Next week, President Obama plans to visit Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, where he spent much of his childhood. Upon the announcement that the President would return to the island nation for an official visit, several hardline Islamic groups began calling for protests against visit. But in a positive sign of the impact Obama’s visit is having in the Muslim nation, Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Islamic organization, has called on Indonesian Muslims to welcome Obama and has condemned the hardliners’ protests:
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.
The reaction of Nahdlatul Ulama to Obama is a marked contrast from its persistent skepticism of President Bush. In 2003, the chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama told Bush that the United States should stop seeing Indonesia as a “terrorists’ nest, because Indonesia is a terror victim.”