Indonesia Muslims Plan Anti-Extremism Rally

JAKARTA – Winning the support of Muslims and non-Muslims, Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Islamic movement is organizing an interfaith gathering next week to fight extremism and promote the true tenets of Islam.

“We were taught two words: tasanuf, which means tolerance, and tawasuft, which refers to being moderate people. These two words represent the core spirit of being a good Muslim in society,” Marsyudi Syuhud, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) president and rally organizer, was quoted by AsiaNews.

“From a moral perspective, NU has to defend the nation’s political and philosophical foundation, namely Unity in Diversity (Bhinneka Tunggal Ika).”

The rally is planned next January 17 at Lapangan Banteng Square, a historic square in the Indonesian capital, overlooked by both the city’s Catholic Cathedral and Grand Mosque.

It is expected by be attended by more than 10,000 members.

Syuhud said that the rally would be the start of a nationwide movement campaigning for tolerance and pluralism under the banner of Islam Nusantara (Islam of the Archipelago).

It means “promoting in a predominantly Muslim Indonesia moderate ideas that embrace religious tolerance. Our goal is clear: uniting in brotherhood all of the nation’s factions,” Marsyudi said.

For Marsyudi, this entails “fighting the perception that Islam is not a peaceful religion because of Shiite and Sunnis fighting each other. This is even more important than our relations with other religions Like Hinduism and Buddhism.”

NU wants to counter any possible infiltration of the Islamic State (IS) group in Indonesia, Marsyudi said.

“There is a clear and present danger. We have seen some [Indonesians] dare to hang the IS flag in a traffic roundabout. We have people who go and fight in Syria and then come back, and the government does nothing. This convinces people that this kind of Arab Spring will soon arrive in Indonesia.”

Support

The call for the rally won the support of 13 other Islamic organizations, as well as the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia (Konferensi Waligereja Indonesia, KWI).

Various Protestant churches and the Supreme Council for the Confucian Religion in Indonesia (Majelis Tinggi Agama Konghucu Indonesia, MATAKIN) have also expressed support for the event.

“We will participate in the event for sure. With this mass rally, we want to bring the message that diversity should be the strength of the nation. We have to show that peaceful coexistence is possible,” Fr Guido Suprapto, KWI secretary for the laity, told AsiaNews on Friday.

“For a Muslim leader, the goal is to promote “in a predominantly Muslim Indonesia moderate ideas that embrace religious tolerance,” he added.

For this purpose, Fr Samuel Pangestu, vicar general of the archdiocese of Jakarta, had a large number of leaflets printed and distributed to the city’s Catholics.

Indonesia is the most populous Muslim state where Muslims make up 80% percent of the 220 million population.