Indonesian Muslims more secular in politics-poll

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JAKARTA, Oct 5 (Reuters) Indonesian Muslims have become more secular, while support for Islamic law and radical Islamic groups has declined in the past year, says a poll by a leading private pollster released today.

Some 85 per cent of the country's 220 million population are Muslims, making it the world's most populous Muslim country.

While most Indonesians practice the moderate version of the faith, there is a radical fringe that has become increasingly vocal.

The Indonesian Survey Institute interviewed 1,200 Indonesian Muslims, with a margin error of about 2.8 per cent, in its October poll on Islam and politics.

Fifty-seven per cent of people interviewed supported secular political values, while 33 per cent favoured Islamic values in politics.

However, the report said though the number favouring radical Islam may be small, it was still significant.

''If this group becomes organised and active, it could grow into a significant political power,'' the report said.

The poll also showed the overall support for Islamic law has declined.

The number of people in favour of cutting the hands of thiefs dropped to 34 per cent from 40 per cent in an earlier survey by the institute in 2005, while 43 per cent think people who committed adultery should be stoned compared to 55 per cent in 2005.

The number of people who opposed the idea of a female president also halved to 22 per cent from 41 per cent in 2005, indicating that ''secularisation of political values is increasingly accepted by Muslims''.

The survey also found that less Muslims are in support of militant organisations such as Jemaah Islamiah and Hizbut Tahrir.

Jemaah Islamiah is blamed for a string of deadly attacks in the country, including the 2002 cafe bombings on the resort island of Bali, which killed over 200 people, many of them foreigners.

International group Hizbut Tahrir is known for its campaign for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate, a single Islamic government across Muslim nations.

There has been steady support for Islamic parties in recent years, but three secular parties including the ruling Golkar would get the most votes if an election were to be held today, the survey said.

''Looking at the results, secular political parties stand to gain in the upcoming elections,'' the report said.

REUTERS JK RK1735

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