February 27, 2006

Jakarta says war on terror needs religious tolerance

By Achmad Sukarsono

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Winning hearts and minds in the war
against terrorism needs a balanced dose of freedom and
religious tolerance, the president of Indonesia, the world's
most populous Muslim nation, said on Monday.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's comments came amid
continuing protests in the Muslim world against the publication
of cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammad, which have sparked
fears the issue is playing into the hands of Islamic militants.

Yudhoyono said terror groups generally are bent on using
politically sensitive issues to their advantage.

"They want to radicalise our society, undermine our values,
destablise our community ... this is the best situation for
them. We must not lose this battle," he told a seminar on

"This is a battle that requires us not just to advance
freedom but also to spread tolerance. Sometimes there is too
much emphasis on freedom but not enough on tolerance,"
Yudhoyono said, adding nations and media should reject "the
offensive cartoons."

"If we don't address the issue rightly, I fear we will lose
more people in the Islamic world in this battle of hearts and
minds," said Yudhoyono, who won an election on a platform that
included a strong stress on security.

Protests against the cartoons, first published in Denmark
last year and then by other European newspapers, sparked
attacks in Indonesia that damaged property in the building
housing the Danish embassy, as well as smashed windows at the
U.S. embassy.

That violence and threats of attacks on individuals
prompted Danish embassy staff to leave Indonesia, although the
ambassador has since returned.

Government officials, politicians and leaders of moderate
Muslim groups in Indonesia have condemned the cartoons while
urging protesters to be peaceful.

They have been cautious in attacking those responsible for

An Indonesia counter-terrorism official told Reuters the
issue has complicated efforts by moderate Muslim clerics in
defusing militant ideas at the grassroots.

Indonesia has been one of the most active countries in
persecuting terror perpetrators since Islamic militants
launched deadly attacks on its soil in recent years, including
the bar bombings that killed 202 people on the resort island of

Jakarta's anti-terror campaign has brought around 200
terror suspects to justice through open proceedings but it also
has walked a cautious line to ensure the Muslim public see the
work as a fight against violent criminals and not Islamic


Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, who spoke at
the same conference, agreed claims the war on terror is a fight
against Islam must be debunked.

"Through clever use of the media, the internet, youth
networks and charitable organisations, they have created a
flattering image for themselves. At the same time they sought
to portray Islam under attack," he said about the Islamic

"Unless effectively challenged, this corrosive world view
may gradually take hold, particularly amongst the young and the
impressionable," Downer said in his speech.

On the cartoon issue, Downer said freedoms including the
chance to "abuse someone," should be exercised with extreme

"When editors in free societies make judgment about whether
to publish those cartoons they need to have, what I often say,
the wisdom of Solomon," he told reporters in a news conference.

"But none of this excuses violence," he said, referring to
the violent reactions in some Muslim nations against the