06/03/2008, 00.00
INDONESIA
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Young moderate Muslims declare war on extremists

by Benteng Reges
Following an attack by members of the Islamic Defender Front against Muslims demonstrating in favour of religious freedom, some youth groups say there are ready to join the police against the Front. The government is now weighing its options on whether and how to dissolve the dangerous extremist group.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – The youth wings of some moderate Islamic organisations have declared war against the Islamic Defender Front (FPI) after some of their activists were attacked by FPI militants last Sunday during a demonstration in favour of religious freedom in Jakarta.

Following the provocations by the FPI, which is up in arms against the Ahmadi Muslim community it deems heretical, clashes took place with members of the National Alliance for Religious Freedom (AKKBB) who were also present at the rally at Indonesia’s National Monument. About 30 people were hurt in the incidents. The police in the meantime has come in for criticism for failing to appropriately respond to the situation.

The AKKBB includes members from the Nadhlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest moderate Muslim organisation headed by former President Abdurrahman Wahid, as well as Christians and Ahmadis. For its part the NU claims a membership of about 60 million.

Today the Gerakan Pemuda Ansor and Banser, two youth groups affiliated with the NU, and the Garda Bangsa, a similar group affiliated with the National Awakening Party (PKB), had harsh words for FPI “gangsters”.

Garda Bangsa leader Husni Muchsin said that his group “was ready to deploy 5,000 people” should the police need assistance, and should the latter fail to deal with the situation “we shall take the law in our own hands”, which might have already started last night when at least 100 unidentified men attacked the FPI headquarters in Yogyakarta.

Civil society leaders, lawmakers, intellectuals and Muslim scholars have criticised the government for turning a blind eye to FPI activities and want the group dissolved.

However, legal procedures to dismantle such organisations are notoriously long and the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is currently evaluating demands to that effect as well as ways to carry them out.

Today 40 lawmakers from the PKB and the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP) signed a petition against the Islamic Defender Front.

By contrast, no one from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), a radical but more moderate Islamic party close to the FPI, signed.

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