Indonesian Muslims under fire for communist books purge

Hard-line group removes all 'illegal communist' titles, including priest's critiques from book store
Indonesian Muslims under fire for communist books purge

Jesuit Father Franz Magnis-Suseno, who has written several books on Karl Marx, says the theft of his books from a bookstore on Aug.4 is an act of foolishness. (Photo by Siktus Harson/


A hard-line Muslim group in Indonesia has come under fire for raiding and removing all books related to communism at a bookstore in Makassar on South Sulawesi province

The group calling itself the Brigade Muslim Indonesia raided Gramedia Bookstore on Aug. 4 and took books related to Marxism, Leninism, and communism, including titles written by a well-known German-born Jesuit priest, Father Franz Magnis-Suseno.

The groups justified their raid by saying they “confiscated the books” because they promoted ideologies banned in Indonesia by a 1966 decree, soon after a communist purge that reportedly killed more than a million people.

The decree prohibits any activity that spreads or helps develop communism, the group said.

However, Father Magnis, who has written several books on Karl Marx, said his books were not aimed at spreading communism, but were critical studies.

"We should not be afraid of communism ... it is a ridiculous theory," he said.

"[The raid] is a ridiculous act. They are foolish,” said Father Magnis, who is also a professor at Driyarkara School of Philosophy in Jakarta.

“They should read what’s in the books, not just their covers, and if they object, they can take me to court,” he said.

Petrus Selestinus, a prominent Catholic lawyer, said the group’s actions were another case of conservative groups taking it upon themselves to administer what they think is the law to suit their own aims.

“Their action is simply criminal because they took other people's property,” Selestinus said.

He also said it violated a 2017 law on mass organizations which says an organization is prohibited from any activity that is in the domain of a government authority or law enforcer.

“They could face a year in prison,” he told

Ahmad Suaedy, a Muslim intellectual and senior researcher at the Wahid Institute, a multi-faith and pro-democracy institute, said vigilante groups can’t do as they please and try taking the law into their own hands.

He said the books would not have been openly on sale in a bookstore if they were illegal.

"We hope the police in Makassar investigate and act decisively,” because this action was also an attack on intellectuals and freedom expression, he said.

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