The largest mosque on the Indonesian island of Java was blockaded this week by local residents who fear that radical militants including cleric Abu Bakar Bashir have been using it to promote their teachings. Indonesian media report that Muslims in Surabaya blocked the entrance to the al-Ihsan Sabililla mosque for three days before agreeing to reopen it. Bashir, one of the key leaders of the Jemaah Islamiyah group, visited the mosque recently and gave several sermons.
Jemaah Islamiyah is blamed for Indonesia’s worst terror attack, the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people, most of them foreigners. The group is also believed to be responsible for several other attacks including the 2005 Bali bombing and the 2004 attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta. The son of the mosque’s director, Saifudin, who was jailed for having assisted in the Bali terrorist attack in 2002, was recently released.
Abdul Mu’ti, the head of Center for Dialogue and Cooperation Among Civilizations, an organization that promotes interfaith dialogue, said that such hard-line movements have tarnished efforts “to build the image of Indonesian Muslims as moderates who appreciate pluralism,.” (AKI, Jakarta Globe, June 24)