Indonesian Muslim leaders slam Boko Haram

The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) decry the West African fundamentalist group's mass kidnapping of children.

By Aditya Surya for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta

May 17, 2014
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Muslim clerics and influential Islamic organisations in Indonesia this week joined a worldwide chorus of condemnation against Boko Haram's abduction in northern Nigeria of 223 schoolgirls.

  • Activists demonstrate in Nairobi, Kenya, on Thursday (May 15th) against the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls by the Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram. Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) clerics denounced Boko Haram's mass kidnapping of children as

    Activists demonstrate in Nairobi, Kenya, on Thursday (May 15th) against the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls by the Nigerian extremist group Boko Haram. Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) clerics denounced Boko Haram's mass kidnapping of children as "un-Islamic". [Tony Karumba/AFP]

Among them, the leader of the powerful Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) accused the Nigerian extremist group of comporting itself in an un-Islamic manner through this violent act.

"What they are doing is completely a hate crime. It has nothing do to with religion. We believe that it is appalling they are using Islam as a vehicle to conduct their hate crime," MUI Chairman Din Syamsuddin told Khabar Southeast Asia on Tuesday (May 13th).

It was a month ago– on April 14th– that Boko Haram, which is fighting to establish an Islamic state in northern Nigeria, kidnapped the schoolgirls, according to AFP. The group has since threatened to sell them into slavery.

"We condemn all violence by Boko Haram. We also hope that Indonesian Muslims are aware and able to differentiate between violence in the name of religion and proper religious teachings," Din said.

Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia's largest Muslim organisation, was among other Islamic groups that also voiced outrage about the mass kidnapping.

"That is a brutal action. We believe that their actions are against Islam," NU Chairman Said Aqil Siroj said in Jakarta on May 12th. Said urged all extremists to return to the straight path laid down in the Qur'an.

"Islam never teaches violence, and Muslims do not appreciate Boko Haram defending the kidnapping of children through religion," he added. "We hope all Boko Haram militants will turn to better ways of thinking and understanding about religion and love, because this is the only way that Islam guides us."

A religion of love

Commenting on the situation in Nigeria, Syamsul Rizal Panggabean, a political science professor at Gadjah Mada University, said it is an example of how extremists wrongly justify acts of violence on religious grounds.

"We hope our young generations can learn from any conflict and use it as a lesson and chance for reflection. Of course, one aim should be to avoid similar conflicts from happening in our country," Syamsul told Khabar.

For his part, Jakarta Islamic cleric Muhammad Hamid said: "We must ensure that we have a safe environment for children, and, at the same time, we must practice good Islamic teachings in accordance with the Qur'an."

"The situation with Boko Haram is a human rights issue. We are all responsible for this, especially to prevent these types of incidents from happening in Indonesia. Once more, Islam is a religion for love," he told Khabar.

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