Jakarta’s top Islamic council does a U-turn …
TO REGIONAL MEDIA The Indonesian Ulema Council slammed the detention of the militants, saying it was part of a US-led
conspiracy against Islam, and urged Jakarta not to follow suit.
TO WESTERN MEDIA A day later, its secretary-general said it was up to Singapore and Malaysia to take measures based on
laws if they have hard evidence about the involvement of Indonesian citizens.
CRACKDOWN ON MILITANTS IN SINGAPORE AND MALAYSIA
Indonesia’s top Islamic body, playing to the media gallery and split by internal political bickering, is vacillating
between support and opposition to the recent arrests of Muslim militants in Singapore and Malaysia.
In comments to the local media on Monday, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) slammed the detention of the militants, saying it was part of a United States-led conspiracy against Islam, and urged Jakarta not to follow suit.
But in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation a day later, MUI secretary-general Din Syamsuddin appeared to take a more moderate line.
He said: “It’s up to the Singapore and Malaysian governments to take any measures based on the existing laws if they have hard evidence about the involvement of Indonesian citizens.
“I think it’s the right of the Malaysian and Singaporean governments to take any measures.”
Political observers said that he was obviously singing a different tune to the Western media, partly because of pressure being applied by several MUI members who thought he was “too vocal” after the announcement of the arrests.
When contacted by The Straits Times yesterday, Mr Din said that his interview with the BBC was “very short”, making it hard for him to elaborate in detail the simmering unhappiness in Jakarta over the recent arrests in Singapore and Malaysia.Explaining what these sentiments were, which he said he had reflected to the local press, Mr Din said: “Singapore and Malaysia can do what they want. But they must be careful because they are dealing with religion.
“It is a sensitive issue and people here can be hurt. I am wondering whether Singapore and Malaysia acted on their own accord or were influenced by the great powers (the US and the West).
“They have to be careful not to be used or influenced by the great powers because they are trying to make Islam the enemy.”
MUI insiders said that Mr Din had taken a more “conciliatory tone” with the BBC and other foreign media after being advised by MUI members that his comments could undermine bilateral ties with a friendly neighbouring country.
“MUI’s main task is to explain the fundamentals of Islam, not to be dragged into political issues like this,” said one MUI leader.
“So we told Din to be careful in his comments and not to be seen as interfering in Singapore’s internal affairs.”
Analysts said that MUI’s stand on the matter appeared to have little effect on the general thinking – which continues to be largely negative – among the Muslim community.
Made up of members from two of the largest Muslim organisations in Indonesia – the Nadhlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah – MUI has very little clout in the country despite being on top of the hierarchy.