Indonesian Muslim Leaders Welcome Obama Visit

By webadmin on 10:45 pm Feb 07, 2010
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Jakarta Globe & Antara

A far cry from 2006, when thousands took to the streets to protest George W. Bush’s half-day visit to Bogor, Indonesian Muslim organizations have welcomed the scheduled state visit by US President Barack Obama in March.

Even the notoriously anti-Western Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) appear to be caught up in “Obamania,” with one senior member saying that they welcome any visitor as long as they are not here on a “neo-liberal mission.”

Senior Muslim leaders said that Obama’s visit would help improve relations between the US and the Islamic world.

“Obama’s visit is good for Indonesia because Obama is offering to heal relations between the US and Muslim world after the tensions experienced during the George Bush-era,” Hasyim Muzadi, chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, was quoted as saying by the state-run Antara news agency late on Saturday.

“As the president of the US, a democratic country, he plays a major but not encompassing role, as there is a legislative body limiting his steps,” he said.

Muhammadiyah Chairman Dien Syamsuddin said that Indonesians should welcome Obama, who had shown “his good will to develop ties with the Islamic world.”

“We don’t have to reject Obama’s visit. We can use the momentum to express the aspirations of Indonesian Muslims as the eyes of the world will be on us when he is here,” he said on Sunday.

Embong Mustafa, a senior FPI member, said his organization also welcomed Obama’s visit and he would even be willing to meet the US president if invited.

“We have no problem with Barack Obama’s visit. We’ve never rejected anybody planning to come here except those on a neoliberal mission,” he said.

However, Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, a conservative Muslim group that supports the development of a global pan-Islamic state, plans to stage a protest against Obama, saying he is “a bad guest.”

“[Bali bomber] Imam Samudera, who killed many foreigners, was considered a terrorist. Why don’t we consider Obama, who has destroyed Islamic countries, a terrorist? It is true that he is a guest, but he is a bad one as he killed our brothers and sisters,” said Ismail Yusanto, a Hizbut Tahrir spokesman.