By Konradus Epa
Indonesian students and activists have accused the Islamic-based Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) of harboring radical extremists.
On May 14, hundreds of critics marched to the party’s headquarters in South Jakarta to pressure its leaders to stop using religion as a front for politicking.
This came a day after suicide bombers attacked churches in Surabaya, East Java.
They also called on fellow students nationwide to monitor the activities of PKS politicians and supporters in their respective regions.
“We urge all Indonesian people to reject the party’s religious mask and radicalism that triggers the crime of terrorism,” Amin Malawat, the coordinator of the action, told ucanews.com.
Malawat also demanded that the party dismiss cadres who had misled people by claiming the government orchestrated terror attacks against the Mako Brimob detention center on May 9 in Depok, West Java, and the suicide attacks in Surabaya, East Java on May 13.
Five police and one terrorist died in the detention center violence and the Surabaya suicide bomb attacks killed 23 people, including 13 bombers. Three churches and other sites were damaged.
Malawat also asked police, intelligence officials, the government and military to monitor all offices of the PKS in relation to the promotion of terrorism.
Last year, police arrested a member of PKS who allegedly provided $20,000 for the cause of Islamic State. However, he was later released after party leaders convinced police that the money was meant to support the Palestinian cause.
“We will boycott the party and shut down its operations in the regions if it continues to support radical groups and use religion for politics,” Malawat said.
However, PKS chairman Mardani Ali Sera denied all allegations and said he accepted criticism as being part of the democratic process.
“We also condemn acts of terror and have offered condolences to victims in the church attacks in Surabaya,” he said.
Sanusi, 34, a Muslim who works in private company in Jakarta, said he disagrees with PKS for using religious sentiments to gain support from people in the Muslim-majority nation.
He said such an approach “destroys religion” and threatens social cohesion.
Lucius Karus, a political analyst, said efforts needed to be stepped up to oppose radicalizing of religion for “nasty” political purposes.
Political parties should be pillars of democracy and work to improve living standards, not use religious fundamentalism to create communal divisions, he said.
The forerunner of the PKS, the Justice Party, was established in 1998.
The PKS currently has 40 of 560 seats in the national parliament and in 2014 legislative elections obtained more than 8.5 million votes.
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