The front gate of Masjid Agung (the Great Mosque) of Keraton Surakarta. (photo: Flickr/Ariaman)

Radical beliefs and teachings in Surakarta, Central Java, appear not only in mosques affiliated with radical groups, but also in mosques affiliated with more moderate groups, a recent study showed.

“The research was conducted in Surakarta because there is a growing assumption radical Islamic ideology is being taught in mosques there,” Irfan Abubakar, from the Center for the Study of Religion and Culture (CSRC), told a seminar Thursday.

“This assumption needed to be scientifically studied.”

Irfan said the research ran from September to December in 2009. Between 10 to 12 congregation members each from 10 mosques were interviewed.

Two mosques studied were affiliated with radical groups, such as the Surakarta Islamic Youth Front, two mosques were affiliated to moderate groups such as Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah, while one mosque was located in a religiously mixed community next to a church.

The other five mosques had unclear affiliations.

“People think radicalism is not manifested in mosques affiliated with moderate groups or located in heterogeneous communities. However, our study shows this is not necessarily the case,” Irfan said.

“Mosques considered to be moderate are also influenced by radicalism, but in smaller doses than those affiliated with radical groups.”

The research also showed congregation members rejected the idea of democracy because they felt it was conceived by infidels from Western countries, and “preferred a sharia-based state,” Irfan said.

“But although they reject democracy, some of them took part in general elections. Their purpose was to choose a leader they believed would fight for the establishment of a sharia-based state.”

The study also showed most of the mosque stakeholders were not accepting of pluralism.

“Congregation members affiliated to radical groups deeply hate people with different beliefs. They do their best to avoid direct interaction,” Irfan said.

“In moderate mosques, there is some tolerance, but it is superficial.”

Commenting on the study, International Crisis Group’s director Sidney Jones said more research was needed to draw the conclusion that radicalism infected both radical and moderate Surakarta mosques.

“There are interesting data in the study but the most important question remains unanswered,” she said.

“Is it true there has been a radicalization process in Surakarta, and if so, is it strengthening?”

Sidney said the next study should also include clerics’ teachings, more detailed background data on mosque officials and their affiliations, and the ulamas the cleric referred to for their teachings.

Abdul Mu’ti from Semarang’s Wali Songo State Institute of Islamic Studies (IAIN), said the research did not clearly show where radicalization manifested itself.

“Does this research show the ideology of congregation members or of the clerics?” he asked.

“Sometimes people go to mosques for simple reasons, such as efficiency, not because they really adhere to the clerics’ ideology and teachings.” — JP