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Australian Muslim delegation pleads for lives of Bali Nine duo

Many pleas have been made to save the lives of the two Australians on ‘death row’ in Indonesia, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, but perhaps the most powerful delegation was the one comprised of Australian Muslim leaders and led by Australia’s Grand Mufti, Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohammed.

The impromptu mission, which also comprised of Sheikh Mohamed Khamis and Imam Amin Hady, made a spiritual plea that mercy should be granted to the pair as the Islamic faith – the majority religion in Indonesia – is based on mercy and forgiveness.

While being a powerful reminder of this to Australians, it also showed the importance Australian Muslim communities can play in international relations. As another outcome of the trip, members of the delegation may now work with Indonesian universities to prevent students becoming radicalised. 

“We can make good use of our Muslim communities with our neighbours (such as) Indonesia and Malaysia... We know their cultures and traditions.”

– Sheikh Mohamed Khamis, vice president of the NSW Imams Council

The Bali Nine

It’s been almost a decade since the Bali Nine were arrested on April 17, 2005. Some members of the drug importation network were boarding a plane at Denpasar Airport to Sydney, while others were at the beachside Melasti Hotel in Legian.

The arrests of the two ringleaders and seven ‘drug mules’ was the result of a joint Australian Federal Police–Indonesian sting operation.

For almost a decade, the two men have rehabilitated inside Bali’s Kerobokan Prison, while awaiting their death sentence to be carried out, amid a string of legal and diplomatic objections. Chan is now a Christian minister; Sukumuran an artist.

The Grand Mufti

The Grand Mufti, in an open letter to the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, on March 8, in part wrote, “The Australian people and Australian Muslims, as part of the Australian nation with full loyalty and allegiance, believe that the relationship between us and the people of Indonesia has spanned for centuries with a common neighbourhood, human brotherhood and mutual interests, as well as links to the great doctrine of Islam and the Islamic fraternity.”

“...grace, which is piety in Islam, outweighs all other available options. This is because forgiveness is more effective and longer lasting. Furthermore its morals and spirit of mercy brings about hope for repentance and acceptance of remorse by almighty Allah.”

“If even one minute remains in a person’s life, then that is an extra minute in which Allah may grant his mercy and forgiveness,” the Grand Mufti’s statement read.

On March 11, another powerful statement followed, which in part read, “...we note that mercy and forgiveness lies at the heart of Islam for those who repent and have reformed their ways. We urge that the heritage of mercy in our religion is fully and deeply considered in the application of State Law.

“On behalf of the Islamic community of Australia, we plead, with respect and humility, for mercy for the lives of two young Australian men, who have not only shown repentance for their serious crimes, but have rehabilitated themselves and indeed others.”

The delegation met the Indonesian Minister for Religious Affairs and the Commissioner for Human Rights.

“It had good media coverage in Indonesia,” said Amin Hady, the Australian-Indonesian imam at Artarmon mosque. “The Indonesian Government and people will listen if we talk about Islam.”

“But we have discussed that the Indonesian justice system is not based on sharia. We don’t want to interfere or comment on the decision of the courts – it will not be helpful.”

He said their message was clear. “Islam teaches us that if we can forgive, we should forgive. Whoever forgives will be rewarded by God, and higher in the eyes of God.”

Whatever happens, he said, it “should not affect the relationship between the governments and the people of Australia and Indonesia.” 

Sheikh Mohamed Khamis, vice president of the NSW Imams Council, said members of the delegation were personally affected by the possible fate of the two Australians. Religious and diplomatic officials they met “promised to convey our message to save the lives of these men.... They highly appreciated our visit and our message from the Australian community, and the Muslim community in particular.”

“We can make good use of our Muslim communities with our neighbours (such as) Indonesia and Malaysia,” he said. “We know their cultures and traditions.” 

Future partnerships 

“Our main target was to save the lives of two Australians, but in the future maybe we can work in the universities and help Indonesian young people,” Skeikh Khamis said, and added they were talking to officials about making visits in the future.

He said “some people misunderstand Islam as they rely on the internet and get the wrong information” and many needed responsible religious mentoring.

The delegation is continuing discussions with Indonesians to establish a partnership in preventing their young people from being influenced by propaganda of the terrorist organisation ISIS.

“If there was an opportunity, why not?" Imam Amin Hady said, "We are talking about teaching their youngsters.” 

The Point

An Australian Muslim delegation has made a spiritual plea for mercy for 'Bali Nine' ringleaders

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