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(ANS) – Indonesia’s highest and most authoritative Islamic clerical group, the Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI), is concerned about Christian expansion in Indonesia, a ‘problem’ they discussed at their four-day national congress in the last week of July. According to the Jakarta Post, the clerical delegation from Jambi province, central Sumatra , reported that Christian preachers were converting Muslims ‘at an alarming rate’. They were ‘most disturbed’ by ‘the phenomenon of the construction of churches in the province’. Various delegates lamented lack of funds to counter conversions, whilst some complained non-Muslims were being elected to positions of local authority. Other delegates voiced their determination to ensure their district remained church-free.

Demonstrating the extent hard-liners have infiltrated and now control the MUI, the congress released an 11-point fatwa (edict) denouncing liberal interpretations of Islam, secularism and pluralism as un-Islamic, and promoting a hard-line, intolerant orthodox Islam that denies equality to women and non-Muslims. As Indonesia ‘s highest Islamic authority, the MUI is responsible for Muslim doctrine in the country. According to Jubilee Campaign (JC) the MUI receives some 5 billion Rupees (nearly US$600,000) of government funding annually. Former president Abdurrahman Wahid (‘Gus Dur’) is one of many influential figures who publicly rejected the fatwa.