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Indonesian universities told to nip radicalism in bud

Academic institutions must do more to prevent campus mosques spreading extremist views among students, vice president says

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Indonesian universities told to nip radicalism in bud

Indonesian men pray at a mosque in Jakarta in this file photo. Indonesian universities are being asked to keep a firm grip on what is preached at mosques on campuses amid fears of a growing tide of extremism among university students. (Photo by Adek Berry/AFP)

Indonesia's Vice President Muhammad Jusuf Kalla has appealed to universities to do more to stamp out radicalism on campuses.

This would include taking a tough line against radical preaching in campus mosques, he said.

"Indonesian Islam, of course, is a moderate form of Islam," he told a recent Association of Indonesian Campus Mosques meeting in Jakarta, adding that campus mosque should aid students in their education and not be sowing the seeds of extremism.

According to Kalla, who is also chairman of the Indonesian Mosque Council, religious fanaticism is not a problem. But it will become a problem if it leads to extremist actions.

He suggested universities create a "curriculum of sermons" for campus mosques that contain moderate teachings about Islam.

Kalla's appeal comes amid growing concern about the growth of radicalism on campuses and the use of mosques to spread it.

The National Counter Terrorism Agency in May said that seven state-run universities were fermenting radicalism, including the University of Indonesia, the country's biggest.

A study last year by the Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace revealed similar findings.

It found that hard-line groups controlled mosques on campuses and housing estates in the west Java cities of Depok and Bogor.

At the University of Indonesia, according to Setara, a group routinely holds recitations that promote war and the rejection of enemies of Islam such as communists, liberals and groups considered heretical.

Another survey by the Air Foundation and the Alvara Research Center showed that 23.5 percent of university students support Indonesia becoming an Islamic state with Shariah law.

Minister of Research, Technology and Higher Education, Mohamad Nasir, said his ministry is looking to persuade university administrators and professors to ensure mosques return to supporting the academic and spiritual formation of students.

"We do not want to impose strict rules on them, but we have asserted that it is their duty to make sure their campuses are free from radicalism," he said.

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