Former Indonesian leader calls for change to Muslim laws

SEOUL, Feb 15 - Former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid on Friday called for a review of Muslim laws after the September 11 attacks in the United States to develop "a culture of peace."

Speaking at a Seoul conference, the former leader of the world's most populous Muslim nation said the religion had to change because "Muslims are the object of so many attacks because of what happened in New York on September 11."

Wahid proposed that Muslim scholars first look again at laws which make it punishable by death to change from Islam to another religion.

"To change from the Muslim faith to another is an apostasy and apostasy is punishable by death," Wahid told a conference on religion and peace organised by the Unification Church.

"We have to research to look deeply into Islamic law to see if changes can be promoted."

Wahid said Islam had to introduce more of "a culture to understand other people" to fully establish "a culture of peace."

"I want to show the depth of Islam's commitment to peace," Wahid added in his address.

Wahid led Indonesia's largest Islamic organization, the Nahdlatul Ulama which claims 30 million members, for 15 years until he became president in October 1999.

He is known for his progressive views on Islam.

When he was president he caused a furore among Muslim parties for his plan to open trade ties with Israel. The plan came to nothing.

Indonesia's top legislature sacked him in July 2001 for alleged incompetence, replacing him with Megawati Sukarnoputri.