JAKARTA, Indonesia – Nearly 90,000 followers of a hard-line Muslim group packed a stadium in the Indonesian capital Sunday, calling for the creation of an Islamic state and thunderously chanting "Allah is great!"
Hizbut Tahrir, a Sunni organization with an estimated million members, is banned in some Asian and Arab countries, but drew supporters from Europe, Africa and the Middle East to Indonesia for a meeting of the group that is held every two years.
"We need to carry this message from every corner from the east to west, so that on judgment day we can be proud," said Salim Frederick of Hizbut Tahrir's English branch.
The freedom of expression that Muslims enjoy in Indonesia is a luxury compared to most other countries, said Hassan Ko Nakata of the Japanese Muslim Association.
High school teacher Erni Tri, 40, said she drove two hours with her husband and three children to attend the prayers, music and speeches in Jakarta.
Hizbut Tahrir "is firm and uncompromising toward un-Islamic cultures," she said. "It is driven by love for Allah and has no hidden agenda to get votes or power."
The group, though radical, does not support violence to obtain its objective.
Speakers from England and Australia, Imran Waheed and Sheikh Ismail al Wahwah, were deported upon arrival in Indonesia, a spokesman said. It was not immediately clear why they were not allowed to attend.
"Those responsible for this are being paranoid," Ismail Yusanto told reporters. "This has hurt our right of freedom of expression."
Though Hizbut Tahrir's rallies are usually peaceful, the U.S. Embassy last week cautioned its citizens against going near the gathering, noting that some recent demonstrations in Indonesia — the world's most populous Muslim nation — have turned violent.