04/11/2018, 17.38
INDONESIA
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Blasphemy charge boomerangs against Islamic extremists, forcing them to apologise

by Mathias Hariyadi

A poem read on TV by a nationalist politician had caused the wrath of the Indonesian United Muslim Forum (FUIB). It turns out that poem was written in 1987 by an illustrious Muslim cleric, the ninth chief advisor to Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the largest moderate Islamic organisation in Indonesia with over 80 million members. For analysts, radicals fear the NU the most.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The latest political controversy over blasphemy, sparked by Islamic extremists turning on an Indonesian nationalist, has been settled with an official apology.

Recently, Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo came under attack from Islamic radicals, like former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, and more recently Sukmawati Soekarnoputri, daughter of Indonesia’s first president.

Pranowo, 50, is a member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (Partai Demokrasi Indonesia Perjuangan, PDI-P), founded by Sukmawati’s sister, former President Megawati Soekarnoputri.

Central Java’s governor is currently running for re-election on 27 June. Politically, it is the country’s second most important province, and is being hotly contested.

Pranowo’s main rival, Sudirman Said, was a minister in the government of President Joko Widodo before he was dismissed, for reasons unknown. After that he became a major supporter of Anies Baswedan, the current Islamist governor of Jakarta.

Baswedan's victory in April 2017 represents the greatest political success by extremists in recent years. And analysts fear that they will use the same methods to take Central Java, i.e. exploiting religion against their opponents.

In the ongoing campaign, radical movements have been waiting for a false step, real or imagined, by their adversaries to mount a campaign of denigration.

A few days ago, Pranowo read some verses from a poem on TV. “You said that God is very near (But) You have always called Him with a loud speaker every time,” he recited.

Thinking that he was the author of these words, the Indonesian United Muslim Forum (Forum Umat Islam Bersatu, FUIB) accused the nationalist politician of "insulting Islam", and pledged to organise protests.

Yesterday the poem’s authorship was made public: Kiai Hajj Ahmad Mustofa Bisri (picture 2), an important and charismatic Muslim cleric in Rembang (Central Java).

Born in 1944, Kiai is affectionately known as "Gus Mus" and heads a local Islamic school. He is also a highly respected figure and the ninth chief adviser to Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest moderate Islamic organisation in Indonesia with over 80 million members.

A few hours after the error was revealed, FUIB held a press conference in Jakarta (picture 1) to apologise to Nahdlatul Ulama and Gus Mus and announce the cancellation of any protest.

"We decided to ask Nahdlatul Ulama and Kiai Hajj Gus Mus to forgive us for our planned protest against the poem's recitation, as soon as we discovered that it was not written by Pranowo but by Gus Mus,” said FUIB leader Rahmat Himran. “We issued incorrect information and for this reason we apologise."

The extremists’ quick reaction to the error has several observers suggest that radical movements fear Nahdlatul Ulama the most.

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