FM Encourages Sending Aid Instead of Fighters to Gaza

JAKARTA ~ Sending aid to Palestinians in Gaza would be more useful than dispatching fighters as some Indonesian militant Muslim groups are suggesting, the foreign minister has said.

Several groups in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, said they were recruiting volunteers to help fight Israel in response to air strikes on Gaza that began on Saturday.

But Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said that “giving humanitarian aid to ease the pain of the victims” would be more realistic.

“The intention is to help our brothers who are suffering. But the goodwill has to be adjusted to the condition of the area,” Wirajuda said on Tuesday.

The Israeli offensive, launched in response to a wave of Palestinian-fired rockets, has killed at least 360 people and wounded more than 1,000 so far.

The Indonesian government, which has condemned the air strikes, has pledged to send medical supplies and more than US$1 million in cash to help the victims.

A group of conservative clerics, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), said that sending volunteers would be problematic.

“The geography might be different. The languages are different. Where will the volunteers stay?” Muhidin Junaedi, head of international relations of MUI, was quoted as saying by Elshinta radio.

“I encourage all Muslims in Indonesia to donate.”

Junaedi said that the council, which coordinates 63 Muslim groups, was nevertheless grateful that many Indonesians were ready to help their brothers in the conflict area.

Meanwhile, the hardline Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) said it had already recruited 300 “mujahedins” from across the country to send to Gaza.

“We’ll keep recruiting mujahedins until the group reaches 1,000 or maybe more,” FPI spokesman Umar Nawawi said.

“Some of the volunteers will be fighters and some will be medical personnel,” he said, adding they were hoping to get the government’s backing for the mission, to avoid the possibility of participants being labelled terrorists.

“Humanitarian aid is good, but it’s going to be slow if we send it through the government as there is much bureaucracy. Most of our brothers could be dead before they receive the aid,” he said.

The Indonesian branch of Muslim organisation Hizbut Tahrir (HTI) urged Muslims to wage war against Israel, during a rally outside the US embassy in Jakarta.

“We urge all Muslim countries not to only send medicines but also troops,” HTI spokesman Farid Wajri was quoted as saying by Antara state news agency.

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