If you were to open a newspaper in Indonesia today, there would be little to dispel the myth that Islam is a religion of violence. But looking more deeply at how Muslims respond to such violence shows a different reality.
For instance, a few days before Ramadan in August this year there were reports of a small group of Muslims in West Java attacking Ahmadiyyah followers. The Ahmadiyya consider themselves a Muslim community and believe the second advent of Jesus came in the person of the 19th century Mirza Ghulam Ahmad; they are considered by mainstream Muslims as a blasphemous splinter group.
But soon after, Slamet Effendi Yusuf, a leader of Nahdlatul Ulama, one of the largest Muslim organisations in the country, called on Muslim religious leaders to use persuasive dialogue and peaceful approaches to deal with differences between their communities and the Ahmadiyya.
Another violent incident happened shortly after Eid ul-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of Ramadan, when Muslims in West Java stabbed two leaders and several followers of a Christian group during a demonstration when the Islamic Community Forum of Mustikajaya and other Islamic organisations were protesting local Christians’ plans to build a church.
In response Din Syamsuddin, Chairperson of Muhammadiyah, the second largest Indonesian Muslim organisation, condemned these acts of violence towards Christians, and maintained that the government must guarantee freedom of religion for all citizens.