Indonesia will host a meeting of “ulema” (Islamic scholars) from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Indonesia on Thursday in an effort to support the Afghan peace process, the country’s Vice President Jusuf Kalla announced last week.
In a concluding speech at a three-day gathering of international Muslim scholars, Kalla said Indonesia could play a role in building peace in Afghanistan by hosting the meeting on May 11. It was scheduled to be held in March in Jakarta but was delayed after a call from the Taliban to boycott it.
“We hope to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan, we still have a problem there,” Kalla said at the vice presidential palace on May 3.
The plan to hold the meetings of the ulema from Indonesia, Pakistan and Afghanistan arose after a delegation from the Afghan High Peace Council led by its chairman Karim Khalili visited Indonesia in November. The council had asked Indonesia to support the peace process in Afghanistan through the ulema’s role.
The plan was further discussed when Kalla visited Kabul in late February to attend the Kabul Process conference, where he was the guest of honor.
“The people will listen to the ulema and they have trust in fatwas that the ulema issued,” Kalla said.
Afghan cleric Fazal Ghani Kakar, who was one of the participants in the conference, confirmed that the meeting will take place and that he has been invited to attend.
Kakar, who is the former chairman of Afghanistan’s Nahdlatul Ulama, said that the meeting would be timely because there was an urgent need to find resolution to the problem in Afghanistan, which he said was suffering from radicalism and extreme interpretation of Islam.
“The core issue will be how to build trust between the Afghan and Pakistan ulema because both sides have their own influence on the warring factions in Afghanistan,” Kakar told journalists at the palace.
“This will be the first round and we hope this will open the gate for further discussion,” Kakar said.
He said that he had high hopes for the meeting because “most of the extreme ideas are coming from the Pakistani side, so sitting with the Pakistani ulema is the first step together to reach a better solution.”
He also said there would be at least five ulema from Afghanistan attending, and ulema from the Taliban were expected to come because the political faction of the Taliban has expressed interest in joining the meeting.
“We are very thankful for Indonesia; it has always played its role in brokering peace within the country, and in neighboring countries. We are looking forward to this being a good step for Afghanistan,” Kakar said.
Riefqi Muna, a foreign policy researcher at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, said there was a lot that Indonesia could share from its experience as a Muslim-majority country with a stable democracy that has had its own share of secessionist and communal conflicts.
“We are not going to lecture them, but there are best practices experiences that we can share, so it is necessary for Indonesia to take part in pushing for peace process in conflict-torn countries,” Muna said.
“Facilitating a place for conflicting parties to meet is a step to build peace and for conflict resolution,” he said.
Indonesia said its position remains the same after the US, the UK and France called on it to join forces in pressuring Syria’s Assad regime about its alleged use of chemical weapons.
Envoys from the three countries on Thursday asked to meet Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and requested that the country go further in its stance on Assad’s regime.
Arrmanatha Nasir, Foreign Ministry spokesman, told journalists on Friday that Indonesia was deeply concerned about developments in Syria after the US and its allies’ missile strikes.
Nasir said during the meeting that the three Western countries’ ambassadors conveyed their views on Syria, while Marsudi reiterated Indonesia’s position issued on Apr. 14 after the strike, which underlines the need for all parties to respect international laws and norms, in particular the UN charter on international peace and security.
Indonesia also “strongly condemned the use of chemical weapons by any parties in Syria” and called on all parties to show restraint and prevent an escalation of the deteriorating situation.
Indonesia stressed the importance of a comprehensive resolution of the conflict in Syria through negotiations and peaceful means and expressed concern about the security of civilians, calling on all parties to ensure that the safety of women and children was always a priority.
Beginda Pakpahan, an international relations lecturer at Universitas Indonesia, said that the country’s position on Syria was clear and reflected its free and active foreign policy.
“They (the ambassadors) should be aware of Indonesia’s position,” Pakpahan said.
Rene Pattiradjawane, a former Kompas daily senior journalist and foreign policy commentator, said that it was natural the three countries would seek support from Indonesia as the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country.
But with its free and active foreign policy, Indonesia could not support US and its allies’ unilateral strike on Syria and it should not be interpreted as espousing either Russia or Syria.
“Indonesia sees this more as a humanitarian problem with a lot of collateral damage,” he said.
According to the Foreign Ministry, there are up to 2,000 Indonesian citizens in Syria.
Moazzam Malik, the UK’s ambassador to Indonesia, said after Thursday’s meeting that he and fellow ambassadors to Indonesia, the US’s Joseph R. Donovan and France’s Jean-Charles Berthonne, would like Indonesia to join them in holding the Assad regime accountable for the suspected misuse of chemical weapons against their own citizens and the abuse of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Malik said that since Indonesia would soon become a committee member of the Organization of the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), they would like it to put pressure on Syria and Russia to open access for the investigation in Douma.
Ahmad met his friends Udin and Ari at a mosque, and Ari asked him why he had not been around for some time.
When Ahmad said he had just returned from Syria, Ari replied in awe that he, too, wanted to go there to wage “jihad”.
When a teacher approached them and asked Ahmad the same question, Ari replied, saying: “He (Ahmad) just returned from Syria to wage jihad. Isn’t that cool?” But Ahmad told both men the caliphate propaganda was false and many innocent people had been killed in the name of the caliphate.
“They were Muslims just like us,” he said. The teacher closed the conversation by saying that Ari had learned his lesson and should understand he did not have to go far to wage jihad. The teacher then asked Ari to join him assisting elderly people.
“This is also jihad,” he said.
Ahmad, Udin and Ari are characters in an animated film entitled “Kembali dari Suriah,” or “Returning from Syria,” produced by the Center for the Study of Islam and Social Transformation (Cisform) at Universitas Islam Negeri Sunan Kalijaga in Yogyakarta. The short film — one of 20 animated clips produced to counter extremism among teenagers — was launched in Jakarta on Wednesday, following the February release of the first 20 clips in Yogyakarta.
Muhammad Wildan, Cisform’s director, said the films had been made to counter radical propaganda after earlier efforts to publish two short comics largely failed because of the poor reading habits of Indonesian teenagers.
“We decided to develop these animated short clips to expand our reach. They will be more accessible through social media,” Wildan said.
Most of the clips are between 90 seconds and three minutes long, depending on the content.
Wildan said the real challenge was to condense the message with the correct reference to Qur’an and package it in a maximum three-minute clip.
“We are careful when choosing our arguments that cite the Qur’an and the Hadith,” Wildan said.
Lecturers from the university had offered their expertise on specific subjects, he said.
Also present at the film launch was 20-year-old Nur Shadrina Khairadhania, who went to Syria as a teenager with her extended family. She shared her own account of emigrating to the so-called caliphate and explained why going to Syria to wage jihad was wrong.
Speaking to an audience of high school students, Khairadhania said that after her interest in Islam began to grow, she fell victim to ISIS online propaganda introduced to her by an uncle.
“I watched their videos, which showed that life would be really good in the caliphate. I was enticed to join,” Khairadhania said.
She convinced her father, Dwi Djoko Wiwoho, a high-ranking civil servant in Batam, Riau province, as well as her mother and two siblings, to migrate to Syria.
A group of 26 extended members of her family, including two uncles and a grandmother, left for Syria in 2015. After 19 managed to cross the border to Turkey, they quickly discovered that life in the caliphate was very different to the propaganda.
“Everything is contrary to Islamic teaching. A male family member was forced to fight and was put in detention for months when he refused,” she said.
The family tried for a year to leave and finally returned to Indonesia in August 2017.
Family members completed a rehabilitation program run by the national counterterrorism agency, but now her father and uncle are facing terrorism charges.
Rebuilding her life had been difficult because of the stigma of her past, she said.
“But God gave me a second chance to live. This is probably my jihad, to tell the truth to people so no one will be deceived like us,” she said.
Embun Diarsih had been used to being in touch once a week with her husband Ronny William, a sailor for 35 years.
But in September 2017, after William did not contact her for two weeks, she became a bit anxious and her worries were confirmed when one of his fellow sailors told her that the Malta-flagged fishing vessel on which William was working was hijacked near Benghazi, Libya.
“I hadn’t heard from my husband for two weeks, then I had a call from his friend, an Indonesian sailor who was also working on a fishing vessel in Europe, he told me that the boat in which my husband was working on had been hijacked near Benghazi,” Embun said at the foreign ministry on Monday where Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi officially handed over William and five other crew members to their families.
Embun said she immediately contacted the Indonesian authorities and told them about the abduction.
Ronny, who was speaking on behalf of his five fellow crew members Joko Riadi, Haryanto, Waskita Idi Patria, Saefudin, and Mohamad Abudi, said they sailed from Malta looking for fishing grounds in the Mediterranean Sea with seven people onboard including an Italian captain.
The Salvatur VI vessel was seized by Benghazi-based militia on Sep. 23 last year about 23 miles off the Libyan coast. The militiamen seized everything, including communication devices and the crew members’ personal belongings.
“Since the vessel didn’t have any means of communication, the Indonesian government only found out about the hijacking on Sep. 28 from the vessel’s owner, who contacted the Indonesian Embassy in Rome,” said Foreign Ministry’s director for protection of Indonesians abroad, Lalu Muhammad Iqbal.
Indonesian authorities, including officials from the state intelligence agency BIN tried to contact the militia to gain access to the crew.
In December, the Indonesian embassy in Tripoli finally secured direct access to the militia in Benghazi, which gave approval for communication with the crew.
“The communication access enabled us to get proof of lives and to monitor their condition,” Iqbal said.
Embun said that was when she was finally able to talk to her husband again after waiting for three months.
“I just waited and waited. I understand it’s a conflict area and the process was difficult,” she said.
Following months of intensive communication with various parties in Benghazi, Indonesian officials reached an understanding with them on how to extract the hostages.
“On March 27, at 12.30 local time, the six crew were handed over to us at the port of Benghazi,” Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi adding that the whole process was delicate given the complex political situation in Libya.
“There were no ransom paid,” she added.
William said they survived on the run-down boat by fishing, and they asked one of the militiamen assigned to guard them to sell some of the fish they caught in the market, and to use to the money to buy rice and other provisions.
“Until December, we witnessed clashes between militia group that tried to take over Benghazi with Islamic State (IS) militants. A bomb fell not far from the boat where we were held captive,” he added.
“The port and the city are in ruins. It’s like a dead town. Decayed boats and damaged buildings were everywhere,” he said, adding that the Italian captain, who was ailing, had been rescued in October.
Retno said the Foreign Ministry is continuing to communicate with the boat’s owner in Malta.
“We will make sure that the crewmen’s rights are fulfilled,” she said.
Dresden – It is not always easy to welcome migrants, especially from war-torn, Muslim-majority countries, in a stronghold city of Germany’s xenophobic movement.
“It’s a difficult situation. We have a minority of people who are against refugees, but a very loud one. That’s part of the reality,” Hans Georg Krauthäuser, the vice rector for academic and international affairs at Dresden University of Technology (TUD) told a group of international journalists that the German Academic Research Service (DAAD) facilitated to tour around the university campus earlier this year.
The capital of eastern German state of Saxony, Dresden is home to the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, known by its German acronym Pegida. The anti-immigration and anti-Islam movement held its rallies every Monday since October 2014 in the square called Theatherplatz in front of the Semperoper, Dresden’s historic opera house. At most, the rallies gathered roughly 20,000 protesters, according to media reports.
“This is not good for an international city of science like Dresden,” Krauthäuser added.
After all, Dresden hosts dozens of research facilities and institutions with a roster of international researchers. They are run by all four major German research organizations; the Helmholtz Association, the Max Planck Society, the Leibniz Association and Europe’s largest organization for application-oriented research, the Fraunhofer Society. Together with TUD as one of the top technical universities in Germany, they make Dresden as one of the three hotspots in the eastern German research and innovation system along with Jena and Berlin.
Michael Fristch, chair of business dynamics, innovation and economic change at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena in neighboring state of Thuringia, acknowledged that East Germany may not be very friendly to foreigners.
“It’s a legacy of the socialist system,” he said.
However, it didn’t stop TUD to launch a refugee aid program that started in August 2015 by setting up three refugee camps on its campus. Managed by the German Red Cross, the camps hosted a total of 1,220 residents from August to October 2015. By March, the program hosted 300 almost all-male residents, with 66 percent of whom were from Iraq and Syria.
According to Eurocities, the network of major European cities, Dresden welcomed 5,500 people from crisis areas by October 2015. But in contrast to Pegida’s strong sentiments against migrants, the city administration welcomed them with open arms.
In a statement provided to Eurocities website, Dresden mayor Dirk Hilbert said the city wanted to welcome asylum seekers professionally and socially with good-structured programs to avoid them feeling of being sidelined.
TUD picked up the speed to integrate them by organizing activities such as German language courses, winter clothes collections or additional security service, with the help of 600 registered volunteers including students.
For teaching in the language courses, students can get credit points similar to those they would get from an internship, Krauthäuser said.
Tatiana Sandoval-Guzman, a Mexican biologist at the university’s Center for Regenerative Therapies who participated in the program, said they started sewing class for women and kids corner for children.
“We plan to have scientific activities for various age groups of children, despite the language barrier,” she said.
Ulrike Mikolasch, TUD’s refugee aid coordinator said the university offered a limited space for refugees to attend courses free of charge. There were 34 guest students, including 20 from Syria who mostly attended technical and economic studies.
“The main problem is language and other skills that they need to start the course, not the documents,” Krauthäuser said.
Locals also mobilized actions to provide assistance such as introduction to the German language for migrants with the support of more than 80 initiatives. A group of local volunteers were spotted on a spring Friday afternoon teaching German to migrants in a corner of the modern art museum Albertinum near the opera house.
“Integration in the job market or in the education system is one of the most successful ways to integrate into our society. Unemployment, lack of training and no knowledge of the German language have the opposite effect,” Hilbert said.
The city administration and TUD’s efforts to welcome refugees reflected findings of a June 2015 survey by the university that showed most of the locals polled had open attitude towards asylum seekers and only 12 percent agreed with Pegida, while 60.1 percent disagreed. Most of them or 78.6 percent also rejected the idea to prohibit Muslim migrants.
On a larger scale, the first-ever Refugees Welcome Index that global rights group Amnesty International released on May 19 also ranks Germany as the second most welcoming country for refugees after China.
The index was based on people’s willingness to let refugees live in their countries, towns, neighborhoods and homes. It surveyed more than 27,000 respondents in 27 countries worldwide, including a national sample of 1,001 respondents in Germany, who were interviewed by phone on February 4-8, 2016 and found that 96 percent Germans said they would accept refugees into their country.
“The survey shows people say they are willing to go to astonishing lengths to make refugees welcome. It also shows how anti-refugee political rhetoric is out of kilter with public opinion,” the report said.
Data from the European Union’s statistics agency, Eurostat, showed Germany has the highest number of first-time asylum applicants registered during the first quarter of 2016, with almost 175,000 applicants or 61 percent of EU’s total. It also had the largest share of pending applicants within the bloc by end of March with 473,000 applicants or 47 percent.
Compared with the population of each member state, Germany had the highest rate of registered applicants during the first quarter 2016, with 2,155 applicants per million inhabitants. The top two countries of the applicants’ citizenship were Syria and Iraq, with 88,515 and 25,550 asylum seekers respectively.
The migrant influx was forecasted to positively impact on the local and regional economy. The EU first assessed the macroeconomic impact on the influx in its autumn 2015 economic forecast released in November last year. It estimated the flow of migrants could boost the region’s gross domestic products of 0.2 to 0.3 percent by 2020 through public spending on matters related to migrant inflows. It expected more positive impact on growth in the medium term when migrants integrate into the labor supply.
The International Monetary Fund said in a May 9 report that Germany could boost its economy if it speeds up structural reforms “by broadening the labor market participation of refugees, women and older workers” and set up new policies as the basis for refugees to integrate into its labor market.
The European Commission’s winter and spring 2016 forecasts also said Germany’s increased public spending to host and integrate asylum seekers would support growth to its moderate economic activity.
But for the university, economic growth was not the reason they welcomed the migrants. TUD’s Krauthäuser said it was understandable migrants who fled wars in their countries wanted to come to “a rich and free country” like Germany.
“If you are a refugee, where would you go? You want to live in peace. It’s quite obvious,” he said.
“We have to help those people just because they need help, not because it is good for the German economy,” Krauthäuser added.
The open confrontation between Indonesia and China in Indonesia’s fish-rich Natuna area and subsequent coolness between the two countries belies President Joko Widodo’s moves to establish closer ties with Beijing during the first months of his presidency, which began in October of 2014.
The president’s first international visit was to Beijing, followed with his full pledge to join the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), causing some nationalists at home to point to Indonesia’s “independent and active” foreign policy manifesto, telling Jokowi that although Indonesia needs investment from China, the second largest economy in the world, he should keep his distance.
Jokowi’s political opponents have raised the issue of incoming thousands of Chinese workers reported to be illegally working in Indonesia after the president signed many investment agreement with China. Antipathy to those workers has made headlines in influential Jakarta media for months.
The public was also shocked by Jokowi’s sudden decision to adopt Chinese technology instead of the long-planned Japanese equipment for Indonesia’s first high-speed railway line connecting the capital city Jakarta and Bandung in west Java.
The line is planned to span 42 kilometers from Jakarta to Bandung and is expected to be completed by 2019, at the time when Jokowi is expected to be seeking re-election.
The Ministry of Transport said the holding company PT Kereta Cepat Indonesia China (KCIC), had moved so fast that it hadn’t even obtained a business license for public railway infrastructure, urging them to work fast on the papers to get the project going.
Former transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan refused to grant instant permits to the project, saying that his ministry is taking extra precautions since the Chinese loan has a tenure of 50 years and the government wants all assets to be in good condition when they are eventually handed over to the government.
Ignasius Jonan was one of several ministers that Jokowi replaced during the July 27 cabinet reshuffle.
In the meantime, Indonesian navy and Chinese vessels and coast guards are bumping to each other many times around the Indonesian territory off the Natuna island, causing clear irritation in Jakarta.
The latest incidents involved the MV Kwang Fey 10078 and Han Tan Cou 19038 vessels, which were reported to have been fishing illegally in Natuna waters near the Riau Islands.
A Chinese Coast Guard vessel forcibly rescued MV Kwang Fey 10078 by pushing it back into Chinese waters, taking it away from a patrol boat from the Indonesian Maritime and Fisheries Monitoring Task Force that was escorting the boat after apprehending it.
After the latest incident and several diplomatic notes sent to Beijing, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said Indonesia wants to maintain good relations with China but will not negotiate over violations of Indonesia’s sovereignty and jurisdiction on the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the continental shelf.
“We have a good relationship with China. We will strive to maintain our good relations along with international laws,” Marsudi told journalists at the State Palace after the incidents took place.
Jokowi then took several of his ministers for a “quick cabinet meeting” on board of Indonesia’s warship to send signals to Beijing that Indonesia is serious in defending its sovereignty.
These incidents add tensions between China and its neighbors the Asean member countries, as China has sought to assert its control in the region with its self-claimed nine-dashed line which take Chinese ownership almost to the doorsteps of several of the littoral countries.
China claims most of the South China Sea, which includes overlapping claims by Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei.
Will Indonesia add to these tensions, and how should Indonesia react to the perceived “muscle flexing” by Beijing?
“I think Indonesia is only attempting to maintain its strategic positions vis-a-vis China,” Yeremia Lalisang, a scholar from the University of Indonesia, told The Parrot.
“On the one hand, Indonesia has to reflect its commitment to international law, so there is no reason for the Indonesian government not to push China to respect it. However, it cannot be ignored that China is now the world’s second largest economy, and it’s also clear that Jokowi’s presidency has mainly focused on the efforts to revive Indonesia’s national economic development. So, it seems Jakarta clearly understands that cooperative relations with China could contribute positively to the attainment of such a goal.”
The public and policymakers “should not only take the partial understanding of China’s muscle flexing, because then we will lose the opportunity for cooperation’s in other fields,” he added.
Today, Indonesia’s US$44 billion annual trade with China remains strong and first quarter investments from Beijing experienced a 400 percent increase from last year. However, China’s 14 percent realization rate on its investment pledges is much smaller than Japan and South Korea’s 70 percent realization rate.