Tue, 02 Aug 1994

Tarmizi to join ASEAN meeting on Arqam in Langkawi

JAKARTA (JP): Minister of Religious Affairs Tarmizi Taher is scheduled to leave for the Malaysian resort island of Langkawi today to take part in a meeting with his counterparts from Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia.

At the top of their agenda is the fate of the Al Arqam, a Moslem sect which has its base in Malaysia, and the possibility of the governments of the four countries moving to ban the organization from the region because it is considered a potential political threat.

Tarmizi will be accompanied by his secretary general, Zarkowi Soejoeti, Director General for Islamic Affairs Amidhan and Hasbullah Mursyid, head of the ministry's research and development agency, according to the Antara news agency.

Malaysia is almost certain to ban the organization this week.

Al Arqam's leader Ashaari Muhammad has announced his intention to challenge the leadership of Prime Minister Mahathir Muhammad.

The Indonesian government is also considering banning the organization following demands from the influential Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), but a number of Moslem intellectuals have warned that there is no real grounds to ban Al Arqam in Indonesia given that its activities has not posed any security threat.

The activities of the Al Arqam, or popularly known in Indonesia as Darul Arqam, have been barred in West Sumatra, Aceh and Riau, but the MUI now wants the government to ban it nationwide.

The Al Arqam issue was discussed by Attorney General's office with representatives of the MUI and the Armed Forces (ABRI) last week but a decision is not expected until later this month, possibly taking into account the outcome of the Langkawi meeting.

Meanwhile the leader of the Al Arqam in Jakarta, Ahmadi Rafe'i, made an 11th hour appeal yesterday to the government not to ban his organization.

"What aspects of Darul Arqam will they ban?" Ahmadi asked in a statement, a copy of which was made available to The Jakarta Post.

"Darul Arqam is not a separate teaching. It is a missionary organization to promote the teaching of Islam, there is no Darul Arqam teaching," he said. (emb)