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Jakarta Post

MUI to deploy cleric to promote moderate Islam

  • Haeril Halim

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, November 13, 2015   /  05:09 pm

The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) on Thursday announced a plan to recruit 50,000 preachers and dispatch them across the country to promote moderate teachings of Islam.

MUI chairman Ma'€™ruf Amin said his organization, which is frequently criticized by human rights groups for its conservative views, decided to take that step in response to the country'€™s '€œrising number of cases of intolerance'€.

'€œHopefully, we can start the deployment of the preachers this year. They will be stationed at regional MUI branches across the country,'€ Ma'€™ruf told The Jakarta Post in an interview on Thursday.

Ma'€™ruf said the deployment of the moderate preachers demonstrated that the MUI was serious about promoting religious tolerance.

'€œThe MUI is ready and serious about preaching Wasathiyah [moderate] Islam, which is not radical and violent. We want to see Islam as a religion of love,'€ Ma'€™ruf added.

In addition to the new program, the MUI would issue more edicts that could serve as guidelines for Muslims in the country to respond to current developments, Ma'€™ruf said.

'€œWe have been conducting meaningful campaigns in the community, such as the halal food awareness campaign and the implementation of a sharia-based banking system,'€ Ma'€™ruf said.

Soon after being elected as MUI chairman, Ma'€™ruf, who previously chaired the organization'€™s edict division, pledged to embrace beleaguered minority groups, including Ahmadiyah and Shia communities, which many Indonesian Muslims deem '€œdeviant'€ from mainstream Islam.

The MUI issued an edict stating that Ahmadis were '€œdeviant'€, because they believed that there was another prophet after Muhammad.

As for Shia Islam, some local branches of the MUI have issued an edict condemning it as '€œheretic'€ for believing that the leadership of Islam should be kept in the hands of those descended directly from the Prophet Muhammad.

Ma'€™ruf said that although the MUI would not change its stance on the two minority groups, under his leadership the organization would encourage Muslims to embrace them to have a peaceful coexistence.

In 2012, the MUI renewed an edict forbidding Muslims from extending holiday greetings to Christians and said that then-president Susilo Bambang Yudhyono should not attend a national Christmas celebration to comply with the edict.

Muslim scholars have long debated the controversy of wishing Merry Christmas to Christians. Some said that Christmas was a religious festivity celebrating the birthday of Jesus, the son of God worshipped by Christians.

However, in 2014 under the tenure of Ma'€™ruf'€™s predecessor Din Syamsuddin, who is a moderate Islamic scholar, the MUI softened its stance by saying that there was nothing wrong with Muslims giving a season'€™s greeting.

Separately, the SETARA Institute, which campaigns on religious pluralism in the country, said it applauded the MUI'€™s '€œgood intentions'€ in its plan to dispatch moderate Muslim preachers.

SETARA, however, expressed doubts about whether the MUI had a larger plan to foster religious pluralism in the country.

'€œBased on our data (on cases of intolerance), we can conclude that the MUI is apparently part of the problem now that this country is still dealing with intolerance,'€ SETARA chairman Hendardi told the Post on Thursday.

Hendardi said that the MUI'€™s regional branches were mostly responsible for harming religious tolerance in the country.

'€œ[The local MUI offices] is where people usually use MUI edicts to justify intolerant actions against minority groups,'€ Hendardi added.

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