Influential Sunni Muslim group urges Indonesia to welcome Obama
Indonesia’s largest Islamic organization has condemned protests by hardline groups against US President Barack Obama’s planned visit to the mainly Muslim country.
Nahdlatul Ulama deputy chairman Maskuri Abdillah said the visit would strengthen frayed ties between the United States and the Muslim world.
“We call on all Muslims in Indonesia not to join any protest rejecting the visit of President Obama to Indonesia,” he told AFP.
“This call has been made following our concerns about a number of protests by some Muslim groups who stand against the visit.
“We must welcome Obama as his visit will be positive in terms of the US relationship with the Muslim world.”
Thousands of demonstrators from radical Muslim group Hizbut Tahrir, which aims to establish an Islamic caliphate, rallied against Obama on Sunday, tearing US flags and calling America a terrorist state.
Such groups have little support in Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country where Obama lived for four years as a child.
He is scheduled to leave the United States on March 21 for the trip, which will include stops in Guam and Australia.
The visit is expected to build on a speech Obama gave last year in Cairo, in which he promised to mend fences with the Islamic world after years of discord under the previous administration of George W Bush.
“Obama has a different personality to his predecessor George Bush. Obama has the political will to improve US ties with the Muslim world,” Abdillah said.
The Nahdlatul Ulama, a moderate Sunni group with about 30 million members, is one of the largest Islamic mass organizations in the world.