Louis Farrakhan Visits Indonesia
Feb. 13, 1998
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) _ Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan prayed with thousands of Indonesian Muslims today and urged them not to attack the ethnic Chinese during the nation's economic crisis.
The financial slump was ``a trial from God,'' he told a huge crowd at Jakarta's Istiqlal Mosque, one of the largest in Asia.
Farrakhan is in Indonesia, the world's most populous Islamic nation, as part of a world tour.
His visit coincides with rising tensions as the country battles its worst economic problems in 30 years. The value of the currency, the rupiah, has plummeted while inflation and unemployment have soared.
A series of riots over rising prices _ including two today _ have broken out in more than a dozen towns in recent weeks. Chinese traders, many of them Christians and Buddhists, have been targeted.
The ethnic Chinese make up only about 4 percent of Indonesia's population of 202 million, which is 90 percent Muslim. They dominate commerce, however, and storekeepers are often blamed when prices increase.
``I don't think this is good for Indonesia: to attack the Chinese members of this society,'' Farrakhan said.
``I think if they're good business people, we ought to try and learn from them how they do it. And do it and see if we can do it better, but not to attack people who are sincerely doing business and are law-abiding citizens of the nation.''
In the latest disturbances today, more than 1,000 people ransacked Chinese-owned stores and set fires in the towns of Losari and Gebang.
In a speech at the mosque, Farrakhan said Indonesia would overcome its economic problems.
``The real currency of Indonesia is not the rupiah, but the spirit of Allah,'' he said.
On Saturday, he is to fly to Sydney in neighboring Australia.
Australian authorities granted Farrakhan and all but one of his 23-person entourage visitor visas on Thursday after he gave a written assurance that he would not incite racial violence.
Farrahkan has repeatedly disparaged the Jewish religion.
``I won't be coming to Australia to create more tension, to exacerbate tensions, to feed hatred among people,'' Farrakhan said in Jakarta.