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JAKARTA — Muhammadiyah, Indonesia’s second biggest Muslim organization, is divided on a cooperation agreement with Israeli organizations, with opponents rejecting any relation with a regime oppressing the Palestinian people.
“I believe most of us are very sad,” Fadli Arsil, coordinator of the Foreign Affairs Youth Muhammadiyah, told IslamOnline.net.
Last October, the Muhammadiyah-run Indonesian Rescue and Emergency Organization signed a US$200,000 medical cooperation agreement with Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s national emergency medical service organization.
A delegation led by Dr. Sudibyo Markus, Muhammadiyah’s deputy chairman, and Prof. Aryono Pusponegoro, the health advisor, visited Tel Aviv to sign the agreement.
“This is a good first step between both countries,” Sudibyo told IOL.
“It gives the people of Indonesia a glimpse of Israel’s medical expertise.”
Muhammadiyah is the oldest and second largest Islamic social welfare organization in the world.
Established in 1912 by scholar Ahmad Dahlan, it now operates dozens of clinics, hospitals, orphanages, schools and universities across Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country.
It’s cooperation agreement with Israel has irked many of the group’s over 28 million members and is risking a rift within its ranks.
“If it is a real policy of the central board then I am thinking of going out from Muhammadiyah,” Fadli warned.
Supporters of the cooperation deal claim its politics-free.
“Israel is the best for emergency medical services, so we learn from them,” Sudibyo contends.
He added that under the agreement, a series of training sessions for the group’s emergency medical personnel will be held.
An upcoming workshop is to be held in Bali in January 2009.
Some 23 medical specialists have already taken a one-month emergency medical training in Israel.
“How come we can make relation with Israelis while they continue oppressing Palestinians,” insists Fadli, the Muhammadiyah youth leader.
Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation with Muslims marking about 85 percent of its 220 million people, does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.
The Asian Muslim heavyweight has historically been a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause.
Millions of Indonesians have staged rallies nationwide to condemn the Israeli onslaught against the Gaza Strip, which has so far killed 393 people and wounded more than 1800.
Fadli believes his group must take into account its mission as a social-religious group committed to fight violence and anti human rights abuse.
“Any effort to open relation with Israel will fail,” he noted.
“Muhammadiyah must think about it to avoid a rift within the organization, the government and Muslims.”