Jakarta Globe: Jakarta. Indonesia’s long tradition of peaceful coexistence among diverse religious and ethnic groups is starting to serve as a model for other countries struggling with the challenges of multiculturalism.
Nearly 85 percent of Indonesia’s population of 250 million people are Muslims, but the country is notably tolerant of other religions compared to others with similar demographics.
And despite occasional conflicts, exacerbated by religious hardliners, Indonesia still promotes a peaceful understanding of Islam.
Yenny Wahid, chairwoman of the Wahid Institute, cited the growing trend of religious extremism around the globe, and explained that Indonesia has so far been largely unaffected by it.
Based on recent information Yenny gleaned during an interreligious dialogue in Denmark – facilitated by the country’s embassy in Indonesia – the daughter of former Indonesian President Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid said the number of Europeans traveling to Syria to join the Islamic State (IS) far exceeds the number of Indonesians who have done the same.
According to National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) chief Comr. Gen. Suhardi Alius, at least 500 Indonesians have joined IS. However, that number differs slightly from that given by the Soufan Group, a United States-based private intelligence analysis firm, which claimed in 2015 that more than 700 Indonesians had already joined the radical group.
However, that number is still small when compared with a recent European Union estimate that between 5,000 and 6,000 EU citizens have traveled to Syria to join IS since 2014. Of those, 1,450 are French citizens.
Danish Ambassador Casper Klynge confirmed the EU estimate, saying at least 150 people from Denmark have joined IS since the group emerged in 2014.
“In proportion to our total population, we are the second-largest contributor [in Europe] of foreign fighters to IS, so it goes without saying that it is a major problem for Denmark and a major concern from a threat point of view,” Klynge told the Jakarta Globe on April 6.