Angry Muslim crowd attacks churches in Indonesia
Two churches were set on fire and a third was damaged in Temanggung, central Java
By Michael Ireland, Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service, February 8, 2011

JAVA, INDONESIA (ANS) -- More than 1,000 Muslim protesters have stormed a courthouse and burned two churches in central Java, Indonesia.

According to the BBC website, the attacks in Temanggung happened after a Christian man was sentenced to five years in jail for distributing leaflets deemed insulting to Islam.

The BBC reported that Indonesian police said the crowd considered the sentence too lenient and were demanding the death penalty.

The BBC said the incident came two days after Muslim villagers in western Java killed three members of a minority Islamic sect.

A police spokesman told the BBC that the angry crowd began attacking the court building in Temanggung after the verdict was read out.

The violence spread to surrounding neighborhoods where two churches were set on fire and a third was damaged, and Police fired warning shots into the air to disperse the crowds, the BBC said.

'Extremist groups'
In a separate development, a video has emerged of Sunday's deadly attack on members of the minority Ahmadiyah Muslim sect.

The footage -- seen by the BBC -- shows three men being beaten to death.

The Ahmadiyah sect has been labeled by the government as deviant, but is not banned.

A body which advises the US government on religious freedom has said Indonesia must act against "extremist" attacks.

"Indonesia is a tolerant country that should be more intolerant of extremist groups. It's time the Indonesian government brings them to account for the violence and hatred they spread," said Leonard Leo, chair of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The BBC explained that Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population, but it is a secular nation.

The BBC added that international human rights groups say more hardline fringe groups have been harassing religious minorities in recent years. The Indonesian president has been criticized for not doing enough to protect the rights of all citizens.