AKI/Jakarta Post – The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) has joined a chorus of condemnation of the forced closure of dozens of local churches in West Java by radical Muslim conservatives, saying that such acts are unacceptable. “We really feel sorry and condemn these actions, and the MUI has clearly never tolerated such arbitrary taking of the law into one’s own hands,” MUI chief Umar Shihab told the Indonesian parliament’s religion, social and women’s affairs committee. All actions or efforts that disrupted religious activities were a form of violence, and as such could not be justified said Shihab. “It’s clearly stated in the Koran that Islam does not tolerate or allow violent acts, and this is a guide for Muslims in leading their lives,” said Shihab. For this reason, the MUI did not plan to specifically issue an edict banning such acts of violence he said. Despite laws recognising freedom of religion in Indonesia and banning citizens taking the law into their own hands, at least 23 churches – and by some accounts more than 30 – in the province have been forcibly shut down by mobs over the past year. West Java police have backed the church closures. A number of Christian and Muslim religious leaders have called on the government to take legal action against the Muslim hard-liners, who claim the churches had been established illegally in private houses and were opposed by local – mostly Muslim – people. Indonesia ‘s president Jusuf Kalla also condemned the actions and instructed the police to take legal measures against groups taking arbitrary action without legal authority. Under a decree formulated more than three decades ago, those wanting to establish places of worship must first obtain approval from the local community and local government. “It (the decree) should be upgraded to become a law. But if there are people or parties who are discontent over something that they feel runs counter to the decree, they should report it to the police and not take the law into their own hands,” Shihab stated.