JAKARTA, Indonesia – Thousands of followers of a conservative Islamic group held peaceful demonstrations Sunday in several Indonesian cities against the planned visit of President Barack Obama.
Witnesses and police said members of the Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir protested in East Java’s provincial capital of Surabaya, South Sulawesi’s capital of Makassar and three other cities. The group, an international network which believes Muslims should unite in a single global state governed by Islamic law, urged the Indonesian government to reject the American leader’s trip, scheduled for late March.
“We know Obama spent his childhood in Indonesia, but as president his policy contradicts the people’s interests in Indonesia,” protest organizer Nasrudin said in Makassar.
Hundreds of police monitored the protests, which drew around 2,000 people outside the U.S. Consulate in Surabaya and another 2,000 in the streets of Makassar. No violence was reported. Dozens of demonstrators also rallied in the Java city of Yogyakarta, the West Kalimantan town of Pontianak and the eastern town of Mataram.
Men and women wearing black veils held up yellow banners reading “Reject the visit of Obama” as they marched in the streets of the two larger cities.
“He doesn’t work for a peaceful world … on the contrary, Obama is the same as George Bush, who has destroyed the Muslim world in Iraq and Afghanistan. Therefore we have to reject the visit of Obama to Indonesia,” said Nasrudin, who, like many Indonesians, uses only one name.
Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim nation. Most of its nearly 200 million Muslims practice a moderate form of the faith.
The country’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, and its second largest, Muhamadyah, have both welcomed Obama’s visit.