Struggle for a voice of tolerance

Tom Allard Jakarta

Ulil Abshar Abdalla is a Harvard-educated Islamic reformer, an adviser to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and one of Indonesia’s most perceptive intellectuals.

Ask him about what has happened to Islam in Indonesia since the September 11 attacks, and he says: ”I think there has been a trend towards intolerance … there is also a trend towards tolerance.”

It’s an odd response, even nonsensical, but it captures succinctly the vexing paradox that lies within Australia’s near neighbour and the nation with the world’s largest Muslim population.

Yenny Wahid says a steady influx of money from the Middle East that funds mosques and schools has had an impact. The new conservative clerics are not only cashed up, they are passionate, noisy and activist.

…………. The increase in violence has been particularly pronounced against members of the Ahmadiyah Islamic sect, whose followers believe the Indian religious figure Mirza Ghulam Ahmad was a messiah who followed the prophet Muhammad.

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