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Trump's Jerusalem call sparks Asia-wide anger

Rallies and protests staged across the region, as Muslim leaders warn of 'jihadist backlash' against US decision
Trump's Jerusalem call sparks Asia-wide anger

Demonstrators in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, burn a photo Dec. 10 of US President Donald Trump during a protest against his recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. (Photo by Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP)

Published: December 11, 2017 10:03 AM GMT
Updated: December 11, 2017 02:01 PM GMT

US President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital has sparked anger across Muslim countries and communities in Asia, with Malaysia saying it is ready to play a role in any resulting conflict.

On Dec. 11, thousands of members of the radical group Islamic Defenders Front and other Muslim hardliners staged a rally in front of the US embassy in Jakarta.

"We want President Trump to rescind his decision," Slamet Maarif, a spokesman for the hard-line group, told ucanews.com.

"We also want [Indonesian] President Joko Widodo to take concrete steps to respond to the issue. If he does not, we will handle it our way. We are ready to be jihadists in Jerusalem," he said.

Similar rallies led by the Islam-based Prosperous Justice Party and Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the largest Islamic organization in the country, were also staged in front of the embassy Dec. 10 and 8, respectively.

Yenny Wahid, executive director of the Wahid Foundation, which promotes tolerance and dialogue, said that she had told the US ambassador to Indonesia, Joseph R. Donovan, at one of last week's rally that Trump's move had triggered tensions in Muslim countries including Indonesia.

NU chairman Said Aqil Siradj  said Trump's decision had put world peace at risk.

"Jerusalem is not the Israeli capital, it is the Palestinians'," he said.


'Violation' of U.N. resolutions

Widodo said Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital had "violated various resolutions of the UN Security Council and General Assembly of which the United States is a member state."

He added he would raise the issue at the Organization for Islamic Cooperation summit scheduled for Dec. 13 in Istanbul, Turkey.

Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said in a speech Dec. 9 reported by the Malay Mail online, that his country was ready to send military forces to Jerusalem.

"We are ready for any orders from the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces ... should our services be needed," he reportedly said.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that while he rejected Trump's decision, bilateral ties would not be affected, The Star newspaper reported Dec. 10.

But Trump's action could also complicate progress on a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine, Najib warned.


Curfews in Jammu and Kashmir

Street protests against Trump's announcement forced the state government in Jammu and Kashmir — India’s only Muslim Majority state — to impose curfews in sensitive areas of the capital Srinagar on Dec. 8.

Kashmir's Jamia Masjid (grand mosque) was also closed for Friday prayers for fear of violent protests.

The religious cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who was scheduled to address people from the mosque's pulpit, was kept under house detention.

However, in defiance of the government's restrictions people took to the streets in large numbers shouting slogans like "Death to America" and "Death to Israel".

Thousands of Muslims take to the streets in Kashmir Dec. 8-10 protesting the US decision to consider Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and expressing solidarity with Muslims in Palestine. (Photos by Umer Asif)

Effigies of Trump were also set on fire by angry youths and police fired tear gas and laid wire in the middle of the road to disperse protesters.

Prominent Muslim scholar Ghulam Ali Gulzar said that the US decision would de-stabilize world peace and encourage Muslim youth to tread the path of radicalization.

Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and declared the entire city as its capital in 1980, a move that was condemned by the international community until now.

"Jerusalem is sacred for all of us — Muslim, Christians and Jews. However, it was occupied by force in 1967, and the US at present has justified that act. It will cause further disgruntlement within Muslims against the West," Gulzar said.

Religious organizations in Kashmir banded together, and appealed to Muslim countries across the world to raise their voices against the US president’s decision.   

United Scholars' Front, an amalgam of various religious organizations labeled Trump's decision "anti-Muslim" and "anti-Palestine", stating that the move amounts to "stabbing the heart of every Muslim across the world."

The decision was also met with dismay by some Christian groups in the region.

Reverend Gomar Gultom, secretary-general of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, regarded President Trump's move as "a form of abandonment of the long journey taken by Christians and the international community to seek a two-state resolution to the Israeli and Palestinian conflict."

Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo of Jakarta, who is also chairman of the Indonesian Catholic Bishops' Conference, believed that "whoever controls Jerusalem, the city will remain the Holy City, and the Catholic faith will not change because of it."


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