Indonesian Muslim Groups Demand That Holocaust Exhibition Be Closed

A recently opened Holocaust museum in Indonesia's North Sulawesi province is causing an outcry from conservative Muslims and Islamic scholar groups. The groups are demanding that the permanent exhibition and museum dedicated to the horrors of the Holocaust be closed.

Sudarnoto Abdul Hakim, head of foreign relations and international cooperation of the country's Indonesian Ulema Council, said they demanded that the exhibition stop and cancel the museum.

Many Muslims and religious groups fear that the exhibit is a prologue to the Indonesian government's plan to strengthen diplomatic ties with Israel.

The exhibit, "Shoah: How is it Humanly Possible," was launched on January 27, marking the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The exhibit, intended to become a permanent display as a museum, is hosted at Shaar HaShamayim, Indonesia's lone synagogue.

Yaakov Baruch, rabbi of the Shaar HaShamayim, said his reasons are personal. Baruch said he built the museum to remember his family, on his Grandmother's side, that died during the Holocaust. "And I also want to educate Indonesians on the danger of antisemitism, especially the danger of hate crimes," he added.

Hakim urged Jewish communities and descendants of Jewish people to be impartial. They should "also see fairly clearly the brutal acts that have been perpetrated by Israeli Zionists against the Palestinian people since 1948," Hakim said.

Other organizations that supported the call to close the exhibit provided other reasons.

Hidayat Nur Wahid, deputy speaker of the People's Consultative Assembly and a lawmaker with the faith-based Prosperous Justice Party, said his contention is with Yad Vashem’s ties to West Bank settlements.

The Israeli Parliament established Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center in 1953. Yad Vashem is an organization dedicated to remembering the six million Jews who died during the Holocaust.

Richelle Budd Caplan, director of international relations and the handler for the Indonesia exhibit, said it is part of their effort to release a Holocaust documentary in 20 languages. Caplan said they are hoping the exhibit will "raise awareness about the Holocaust and bring more opportunities to the citizens of Indonesia."

"And the world to learn about the atrocities that took place in the not-so-distant past," she added.

However, in July 2021, Dani Dayan, a former consul general and a former head of Israel's West Bank settlements programs was appointed as the chairman of Yad Vashem.

Israel's political relationship with Indonesia has been plagued with domestic opposition, which causes Indonesian leaders to fear losing the support of the Muslim-majority public.

The Indonesian constitution guarantees religious freedom but only recognizes Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism. Citizens cannot identify as Jewish on ID cards. According to the Jewish Virtual Library, out of a population of more than 270 million, only about 100 are Indonesian Jews.

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