Religious groups called to rise up against radical Islam

Indonesian hardliners need to be checked before its too late, observers say
Religious groups called to rise up against radical Islam

Indonesian Muslims gesture and shout slogans during an anti-government rally in Jakarta in this July, 2017 photo after President Joko Widodo signed a new law to disband Hizbut-Tahrir Indonesia (HTI), the local branch of a radical Islamist group which seeks to unify all Muslims into a caliphate. (Photo by Bay Ismoyo/AFP)

Moderates and minority religions in Indonesia have to band together and actively fight against a new push for the implementation of Sharia law across the country, analysts and political observers say.

Hard-line groups in Indonesia are increasing their efforts to implement Sharia law with support from certain political parties. Boni Hargens, a prominent Catholic political analyst said the alliance between radical groups with several political parties, such as the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and the Great Indonesia Movement Party makes their efforts to get rid of the secular state ideology of "Pancasila" possible.

"They are working with each other for their own interests. Pragmatic political parties want to gain power, while radical groups want to realize their dream to impose Sharia," he told ucanews.com after forum in Jakarta discussing religious extremism.

He said their agenda has become very evident since they succeeded in ousting Jakarta’s Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, commonly known as "Ahok" earlier this year.

"Their next target is President Joko Widodo in the election in 2019. They see him as a major obstacle to their mission," he said.

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Sectarian mud-slinging employed in the Jakarta election will be re-played in the presidential election with Widodo being called a heretic, pro-communist and anti-Islamic, Hargens said. 

He said moderate Muslim and minority religious groups must wake up and see this as a serious threat as it will only put the nation on a course toward conflict.

"It is not enough to put one’s hopes only on the government. Religious groups must maximize efforts to fight against radical rhetoric by promoting concepts in favor of diversity," he said.

"Interfaith cooperation must also be pursued," he said.

The fight for influence now, he said, is so open. "Radical groups, although they are not much at present, are trying to exert major influence so moderates must act now to counter them," he said.

Soleman Pontoh, former head of Indonesia’s Strategic Intelligence Agency said, "now is the time for moderate groups to end their silence."

"Indonesia could collapse the majority choose to keep quiet silent," he said.

Father Benny Susetyo, an outspoken priest, and secretary of the Setara Institute for Justice and Peace said the spread of radicalism in houses of worship is a serious concern.

"Religious leaders need to formulate common ground on what is allowed to be preached in sermons and what is not. Do not use the pulpit to vilify others or to blame other religions," he said.

Calling efforts to implement sharia "irrelevant," Said Aqil Siradj, chairman of Nahdatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest moderate Muslim organization said efforts are already under way to stem radical propaganda.

"We have formed a cyber team to counter fake news and misinterpretations of Islam on social media," he said.

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