Thu, 12 Feb 2004

Conference to discuss image of Islam

JAKARTA: The International Conference of Islamic Scholars, scheduled to take place on Feb. 23, 2004, will not only discuss religious issues, but the image of Islam in Indonesia.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Hassan Wirayuda said an appropriate image of Islam was needed to counter opinions that pesantren (Islamic boarding schools) were a breeding ground for terrorists.

"Pesantren are different to Afghanistan's madrasah, which are considered a breeding ground for terrorists," he told a hearing with House of Representatives legislators here on Wednesday.

Hassan was responding to a question on why the foreign ministry, not the religious affairs ministry, would host the conference.

He said his ministry had been cooperating with Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the country's largest Islamic organization, in holding the international event.

Muslim scholars from around the world will take part in the conference, which will be followed by visits to Yogyakarta and Surabaya. -- JP