Indonesia urges RI to pioneer moderate Islam

Indonesia urges RI to pioneer moderate Islam

The Foreign Ministry has been called on to advance its diplomatic role in promoting Islam as a tolerant religion amid growing global concern over the Islamic State (IS) organisation, which has sparked hate crimes against Muslims.

Lawmakers slammed the ministry as "too low key" in promoting moderate Islam, the common principle in the country with largest Muslim population in the world.

The country's soft approach has been said to have contributed to false perceptions of Islam, which holds the basic value of rahmatan lil alamin (grace for all people).

In a hearing with lawmakers from House of Representatives Commission I overseeing defence, foreign affairs and informatics, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi announced a plan to improve the country's active role in the region as well as internationally as part of the focus of Indonesia's foreign relations in the future.

In terms of combating terrorism, the ministry's director for information and public diplomacy, Esti Andayani, told Commission I that the ministry had arranged interfaith dialogue programs to introduce tolerance among ASEAN youth.

A similar event involving young people from ASEAN and Europe was also initiated to further introduce the peaceful values Islam, added Esti.

The Foreign Ministry's plans also include a biennial international conference engaging Muslim scholars to discuss studies centering on the religion.

But, according to Commission I lawmakers, Indonesia needs to do more.

"Your programs obviously don't have impact," slammed Commission I deputy chairman Tantowi Yahya.

"Islamic countries around the world that have been accused by the West of sponsoring violence through [religion-driven] violence, rely on us.

Thus we can no longer be low key," he added.

Tantowi, a politician from the Golkar Party, suggested that the government actively approach foreign ambassadors to help counter Islamophobia through their experiences in the country.

He regretted that those from the United States, as a country that actively promotes the war on terror, in particular, had failed to do so.

"Many former US ambassadors who lived here witnessed and experienced that Islam is a peaceful religion and that the state doesn't sponsor terrorism.

But the US doesn't try to speak [about its experiences in Indonesia] when hatred toward Islam emerges because of some terrorists," Tantowi said.

Concurring with Tantowi, lawmaker Ida Fauziah from the National Awakening Party (PKB) also encouraged the Foreign Ministry to start actively using its diplomatic power to change the way the world perceives Islam.

"Indonesia must be on the frontline in ensuring the world that the IS does not reflect true Islam," Ida said.

Brutal killings committed by the IS have led to a series of attacks in the name of Islam.

A recent case is the Charlie Hebdo shooting, in which two terrorists shot 11 people at the office of the French satirical weekly magazine in Paris.

On Tuesday afternoon, a 46-year-old man calling himself an atheist shot three young Muslims in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, US, after a parking dispute.

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