07/25/2007, 00.00
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Islamic leaders criticise attack against Carmelite centre

by Benteng Reges
Some Muslim hardliners come in for harsh criticism for creating a false and violent image of Islam. Police is also strongly condemned for not intervening decisively. Carmelite spokeswoman says she and her sisters are not worrying; they are trying to play down the controversy.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Police must protect everyone’s right to express their religious faith. It should have moved against the radical Muslims and stop their hostile actions against the Lembah Karmel Cikanyere, the Carmelite Prayer Centre in Cikanyere Hill, Cianjur Regency (West Java), this according to Syafi’i Maarif’s, who heads the Muhammadiyah (Indonesia’s second largest Muslim organisation). In no uncertain terms he condemned the recent protests by Muslim radicals.

“The [radicals’] rally has tarnished the good image of Islam. As Muslims, we know that Islam is a good, peaceful and loving religion,” he said.

There is no good “reason to use and abuse (Islam) in an effort to legitimate harmful actions against other religious beliefs, to express dislike about them or conduct any unfriendly gestures” to scare them (Catholics), said the eminent Muslim scholar.

Siti Musdah Mulia, who is the secretary of the Indonesian Conference for Religion and Peace, was equally critical. She chastised police for not nipping in the bud such “hostile actions”, but also other religious leaders for doing nothing to stop the violence.

Her criticism is especially harsh for those Muslim clerics who say nothing about the growing nightlife (which can attract young people) but are all up in arms if a new Christian church is built and even egg young people on to attack it because it was built without a permit.

“There is something definitely wrong with these clerics,” she said, but then she is no stranger to criticising radical Muslim views. For instance, she came out against polygamy saying that it was “absolutely no good.”

Fadly Al Asady, from the Indonesian Muslim Student Organisation, slammed the stupidity of certain Muslim hard-liners.

“Using Islamic religious symbols to attack Christian home-churches will only harm Islam” he said.

In his opinion, the Indonesian government should take serious action to deal with this sensitive issue before it turns into a religious conflict.

Carmelite Prayer Centre spokeswoman Sister Lisa Martosudjito Pkarm expressed gratitude to the police, the military and moderate Muslims “who showed us friendship and protected our home from the demonstrators’ threatening violence.”

In a press release today the monastery expressed concern over excessive media coverage of the incident. Far from huge crowds as reported in some local media outlets, protesters were no more than a hundred.

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