KEDIRI, Indonesia (Reuters) - For students at one of Indonesia’s oldest Islamic boarding schools, the holy month of Ramadan doesn’t only mean fasting from dawn till dusk. It also means intensive study of the Koran.
The Lirboyo Islamic School, or ‘pesantren’, established in 1910 in East Java province, encourages its 21,000 students from around the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country to use the holy month to study religious knowledge and Islamic teachings rigorously.
Head of the boarding school, Ahmad Zulfa Sholeh, said his institution rejects radical teachings and focuses on interpreting the Koran to build “good character”.
“We don’t agree with radical views because Muslims should not fight other religions. We should protect them,” he said.
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Last month, a series of suicide attacks carried out by whole families, including young children, killed at least 30 people, shocking the largely moderate nation.
They marked the worst militant attack since the Bali restaurant bombings in 2005 and happened just a two-hour drive from the school in the city of Surabaya.
Students told Reuters the institution emphasizes teachings of tolerance, respect for local customs, and peace.
The school is one of 28,000 Islamic boarding schools in Indonesia. Lirboyo is run by the country’s largest moderate Islamic organization Nahdlatul Ulama.
While lessons are taught in the local Javanese language, students also learn Arabic and how to interpret Islamic texts.
Students pay 35,000 rupiah (1.88 pounds) to participate in the Koran study during Ramadan and are expected to cook their own meals and do their own laundry.
Ahmad Jauhari, a teenage student originally from West Kalimantan province, has been studying here for nine years and finds the intensive study “enjoyable and peaceful”.
“For me, fasting is easy if it only includes not eating and not drinking. What’s hard is not hanging out, playing with our phones, or being in a relationship,” he explained.
Writing by Jessica Damiana and Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Neil Fullick