01/08/2010, 00.00
INDONESIA

Central Java: Islamic radicalism on the rise in Solo mosques

by Mathias Hariyadi
The city is a hub of Islamic extremism. It was also the birthplace of radical Islamist leader Abu Bakar Bashir as well as the refuge of Malaysian terrorism Noordin Top. A radical version of Islam and self-imposed exclusivism favours spread of radicalism.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Extremism and religious fanaticism are blossoming in a number of mosques of Surakarta, a city popularly known as Solo, located in Central Java, this according to the Centre for the Study of Religion and Culture (CSRC), a research study centre associated with South Jakarta-based Islamic State University (UIN) Syarief Hidayatullah. Its findings further confirm that Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, with a reputation of moderation, appears to be drifting towards radicalism.

Irfan Abubakar, researcher at the CSRC, said out of ten mosques the most radical are the Al Islam Mosque in the village of Gumuk (Banjarsari) and the Al-Kahfi Mosque in Mojosongo (Jebres).

Radical Islamist leader Abu Bakar Bashir was born and lived in Solo. Malaysian terrorist Noordin Moh Top, who masterminded the Jakarta and Bali bombings, found refuge in the village of Mojosongo where he died in shootout with police in September 2009.

“Both mosques, the Al Kahfi and Al Islam, are affiliated with two different radical hard-line Muslim organisations,  the Islamic Youth Front (LPIS) and Hidayatullah,” Irfan Abubakar said.

Members of the two mosques tend to be socially exclusive in terms of clothing as well as behaviour. Neither accepts Muslims from other groups or mingle with them.

The other eight mosques are more open, and tend to follow the teachings of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and the Muhammadiyah, Indonesia's two largest moderate Muslim organisations.

Titled "Mapping Islamic ideologies in Solo’s mosques," the CSRC research was carried out between September and December 2009. It focused on faith propagation at the congregation and mosque levels, government control, the concept of jihad or holy war, religious pluralism and the implementation of Sharia (Islamic Law).

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