Fri, 19 Aug 1994

NU offers to bring Arqam into its fold in case of ban

JAKARTA (JP): Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia's largest Moslem organization, has offered to bring Al Arqam into its fold if the government bans the Malaysia-based Islamic movement.

NU Chairman Abdurrahman Wahid made the offer on Wednesday night as a ban against Al Arqam becomes imminent.

"NU is willing to accept the Al Arqam group as its member if the government decides to outlaw the movement," Abdurrahman said, stressing that the government too has a duty to find a solution to the Arqam problem.

The Attorney General's office is expected to make its ruling soon on the legality of the Darul Arqam, as the movement is known in Indonesia.

The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) last week demanded that the government ban Al Arqam but refrained from giving any specific reason, saying that it is up to the government to decide on the grounds for the banning. Minister of Religious Affairs Tarmizi Tahir has publicly supported the call for a ban.

NU has opposed the plan to ban the movement, at least not on religious grounds. NU members who sit in the MUI board originally opposed the call to ban Al Arqam but made an about face last weekend and gave their support to the MUI call.

Abdurrahman said on Wednesday that the government should at least hold a dialog with the Arqam leaders before deciding on whether or not to ban the organization.

Muhammadiyah, a prominent Moslem organization, has been urging the government to outlaw Arqam as far back as 1990, saying that some of its teachings violated Islamic principles.

In Malaysia

The movement was banned in its home country Malaysia early this month largely because it is perceived as a political threat.

Indonesia has declared Arqam's spiritual leader Ashaari Mohammad, currently in exile in Jordan, as a persona non grata here and also banned some of the books published by the organization, citing political grounds.

The military and police in Jakarta meanwhile said the Arqam's movement has not posed any security threat in the Indonesian capital.

"Their presence has not caused any unrest to this day," Maj. Gen. Hendropriyono, chief of the Jakarta Military Command, said on Wednesday.

He added however that the potential for unrest could exist because of the different life style they are pursuing. "There are bound to be frictions."

He was apparently referring to the way Arqam members dress and their secluded life style, which creates the impression of exclusivism.

Hendro said he had already met with Arqam leaders several times in the past.

Jakarta Police Chief Maj. Gen. Hindarto also said that he had not heard of any suggestions that Arqam members were involved in any criminal activities. (02/emb)