Several thousand Muslims demonstrated in front of the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia’s capital Sunday to protest the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Hizbut Tahrir, the group organizing the rally, had predicted tens of thousands would attend, but the crowd appeared to number about 5,000, roughly half of them women and children.
About 2,000 policemen kept the protesters away from the embassy compound, which is ringed by two concrete walls and barbed wire. The mission’s main office block is set about 100 yards away from the outer wall, behind a courtyard and parking lot.
“U.S.A. out of Iraq,” chanted the demonstrators. They also carried placards condemning Israel and a U.S. mining company — New Orleans-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. — which is accused of causing an environmental disaster at its Grasberg mine in Papua province.
“This is an example of real colonialism, there is no other reason for them to be (in Iraq),” Muhammad Ismail Yusanto, one of the organizers, told the gathering. He demanded that the West “stop the propaganda campaign against Islam in the guise of the war on terrorism.”
Last week, the U.S. mission warmed Americans to keep a low profile and “exercise caution if caught in the vicinity of any demonstrations.”
Anti-American sentiment in Indonesia — the world’s largest Muslim nation — rose sharply after the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. But protests against the wars gradually petered out, and the last big one occurred in November 2004.
Indonesia is a moderate Islamic country with significant Christian, Hindu and Buddhist minorities. It has a long tradition of secularism, and is seen by Washington as a close ally in the fight against terrorism.
The two nations have had close ties since the mid-1960s when a pro-U.S. military dictatorship seized power in Jakarta. The regime was replaced by a democratic government in 1999.
Hizbut Tahrir, the rally’s organizer, has campaigned for an Islamic state in Indonesia since the 1920s.