More than 250 Shia villagers ran away from their houses Thursday when around 1,000 militants, organized by some Muslim Sunni clerics, were attacking and burning the Shia madrasah, houses and shops in Nangkernang hamlet, Omben district, Sampang regency, Madura Island.
Some Shia workers called me Thursday morning, informing me about the arson attack. I verified the information and, when confirmed, sent messages via my Twitter @andreasharsono.
Iklil al Milal, the caretaker of the Misbahul Huda madrasah, told me that the arson attack began around 9.45am. At midday the attackers began to burn al Milal's house, his brother Tajul Muluk's house and other houses and shops. Tajul Muluk is the principal of the madrasah but he was forced to flee Nangkernang after receiving some death threat in April. The Sampang government also pressured Muluk to leave Nangkernang.
The Nangkernang conflict is a rather complicated one. It involved a family dispute. Al Milal and Muluk are brothers. They have a dispute with another brother Roisul Hukama. The dispute reached a new dimension when Hukama decided to leave Shiaism and used his new status to join a growing anti-Shia campaign in eastern Java.
Tirana Hassan and I visited the madrasah in September, interviewing dozens of the Shia villagers and meeting Iklil al Milal. Human Rights Watch sent us there. I also met Tajul Muluk in his hiding place near Surabaya. But Sampang police arrested us and later kicked us off Sampang.
On Dec. 6, when celebrating Ashura, a day of mourning for the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali, the grandson of Muhammad, in Bangil in eastern Java, some 60 Shia villagers were prevented to leave their village. But 20 of them, including al Milal, managed to reach Bangil. Back to Nangkernang, they were threatened to be killed.
On Dec. 18, a Shia teacher's house was burned down in Nangkernang. Sampang police, however, did not make any arrest. It climaxed with the arson attack on Thursday. I am afraid these Shia villagers were actually evicted from their home village. Most of these villagers did not carry their clothes and other belonging when running away. It's a sad day indeed.
My teenage son, when learning about these sectarian violence, told me, "When good men do nothing, it's evil enough." It reminded me to English philosopher Edmund Burke's speech:
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."I decided to do something. I wrote on my Twitter and my blog. It's the least that I can do.