US polls: Indonesian Islamic fundamentalists cheer Obama win

Jakarta, 5 Nov. (AKI) – Representatives of some of Indonesia’s fundamentalist Islamic groups on Wednesday celebrated United States President-elect Barack Obama's sweeping victory in Tuesday's presidential polls, claiming the win will be good for interracial relations and world peace.

Obama, the Democratic Party candidate, took 51.9 percent of votes, earning him 349 seats in the Electoral College, compared with 46.8 percent for Republican Party candidate John McCain (who won 162 seats in the Electoral College).

Many parts of the US recorded a record turnout in what observers have termed an historic election. Obama will be the first African American president of the United States.

The Democrats also registered a clear victory over their Republican opponents in voting for both houses of the US Congress. The party captured at least five Senate seats from their rivals, increasing their majority in the 100-seat chamber. With results still due from some states, the Democrats have already won the 218 seats needed for a majority in the 435-seat legislature, the House of Representatives.

Muhammad Nidzom Hidayatullah, general secretary of the Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI) East Java branch, told Adnkronos International that Obama’s election was the result of democracy and this showed that the US has begun to open up to different races.

“Everyone should cherish this because it is likely that it will lead to improvements to race relations all over the world,” he said.

The MUI is the country’s top state-endorsed Muslim organisation. It is considered rather conservative and out of sync with most of the country’s 200 million Muslims, who profess a liberal and moderate version of Islam.

Achmad Sobry Lubis, secretary general of the militant, anti-American Front Pambela Islam (FPI) said that he “praised Allah for Obama’s win.”

“This is what we all wanted and we are now very hopeful that he can restore peace in the world,” he told AKI.

He also said that Obama’s multicultural upbringing should give him the tools to better understand the Muslim world.

“Hopefully this will go somewhere to change the image of Muslims in America where they are often equated with terrorists, anarchists and more.”

Founded in 1998, the FPI has gained notoriety for violent raids on bars and nightclubs during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The FPI has also stated it intends to send 'mujahadeen' to fight the US and Israel. Its two leaders, Rizieq Shihab and Munarman, were last week sentenced to 18 months in jail for organising an attack against a pro-freedom of religion rally held in Jakarta on June 1.

Obama spent part of his childhood in Indonesia, where he attended a local elementary school.


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