The statue of Guan Yu – a third-century Chinese General revered for his bravery and loyalty – met its undignified fate last month in the Indonesian province of East Java. Because of Guan Yu’s significance to Buddhism and Confucianism, which worship him as a god, hardline Islamic groups called it a blasphemous behemoth, took to the streets, and threatened to remove it. In response to the controversy, leaders at the Chinese Confucian temple where the statue stands decided to cover it.
This may sound like a strange turn of events for Indonesia, a diverse archipelago of at least 17,000 thousand islands which has developed the national motto “unity in diversity.” Perhaps because of that diversity, the world’s most populous Muslim nation at 260 million strong is known for its practice of a moderate, multicultural form of Islam – one that has long respected the rights of ethnic minorities, including the …
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