Tue, 16 Aug 1994

Moslem groups are united on Arqam ban

JAKARTA (JP): All the major Moslem organizations in Indonesia are united in their wish to see the Malaysia-based Al Arqam movement banned from the country, Minister of Religious Affairs Tarmizi Taher announced yesterday.

"They all agreed to the ban. The Moslem community need not get confused over this matter," Tarmizi said following the presentation of meritorious service awards at the State Palace yesterday.

Tarmizi said that leaders of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) in Jakarta and the region all want to see the Darul Arqam, as the organization is known here, outlawed, but will let the government decide on the precise reason for the ban.

The council is an umbrella group for all Moslem organizations in Indonesia.

He conceded that there were disagreements as to why Al Arqam should be outlawed.

Some groups suggested that the movement's teachings have deviated from Islamic principles. Others who see nothing particularly wrong with the teachings agreed to the ban because Al Arqam is causing political instability, he said.

The Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia's largest Moslem organization, made an about face on Saturday over the question of whether Al Arqam should be outlawed. On Friday, it publicly announced its opposition to banning the movement, at least on religious grounds. On Saturday, it decided to join the call for the ban.


The MUI has been at the forefront in calling for the ban since Malaysia, where the movement had originated, outlawed the group early this month. Arqam's spiritual leader Anshaari Mohammad, currently in exile in Jordan, has vowed to challenge the leadership of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad.

The Attorney General's office is expected to make its ruling this month, and the MUI's view is expected to weigh heavily on its decision. The government has already declared Anshaari persona non grata on Indonesian soil and banned three of the Arqam's books.

Arqam leaders in Indonesia have made a last ditch attempt to prevent a government ban by offering to hold dialogs with all the parties concerned. MUI turned down the offer while NU accepted and held a meeting last Friday. The group is believed to have thousands of followers throughout Indonesia, mostly among the educated elite.

Tarmizi said his ministry has been monitoring the activities of Al Arqam in Indonesia for the last six years.

"The presence of Al Arqam is already causing public disorder in many regions. It has even reached West Nusa Tenggara," he said. (emb)