VP Pence Tours Southeast Asia's Biggest Mosque

US Vice President Mike Pence is accompanied by chief imam Nasaruddin Umar, right, and chairman of the Istiqlal Mosque executive board, Muhammad Muzammil Basyuni during his visit to the mosque in Jakarta on Thursday (20/04). (Reuters Photo/Adi Weda)

By : Roberta Rampton | on 5:42 PM April 20, 2017
Category : News, Foreign Affairs

Jakarta. United States Vice President Mike Pence toured Southeast Asia's largest mosque on Thursday (20/04) during a visit to Indonesia, calling the Muslim-majority nation's tradition of following a moderate form of Islam "an inspiration to the world."

Pence, an evangelical Christian, has sought to use his trip to soften some of the harsher edges of rhetoric about the Muslim world used by US President Donald Trump, who has frequently railed against "radical Islamic terrorism."

As leader of the world's most populous Muslim nation, Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has voiced worries about Trump's immigration policy, which critics say is biased against Muslims.

Pence, standing side by side with Jokowi at a news conference, said: "One of the greatest threats we face is the rise and spread of terrorism," though he did not refer to "radical Islam" and praised the religion in Indonesia.

"As the largest majority-Muslim country, Indonesia's tradition of moderate Islam, frankly, is an inspiration to the world," he said. "In your nation as in mine, religion unifies, it doesn't divide," he added.

Pence, joined by his wife and daughters, later went on a tour of Jakarta's Istiqlal Mosque, posing for pictures in the massive empty courtyard and walking through the five-story prayer hall, big enough to hold 200,000 people.

Afterwards, he met religious leaders from various faiths, including Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and others.

Pence is visiting Indonesia a day after Jakarta elected new Governor Anies Baswedan who rode a wave of conservative Islamist to defeat an incumbent Christian, Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama.

Hardline Islamic groups on Wednesday night had celebrated the election win at the Istiqlal Mosque.


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