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Jakarta Post

India must learn about religious tolerance from Indonesia, VP says

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, March 5, 2020   /   12:16 pm
India must learn about religious tolerance from Indonesia, VP says Vice President Ma'ruf Amin waves from a train while visiting Serang railway station in Serang, Banten, on Jan 30. (Antara/Asep Fathulrahman)

Vice President Ma’ruf Amin has expressed his hope for India to follow in Indonesia’s footsteps in maintaining tolerance amid rising sectarian conflict in the South Asian country.

As a fellow multicultural nation, he said Indonesia could be an example in maintaining religious moderation.

“We want India to act like us, Indonesia, in building tolerance and moderation within [our] religious life,” Ma’ruf said on Wednesday as quoted by kompas.com.

The Vice President, who is also a key figure of the Indonesian Ulema Council and Indonesia’s biggest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), pointed out the importance of applying such principles and urged all religions to apply that as well.

“We will be able to maintain harmony and peace [thanks to those principles],” said Ma’ruf.

Sporadic violence hit parts of the Indian capital of New Delhi as gangs roamed streets littered with the debris of days of sectarian riots that left more than 30 people dead, reports said.

AFP reported last week that thousands of riot police and paramilitaries patrolled the affected northeast fringes of the Indian capital of 20 million people, preventing any major eruptions.

Read also: A mob out for blood: India's protests pit Hindus against Muslims

The unrest is the latest bout of violence over Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's controversial citizenship law, which says that Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan are not eligible for citizenship, triggering months of demonstrations that turned deadly in December.

Ma’ruf cited Indonesia’s initiative to hold an interfaith dialogue among the world’s religious figures to exchange ideas on how to build peace and religious harmony. The dialogue, he added, would help maintain harmonious social relations, not only in Indonesia but also in the world.

“I think that is our concept. We want other countries to be like Indonesia,” said the prominent cleric.

Read also: Religious harmony index up but intolerance remains

Ma’ruf put himself was in the spotlight in 2017 amid a blasphemy case involving then-Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, a prominent Chinese-Indonesian politician. He led the ulema council, which announced that Basuki had committed blasphemy during a speech in  in Thousand Islands regency.

Two years later, Ma’ruf – who was President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s running mate – was seen in a video saying that he regretted taking part in efforts to imprison Ahok for blasphemy, saying he was forced to do so, although he initially did not want to imprison anyone. The video went viral and sparked various public responses.

However, it was not the first time he ignited public debate over his decisions as MUI chairman.

The MUI suggested disbanding Islamic minority group Ahmadiyah in 2011 to end controversy surrounding the group. At that time, Ma’ruf said Ahmadiyah was a deviant group, citing a statement from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

The government and civil society groups have raised their voices over the deadly conflict in India.

The Foreign Ministry said on Friday that it had called the Indian ambassador in Jakarta to discuss the riots that had claimed dozens of lives, expressing Jakarta’s confidence in New Delhi to restore peace in the country.

Islamic groups, including Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah, condemned the violence in New Delhi, calling on the government to take diplomatic action to contain the situation. GP Anshor, NU’s youth wing, went as far as to urge the government to call out the Indian government for the violence. (asp)