Thai govt urged to give more support to its students in Indo
A leading Indonesian scholar on Islam urged on Monday the Thai government to provide more moral and financial support to ThaiMuslim students studying in Indonesia and dismissed any notion that education in the archipelago state would radicalise their world view.
Speaking at a seminar on "Moderate Islam and Democracy in Indonesia" at Chulalongkorn University yesterday, Professor Azyumardi Azra said Thailand should be glad that Thai Muslim students choose to further their education at Indonesian universities.
Studying in Indonesia will expose them to a very progressive and liberal form of Islam that is compatible to democratic values and system.
Azyumardi, the rector of the State Islamic University, said none of the 70 students from Thailand attending his institution receive financial aid from the Thai government.
In fact, said Azyumardi, many are working part time in tom yam restaurants in Jakarta to help pay for their studies and to make ends meet. He suggested that the Thai government consider financial assistance to these students.
Supporting young Thai Muslims to achieve their academic goals, said Azyumardi, would have a positive affect on national reconciliation, especially between the ethnic Malays in the deep south and the predominantly Buddhist Kingdom.
Thai government needs to address the root cause of the problem and end the economic and social imbalance between the Malayspeaking region and the rest of the country, he said.
He said Thai Muslims in the region resent the country's policy of assimilation and suggested that more cultural space be granted to the Malayspeaking region as part of the country's effort to win hearts and minds.
Moreover, private Islamic schools throughout the three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat should be brought up to par with the rest of the country because the more the community feel left out, the more resentment towards the state they will feel.
"This could potentially leads to extremism," Azyumardi said.
In his presentation, Azyumardi argued that Indonesian was the test case for Islam and democracy.
He said terrorist strikes in Indonesia have forced the Muslims to come out stronger against radicalism and that more and more Muslims have abandoned the apologetic attitude towards the perpetrators of the bombings.
Muslim leaders have also played a significant role in combating terrorism, he said, pointing to combined forces of Islamic religious leaders who have been very active in setting the record straight and preventing the few radical elements from exploiting Islam in their campaign of violence.
Azyumardi called the period of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono a "period of consolidation for Indonesia" in which the state, civil society, nongovernmental organisations and other stakeholders come together as "a pillar of democracy".
by Don Pathan