Indonesian leader unworried by radical Islam rise

Indonesia`s transition to democracy has won wide praise around the world.

Washington: Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono acknowledged that Islamic radicalism may be on the rise in his country but said he was not worried it would spiral out of control.

Speaking to US public television, Yudhoyono said that the world`s most populous Muslim-majority nation offered proof that Islam was compatible with democracy and that radical groups had small membership.

"I can see to a certain degree there is an escalation of radicalism in many countries. Probably we could see also that kind of thing that happens in Indonesia," Yudhoyono told `The Charlie Rose Show` in an interview broadcast late Monday.

"But I believe that we could manage, we could control the activities of radical groups here in Indonesia by empowering religious leaders, by ensuring through education and other means that force of moderation is still in place," he said.

"So it could be yes, but I`m not really worried about the so-called rise of radicalism," he said when asked if radical Islam was rising in Indonesia.

Indonesia`s transition to democracy has won wide praise around the world, but rights groups say that violence against minorities has been escalating during Yudhoyono`s tenure.

Islamic fanatics in February brutally murdered three members of the Ahmadiyah movement, in one of the grisliest attacks on the minority Muslim sect whose freedoms were curtailed under a 2008 degree.

Around 2,000 people held a mass prayer in a show of solidarity with the 12 accused as they went on trial on Tuesday.

Yudhoyono said he was walking a fine line as he wanted to assure Indonesians that action against terrorism was not targeting Islam.

"I am really more than willing to speak loudly," he said. "We actually conduct anti-terrorism campaigns very seriously in Indonesia, by all means."

"But, of course, I have to maintain the climate of brotherhood here in Indonesia, because the majority of the population are Muslim, so I try to maintain their feelings, because sometimes the policy of the government is initially misinterpreted," he said.

Bureau Report

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