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Religious leaders urge government to cut ties with US

Jakarta Post - October 9, 2001

Jakarta – The Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI) and leaders of Muslim groups condemned the US attacks in Afghanistan on Monday, and demanded that Jakarta freeze diplomatic ties with Washington.

MUI, which groups various Muslim organizations, demanded that the Megawati administration freeze diplomatic ties until the US and its allies stop attacking Afghanistan. "We strongly condemn the attacks in Afghanistan by the US and its allies because it goes against the Indonesian Constitution which promotes everlasting peace and the elimination of colonization," MUI said in a statement read out by its secretary Dien Syamsuddin.

Separately, moderate leaders of the Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, Indonesia's largest Muslim organizations, called on the masses to refrain from venting anger at expatriates.

The American-led assault on Afghanistan also received criticism from Mgr. Ignatius Suharyo, the bishop of Semarang Diocese, who is also an executive of the Indonesian Bishops' Conference. He said it was unfair for the US to attack a poor country like Afghanistan as the victims would be mostly innocent.

MUI called for Muslims all over the world to unite and make concrete actions to pressure the US and its allies to stop the attacks in Afghanistan. It also called on Muslims, especially those in Indonesia, to offer humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan.

MUI urged the UN to make a prompt resolution to stop the attacks in Afghanistan. MUI chairman Umar Shihab said the statement was made based on syariah (Islamic law) and solidarity among Muslims.

Separately, NU chairman Hazim Muzadi also condemned the US attacks in Afghanistan on the pretext of hunting down Osama bin Laden. NU called on America to stop its aggression because Washington had yet to convincingly prove that bin Laden was guilty of masterminding the September 11 attacks on US landmarks. "The lack of convincing evidence has sparked speculation that the US had another agenda other than terrorism. This is where the problem lies. People think the US attacks had religious motives."

Condemnation has also come from Salahuddin Wahid, an NU executive, and Muhammadiyah chief Syafi'i Maarif, but they called on local Muslims not to overreact to the US-led attack by attacking foreigners and their interests.

Salahuddin said, "I think the attacks do not only cause concern in the Islamic world, but also other religious communities. I hope that they will end as soon as possible," Salahuddin told The Jakarta Post. Syafi'i said the US and Britain should immediately end their strikes against Afghanistan before the situation worsens. Syafi'i said the attacks on Afghanistan would have a global impact as Muslims around the world would not accept the attacks. "The US should stop playing cowboy as there will be a lot of victims among the innocent. Moreover, there is not enough evidence of Osama bin Laden's involvement in the attacks on America," Syafi'i told the Post on Monday.

"I am not a supporter of the Taliban. I don't think it is a good government.

My concern is for the Afghan people who have been suffering from poverty. The strikes by the US and British military will aggravate their misery," he added.

Syafi'i said the US could still be diplomatic in resolving the problems and learn from its mistakes in the Vietnam war. Syafi'i said any overreaction by Indonesian Muslims might jeopardize efforts to speed up an economic recovery as many western investors may decide to leave the country. "We are concerned about the attacks, but we should not overreact by breaking the law as it would cause more problems if all the investors left," said Syafi'i, a lecturer at Yogyakarta University.

Bishop Suharyo called for calm among the masses. He stressed that terrorism had nothing to do with religion and therefore religion should not dominate the US-Afghan issue in Indonesia. "The US-Afghan conflict may be politically and economically motivated, but not religiously," he said.