Indonesia clerics ‘growing force’
By Lucy Williamson
BBC News, Jakarta
The report says the government is paying greater heed to hardliner
Hardline Muslim groups in Indonesia are gaining greater influence over government policy, a report says.
The study, by the International Crisis Group, looks at why the government decided last month to restrict the activities of a minority Muslim sect.
It says that careful lobbying by hardline clerics is giving them a greater role in the country’s politics.
Hardline groups are poorly represented in parliament, but the report says they are finding ways around that.
They have, it says, been able to develop contacts in the country’s bureaucracy, and have used classic civil society techniques to influence government policy.
One example given is the issue of the Ahmadiyah - a minority Muslim group that has existed in Indonesia for more than 60 years.
Hardline Muslims have campaigned against this group since the 1980s but only now has the government taken action.
The timing, says the report, is a result of the growing influence under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s government of the country’s Board of Clerics - dominated by hardliners - and also of systematic lobbying by other radical groups such as Hizb ut Tahrir.
Indonesia is not about to become a new Saudi Arabia, the report says. But with national elections due next year, the growing influence of these groups means that Mr Yudhoyono is too fearful of public opinion to stand up to them.