Indonesia's main Islamic groups campaign against Islamic law

Posted: Friday, January 10, 2003

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- Indonesia's two largest moderate Muslim organizations have called on radical groups to end a campaign for the imposition of Islamic law, or Shariah.

''There is no need to press ahead with the struggle for Shariah,'' said Ahmad Syafii Maarif, who heads the 25-million strong moderate Muhammadiyah organization, The Jakarta Post reported Dec. 31.

The county's other main religious organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, said that the calls for imposition of Shariah were unrealistic.

''What we need is to develop universal values for the people's prosperity,'' said Hasyim Muzadi, chairman of the group, which claims 40 million members.

Indonesia is the world's most populous Muslim nation. However, most of its 190 million faithful do not follow hardline Islam.

Moreover, the secular constitution stipulates that the state, which has significant Christian, Hindu and Buddhist minorities, should be run on pluralistic lines.

Ex-dictator Suharto pushed hard to keep religion out of politics and repressed Islamic activists. Since his downfall in 1998, several small Islamic parties and militant groups have campaigned for the imposition of Islamic law, which they tout as a solution to Indonesia's many problems.

Jakarta has recently granted the restive province of Aceh, on the northern tip of Sumatra island, the right to impose Shariah as part of a package of peace measures to end a bloody separatist war.

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