Veiling is compulsory in Islam, debate unacceptable: Al-Azhar – Egypt Independent

Speaks for itself – “any debate on the topic is unacceptable”:

Egypt’s Al-Azhar, the Sunni Muslim world’s main religious institution, asserted on Monday in a fatwa, or religious decree, that it is compulsory for women in Islam to wear the veil, while those who deny this are “extremist” and “abnormal”.

Through a statement released by The International Electronic Center for Fatwas of Al-Azhar, the institution said the veil, or hijab, is an obligatory duty imposed by the teachings of Islam, and any debate on the topic is unacceptable.

“It is not acceptable that anyone from the public or non-specialized people, regardless of their culture, to voice their opinions on the matter. The hijab […] aims to preserve [women’s] feminine nature, ” the statement read.

It went on to say that the fact that the veil is compulsory in Islam helps women to become successful and productive in society while preventing them from just being seen as a body.

It added adding that in different countries around the world such as India, China and Japan women wear clothes similar to Islam’s veil as they are keen to follow the nature’s of their nations.

The statement concluded by calling on all who deny that the veil is compulsory in Islam to stop spreading their opinions or issuing fatwas on the matter as they are not specialized or authorized to speak on the issue.

via Veiling is compulsory in Islam, debate unacceptable: Al-Azhar – Egypt Independent

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How Newfoundlanders are taking a remarkable stand against Islamophobia

Interesting vignette:

Islamophobia haunts the nation, slinking into hearts and minds and laws, and some say if we could just learn from the ethnic diversity of Newfoundland—Newfoundland?—we could become more tolerant, too.

“We wanted to present Newfoundland as a role model,” says Mahmoud Haddara, president of the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, who feels he lives on an anomalous island of peace. “This is what we wanted to tell, the story of Newfoundland.”

Haddara flew to Ottawa in October to testify before the standing committee on systemic racism and religious discrimination, part of the federal government’s attempt to stem bigotry. While Quebec’s Bill 62 proposes to ban people wearing face coverings from using public services, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have instead stood in solidarity with Muslims who live in villages as remote as Nain. They have become so curious about Islam that the one-mosque province must move its overflowing holiday prayers into a hockey arena. Hate crimes still happen, but when other provinces wonder how to promote interfaith understanding, the answer may be blowing in the brisk, Atlantic wind.

“We don’t want this bubble to be contaminated,” says Ayse Akinturk, a colleague of Haddara. “Our only worry is how long are we going to be able to preserve this beautiful experience, whether [or not] it will be spoiled by the outsider negative experience.”

The 3,000 Muslims in the province say they are the only congregation in North America to include both Sunnis and Shias, the two largest sects of Islam. In 1990, St. John’s simply didn’t have the Muslim population to support two mosques, so they created a uniquely diverse hub on Logy Bay Road, where neighbours include a carpet factory and a liquor store.

“I was reared up by my grandparents pretty good,” Ashley Smith of Norman’s Cove told CBC when the local station did an entire series on Islam in the province. Smith has converted to Islam and wears a hijab; and though she still cooks a traditional Jiggs’ dinner, and fish and brewis, she said after her conversion, “I finally feel at peace.”

Muslim immigrants are some of the best-educated citizens in the province. They serve as much-needed doctors in rural areas, engineers for oil rigs, and teachers. Although some Muslims arrived in the 1960s, immigration increased when Newfoundland ended its denominational school system in 1998, the last province to do so. There are now Muslims in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Labrador City, Nain—“they are everywhere,” says Haddara. The RCMP in St. John’s has requested Islam 101 sessions from the Muslim association, which also considers itself a friend of the clergy.

On 9/11, Newfoundland refreshed its code of hospitality as the town of Gander hosted about 6,200 airline passengers from around the world. And when six worshippers were shot and killed in Quebec last year, Newfoundlanders created a human shield around their own mosque in solidarity. “We were praying inside, and all these 1,500 Newfoundlanders were surrounding the mosque and waiting until our prayer was over,” recalls Haddara. “We live in complete confidence and harmony with each other.”

However, the mosque recently received $46,000 from the government for requested security equipment, including surveillance cameras, and research by Jennifer Selby*, an associate professor of religious studies at Newfoundland’s Memorial University, has documented hate crimes including graffiti of racist slurs. Islamophobia does exist.

“We see many narratives of positive navigation and negotiation related to religious difference,” says Selby. “At the same time, micro-aggressions are pervasive and we must become more attuned to the institutional and structural Islamophobia and anti-Muslim racisms within daily life” in Newfoundland and Labrador. There is also discrimination in employment in St. John’s, she notes.

The province is still 97 per cent white and 90 per cent Christian. Among the Muslims Selby talked to, one student from Kuwait was referred to as  “Osama,” and said a professor assumed he would be a devout Muslim and arranged a prayer room for him. Another person arrived for dinner at a local’s house and was served bacon bits.

Locals have also complained that Muslim refugees are draining resources, although one refugee, 14-year-old Mohammad Maarouf, reports an unwavering welcome. He spends time with his friend Connor and by the sea: “We catch herring and catfish and sometimes we catch something called sturgeon,” he says.

Muslims in Newfoundland are not excluded from the tradition of getting screeched in. Instead of drinking rum, Haddara explains, they kiss the obligatory fish, paired with a glass of apple or orange juice.

via Macleans

Political typology: Race and discrimination, opinions about immigrants and Islam | Pew Research Center

As always, Pew’s findings, broken down by political leaning, are of interest and highlight just how divided the United States is on these issues:

Views of immigrants and nation’s ‘openness’

When it comes to attitudes about immigration, Democratic-leaning groups hold almost universally positive attitudes toward immigrants and support the idea of America being open to people from all over the world. Virtually all Solid Liberals say that immigrants strengthen the society and that openness is “essential” to America’s identity as a nation (99% each).

The only group on the political left that holds ambivalent views of immigrants is Devout and Diverse, a group that is racially and ethnically diverse and also has the lowest family incomes and levels of educational attainment of any typology group.

The Republican-leaning groups are sharply divided in views of immigrants and the nation’s openness to people from around the world. About three-quarters of Country First Conservatives (76%) say immigrants are a burden on the country – the largest share of any typology group. Country First Conservatives also are most likely to say that the U.S. risks losing its identity as a nation if it is too open to people from around the world (64% say this).

Compared with Country First Conservatives, Core Conservatives and Market Skeptic Republicans have more divided views of immigrants and whether too much openness risks the nation’s identity. New Era Enterprisers have the most positive views among Republican-leaning groups: 70% view immigrants as a strength and 65% say America’s openness is “essential to who we are as a nation.”

Islam and violence

A large majority of Core Conservatives (79%) say Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence among its followers.

And roughly the same percentage of Solid Liberals (83%) say Islam does not encourage violence more than other religions.

The views of other typology groups divide along partisan lines, with one exception. As with views of immigration, Devout and Diverse differ from other Democratic-leaning groups in their views of Islam and violence.

Devout and Diverse are divided – 47% say Islam is more likely to encourage violence, 44% say it is not – while sizable majorities in other Democratic groups say Islam does not encourage violence more than other religions.

A third of Switzerland’s population mistrusts Islam, according to survey

Some interesting data:

The survey, which questioned 3,000 people across Switzerland, was designed to take the pulse of multicultural coexistence in Switzerland, a nation which is home to people of more than 190 nationalities and more than 10 religious groups. The survey covered permanent residents in Switzerland and wasn’t confined to Swiss nationals.

Overall, 36% said they could be bothered by the presence of people of a different nationality, religion, skin colour, language, or lifestyle.

At the same time, 66% recognized racism as an important social problem.

On a daily basis, foreign languages bothered those surveyed more than race, nationality or religion. Differences in nationality or skin colour bothered 6% of those surveyed, compared to 10% for religion and 12% for language. These annoyances were felt most in professional life.

Beyond annoyance, 14% claimed to be fearful of foreigners. Fear wasn’t reserved exclusively for foreigners. 4% were afraid of Swiss.

When questioned regarding religion, Muslims were viewed most negatively. 14% voiced hostility towards Muslims, compared to 8% towards Jews.

The survey made an important distinction between Islam and its followers. The percentage mistrusting Islam, as opposed to followers of the religion, was 33%, a figure far higher than the 14% voicing hostility towards Muslims.

The survey also questioned those on the receiving end of discrimination. In 2016, 27% of the population said they had experienced discrimination over the last five years. Among this group, 54% said the discrimination was based on nationality, particularly when job hunting.

Source: A third of Switzerland’s population mistrusts Islam, according to survey

New Saudi body to discredit terrorist use of Islamic teachings – The National

While the centre may have some impact in terms of reducing the credibility of those who interpret Islamic teachings to justify violence and thus violent extremism, it will do nothing to minimize the negative impact of fundamentalist Salafism:

Islamic scholars have welcomed a Saudi royal decree to establish a religious centre that will monitor interpretations of Prophet Mohammed’s Hadiths to prevent extremists from using them to justify acts of terror and violence.

The Saudi ministry of information said the King Salman Complex for the Prophet’s Hadiths will become the leading authority on modern day use of the prophet’s teachings, which are used in Islam to govern all aspects of daily life.

Extremist groups have used interpretations to justify heinous acts and urge their followers to wage war in what is an often misinterpreted understanding of “jihad”.

The Saudi ministry of foreign affairs announced that the centre, which will be located in Madinah, will carry out further study the second authoritative source of Islamic teachings “to better understand the meanings of the Hadiths”.

The body, which was announced on Tuesday night, will look to “eliminate fake and extremist texts and any texts that contradict the teachings of Islam and justify the committing of crimes, murders and terrorist acts”.

On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s most senior Islamic authority, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah Al Sheikh, thanked the king for issuing a royal decree to establish the centre.

Sheikh Dr Mohammed bin Nasser Al Khazeem, vice president of general affairs at the Holy Mosque in Makkah, meanwhile said the King Salman Complex for the Prophet’s Hadiths will aim to bring the true meaning of the Hadiths to light and curb extremists’ interpretation of them.

“To learn and understand the Hadiths. To liberate people from the darkness of thought, the extremism and misinterpretation of the book of God, and the teachings that have been passed down to us through the Prophet,” he said.

The chairman of the centre has been named as Sheikh Mohammed bin Hassan Al Sheikh, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, which serves as Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body.

Saudi Arabia has government centres for Islamic study which establish a universal method for teaching Islam both in the kingdom itself and abroad in Saudi Arabia’s many state-sponsored schools.

However, the study of the Hadiths, which number in the thousands and are equivocally interpreted, have often been less studied and been the source of debate since their origins more than 1,400 years ago.

The new centre will be overseen by a council of senior Islamic scholars from around the world, according to the decree, and will look to establish a more international interpretation of the teachings.

Saudi Arabian clerics, who have historically been dominated by Al Sheikh family, are the originators of the Wahhabi doctrine.

Wahhabism offers a stricter version of Islam that looks to the early days of Islam as the ideal by which to govern modern life and teaches the doctrine in its mosques, universities and schools abroad.

Source: New Saudi body to discredit terrorist use of Islamic teachings – The National

Why did Vikings have ‘Allah’ embroidered into funeral clothes? – BBC News

Interesting:

Researchers in Sweden have found Arabic characters woven into burial costumes from Viking boat graves. The discovery raises new questions about the influence of Islam in Scandinavia, writes journalist Tharik Hussain.

They were kept in storage for more than 100 years, dismissed as typical examples of Viking Age funeral clothes.

But a new investigation into the garments – found in 9th and 10th Century graves – has thrown up groundbreaking insights into contact between the Viking and Muslim worlds.

Patterns woven with silk and silver thread have been found to spell the words “Allah” and “Ali”.

The breakthrough was made by textile archaeologist Annika Larsson of Uppsala University while re-examining the remnants of burial costumes from male and female boat and chamber graves originally excavated in Birka and Gamla Uppsala in Sweden in the late 19th and mid-20th centuries.

She became interested in the forgotten fragments after realising the material had come from central Asia, Persia and China.

Larsson says the tiny geometric designs – no more than 1.5cm (0.6in) high – resembled nothing she had come across in Scandinavia before.

“I couldn’t quite make sense of them and then I remembered where I had seen similar designs – in Spain, on Moorish textiles.”

Unlocking a puzzle

Larsson then realised she was not looking at Viking patterns at all but ancient Arabic Kufic script.

There were two words that kept recurring. One of them she identified with the help of an Iranian colleague. It was the name “Ali” – the fourth caliph of Islam.

But the word next to Ali was more difficult to decipher.

To unlock the puzzle, she enlarged the letters and examined them from all angles, including from behind.

“I suddenly saw that the word ‘Allah’ [God] had been written in mirrored lettering,” she says.

Larsson has so far found the names on at least 10 of the nearly 100 pieces she is working through, and they always appear together.

The new find now raises fascinating questions about the grave’s occupants.

“The possibility that some of those in the graves were Muslim cannot be completely ruled out,” she says.

“We know from other Viking tomb excavations that DNA analysis has shown some of the people buried in them originated from places like Persia, where Islam was very dominant.

“However, it is more likely these findings show that Viking age burial customs were influenced by Islamic ideas such as eternal life in paradise after death.”

A past exhibit shows what a Viking woman’s boat grave in Gamla Uppsala may have looked like - similar to the tombs the above fragments were found in
Image captionA museum display gives a sense of what the Viking woman’s boat grave in Gamla Uppsala may have looked like – similar to the tombs the fragments were found in

Her team is now working with the university’s department for immunology, genetics and pathology to establish the geographic origins of the bodies dressed in the funeral clothes.

Historic first

Contact between the Viking and Muslim worlds has long been established by historic accounts and the discovery of Islamic coins across the northern hemisphere.

Two years ago, researchers re-examined a silver ring from a female tomb at Birka and found the phrase “for Allah” inscribed on the stone.

Again the text was Kufic, developed in the Iraqi town of Kufah in the 7th Century – one of the first Arabic scripts used to write down the Koran.

What makes Larsson’s discovery so interesting is that it is the first time historic items mentioning Ali have ever been unearthed in Scandinavia.

Source: Why did Vikings have ‘Allah’ embroidered into funeral clothes? – BBC News

Malaysia’s Slide Toward More Conservative Islam | The Diplomat

Another example of the negative influence of Saudi Arabia on moderates within Muslim majority countries:

Saudi Arabia has long seen Malaysia, along with Indonesia, as regional bastions of Islam, and has consistently tied its investment in both countries to Wahhabism – the brand of conservative Islam initially embraced by Muhammad Ibn Saud in 1744 through a pact with Abd al-Wahhab to expand the former’s empire. The pact resulted in support for Wahhabism gaining legitimacy and followers representing themselves as defenders of the true teaching of Islam. This position today is prevalent in Malaysia and Indonesia as a majority of Muslims in both countries conflate conservative Arab culture and practices with Islam, although historically, Southeast Asia has always been more inclined towards a more moderate version of Islam. A “good” Muslim to many in Malaysia is a person who adheres to Arab culture, and practices the literal version of Islam exported by Saudi Arabia. While Islam has been written into the country’s constitution as the religion of the federation, the constitution’s drafters saw only a ceremonial role for the religion. Shortly after independence, Malaysia’s first prime minister, Rahman, informed parliament that Malaya “is not an Islamic state as it is generally understood.”

The United Malays National Organization (UMNO) has dominated politics in Malaysia since independence in 1957, but has found it increasingly difficult to maintain its stronghold on government during the past two election cycles. Although initially rolled out as a strategy to curb the opposition Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS)’s, influence on young middle class Malays, UMNO has come to rely more and more on political campaigning focused on Islam to attract and retain the Malay vote. Many urbanites today worry that this shift will lead Malaysia down the rabbit hole of a stricter, more literal version of Islam instead of the more moderate and tolerant version upon which the nation was founded. In June 2014 while celebrating the 20th anniversary of one of UMNO’s branches, Party President and Prime Minister Najib Razak called on members to emulate ISIS to ensure the survival of UMNO. Quoting an example where ISIS defeated the Iraqi army despite being outnumbered, the prime minister said, “when someone dares to fight to their death, they can even defeat a much bigger team.” The statement was at odds with his support, made clear at various international fora, of a moderate Islam.

Economic inequalities, the government’s pandering to Muslim hardliners, and its silence on racially divisive politics have created a perfect storm – youths unable to compete in an urban setting find purpose in fundamentalist teachings. In the mid-1980s, radical Indonesian preachers Abu Bakar Bashir and Hambali set up a regional network of extremists in Malaysia. Today, the government invites the likes of Zakir Naik, a hate preacher banned in India, and the UK for talks in Malaysia, while it arrests moderates such as Turkey’s Mustafa Akyol.

The ease with which youths have access to fundamentalist thought is cause for concern. According to the Associated Press in spring 2016, authorities in Malaysia have arrested more than 160 for suspected ties to ISIS over the previous two years. Malaysian intelligence reports that about 60 Malaysian youths have been entrenched in ISIS’ ranks in Syria although former Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar has stated that about 50 Malaysians are looking to return home. If and when they do return, they will find large swathes of rural Malaysia eager to listen to tales of their jihad. Malaysia will inevitably continue down a less tolerant, more conservative path, unfriendly to unbelievers and suspicious of everyone not conforming to a fundamentalist way of life.

The reliance of successive governments on race-based policies to address the long-standing socio-economic inequalities has resulted in more racial and religious tension, thus rendering conservative Islam an attractive vehicle for change. Many are eager to look to Saudi Arabia for paternalistic assistance without much thought for the strings attached to the assistance. The closer Malaysia inches to the Kingdom, the wider the door opens for conservative values which criticize a gold-medal winning gymnast’s attire, call for a ban on a beer festival, and deny social justice and women’s rights. To contextualize how acute the problem is for Malaysia, Pew Research Center’s Spring 2015 Global Attitudes Survey found that only 26 percent of Malaysians were very concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism in the country. The same question yielded 48 percent in Pakistan, 67 percent in Lebanon, and 20 percent in Indonesia.

Source: Malaysia’s Slide Toward More Conservative Islam | The Diplomat

‘Fear is the greatest factor:’ Survey finds Canadians worry about rise of racism against Muslims

Not much new here but interesting nevertheless. Comments by Imam Soharwardy of note:

A survey suggests Canadians have a generally positive impression of Muslims but that view doesn’t apply to some of the religion’s leadership and beliefs.

The poll, commissioned by Think for Actions and Insights Matter, found 78 per cent of Canadians agreed Muslims should adopt Canadian customs and values but maintain their religious and cultural practices. Some 88 per cent of those surveyed said Muslims should be treated no differently than any other Canadian.

But 72 per cent of respondents also believed there has been an increasing climate of hatred and fear towards Muslims in Canada and that it will get worse.

Results of the poll — an online survey of 1,048 Canadians done from March 13 to Aug. 12 — were released Saturday at The Unity Conference in Calgary on Islamophobia, discrimination and systemic racism.

“The biggest takeaway is Canadians who are friends with a Muslim or know a Muslim individual have a positive view of Islam and Muslims and are more welcoming to them,” said Mukarram Zaidi, chair of the group that commissioned the survey.

“Fear is the greatest factor. The majority of Canadians believe the issue of racism has increased. They are concerned about the issue of general racism and hate crimes, religious discrimination, homophobia and anti-Semitism.”

Public perception isn’t all positive. The survey found 56 per cent believed that Islam suppresses women’s rights. There was a 54 per cent approval for imams and 35 per cent for Muslim leadership.

“There needs to be work done within the Muslim community and their leadership to understand that the common person does not hold a lot of respect for what they’re doing,” said Zaidi.

“Children born and raised in North America need to become an imam, because when they stand up and speak, they can speak English clearly and they can relate Islam to North American culture.”

Calgary Imam Syed Soharwardy, founder of Muslims Against Terrorism and the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, understands why Canadians would be suspicious of Muslim leadership. He said many imams discuss only religious teaching and morality when they should speak out against fanaticism, extremism and intolerance.

“Many Muslim leaders do not condemn ISIL, the Taliban, al-Qaida,” said Soharwardy. “A lot of imams are doing it, but not enough.”

Soharwardy, who was born in Pakistan, said imams should be fluent in English or French and have a good understanding of Canadian society.

“I think most of the imams, who come from overseas and outside of Canada, they still live in silos. They still do not help people to integrate in the mainstream Canadian society.”

Soharwardy has personal experience about the need for good language skills when talking to Canadian-born Muslims.

“At our mosque I speak in English and Urdu, like a bilingual sort of thing. My own son says, ‘Papa, when you speak English that is fine, but as soon as you start talking Urdu, you just turn me off’ — and he understands it.”

Indonesia: Widodo’s battle with radical Islam hangs in balance- Nikkei Asian Review

Interesting analysis by Ken Ward of Indonesia’s efforts to combat fundamentalist political Islam:

Radical Muslim organizations alleging blasphemy against Jakarta’s Christian governor Basuki Purnama caught Indonesian President Joko Widodo off guard last year, and seemed for a while to threaten his presidency. Mass rallies over several months helped to inflict electoral defeat on Purnama, who was convicted in court and is now serving two years in prison.

Distancing himself from Purnama, a former political ally, Widodo has now begun to tackle the perceived threat from radical Islam. His approach looks like a two-pronged strategy. The first element is to curtail radical Muslim organizations’ freedom of action. The second is to reinforce the status and prestige of Pancasila, the tolerant and inclusive Indonesian state ideology.

In May, Widodo’s security minister, Wiranto, announced that the government would try to have Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, one of the radical Islamist organizations, banned by the courts. Then, fearing a possibly adverse reaction from Indonesia’s unpredictable justice system, the government changed tack and issued an emergency law (formally ‘a regulation in lieu of a law’) in July. This made a court verdict unnecessary. HTI in consequence lost its legal status, and was banned. The case against HTI was that it was opposed to Pancasila, and posed a threat to national unity. Ministers have warned that other organizations may suffer the same fate.

Some observers have expressed surprise that Widodo picked on HTI first, since it was not the most prominent of the groups that had campaigned against Purnama. But the choice of HTI is understandable. This organization has two characteristics that have usually been anathema to Indonesia’s security authorities. It is linked in a nontransparent way to an international movement, and it operates in some respects as a secret or clandestine organization. For example, it publishes neither membership statistics nor the names of its leading office-holders. A single spokesperson is its interface with the Indonesian public. Gaining access to HTI’s inner circles is very difficult.

Like other branches in the international Hizbut Tahrir network, HTI has as its long-term goal the fusing of the national state into a global Muslim caliphate. How this is to be achieved is enveloped in obscurity. Pancasila would presumably have no function. But whether this utopian project will appear sufficient cause for a ban in the eyes of Indonesia’s Constitutional Court, which is reviewing the edict, is hard to predict. The ban might instead be declared unconstitutional.

The campaign against Purnama was headed by the Islamic Defenders’ Front, known by its Indonesian initials as FPI. An early attempt to ban FPI would have taken few commentators by surprise. But successive Indonesian governments have had ambiguous connections with the group. It has sometimes, for example, conducted raids on private sex parties, either in connivance with the police or independently, but in both cases enjoying immunity from prosecution. Unlike HTI’s shadowy leaders, FPI figures seem to have been open to bribery or to manipulation in other ways. This may have saved the organization from being banned, at least for the time being, despite its frequently criminal and socially disruptive behavior.

Habib Rizieq, the longstanding FPI chair, is in temporary refuge in Saudi Arabia; he has been accused of holding a private sex party of his own in violation of the law against pornography. This involved inciting a female nongovernmental organization official to strip in front of a camera which, the police claim, transmitted the images to Rizieq’s smartphone. The FPI leader is said to have been parked outside the woman’s residence at the time of the alleged incident.

Reinforcing Pancasila

A stalemate has arisen between Rizieq and police officers, who want to have him put on trial. The government seems unable to dislodge him from his Saudi refuge by diplomatic or other means. Rizieq clearly fears being arrested should he return to Indonesia. He has chaired FPI for so long that his personal fate will have considerable impact on the group’s future. The government may decide that it is simply not worth trying to ban FPI, either because of the opposition that such a step would provoke or because it might be less potent without Rizieq in command. Police officers visited Rizieq in his Saudi sanctuary, extending a courtesy to him that Indonesian criminals rarely receive.

Reinforcing Pancasila as the state ideology is an equally important element of Widodo’s strategy. Pancasila includes monotheism as one of five principles, but does not grant special status to any religion. It runs counter, therefore, to the ideal of an Islamic state and to the imposition of Islamic law. It is a code-word for tolerance, not for faith.

Source: Ken Ward: Widodo’s battle with radical Islam hangs in balance- Nikkei Asian Review

ICYMI – After Ahok: Indonesia Grapples with the Rise of Political Islam | The Diplomat

Unfortunate trend:

Five months after its closure, the doors of the Al-Hidayah mosque were sealed with wooden planks and crisscrossed with yellow police tape, as if it some kind of grisly crime had taken place within. Barred from entering their house of worship by official order, four young men held their midday prayer in the heat outside, their bodies bent towards a large sign driven into the concrete by the local authorities. Its message was emblazoned in red: “Activities are banned.”

In February, police converged on this green-tiled mosque in Depok, 15 kilometers south of the Indonesian capital Jakarta, to enforce an order sealing off the building until further notice. The order followed a clamor from Islamic fundamentalists, who held protests calling for the expulsion of this small congregation of Ahmadi Muslims from the district. “We had a permit to build this mosque, so we have no idea why they sealed it,” said Abdul Gofur, 42, the caretaker of the site.

The unpretentious Al-Hidayah mosque, a box-like building lacking the otherworldly dome and minaret of many Muslim houses of worship, has a long history of run-ins with the local authorities. Gofur said the mosque had been “sealed” six times since 2011, and has survived a concerted campaign from hardline vigilante groups, including the notorious Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI, which sees Ahmadis as heretics and apostates.

On June 23, two nights before Idul Fitri (as Eid al-Fitr is known in Indonesia), the festival marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, Gofur said that white-robed militants pelted the building with eggs and paint, and strung up spray-painted banners calling for the expulsion of the Ahmadiyah. The 400-strong congregation has erected its own signs reading, “Love for All, Hatred for None.”

The Ahmadi minority numbers around 500,000 people scattered across this island nation of 260 million. The sect is not officially recognized in Indonesia, which acknowledges just six religions: Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. While most Ahmadiyah see themselves as Muslims, they cleave to unorthodox tenets: the sect has its own holy text, the Tadzkirah, and does not regard Muhammad as the final prophet – a belief that many Indonesians see as heresy. As a result, they have become both a subject of official discrimination, and a target for religious vigilantes.

Things got particularly bad after 2007, when a leading clerical body declared the Ahmadiyah a deviant sect; the following year, then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono signed a decree banning Ahmadi Muslims from disseminating their faith. Following the decree, mosques were shuttered and burned, and members of the community were subject to violent attacks. In February 2011, west of Jakarta in Banten province, three Ahmadi men were beaten to death by a mob; the perpetrators received only light sentences. According to the Jakarta-based Setara Institute for Democracy and Peace, which monitors religious freedom in Indonesia, there have been a total of 546 violent incidents against Ahmadi Muslims since 2007.

Source: After Ahok: Indonesia Grapples with the Rise of Political Islam | The Diplomat