In­done­sia’s rep­u­ta­tion as a model of mod­er­ate Is­lam in­tact: Wi­dodo

Plu­ral­ism part of In­done­sia’s DNA, Pres­i­dent says

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

In­done­sia’s pres­i­dent said yes­ter­day his coun­try re­mains a model of mod­er­ate Is­lam, coun­ter­ing crit­ics who point to mass ral­lies by rad­i­cal Mus­lims and the jail­ing of a Chris­tian politi­cian for blasphemy as ev­i­dence its rep­u­ta­tion is crum­bling. “Plu­ral­ism has al­ways been a part of In­done­sia’s DNA,” Joko Wi­dodo said in an in­ter­view at the pres­i­den­tial palace in Jakarta. “De­spite many chal­lenges, Is­lam in In­done­sia has al­ways been a force for mod­er­a­tion.”

In­done­sia’s state ide­ol­ogy in­cludes na­tional unity, so­cial jus­tice and democ­racy along­side be­lief in God, and en­shrines re­li­gious di­ver­sity in a sec­u­lar sys­tem of gov­ern­ment. Hard­line Is­lamist groups were banned un­der the au­thor­i­tar­ian regime of Pres­i­dent Suharto, which ended in 1998, but they have gained ground in re­cent years, emerg­ing from the fringes of society in the world’s big­gest Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity coun­try. Re­li­gious and po­lit­i­cal ten­sions spi­raled at the end of last year when Is­lamists led protests by hun­dreds of thou­sands in Jakarta against the cap­i­tal’s then gover­nor, an eth­nicChi­nese Chris­tian who was charged with in­sult­ing the Qu­ran.

Gover­nor Ba­suki Tja­haja Pur­nama, an ally of Pres­i­dent Wi­dodo, lost his bid for re-elec­tion to a Mus­lim ri­val in April af­ter months of ag­i­ta­tion against him by a rad­i­cal group, the Is­lamic De­fend­ers Front (FPI). In May he was sen­tenced to two years in jail for blasphemy. Wi­dodo said In­done­sia was “still a model” of plu­ral­ism and noted com­ments on Satur­day by for­mer US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama - on a per­sonal visit to the coun­try where he spent some of his child­hood - that its his­tory of tol­er­ance must be pre­served. “It is very im­por­tant here in In­done­sia, the United States, Europe, ev­ery­where, to fight against the pol­i­tics of ‘us and them’,” Obama told a con­fer­ence in Jakarta.

Care­ful line on ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity

The tar­gets of hard­line Is­lamic groups have in­cluded the les­bian, gay, bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der (LGBT) com­mu­nity, many of whom have been driven un­der­ground by po­lice raids. With the ex­cep­tion of the ul­tra-con­ser­va­tive Aceh prov­ince, where Is­lamic law is en­forced and two men were pub­licly flogged in May for gay sex, ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity is le­gal in In­done­sia.

But Wi­dodo’s own de­fense min­is­ter has branded ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity a na­tional se­cu­rity threat and last week a leader of In­done­sia’s sec­ond-largest Mus­lim group called for a boy­cott of Star­bucks be­cause of the in­ter­na­tional cof­fee chain’s pro-gay stand. The pres­i­dent trod a care­ful line on the ques­tion of LGBT rights, say­ing that “In­done­sia re­mains a tol­er­ant na­tion” whose con­sti­tu­tion guar­an­tees that ev­ery­one’s rights are re­spected and pro­tected. But he added: “We are the largest ma­jor­ity Mus­lim coun­try so In­done­sia has its own re­li­gious norms, unique val­ues and also cul­tures that must be re­spected.”

ISIS has no place in In­done­sia

The mus­cle-flex­ing of hard­line groups has fed fears that In­done­sia will be­come fer­tile ground for Is­lamist mil­i­tants. Wi­dodo said he would press par­lia­ment to move more quickly on pass­ing a new anti-ter­ror­ism law that would make it eas­ier to both ar­rest and de­tain sus­pects. “We need this law,” he said, ham­mer­ing his fin­ger on the ta­ble in front of him. The at­tempt in May by a small army of Is­lamic State-al­lied fighters to over­run a city in the south­ern Philip­pines has been widely seen as a bid by the ul­tra-rad­i­cal group, on a back­foot in Syria and Iraq, to es­tab­lish a strong­hold in South­east Asia. Philip­pines of­fi­cials have said there were In­done­sians and Malaysians among the fighters who at­tacked Marawi City, where a bat­tle with gov­ern­ment troops has ground on for six weeks.

“ISIS has no place in In­done­sia,” Wi­dodo said, us­ing a pop­u­lar acro­nym for Is­lamic State. He noted that In­done­sia, Malaysia and the Philip­pines had agreed to joint mar­itime pa­trols to pre­vent mil­i­tants mov­ing across their is­lands, and said he dis­cussed co­op­er­a­tion on a phone call with Philip­pines Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte last week. “Our se­cu­rity and in­tel­li­gence agen­cies con­tinue to work hard to com­bat this threat. We are also con­tin­u­ing to pro­mote the val­ues of mod­er­ate Is­lam and when I talked with Pres­i­dent Duterte last week I said that ‘your prob­lem is my prob­lem’. — Reuters

MEDAN: A po­lice of­fi­cer stands guard near a bomb dis­posal truck at the en­trance to the North Su­ma­tra Re­gional Po­lice head­quar­ters in Medan, In­done­sia. — AP

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