Extremists threaten Indonesia’s moderate ‘civil Islam’


The jailing for blasphemy this month of Jakarta’s former governor raised fears that the moderate traditions of the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation were under siege. Now the government is fighting back with a drive to outlaw a hardline Muslim group linked to the mass protests against him, The Financial Times reports:

Many Indonesians have become spooked by the growing sway of hardline Islamist groups after they campaigned for the electoral defeat and imprisonment of Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, better known as Ahok. Both the first ethnic Chinese and the first Christian to run the country’s capital, he was accused of insulting Islam by referring to a verse in the Koran during a campaign speech. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators joined rallies against him. The anti-Ahok campaign was widely seen as a prelude to the next national election in 2019, when conservative and Islamist forces will seek to defeat Joko Widodo, Indonesia’s pluralist president who is popularly known as Jokowi and an Ahok ally.

The effort to ban the group is “part of a much bigger plan the palace has to limit the impact of this kind of Islamist mobilisation against Jokowi”, said Gregory Fealy of Australian National University.

The move came amid increasing concern among some analysts and members of the public about rising Islamic radicalism and religious intolerance.

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