Center for Strategic Communication

by Chris Lundry

On Sunday evening, August 4, a small bomb detonated at the Ekayana Buddhist shrine in West Jakarta, Indonesia (story here). The blast injured three people and damaged the building, although if the second bomb found at the scene had detonated the toll likely would have been higher and the damage worse; the bombing was timed to coincide with well-attended sermon.

Immediate speculation centered on the act as retaliation for the Burmese treatment of the Rohingya, ethnic minorities who practice Islam in the predominantly Buddhist country, and who remain stateless due to official persecution. Violence erupted there last year, and it continues to simmer, stoked at times by Buddhist monks. Authorities found a piece of paper at the shrine that alleges labels the act as retaliation for the treatment of the Rohingya. In May, police foiled a bomb plot against the Burmese embassy.

Police guarding the Ekayana Vihara following Sunday's bombing (photo from the Jakarta Post)

Police guarding the Ekayana Vihara following Sunday’s bombing (photo from the Jakarta Post)

Authorities were quick to condemn the bombing, noting that it came during the fasting month of Ramadan, traditionally seen as a time of peaceful contemplation and sacrifice.

Although nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack, Islamist extremists sought to downplay or justify the attacked almost immediately. On Monday, ar Rahmah’s headline declared “A small explosion at Wihara Ekayara that did not result in anything.” One commenter on the story wrote “The secular media call it a BOMB? Firecrackers called a bomb? That sucks.” Later in the day, ar Rahmah seized on the media’s role in an alleged attempt to sensationalize the story, repeating the claim that the explosion was simply fireworks, the work of someone being “naughty,” and an attempt to distract attention from criticism of Indonesia’s anti-terrorism force Densus 88, which has come under fire for alleged human rights abuses. As I wrote above, one of the reasons why the damage wasn’t worse is because the bomb placed inside the shrine did not explode.

Police continue to hunt for the perpetrators, two men on a motorcycle who are visible in a security video stopping and placing the bombs. In the meantime, security at the shrine and other Buddhist sites, such as Borobudur temple in Central Java, has been increased. Borobudur, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was bombed in 1985.