidarity with Israel. Neither Malaysia nor Indonesia has diplomatic relations with Israel. 

Malaysia’s Foreign Ministry expressed deep concern on Sunday over “the loss of so many lives” in the latest escalation around the Gaza Strip, and urged all parties to exercise “utmost restraint and de-escalate”.

It said the root cause of the conflict was the “prolonged illegal occupation, blockade and sufferings, the desecration of the Al-Aqsa, as well as the politics of dispossession at the hands of Israel as the occupier”.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque, located in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City, is regarded as the third-holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina. 

The heightened recent violence at the holy site has sparked wider awareness among Malaysians over the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim expressed the nation’s solidarity with Palestine, and accused the “international community of lopsided actions with regard to all kinds of brutality and oppression against Palestinians”. 

The opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), the largest single party in Malaysia’s Parliament, has told its rank and file to hold solidarity gatherings at mosques nationwide on Friday to “show PAS’ stance and solidarity with the holy pursuit of Palestinians, especially in defending the Al-Aqsa Mosque”.

A group of Malaysian Muslim NGOs issued a joint statement on Sunday urging both Muslims and Christians to back the effort to “free Al-Aqsa and other holy sites”. They also called on the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which represents Muslim-majority nations, “to convene an emergency meeting to issue a solidarity note to Palestinian fighters”. The group comprises the Alliance of World Masaajid in Defence of Al-Aqsa, Secretariat for Ulama Assembly of Asia, Secretariat Palestine of Malaysia and Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organisation.

In Gaza, a mosque built a decade ago as a result of efforts and contributions from Malaysians was destroyed after it was bombed by Israeli forces on Saturday, according to the Muslim Care Malaysia Society.

“Our hearts are shattered to see the magnificent mosque that was funded by the people of Malaysia destroyed as a result of a bomb attack by Israel,” it said on its Facebook page on Sunday.

Indonesia’s largest Muslim group Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), which has more than 50 million members, urged the cessation of conflict to prevent further civilian casualties.

Dr Ahmad Fahrur Rozi, the NU leader in charge of religious affairs, told The Straits Times on Monday: “We hope and call for Palestine and Israel to cease fire, negotiate and end violence under the supervision of the UN Security Council and the international community to achieve peace and justice for all parties. War will only cause prolonged suffering to the people.

“Israel must acknowledge Palestine’s sovereignty in order to live side by side peacefully. The accumulation of violence against the Palestinians will continuously cause chaos and loss for all parties.”

He said that NU supported Palestine’s independence by way of peaceful means and diplomatic negotiations. It will monitor the situation and adjust its measures such as fund raising and the distribution of humanitarian aid to Palestine in step with the Indonesian government’s stance.

In its official statement on Monday, NU called for Muslims and NU members to pray for the victims killed in the escalating violence, and for the establishment and justice. 

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s small Labour Party and the Confederation of Indonesian Trade Unions said they will stage a protest to be attended by hundreds of workers on Tuesday in Jakarta, where they will call for the end of war between Israel and Palestine, party president Said Iqbal said on Monday.

Mr Sudarnoto Abdul Hakim, chairman of foreign affairs and international cooperation at the Indonesian Ulema Council, which is Indonesia’s Muslim clerical body, said Hamas’ attacks against Israel were reactions over “arbitrary actions” by the Israeli authorities carried out “within a long period and systematically”, causing “the destruction of the sovereignty of the Palestinians”.

He condemned Israel’s retaliatory attacks, which damaged an Indonesian hospital in Gaza.  

Indonesian non-governmental organisation Indonesian Medical Emergency Rescue Committee (MER-C) reported that the Israeli strikes hit an Indonesian hospital in Beit Lahia, North Gaza, killing one of its workers.  

“I am very regretful of what Israel has done and Israel must take the responsibility. Israel completely has no respect for humanitarian aid from Indonesia conveyed through Mer-C,” Mr Sudarnoto said.

The chairman of Indonesia’s Islam-leaning National Mandate Party, Mr Zulkifli Hasan, strongly condemned Israel’s attacks damaging the Indonesian hospital in Gaza, calling the attackers “ignoring human rights, humanity and freedom”. 

Former Indonesian vice-president Jusuf Kalla said that Hamas’ attacks against Israel were “part of its struggle to seize independence”. 

“These were attacks conducted with secrecy and extraordinary planning, and rarely happened,” said Mr Kalla, who chairs the Indonesian Mosque Council.

Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry said on Sunday it was deeply concerned about the escalating conflict between Palestine and Israel. “Indonesia urges the immediate end of violence to avoid further human casualties,” it said in a statement. “The root of the conflict is Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory that must be resolved in accordance with the parameters agreed upon by the United Nations.”

At least 13 Indonesians live in the Gaza strip, and none was hurt in the recent attack, according to the ministry.

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