FAMILY MEMBERS WANT NEW MUSLIM POLICY
PRESIDENT PREPARES FOR INDONESIAN PILGRIMAGE
Haryo Soetendro, Barack Obama’s Muslim cousin, urges the US President to withdraw all troops from Islamic lands.
Mr. Soetendro grew up with Mr. Obama – whom he knew as “Barry” – when the future American president lived in Indonesia for four years in the late 1960s.
“You cannot force other countries to accept your idea of what is right just because you are stronger. I think the mothers in America would agree with this when they see their soldier sons being killed in Afghanistan,” Mr. Soetendro said in an exclusive interview with a reporter from The Daily Telegraph.
Mr. Soetendro further urged his cousin to return to his Islamic roots and the lessons he learned in the madrassahs.
“Indonesian Muslims are generally tolerant,” Mr. Soetendro explained. “But there is a common opinion that one country should not occupy another. No one would want their house occupied by someone else.”
The President cousin further said that it is high time for Mr. Obama to fulfill his promise to build bridges with the Muslim world.
“I think he is being held back by having to please conservatives in the United States,” Mr. Soetendro said.
Mr. Obama is due to fly to Indonesia next week for a democracy conference. During a six-day trip, he is expected to viist his childhood home in Jakarta and to spend some time with his Muslim relatives.
But many Muslims in Indonesia are not rolling out the red carpet. Thousands of Indonesians protested against Mr Obama’s visit across five cities on Sunday. Radical Islamic group, Hizbut Tahrir Indonesia, which has one million members, is planning a huge demonstration in Jakarta on Friday.
“Obama is a war president of a country that murders Muslim women and children. He is using Indonesia as his beast of burden to build a positive image of America to the Muslim world,” the group’s spokesperson, Ismail Yusanto told The Daily Telegraph.
A spate of recent arrests and killings of wanted terrorists – notably the killing of Dulmatin, the Bali bomber, last week and the discovery of a training camp in Aceh last month – has revealed a re-emergence of Islamic extremism in a country made up of 17,500 islands and 230 million people.
“The international linkages with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan are stronger than we thought and the discovery of the Aceh training centre showed that the group was attempting to make a secure base for their activities in the region,” explained Jim Della-Giacoma, South East Asia Project Director of Crisis Group International.
Mr. Soetendro told the press he took the six-year-old “Barry” under his wing, when Mr. Obama’s mother Ann Dunham and his Indonesian stepfather Lolo Soetoro moved to Jakarta in 1967.
In Indonesia, Mr. Obama was registered as a Muslim in 1969 at Fransiskus Stradi Asisa, a Catholic elementary school, and in 1970 at the Jakarta Public School.
His Indonesian relatives, including his half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng, say that the young Obama went to the local mosque and often wore a sarong and traditional Islamic garb.