Muslim-majority Indonesia deeply regrets U.S. immigrant vetting plans

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said on Sunday the Muslim-majority nation deeply regrets President Donald Trump’s plans for “extreme vetting” of people from some Muslim countries entering the United States under new immigration orders.

In a far-reaching order that caused chaos and confusion after it was signed late on Friday, Trump put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barred travelers from Syria and six other Muslim-majority countries.

Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, is not among the seven nations whose citizens face restrictions. However, when asked about Trump’s plans for “extreme vetting”, Marsudi said in social media message sent to Reuters: “We have deep regrets about the policy.”

In December 2015, Trump called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States. The idea drew fire for suggesting a religious test for immigrants that critics said would violate the U.S. Constitution and later evolved into a proposal for “extreme vetting”.

Most of Indonesia’s 220 million Muslims practise a moderate form of Islam, although the country has some vocal Islamist groups and has suffered in the past from attacks by militants.

Indonesia has close relations with the United States and many of its citizens think highly of former U.S. President Barack Obama, who spent part of his childhood in Jakarta.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said after Trump’s inauguration he was optimistic that relations between the countries would strengthen, to the benefit of both.

Foreign Minister Marsudi said Indonesians seeking visas to go the United States had not faced any problems so far. She said there were “hundreds of thousands” of Indonesians in the United States.

A statement on the website of the Indonesian embassy in Washington urged its citizens in the United States to stay calm, but keep vigilant.

It said Indonesian citizens should respect U.S. laws and help ensure public order in their neighborhoods, but also that they should understand their rights in case of any issues and directed them to the website of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The ACLU sought and won a temporary stay on Trump’s order to restrict travelers with passports from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Trump told reporters in the White House’s Oval Office on Saturday that his order was “not a Muslim ban” and said the measures were long overdue.

Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Paul Tait