Aussie Barred From Indonesian Conference

Aussie barred from Indonesian conference

The Age (Melbourne)
August 12, 2007 – 4:29PM

Indonesia has barred the entry of an Australian man connected with the conservative Islamic group Hizb ut-Tarhir (HT) ahead of a large conference on Sunday in Jakarta.

Sheikh Ismail Al Wahwah, of the group's Australian branch, was one of at least two international speakers prevented from entering Indonesia ahead of the huge conference in Jakarta, HT Indonesia's speaker Ismail Yusanto said.

An Immigration spokesman confirmed Wahwah was prevented from entering Indonesia because he did not meet its immigration criteria on Friday.

HT's British representative Dr Imran Waheed was also prevented from entering the country.

Banned in several countries but not in Australia, HT or Islamic Liberation Party, is pushing for the creation of a caliphate, a single Islamic state across the Muslim world.

More than 100,000 Muslims, many shouting “God is great” and waving black and white flags, packed into Jakarta's main stadium for the conference, where speakers discussed the need for a united Islamic state.

“Of course, I'm disappointed with the cancellation because two of our brothers … were invited by the committee and they were going to … present their thoughts, their ideas and also maybe suggest how to implement sharia,” Yusanto said.

“They came to Indonesia with a goodness.

“We don't know why exactly, what is the real reason why they were deported.”

Popular Islamic preacher Abdullah Gymnastiar said it was unfair to label the group radical, as they were opposed to violence.

“I think there is a need for the international community to be fair in labelling Islamic movements as radical, especially in Indonesia,” Gymnastiar said.

“Really, it hurts our feelings if there is a label … from outside as a radical group.

“From a close distance … they don't have radical strategy or proposal for social change.”

He said that while the group had “high sensitivity” for moral issues, such as prostitution and gambling, it was non-violent.

“Of course, we don't tolerate at all to engage in violence, especially terror action,” he said.

Hizb ut-Tahrir's UK chairman Dr Abdul Wahid said the group was leading a “crucial debate” on the future of the Muslim world as an alternative to corruption and dictatorship.

“Whether this is the desperate action of the Indonesian regime or the regime following the orders of an overseas government is unclear,” he said in a statement on the group's website.

“What is clear is that there is an attempt to prevent (British representative) Dr Waheed from speaking. One has to ask, do they fear our arguments so much?”

An Australian Embassy official said it had played no role in the matter.

“This was entirely an Indonesian government decision,” a spokesman said.

“The first we heard about it was when Indonesian immigration officials contacted us about their decision on Friday night.”

2007 AAP