Umar Patek's conviction and sentencing provide a valuable lesson for anyone contemplating acts of terror in the name of Islam, prominent religious representatives said after the June 21st verdict.
"Patek's sentence is a good example [showing] that our government's commitment to combating terrorism is beyond doubt. Indeed, it is a good example to show the world that terrorism and radicalism are not part of Islam," said Muhammad Sutoyo, chairman of the Indonesia Ulemas Council (MUI) in Madiun.
He and other Islamic teachers met there on June 24th for a meeting and study session at a mosque, during which they called for mutual respect and tolerance.
Patek was handed a 20-year prison sentence for his role in the 2002 Bali bombings, in which 202 people died. Judge Encep Yuliadi said he was guilty of disrupting the economy, disturbing the public, causing mass casualties and agony for the families of the victims, and fleeing justice in the aftermath of the terror attack.
Speaking to Khabar Southeast Asia, Muhammad said many wrong interpretations of Islam have spread in the community, mostly because individuals are not familiar with the values of the religion they profess to trust.
"Islam is a religion of peace with teachings of mutual respect," he said. "If Muslims commit any act of violence on others, it means they are not practicing Islamic values."
Islamic cleric Agus Baidhowi, a member of the Ahbaabul Musthofa madrassa, agreed. "Terrorism is not part of Islam," he said. "We do not endorse the terror attacks that happened in Indonesia or other countries. Those are warped interpretations of Islam."
Extremists have narrow understanding of Islam
Those who contemplate harming others in the name of Islam have an inadequate understanding of what their religion teaches, according to Nurkholis Ahmad, head of the Madiun boarding school Roudhotul Mubtadin.
"The main cause for people to commit acts of violence in the name of religion is that the person has a very narrow view of religion," he said. "[Such] people just practice the form of religion without understanding the real substance, so that violence is ultimately seen as doing the right thing according to his view of religion. And when he or she does so, he or she feels has become a 'hero'," he told Khabar.
In reality, he said, Islam is a religion "with broad teachings, covering various aspects of human life including tolerance. The concept of tolerance in Islam is based on the spirit of Ukhuwah Islamiyah (the attachment of the heart and soul based on the Islamic Sharia)."
Meanwhile, the head of a leading Christian association in Madiun said all the major religions share a common ground and should strive for co-existence.
"I believe all religions teach positive elements to their followers. Any religion whether it is Muslim, Christian, Catholic, Buddhist, Hindu and Confucian are similar," said Edwin Susanto, chairman of BAMAG (Consultative Body of the Churches' Association in Madiun).
"Tolerance can be realised through respect for religion and faith of others, respect for the worship carried on by others, and not destroying places of worship or insulting the religious teachings of others. Give others an opportunity to practice their own religion."
Calls for better religious education
Religious leaders across the faiths agreed that better religious education is key to preventing extremists from misusing religious faith. According to Muhammed, the MUI chief, it is important to teach children at a young age the value of tolerance and the drawbacks of falling into radical extremism.
"Our society is rich in religious diversity, ethnicity, culture, language, and so on. It's easy to trigger the appearance of differences and divisions. But if these differences can be managed well, any potential terrorist act can be prevented," he said.
According to Muhammad, the prevention of extremism is the entire community's responsibility.
"Not only the teachers [are responsible]", he said. "We hope that all elements in society help shape character so that individuals preach in the right way."