Indonesia Muslim group holds rally before Ramadan

  • World
  • Sunday, 09 Sep 2007

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Several thousand Muslims from a hardline Islamic group held a rally in the Indonesian capital on Sunday, urging the government to clamp down on "immoral" acts during the fasting month of Ramadan that starts this week. 

A police official said around 2,000 members from the Hizbut Tahrir group joined the march, although a spokesman for the group put the number at 5,000. 

The group, which is banned in several Arab and Central Asian countries, seeks to promote a Caliphate, a single Muslim government under sharia law across the Islamic world, through peaceful means. 

"Prophet Muhammad taught us to greet Ramadan joyfully. What we did was something that brought joy to people," spokesman Muhammad Ismail Yusanto said by telephone referring to the rally. 

"We also ask the government, with all its authority, to stop everything that is immoral during Ramadan -- all kind of immoral things such as gambling, pornography, drugs and alcohol." 

It is common for entertainment places such as night clubs and bars to close or at least limit hours during the month-long Ramadan in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation. 

In some recent years, hardline Muslim groups have attacked bars that operated during Ramadan. 

A member of the Islamic Defence Front (FPI), a hardline Islamic group that has in previous years attacked bars, said the group would not use violence this year. 

"This time we won't use any sticks, we're just giving out leaflets", he told Elshinta radio. 

Many Muslims in Indonesia also traditionally hold family gatherings and say prayers in cemeteries to commemorate ancestors ahead of Ramadan. 

Around 85 percent of the 220 million Indonesians are Muslims. Most are traditionally moderate, although there has been a growth in more conservative interpretations of Islam in recent years. 

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