Indonesia: Radical Muslim cleric cautions Bush against ‘crusade’

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The alleged spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, Southeast Asia’s largest terrorist group, has revealed he wrote a letter to US President George W. Bush, asking him not to use God’s name to destroy Islam. In an interview with the online site Asia Times, Muslim cleric, Abu Bakar Bashir, also called on Muslims to fight Washington with words and not with violence and bombs. But he also declined to condemn the terrorists convicted of the 2002 Bali bombing which killed 202 people.

“The bombers are actually counter terrorists because they are opposing US terrorism,” he said. “They are mujahids.” Bashir did not specify when he wrote to the US president. He did, however, say he had asked Bush to abandon his ‘War on Terror’ and convert to the Muslim faith.“The only way Bush can survive is for him to do what is being ordered by God, which is to believe in Islam, to convert to Islam,” said Bashir.

The controversial religious leader claimed the US was spreading the message that all terrorists are Islamists, and that all Muslims who fight for sharia [Islamic law] are being stigmatised, arrested and imprisoned.“America is instigating a war of ideas, therefore we should fight back with our own war of thoughts, issues, preaching,” the cleric said. “What we try to do is counter the lies, break down the lies.This activity in and of itself is much more productive and efficient than bombing.”.Bashir, aged 69, was released from prison in 2006 after serving two years in Jakarta’s Cipinang penitentiary for conspiracy in the 2002 Bali bombings.His conviction was later overturned in appeal. He has consistently denied any connection to that or other attacks blamed on JI, whose objective is the creation of a caliphate in the region.

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