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Indonesia Launches New Group to Combat Extremism

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Jakarta: Moderate Muslims in Indonesia have launched a new civil society group to promote interreligious tolerance in a country where religious and ethnic sentiments are on the rise ahead of a presidential election in 2019. More than 200 people, including religious leaders such as Jakarta’s Catholic archbishop, as well as politicians, attended the Aug. 1 launch of the Said Aqil Siroj Institute in Jakarta. The new non-profit organization is named after a prominent Muslim cleric who now serves as chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Indonesia’s largest Islamic organization. “His thoughts and ideas highlighting tolerance, mutual respect, peace and willingness to work together with people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds have inspired the establishment of this institute. These are important pillars for the existence of our diverse nation,” Imdadun Rahmat, the organization’s executive director, said at the launch. Speaking to reporters, Siroj said the institute would promote Islam Nusantara (Islam of the Archipelago) as many people still don’t have a clear understanding of it. “Islam Nusantara means an Islam which promotes cultural values that are dignified, friendly and polite,” he said. “I believe Indonesian Muslims can show people that they respect differences and other cultures,” he said.