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Stop using term infidel say Indonesian clerics

JAKARTA (UCAN): Clerics from Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Islamic organisation, have issued a call to Muslims to stop branding non-Muslims kafir—infidels. Their call came at the end of an annual three-day meeting in Banjar, West Java, on March 1.
 
The term infidel, discriminates against people of other religions, and is not in accordance with the Indonesian Constitution that recognises each citizen’s equal status and rights, the meeting was told.
 
The word “hurts some non-Muslims and is perceived to be theologically violent,” cleric, Abdul Moqsith Ghazali, said at a forum during the meeting, and which was posted on the organisation’s website. 
 
The term was used by the Prophet Muhammad when he preached in Mecca to describe people who worshiped idols and did not recognise scriptures.
 
However, in Indonesia, its use has become contentious as it has also been used to describe Shia and Ahamadi Muslims in the predominantly Sunni Muslim country.
 
Jakarta’s former Christian governor, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama—known as Ahok—was also often called an infidel while he was in office and in demonstrations against him before he was jailed for blasphemy.
 
Instead, Muslims were urged to call non-Muslims muwathinun, or citizen, to show people had equal status in Indonesia
 
Christian leaders also backed the call.
 
Reverend Henriette Tabita Lebang, chairperson of the Communion of Churches in Indonesia, said it would certainly improve interreligious relations in the country.
 
“This is a positive thing and certainly important,” she said.
 
“I hope the government also bans the use of the term because Indonesia is a diverse nation,” she said.
 
Father Antonius Benny Susetyo, member of a presidential unit promoting communal tolerance, said the call was a response to the joint declaration by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb, the imam of Al-Azhar, during the papal visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on February 4, in which they pledged to work together to reject violence and extremism
 
“Nahdlatul Ulama wants to uphold that Indonesia is a plural country, a home for all,” Father Susetyo said.
 
Suhadi Sendjaja, chairperon of the Indonesian Buddhist Council also welcomed the call.
 
Hardliners, however, were not so pleased. 
 
The Islamic Defenders Front, a group criticised for violence against those who it feels are un-Islamic, criticised Nahdlatul Ulama’s stance with its spokesperson, Munarman, denying that the word infidel discriminated against or was meant to demean people.
 
Anwar Abbas, general secretary of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), in Islamic theology, insisted that the terms non-Muslim and infidel are equivalent. 

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