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Indonesian Muslims Oppose US Strikes Against Afghanistan - 2001-09-25

Indonesia's top Islamic clerics are calling on Muslims around the world to oppose any U.S. military strikes against Afghanistan, where suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden is believed to be in hiding. But the clerics condemned the use of violence either by or against Muslims. The statement puts more pressure on Indonesia's president, who has pledged general support for the U.S. call to battle global terrorism.

Making clear they oppose any kind of violence, Islamic leaders from the Indonesian Council of Ulamas say they condemn the terror attacks that took place in New York and Washington. "The Indonesian Council of Ulamas and also the Islamic organizations in Indonesia fully support war against terrorism, violent action, unjust action," said Din Syamsuddin, secretary of the Ulamas Council. At the same time, the clerics were critical of U.S. plans to go after suspected terrorists in Islamic-ruled Afghanistan. Mr. Syamsuddin warned that it would do little to improve Washington's reputation in Muslim countries around the world. "We have to define who are the terrorists," he said. "I have to show that in the perception of many Muslims in many countries, the government of the United States are terrorists." The Indonesian Islamic authority Tuesday called on all Muslims to unite against any aggression by the United States. The clerics also urged the secular government in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, to refuse to aid the U.S. military if it attacks Afghanistan or other Muslim countries.

This comes just days after Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri met with President Bush in Washington and expressed support for the U.S. led call to wipe out terrorism. The government in Jakarta has also pledged to protect U.S. citizens and interests, which have come under threat from small but vocal radical groups pledging to launch an anti-American Jihad.

The U.S. Embassy in Jakarta has urged Americans in Indonesia to be vigilant in the face of what could be a rising tide of anti-American sentiment. In the past several days, a handful of anti-American demonstrations have taken place outside the embassy in Jakarta and the U.S. consulate in Indonesia's second city, Surabaya.