Mon, Aug 13, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Crowds rally to support Islamic rule

PACKED STADIUM All but one section of the Jakarta stadium was filled by the hardline Hizbut Tahrir supporters seeking the return of a caliphate

AFP , JAKARTA

More than 70,000 members and supporters of the hardline Hizbut Tahrir Muslim group held a massive gathering yesterday at a sports stadium in the Indonesian capital.

Almost all but one seated area of the stadium was packed with members and supporters of Hizbut Tahrir, many of whom had come on board convoys of buses from other regions in Java and neighboring Sumatra.

The event, touted by the group's spokesman Muhammad Ismail Yusanto as an international conference was entitled "It is now time for the Caliphate to reign," and included several speakers and foreign invitees.

Hizbut Tahrir Muslims advocate the return of a caliphate -- Islamic rule -- to govern the world.

The organization is banned in several Middle Eastern countries.

But Yusanto said that two speakers -- Imran Waheed from England and Syeik Ismail al Wahwah from Australia -- had been denied entry and deported from Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-populated country, when they arrived at Jakarta international airport on Friday.

"The organizing committee deplores the deportation because they came to Indonesia at the invitation of the Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia to give their good advice for the progress of Islam, for the progress of this country," Yusanto said.

Nor will the conference hear from hardline Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir who has declined to appear without giving a reason. Yusanto said that police had advised Bashir and another hardline cleric, Habieb Rizieq, not to attend the conference.

The chairman of the country's second largest Islamic movement, the Muhammadiyah, and serving deputy chairman of the Indonesian Council of Ulemas, the highest authority on Islam in the country, Dien Syamsuddin, was among the key speakers addressing the crowd.

"Islam's progress or regress depends entirely on Muslims themselves," he told the crowd.

Security appeared not to be tight at and around the venue of the conference, with police limiting their role to directing the traffic.

Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia regularly holds peaceful street protests in several main cities on various Islam-related issues without event.

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