Indonesian clerical body seeks to silence extremist preachers

Indonesia’s Ulema Council (MUI) has launched a training program it hopes will ensure Islamic preachers promote moderate forms of Islam rather than extremist views.

The council announced the Islamic teacher program for the world’s largest Muslim majority country on Nov. 18.

The move is seeking to curb the spread of radicalism through sermons at mosques, that has seen hate speech, intolerance and even violence directed at religious minority groups through organizations like the Islamic Defenders Front and support for the establishment of a caliphate in Indonesia.

MUI executive Muhammad Cholil Nafis said the council has asked a number of Islamic teachers to meet reach a consensus on how they should preach.

“The MUI will later recommend them as da’i [Islamic teachers],” news portal quoted Cholil as saying on Nov. 19.

The council wants the preachers to put forward the concept of al-wasatiyya, or middle Islam, that was taught by the Prophet Muhammad, he said.

It wants “Islamic [teachings] that are neither extreme-right wing nor extreme-left wing,” Cholil added.

According to a 2017 study conducted by the Association for Pesantren and Community Development radical teachings were espoused during Friday prayers at 41 of 100 mosques at ministerial offices, state agencies and state-owned corporation complexes in Jakarta.

The growth of extremism in recent years has alarmed the majority in a country that has consistently promoted a moderate and peaceful Islam that promotes diversity and tolerance in accordance with the national ideology pancasila.

Pancasila, or five principles, espouses a national belief in Indonesian nationalism; internationalism, or humanism; consent, or democracy; social prosperity; and belief in one God.

Choli said the MUI would also teach the preachers about patriotism, asserting that Islamic principles go hand in glove with the Indonesian Constitution.

The preaching method we have approved is one that will “strengthen the Islamic faith as well as foster a united Indonesia,” he said.

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