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Indonesia calls for more talks between Islam, West JAKARTA - Only through dialogue can stereotypes such as Westerners regarding Islam as "a breeding ground for terrorists" and Muslims seeing the West as "deficient in morals" be removed, an Indonesian minister said on Wednesday. Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda told a conference on Islam and Europe that such inaccurate, sweeping generalisations existed in both communities because media and other sources failed to present the complete picture of those cultures.

"People have negative impressions of each other because they do not know each other. They fear what they do not know and they hate what they fear," he said. "Through dialogue, Europe and the world of Islam ... get to understand each other better and more deeply so that there is growth of goodwill and the capacity to work together to solve common problems," Wirajuda said.

The government in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country and one of its largest democracies, has been keen to try to deliver a voice of moderation from the Islamic world through a series of peace dialogues since 2004. Around 85 percent of Indonesia's 220 million population follow Islam and most of them are moderates. However, the country also has a radical Islamic fringe that is increasingly vocal and visible in the media.

Islamic militants also have launched a series of bloody attacks on Western-linked targets in Indonesia in recent years, resulting in more than 300 people being arrested and prosecuted over the strikes.

Islam hijacked

In a separate forum in the Philippines, Indonesia's former religious affairs minister, Tarmizi Taher, said the few militants in the religion had " hijacked moderate Islam". Taha Basman, head of the Centre for Moderate Muslims that hosted the Manila event, said although moderates outnumbered hardliners the latter received increasing attention because "they were the noisier group."

In Jakarta, Wirajuda said the peace dialogue movement should touch the grassroots and those vulnerable to extremist messages. He added the media has a responsibility to decide whether it wanted to spread "the message of peace and tolerance or the message of misunderstanding and hatred".

Muslim communities and governments protested against the re-publication of cartoons lampooning Prophet Mohammad that originated from a Danish newspaper last year. Some of those protests were violent. The issue showcased how Muslim sensibilities and Western freedom of expression could collide.

The head of the 30 million strong Muhammadiyah, Indonesia's second largest Islamic group, told reporters many doubted the effectiveness of dialogue because of repeated instances where Muslims were offended by statements or actions from the West. "But we cannot give up. Dialogue needs to be continued and in each dialogue the so-called hardliners, fundamentalists, extremists that exist in all groups should be included," Din Syamsuddin said. "It is fine to have a war inside these dialogues because that is the only option for real peace."



Posted in Religion @ 23 November 2006 02:27 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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