12/02/2014, 00.00
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Jakarta, moderate Muslims oppose Hamas branch in Indonesia

by Mathias Hariyadi

Leaders of the Palestinian extremist movement visited the Indonesian capital and met with senior officials of the government and Parliament. The Parliament Speaker open to the possibility of a "Hamas branch office" in Indonesia. But the main movements and moderate Muslim leaders are opposed: there is already the Palestinian embassy, risk of a diplomatic and institutional conflict with Fatah.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - The leaders of the main Indonesian Muslim movements have distanced themselves from the opinion expressed earlier by the Parliament Speaker, and reject the proposal to open an office of the Palestinian Hamas movement in Jakarta.

Prof. Din Syamsudin, chairman of Muhammadiyah, the second most important moderate Muslim movement in the country points out that the presence of a seat of the Palestinian extremist group in the capital would give rise to a new, never-ending conflict. "We do not feel bound to support this idea," explained the Muslim leader, who is also president of the Forum for the friendship between Indonesia and Palestine, as well as chairman of the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI).

Prof. Syamsudin explains that there has long been an authoritative and official representative of Palestine in Indonesian territory, in short the embassy  that has been open for over ten years. He adds that in the territories of the West Bank and Gaza, there are two main political factions, Hamas and Fatah, and if "one of the two opens an office" in Jakarta, there is a risk of a "potential diplomatic and institutional conflict".

A position shared by the leaders of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the largest moderate Muslim organization in the country. The charismatic leader Nu Kiai Hajj Solahudin Wahid, younger brother of former president Abdurrahman "Gus Dur", says that a possible opening of a Hamas office should first be "discussed" with the Palestinian Embassy in Jakarta.

On the government side, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Lestari Marsudi clarifies that Jakarta will never allow the presence of pro-Palestinian terrorist movement Hamas on its territory. "We already have the embassy of Palestine - he confirms - dand o not need anything else".

The controversy was sparked by last week's visit  by some senior Hamas officials. The delegation, led by the head of Political Affairs  Abu Omar Muhammad, was received by the Vice-President of Indonesia, Jusuf Kalla and, later, by the Parliament. Reportedly, the number two in Jakarta and House Speaker Setya Novanto expressed - without going into details - a positive opinion on the presence of Hamas.

Moreover, the Palestinian saga is also the subject of exploitation in Indonesia, especially by Islamic extremist groups that foment divisions for personal gain and political interests that have nothing to do with the cause of recognition of a sovereign state. These fundamentalist movements tend to deflect the controversy from the political to the religious sphere, committing obvious errors. 

Similar, errors are also made by TV, media and internet sites, which speak of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a "war between Christians (Israel!) and Muslims (Palestine)". The conflict is also used by extremists to organize fundraisers and events in the streets of the capital.


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