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Fears radicals penetrating leading Indonesian religious body
Updated October 13, 2008 14:13:11
Fears are emerging that Indonesia’s highest Muslim authority is being infiltrated by Islamic radicals.
The Council of Muslim Scholars, or Majelis Ulama, is a prominent player on the Indonesian political scene and plays an influential role as an advisor to the government on religious matters.
But recent pronouncements, such as the discussion of a ban on smoking, a ruling against vasectomies, and the role played by the council in the debate on a controversial pornography bill, have led some observers to worry that the organisation is being infiltrated by radical groups.
This is coupled with a perceived increase in the council’s influence.
In late September, the council issued a fatwa, or religious opinion, against the Ahmadiyah group and urged the government to ban the group and freeze its operations.
Head of the graduate school at the State Islamic University in Jakarta, Azyumardi Azra, told Radio Australia’s Connect Asia program he has been warning of the growth of radicalism within the council for some time.
“There are some tiny Islamic groups, or Muslim groups who have a literal understanding of Islam,” he said.
“These groups have a growing influence on MUI because they are very active.
“And of course this has a lot to do with the passivity of the moderate Muslim organisations like Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah.”
Abdul Mu’ti from Indonesia’s second largest Muslim group, Muhammadiyah, agrees but says that international politics has helped fuel these groups.
“The international developments might lead to the emotional response from certain Islamic groups including those who are associated with Indonesia Ulama council, for example, on their reponse to cases happening in Iraq and Paleistine.”
However, the politicisation of fatwas could mean decreasing influence for the council.
Abdul Mu’ti says as people become more rational they will be more critical on the issuing of Fatwas.