Source: The Guardian
On August 2, 2005 The Guardian reported, "Indonesia's reputation as a bastion of moderate, tolerant Islam has been cast in doubt after the nation's ulemas council (MUI) issued 11 fatwas banning liberal Islamic thought, religious pluralism, inter-faith marriage, inter-faith prayers led by non-Muslims and women leading prayers attended by men. At its national congress, which ended last Friday, the council also renewed a ban on Ahmadiyah, a group it views as deviant because it does not recognise Muhammad as being the last prophet. Some observers fear the world's most populous Muslim nation could spiral into sectarian strife after progressive Muslim groups joined human rights activists in condemning the decrees and demanding government intervention to prevent an escalating crisis. Other analysts, however, say the fatwas could backfire on MUI and expose it as an out-dated, 'regimist' relic of Indonesia's authoritarian era, which came to an end in 1998, if the non-binding rulings are ignored. MUI, whose influence is strongest in poorly educated rural communities, believes liberal teachings - defined as those promoting rational rather than literal interpretations of religious texts - are 'dangerous and misleading,' according to Ma'ruf Amin, the fatwa commission chairman of the council."