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MUI slammed over controversial fatwas
Hera Diani and Slamet Susanto, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta, Yogyakarta
More condemnation has been heaped on the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) for issuing draconian fatwas outlawing liberal Islamic thought and pluralism, raising the question as to whether the Council should be dissolved.
Scholars and activists grouped in the Democratic Education Association (P2D) issued a joint statement on Monday condemning the MUI for undermining the principles of nationhood and democracy.
Read by lawyer/human rights activist Todung Mulya Lubis, the Association criticized the fatwas as unconstitutional, and as hampering nation-building efforts in this country.
“Our constitution is not perfect and it still needs further amendment. But it is supported by all of society, so it cannot be undermined or negated,” Todung told a media conference, which was also attended by Muslim scholars Azyumardi Azra, Siti Musdah Mulia, Hasyim Wahid and Ulil Abshar Abdalla, as well as democracy activist Smita Notosusanto.
The MUI concluded a four-day national congress last Friday with the issuing of 11 edicts, one of which stipulates that Islamic interpretations based on liberalism, secularism and pluralism “contradict Islamic teachings.”
Another fatwa renewed the ban on the Ahmadiyah sect, and asked the government to take action against the group. The earlier Ahmadiyah fatwa has been blamed for justifying the attack on an Ahmadiyah congregation by Muslim extremists last month.
The Democratic Education Association said that pluralism was a fact of life and was supported by the founding fathers when establishing the Republic. The fatwas showed that the MUI was out of line with the development of democracy, which requires pluralism and the protection of citizens rights.
“The issuance of the fatwas shows how weak the concepts of nationhood and democracy are in this country. We would urge the government to uphold these concepts by protecting and guaranteeing people’s constitutional rights,” said the statement.
The association also urged President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration to be proactive in maintaining pluralism instead of bowing to the fatwas.
Azyumardi said that the fatwas had the potential to divide not only Muslim from non-Muslim, but also Muslims themselves.
“The fatwas are not in line with the principles of Islam, which promotes tolerance and peaceful dialog with people of differing views,” he said.
Azyumardi then urged the MUI to hold an open discussion with people from different fields of expertise, not only Islamic jurisprudence.
“The government must not give in to the demands of certain groups, which might use these fatwas to attack other groups. If the government doesn’t do anything about this, it would set a bad precedent and be very dangerous.”
As the implications of the fatwas were huge, the scholars urged the government to discuss these matters with the MUI with a view to resolving the issue.
They also urged the MUI to reform itself, and involve people of differing views instead of only conservative mullahs.
“The ideal job for the MUI, if people still want it to exist, is to promote dialog between Muslims themselves, as well as with other groups,” Ulil said.
Meanwhile, National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM) member M. Bilah, who chairs the investigation into the recent attack on an Ahmadiyah congregation in Bogor, said the constituted a violation of human rights.