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Indonesia's Muslims tighten security during Ramadan

Recent spate of terror attacks prompts heightened safety measures at mosques for holy month

Indonesia's Muslims tighten security during Ramadan

Jami Istiqomah Mosquein Ungaran, Central Java is seen here in this May 2017 file photo. Mosques in Indonesia are raising alert levels over Ramadan following recent terrorist attacks in the country (Photo by Katharina R. Lestari/ucanews.com)

 

 

Katharina R. Lestari, Jakarta
Indonesia

May 17, 2018

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A series of deadly terror attacks that recently rocked several parts of Indonesia has prompted mosques in the predominantly Muslim country to tighten security during the observance of the holy month of Ramadan, which begins May 17.

On May 16, Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta installed metal detectors at its entrance when President Joko Widodo and thousands of Muslims performed the first tarawih (evening Ramadan prayers).

More than 1,000 police were deployed to guard the country's biggest mosque, according to police.

The security measure was taken following terror attacks by Islamic extremists on three churches and the police headquarters last weekend in Indonesia's second city Surabaya. On May 16 a police station in Sumatra's Riau province was also attacked.

At least 30 people, including the perpetrators, were killed.

Helmi Muhammad Nur, spokesman for the Al Akbar Great Mosque in Surabaya, said security measures have been introduced because they are "worried about a decline in the number of Muslims coming to the mosque for the tarawih."  

"We have faith in the police. Yet, we need to do something on our own. We've place 16 closed-circuit television [CCTV] cameras inside our mosque and another seven outside," he said.

"We have also deployed 20 security guards and 17 parking attendants during the busy period between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. when Muslims come to our mosque to pray during Ramadan," he said.

These efforts "aim to make sure Muslims can observe Ramadan safely," he added.  

Similarly, Ahmad Toha, chairman of the Jami' Istiqomah Mosque Foundation in Ungaran, Central Java province, said security at the town's second-largest mosque was also tightened.

"The current situation in Indonesia has driven us to use all CCTVs. There are six at our mosque. It does not mean that we suspect Muslims coming to our mosque to pray, we just need to stay vigilant," he told ucanews.com.

"There were police patrols last night. I think police are tightening security," he said.

Security measures are also being introduced in other parts of the country. In Sukabumi, in West Java, local police have formed a Ramadan police unit with 400 policemen assigned to guard mosques and public facilities during the holy month.

Jelang Ramadan, a 26-year-old Muslim from Jakarta, welcomed the heightened security measures. 

"It helps make the situation conducive. On the other hand, people might think that a mosque is not safe anymore. A place of worship should be safe and not need guarding," he told ucanews.com.

Referring to the recent terror attacks, he said Ramadan "is a time for Muslims to reflect on why our Muslim brothers and sisters can be contaminated by teachings which are against Islam."

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