Extremists infiltrate moderate groups, scholars say Andra Wisnu, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Conservative and extremist leaders have insinuated their way into major Islamic organizations, leaving these groups unable to counter rising radicalism and religious violence in Indonesia, a forum concluded Thursday.

Muslim scholars, speaking at the discussion in Jakarta, criticized Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, the country’s two largest Islamic organizations, for failing to bring peace among followers of different religions and beliefs.

They said conservative and extremist leaders supporting the movements and activities of hard-line and radical groups, such as Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia and the Islamic People’s Forum (FUI), have been taking control of NU and Muhammadiyah, as well as other moderate Muslim organizations.

Hizbut Tahrir and the FUI were behind the campaign against the Jamaah Ahmadiyah minority sect, which recognizes a prophet in Islam after Muhammad — a belief defying the mainstream faith.

Human rights advocates have condemned the campaign, claiming Hizbut Tahrir and the FUI used militant groups, such as the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), as proxies to commit violence against Ahmadiyah followers.

The scholars said there was an apparent lack of resistance from major Islamic organizations to these efforts.

They said about 30 incidents of violence targeting Ahmadiyah followers by various public groups occurred in Java following a 2005 fatwa issued by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) urging the government to ban the sect.

No major Islamic organization protested this MUI declaration, the scholars said.

Bowing to pressure from extremist groups, the government issued a joint-ministerial decree last month banning Ahmadiyah from spreading its religious beliefs.

Kautsar Azhari Noer, a professor at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University in Jakarta, accused Muhammadiyah chief Din Syamsuddin of silencing moderate voices in his organization.

“I know for a fact that since Din began leading Muhammadiyah, moderate Islamic figures have had a hard time entering the organization’s leadership structure,” he told the discussion.

Fuaduddin PM, a researcher at the ministry of religious affairs, said FUI and Hizbut Tahrir members who have joined major Islamic organizations were behind the lack of resistance.

“That is why these groups have not been very vocal in condemning the recent ban on Ahmadiyah,” he said.

Abdul Mu’ti, a widely known moderate Islamic scholar from Muhammadiyah, said the rising power of extremism could not be easily curbed.

“It’s simply a consequence of democracy. These people are elected to their positions,” he said.

He said that to fight radicalism, moderates must help open the minds of Indonesian Muslims.

“It’s a known phenomenon that Islamic pesantren (boarding school) students tend to do well in their own schools but not in the outside world.

“That could have the psychological effect of pushing that person over the edge,” Mu’ti said.

“It’s important to teach people values outside Islam,” he told the discussion, aimed at improving the peace-building capacity of pesantren and Islamic organizations.



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