Muslim leaders and activists in Yogyakarta have expressed regret over the preaching of cleric Ja'far Umar Thalib on Sunday that focused on pluralism and jihad and was held at the Masjid Gedhe grand mosque in Kauman.
They branded Ja'far's words as provocative and misleading.
'Provocative preaching that stirs up violence has to be stopped. We need a secure situation to make the upcoming presidential election a success,' said Abdul Mu'thi, the secretary of the central executive board of the country's second largest moderate Muslim organization, Muhammadiyah, on Monday.
At the tablig ( gathering ), Ja'far, a former commander of the now-defunct Laskar Jihad paramilitary group that was allegedly involved in bloody conflicts in Ambon, Maluku, repeatedly called on Muslims to wage jihad against so-called infidels and pluralism.
He said pluralism had the potential to cause conflict as it taught that all religions were equally right and that was not the case.
Ja'far also said Islam was 'a religion of war' and that Muslims had to love war. If they did not, Ja'far went on, they needed to question why they were Muslims.
Responding to Ja'far's words, Abdul Muhaimin, the owner of Nurul Ummahat Islamic boarding school in Kotagede, Yogyakarta, called on Muslims not to listen to such preaching. 'It's not preaching. It's provocation,' he said.
He added that what Ja'far conveyed at the gathering was not religious understanding but ideological understanding motivated by political interests.
Muhaimin said in the Koran there were 38 verses that talked about jihad, yet only two referred to war.
'There is only one jihad that is considered the ultimate form, which is the jihad within the self, against our own desires,' said Muhaimin, who is also chairman of the Yogyakarta Interfaith Brotherhood Forum ( FPUB ).
Muhaimin added that one verse on war in the Koran even used polite wording.
'The Prophet was only allowed, to go to war, not told to go to war,' he said.
Muhaimin added that the concept of war in Islam was for defensive purposes only. Violence, similarly, could only be used in self defense, not for repression.
Mu'thi concurred, saying that Muslims had a duty to protect and reassure others who were from different backgrounds.
The director of the Yogyakarta Legal Aid Institute ( LBH ), Samsudin Nurseha, said the police could take action against Ja'far if the latter was deemed to have been spreading hatred in the tablig.
'If a criminal dimension is identified, the police can take legal action,' said Samsudin, quoting Article 156( a ) of the Criminal Code ( KUHP ) that carries a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment for showing hostility in public and defaming religion.
Expressions of regret were also conveyed by the chairman of Masjid Gedhe, Budi Setiawan, who said he considered the tablig as a fait accompli.
He said that he did not expect Ja'far to preach in that manner, especially after he asked the organizing committee not to use a provocative theme for the tablig following recent sectarian violence committed in Yogyakarta.
He referred to the attack by a group of men wearing gamis ( long clothes ) on a house hosting a rosary prayer session, and an attack by local residents on a sealed Pentecostal church in Sleman after its congregation reopened it for prayer activity.
Separately, the spokesperson of the Yogyakarta Police, Adj. Sr. Comr. Anny Pudjiastuti, said no new suspect had been arrested in the first case. She said police were still looking for two other suspects.
For the second case, she said, the police had questioned a local resident who was suspected to be behind the attack on the church.
'We cannot reveal the result of the questioning,' Anny said.