Tue, 18 Sep 2001

RI Muslims ignore call for jihad

JAKARTA (JP): Muslim communities in Indonesia are playing down a call for a jihad by Taliban rulers in Afghanistan against the United States should the U.S. attack Middle East countries.

"I think we must be careful. We must not show emotional ties (to the Taliban) as it could have a broad impact," said A. Syafii Maarif, chairman of the Muhammadiyah, the second largest Muslim organization in the country.

The comment was made in response to Afghanistan's Taliban leaders, who called on Muslims to launch a holy war if the U.S. and its allies attacked them.

Reuters reported on Monday that Afghanistan's Taliban rulers had deployed a force of between 20,000 and 25,000 fighters just across the border from the Khyber Pass into Pakistan.

Syafii said Muslims in Indonesia should practice moderate Islam which is mainstream here, not the radical form. "Because the problem is not clear yet," he said.

On one hand the U.S. government remains adamant that Saudi- born dissident Osama bin Laden was behind Tuesday's suicide attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington D.C.

"On other hand, bin Laden has strongly denied the accusation. But he hailed the attack," he told The Jakarta Post.

Syafii said everybody should first realize precisely what the real situation was.

Lasykar Jihad spokesman Hilal Thalib, meanwhile, said that his force had no connection with the Taliban in Afghanistan. "We are in Indonesia. We have a responsibility to defend Muslims here," he told the Post.

Thalib said the accusation by U.S. that Osama bin Laden was behind the attacks was political motivated. "There is no clarification on that matter."

He said the Lasykar Jihad was set up mainly to further develop Islam in Indonesia. (08)