Conservative Indonesian Muslims hold big rally in Jakarta

Thousands of police had been put on standby but the rally was peaceful. (AFP)
Updated 02 December 2018
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Conservative Indonesian Muslims hold big rally in Jakarta

  • “We are proud because the Islam in Indonesia is Islam that unifies and is united and will maintain peace for everyone”
  • Hard-line groups were banned under the authoritarian regime of President Suharto, which ended in 1998, but they have gained ground in recent years

JAKARTAP: Tens of thousands of Indonesian Muslims held a rally in Jakarta on Sunday led by hard-line groups who had agitated to remove the city’s Christian governor, underscoring the growing influence of Islamist groups ahead of elections in 2019.
The rally was attended by former general, Prabowo Subianto, a nationalist with strong links to Islamists who is seeking to topple President Joko Widodo in next year’s polls after being narrowly defeated in 2014 during a bitterly fought campaign.
The crowd, many of whom were dressed in white and carrying Islamic flags, started gathering at Jakarta’s National Monument from around 3 a.m. to hold prayers.
“We are proud because the Islam in Indonesia is Islam that unifies and is united and will maintain peace for everyone,” Subianto said in a speech.
Thousands of police had been put on standby but the rally was peaceful.
Organizers call their movement a “reunion” for a series of rallies starting in late 2016 that targeted Jakarta governor Basuki TjaHajja Purnama, the first ethnic-Chinese Christian in the job, who was charged with insulting the Qur’an.
Religious and political tensions spiralled during this period and then governor Purnama, an ally of President Widodo, lost his bid for re-election to a Muslim rival and was later sentenced to two years in jail for blasphemy.
Hard-line 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.
Widodo, who is a popular moderate, has chosen a 75-year-old Islamic cleric, Ma’ruf Amin, as his running mate in next year’s election, sparking concern among some that he is pandering to conservative Muslims in a pluralist country with significant minority communities.


Sri Lanka rejects plans for $10m Shariah university

Updated 21 May 2019
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Sri Lanka rejects plans for $10m Shariah university

  • Madrasas to be absorbed by Ministry of Education in wake of Easter Sunday attacks
  • More than 100 arrests have been made following the rioting. A curfew has been lifted and life is returning to normal

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday refused permission for a planned $10 million (SR37.5 million) Shariah university in one of the country’s main cities.

And in the wake of the deadly Easter Sunday terror attacks on hotels and churches, the premier also announced that all madrasas would be brought under the umbrella of Sri Lanka’s Education Ministry.

The latest moves by the Sri Lankan government follow widespread unrest on the island, with anti-Muslim riots having caused damage running into millions of dollars.

Wickremesinghe’s orders came after a fact-finding report into the university compiled by MP Ashu Marasinghe. He recommended that the institution, being constructed at Batticaloa, in the Eastern Province, should be privately operated and titled Batticaloa Technology University. The new education complex is located close to the township of Kattankudy where suspected ringleader of the Easter Sunday suicide bombings, Zahran Hashim, lived and preached his messages of hate and violence.

The Sri Lankan government analyst’s department said on Tuesday that DNA tests proved Hashim died in the attack at the Shangri-La hotel in Colombo.

President’s Counsel, Ali Sabry, a prominent lawyer and political analyst, told Arab News on Tuesday that the premier’s announcement was welcome.

“We don’t need a Shariah university at this juncture when there is a lot of suspicions on various Islamic topics that need to be clarified by Islamic theologians following the suicide attacks by Muslim extremists,” Sabry said. He stressed that the country’s main focus should be on strengthening ways to ensure peaceful coexistence among all communities.

The Sri Lankan University Grants Commission had a set of guidelines to license new universities, and Wickremesinghe’s latest recommendations would also be included among the requirements for a new university, Sabry added.

The prime minister’s ruling on madrasas (Islamic seminaries) would provide more transparency on the activities of the institutions, he said. “Their curriculum and their co-curricular activities should maintain a common standard and these madrasas should prepare the students to make them fit into society instead of just learning Arabic and Islam only.”

M.R.M. Malik, director of the Muslim Affairs Ministry in Colombo, told Arab News that currently all madrasas function under his ministry. “There are 317 madrasas throughout the island with an estimated 25,000 students. In addition to the local teachers, there are 38 Arabic teachers and 85 foreign students,” he said.

Most of the teachers are from Egypt, Pakistan and India, while many of the overseas students studying at the madrasas are from Libya, Pakistan, Jordan and India.

Sri Lanka Muslim Council President N.M. Ameen told Arab News that the local community had never wanted a Shariah university. However, he said the proposed curriculum for the madrasas should be constructed in consultation with Islamic scholars and the Muslim community.

Meanwhile, Western Province Gov. Azath Salley, revealed that damage caused by anti-Muslim riots had reached nearly Rs900 million (SR19.2 million). The governor was speaking to Arab News following a visit to some of the worst-affected villages on the island.

“Speaking to the families of the vandalized properties, it’s clear that an organized gang had attacked these earmarked properties owned by Muslims,” said Salley. “One child, whose father was killed in his presence, is still in a state of utter shock and dismay.” He added that turpentine oil had been poured on the face of the dead carpenter by his killers and set on fire.

The governor urged the authorities to bring the attackers to justice. He added that the government would provide compensation to victims of wrecked properties.

Police spokesman Ruwan Gunasakera said that more than 100 arrests had been made following the rioting, and that a curfew had been lifted and life was returning to normal.