A survey showed today that many Indonesians support the implementation of strict Islamic law, with nearly 60% saying they want adulterers to be whipped and 40% backing cutting off a thief’s hand.
The survey, conducted by the US-funded Freedom Institute, also found 16% of people polled refused to condemn terror attacks by the al-Qaida linked regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah if they were committed to fight Muslim oppression.
Still, 59% condemned the attacks, while 25% said they had no opinion.
The findings will rekindle concerns that radical Islam is gaining a foothold in the world’s most populous Muslim nation, which has long embraced a moderate form of the religion.
“It is a worrying phenomenon,” said Ulil Abdala, the institute’s head. “There is a strong indication that radical Islam is gaining ground. It’s definitely something that moderate Indonesian Muslims must take note.”
He added many uneducated Indonesians may not have access to information about the terror attacks that have hit the country in recent years or their only sources of information are militant Islamic groups.
Since 2002, Indonesia has suffered three major bombings blamed on Jemaah Islamiyah that have killed 224 people.
The survey, which was carried out for the first time earlier this month, showed many Indonesians support the establishment of laws based on the Muslim holy book Quran.
Fifty-nine percent of people polled backed whipping adulterers and 40% said thieves should have their hands cut off. Meanwhile, 39% said they support polygamy for men and 40% oppose a women becoming president.
Many Indonesian Muslims also expressed intolerant attitudes toward Christians, with 50% saying they oppose churches in Muslim-majority areas, the survey said.
A Catholic school near Jakarta was closed for three weeks in October when a Muslim group built the seven-foot-high wall in front of its gates. The group accused the school of aggressive proselytising.
However, 82% of Indonesians oppose a hard-line militant group, the Islamic Defenders Front, which is notorious for raiding Western cafes and bars during the holy month of Ramadan.
The Freedom Institute surveyed 1,200 people in all 32 provinces, and the poll had a margin of error of 3%.
More than 85% of the country’s 210 million people are Muslims, while Christians are 8%, Hindus 2% and Buddhists less than 1%.