A study in stealth jihad: as Muhammad said, “War is deceit.” This report also lends broader context to a recent offer by the thuggish Islamic Defenders Front to “protect” churches at Christmas. While the offer was a poor and obvious ruse to intimidate and gather information for future persecution, it was nonetheless part of a broader (and familiar) pattern of attempts to put a friendly face on a decidedly unfriendly agenda.
“Radical Islamic Groups Gain Strength on the Sly: Setara,” by Ulma Haryanto for Jakarta Globe, December 23 (thanks to Twostellas):
While the antics of the hard-line Islamic Defenders Front frequently make headlines, other radical groups are working quietly behind the scenes to build a wide base of support, a nonprofit has said.
The Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace on Wednesday released a report detailing how radical Muslim groups were shoring up their support by forging political alliances and embracing more liberal groups and moderate clerics.
Another tactic highlighted in the report was for the groups to get their members appointed to the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), the country’s highest Islamic authority, in an effort to steer Shariah jurisprudence.
The seven groups identified in the Setara report included the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), headed by Rizieq Shihab; Islamic Reform Movement (Garis), led by Chep Hermawan; and the Islamic People’s Forum (FUI), helmed by Muhammad Al Khaththath.
It was the FUI, a relatively new group founded in 2005, that appeared to be particularly adept at courting politicians and infiltrating the MUI, the report said. Al Khaththath, its secretary general, was described as “an expert lobbyist.”
Al Khaththath started out with Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, and was one of its chairmen when the HTI formed the FUI along with eight other organizations, including the FPI, Nahdlatul Ulama, Muhammadiyah, Indonesian Islamic Propagation Council (DDII), Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and Crescent Star Party (PBB).
NU and Muhammadiyah are the nation’s two biggest Islamic organizations and are considered moderate. The conservative PKS is the fourth-biggest political party in the country.
“In 2005, Al Khaththath and the HTI’s Ismail Yusanto made it onto the MUI board,” the report said. “By the end of that year, he had been appointed to the counterterrorism team formed by Religious Affairs Ministry and the MUI.”
The report also said that during the MUI’s national caucus in 2005, Al Khaththath was among those who “actively lobbied the MUI to issue an edict forbidding the practice of liberal Islam.”
The council would go on to issue an edict “forbidding religious pluralism, liberalism and secularism.” It also outlawed the minority Ahmadiyah sect, branding it “outside Islam, false and misleading, and the followers can no longer be called Muslims.”
That same year, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono unofficially endorsed the MUI’s religious authority, saying his administration would “embrace the views, recommendations and edicts of the MUI.”
The Setara report concluded this had made the MUI an appealing body to infiltrate for radical groups, which have little authority themselves.
Under Al Khaththath’s leadership, the FUI in 2008 attempted to widen its support significantly by holding a meeting of 200 influential clerics from across the archipelago. “They were invited to establish a Union of Ulema Council for the FUI,” the report said.
One of the clerics invited was Salim bin Umar Al Attas, who boasts 10,000 followers and is based in South Jakarta. He has since allied himself with the FUI. “The FUI is a forum for Muslims, which makes us a member organization,” he said. “We have the same agenda: To uphold Shariah law, fight evil and spread goodness. That’s why we joined them.”
This is how the building of “common ground” so often proceeds. No one in a position of power wants the political liability of being cast as being against things like “fighting evil” and “spreading goodness.” In the West as in Indonesia, many are similarly cowed by the semantic blackmail of unexamined, glowing generalities. The devil, of course, is in the details.