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03/05/2019 Indonesia (International Christian Concern) – Indonesia’s largest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), has urged Indonesian Muslims to refrain from using the word ‘kafir’ (infidels) to describe non-Muslims in state or citizenship matters.

Indonesia is set to have its presidential election on April 17. NU’s move might be aimed at calming religious tensions between different religious groups in the country with the largest Muslim population.

On February 28, 140 million strong NU said at its National Conference that non-Muslims should not be referred to as “kafir” since they have equal standing in state affairs. As an alternative, the organization agreed to use the word ‘muwathinun’ (citizen) to show that Muslims and non-Muslims have equal status as citizens in a country.

“The word ‘kafir’ hurts some non-Muslims and is perceived to be theologically violent,” cleric Abdul Moqsith Ghazali said at the national meeting in Banjar, West Java. “Labeling fellow Indonesian citizens who participate in constructing the nation as ‘kafir’ seems unwise,” he added, saying that some groups still disputed the citizenship status of non-Muslim Indonesians.

In fact, Indonesian Christians are often referred to as ‘kafir’ and face discrimination in their daily lives. A pastor in West Java once told ICC that his young child was told by his neighbor’s kids that they would not play with him because he is a ‘kafir.’ During 2017 election, radical Muslims campaigned against former Jakarta governor Ahok, an ethnic Chinese Christian politician with the slogan “tolak pemimpin kafir” (reject infidel leaders), contributing greatly for his loss.

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