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New group set to counter extremism in Indonesia

JAKARTA (UCAN): More than 200 people, including religious leaders including Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta, as well as politicians, attended the August 1 launch of the Said Aqil Siroj Institute in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The new non-profit organisation, named after a prominent Muslim cleric who is now chairperson of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest Islamic organisation, aims to promote interreligious tolerance in a country where religious and ethnic sentiments have been on the rise ahead of presidential elections in 2019.
“His thoughts and ideas highlighting tolerance, mutual respect, peace and willingness to work together with people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds have inspired the establishment of this institute. These are important pillars for the existence of our diverse nation,” Imdadun Rahmat, the organisation’s executive director, said at the launch.
“This institute has come about because of concerns among young people about problems and challenges faced by our nation, especially the weakening of national unity as a result of segregation based on religion, ethnicity and ideology,” he said.
He said the institute would take up the same fight as similar organisations including the Jakarta-based Wahid Institute, which focuses on the creation of peace and non-violence espoused by former Indonesian president, Abdurrahman Wahid, who is also a former chairperson of the NU.
“Such organisations need to expand to serve as shields to protect our younger generation from radicalism,” Rahmat said.
He said that in near future, the institute will share moderate Islamic teachings through social media and conduct research, seminars and discussions.
Speaking to reporters, Siroj said the institute would promote Islam Nusantara (Islam of the Archipelago) as many people still don’t have a clear understanding of it.
“Islam Nusantara means an Islam which promotes cultural values that are dignified, friendly and polite,” he said.
“I think Islam Nusantara is a solution to the wave of globalisation which is very radical and extreme.
“I believe Indonesian Muslims can show people that they respect differences and other cultures,” he said.
Coordinating minister for Maritime Affairs, Luhut Binsar Panjaitan, said the launch of the new institute comes at the right time.
“(Next year) is the year of politics. Regional elections (held this June) ran peacefully. Yet, we see that in some regions the issues of religion, ethnicity and ideology were used to influence public opinion. We predict these issues will grow ahead of the presidential election next year,” he said.
Archbishop Hardjoatmodjo said, “This is the actualisation of Said Aqil Siroj’s thoughts and ideas summarised in Islam Nusantara, a movement of peace and tolerance. This is the answer to the very worrying situation in our country today,” he said.

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