Indonesia: Muslim group launches global anti-ISIS campaign

A worldwide anti-ISIS campaign has been launched in Indonesia by Islam's largest organisation, the New York Times reports.

Indonesian police try to lift and take away a crying Christian woman while others can only weep at the sight as their church at the Siompin village in Aceh Singkil, Aceh province, was demolished on Oct. 19, 2015.Reuters

Nahdlatul Ulama has more than 50 million members, and has at its heart a message of tolerance and moderate Islam. The organisation's youth wing has launched a three-day conference in the Indonesian island of Java to campaign against jihadism.

"The spread of a shallow understanding of Islam renders this situation critical," said Mustofa Bisri, the head of Indonesian Muslim organisation. "Highly vocal elements within the Muslim population at large – justify their harsh and often savage behaviour by claiming to act in accord with God's commands, although they are grievously mistaken.

"According to the Sunni view of Islam every aspect and expression of religion should be imbued with love and compassion, and foster the perfection of human nature," he said.

The message will be broadcast online around North America, Europe and Asia as the group looks to take the ideological lead in fighting terror. Indeed experts say the moderate's narrative is the only way to combat extremism as western leaders lack credibility.

"I see the counter narrative as the only way that western governments can deal with the ISIS propaganda, but there is not strategy right now," said Nico Prucha from King's College London.

The conference comes as Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, called for a theological and ideological response to ISIS and not just a military one. Welby was responding to the Prime Minister's statement making the case for British air strikes against ISIS in Syria.

One way Nahdlatul Ulama is challenging ISIS' theology is by showing films of atrocities committed by ISIS and overlaying it with a soundtrack demonstrating how their interpretation of the Qur'an and Hadith is mistaken.

"Many who memorise the Qur'an and Haith love to condemn others as infidels while ignoring their own infidelity to God, their hearts and minds still mired in filth," one particular voice-over says.

However as well as tackling jihadist Islam in the middle east, Indonesia itself has a collection of jihadist groups who have committed several deadly attacks in recent years. Several churches have been demolished and Christians attacked, particularly in the conservative region of Aceh.

Despite this, it is unsuprising that a response to jihadist theology should come from Indonesia as, with 190 million Muslims, it has the highest number of Muslims in the world.

Indeed the principle of moderate Islam offering transformative education to extremist tendencies may be exactly what is needed. Western politicians have long called for Muslim leaders to take responsibility for the jihadism growing within their communities.