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One in five students in Indonesia supports establishment of caliphate, says survey

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 November, 2017, 5:21pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 November, 2017, 9:42pm

Nearly 20 per cent of high school and university students in Indonesia support the establishment of a caliphate in the world’s largest Muslim-majority country over the current secular government, a new survey showed this week.

Indonesia has in recent years seen its long-standing reputation for religious tolerance come under scrutiny as hardline Islamic groups muscle their way into public and political life.

Most Indonesians practice a moderate form of Islam and the country has sizeable minorities of Hindus, Christians, and people who adhere to traditional beliefs. Religious diversity is enshrined in its constitution.

The survey by a Jakarta-based organisation polled over 4,200 Muslim students, mostly in top schools and universities on Java island, home to more than half the country’s population.

According to the pollster, nearly one in four students said they were, to varying degrees, ready to wage “jihad” to achieve a caliphate.

“This indicates that intolerant teachings have already entered top universities and high schools,” pollster Alvara, which carried out the survey, said in its report released on Tuesday.

“The government and moderate Islamic organisations must start taking tangible steps to anticipate this and be present in student circles with language that is easy for them to understand.”

A presidential spokesman declined to comment on the findings.

Indonesia’s ‘militant moderates’ fighting religious intolerance

Hardline Islamic groups late last year led mass street rallies against Jakarta’s former governor, a Christian, whom they believed had insulted Islam. They eventually succeeded in derailing Basuki Tjahaja Purnama’s re-election bid in April and he was subsequently jailed for blasphemy. The ruling was criticised by many as unjust.

Groups like the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) call for sharia law to be imposed on the country and believe its leaders should only be Muslim.

The survey showed that most students disagree with the establishment of an Islamic caliphate and violence.

But some officials have repeatedly warned about the creeping influence of radical Islamic thought among student organisations and in campus activities.

President Joko Widodo and his government are trying to contain the rising influence of hairline groups, especially in universities and Islamic boarding schools.

A presidential decree banning any civil organisations deemed to go against the country’s secular state ideology was approved by parliament last month. Hizb-ut-Tahrir, a largely peaceful organisation that calls for the establishment of a caliphate in Indonesia, was the first group to be disbanded under the decree.

Widodo has made several speeches at Islamic boarding schools around the country emphasising Indonesia’s diversity and promoting national unity.

In September, Widodo called at a conference of around 3,000 university rectors for the promotion of the country’s secular ideology, ‘Pancasila’, in education.