Religious radicalism an ‘abuse of Islam,’ says prominent Indonesian leader


Former President of Muhammadiyah, a prominent Islamic organisation in Indonesia, speaks at a lecture on Nov. 4.

TOKYO — The religious radicalism practiced by the Islamic State militant group is an “abuse of Islam,” a prominent Indonesian Islamic leader said at a conference in Tokyo on Wednesday.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Sasagawa Peace Foundation, Din Syamsuddin, former president of Muhammadiyah, an Islamic social and educational organization that claims 30 million members, said the teachings and actions of radical religious groups “contradict [Islam’s] teaching of peace and mercy” and are “a threat to human civilization.”

Indonesia has been dogged by terrorism carried out by religious radicals in recent years. An attack on the holiday destination of Bali in 2005 saw more than 20 people killed, while twin attacks on hotels in Jakarta in 2009 claimed more lives. Both incidents are said to be the work of Jemaah Islamiyah, a Southeast Asian Islamist terrorist group. The growing influence of IS among young Indonesians is raising fears that more violence may lie ahead.

Syamsuddin said the appeal of IS among younger people is not due solely to religious factors. “Young people want an alternative to the current system,” he said. “In their eyes, republicanism, monarchy, Emirati failed to bring peace, and they perceive IS to be the alternative.”

The Islamic leader also pointed to economic reasons. “IS offers salaries of $250 per month, higher than the minimum wage in Indonesia,” Syamsuddin said. “So many people bring their family to IS, not as soldiers but as servants.”

Syamsuddin said one way to prevent religious radicalism is to “give food, education [and] to create prosperity,” which he said organizations like Muhammadiyah have been trying to do for years. He said “88% of Indonesia’s population follows Islam. Taking this into account, we are [preventing] many Muslims from joining IS.”

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