Pompeo’s Indonesia visit to promote ‘Modern & Humanitarian Islam’ to youth group

When US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits Indonesia next week, China, the South China Sea maritime disputes, freedom of navigation and regional security will top his agenda in talks with Indonesian leaders to “preserve a free and open Indo-Pacific”, as he told reporters in Washington on Wednesday.

But the real catalyst for his first-ever official visit to Indonesia, a one-day trip on Thursday to the capital Jakarta, is not about China but a scheduled address to the world’s largest Islamic youth organisation focusing on a recently released US State Department Commission on Inalienable Rights – key among them religious freedom.

The 5 million-member youth group, commonly known as Ansor, operates under the auspices of Nahdlatul Ulama, or NU, the world‘s largest mass Muslim organisation, boasting 90 million members.

This setting of Pompeo’s visit – the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation – is salient. It further places Indonesia and in particular its civil society-led international movement as a global example of modern, pluralistic 21st-century Islam  and repudiation of ultraconservative Islamic ideology such as Wahhabism in the Middle East and terrorist organizations including Islamic State and al-Qaeda, according to analysts.

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