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Bombs Provide Ammo for Preaching Tolerance
Zubaidah Nazeer- Straits Times Indonesia | March 25, 2011
Last week’s string of mail bombs sent to several moderate Muslim leaders in Indonesia have helped to highlight their work, even as loud noises made by radicals continue to chip away at the country’s heritage of tolerance.
These leaders say they are stepping up their activities and working with other groups to emphasise religious diversity and tolerance, and they do not want to rely on the government.
Some have been quietly engaging the Ahmadiyah sect, whose believers were attacked by a mob last month in Cikeusik, Banten province, West Java.
Said Mr Zuhairi Misrawi, chairman of the Muslim Moderate Society: ‘We have been working behind the scenes with other organisations which support pluralism, and engaging our grassroots through our leaders in all provinces. So we know that on the ground, the majority do not think and feel the same way as the radicals.’
He will be meeting representatives of the Ahmadis in Bogor today.
His organization has previously fanned out to the provinces to train young religious teachers, and distributed sermons to mosques with contents that counter radical ideas.
Others like Mr Hashim Muzadi, a former chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest moderate Muslim group in Indonesia, also oppose the use of force against minority groups. He said: ‘Islamic clerics across Indonesia need to work harder… to enlighten the Ahmadis so they come back to the right path. Whatever the reason is, violence is not allowed… not by Islam, by Indonesian national law, by human rights principles.’
Three Ahmadis were killed in the mob attack last month. Since then, there has been other news of attacks against them.
Though such incidents have sparked fears that Indonesia’s Muslims are increasingly becoming intolerant, several religious leaders remain optimistic that the silent majority will not be swayed by the ideology of hate. Instead, moderate Muslim leaders criticised the government for its handling of religious conflicts.
Mr Luthfi Assyaukanie, co-founder of the Liberal Islamic Network, told The Jakarta Post: ‘Religious intolerance and the radicalisation of Islam are getting worse. The government is failing.’
Added Mr Zuhairi: ‘The government inaction shows its weakness and ignorance in dealing with religious tensions.’
The Muslim Moderate Society is a member of the Alliance for Diversity and Religious Freedom, a band of 25 organisations from different faiths, including Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism.
Pastor Johannes Hariyanto, secretary-general of the Indonesian Conference on Religion and Peace, said: ‘A lot of us who advocate pluralism have been engaged in regular dialogues for some time but… we should push to make the majority voice louder.’
He added: ‘Indonesia has a rich history of religious diversity and tolerance, but since the mid-1990s some groups have brought back rigid and extreme versions of Islam they were exposed to while studying in some Arab countries. These are not suitable for a secular, multi-religious society like ours.’
The mail bombs jolted many Indonesians as they were sent to those seen to be advocating religious pluralism, observers say. One was sent to Mr Ulil Abshar-Abdalla, founder of the Liberal Islamic Network. Another was sent to the youth chief of a nationalist organisation, while a third was sent to a rock musician who sings songs about Indonesia’s pluralism and diversity.
‘Yes, I am worried that pluralist Muslims are targeted, but we should not be discouraged,’ said Mr Zuhairi. ‘We should continue our work of spreading tolerance and reminding everyone that the Indonesian Constitution protects the rights of everyone to practise their beliefs peacefully.’
Reprinted courtesy of Straits Times Indonesia…