Emiko : I now understand why you are so enthusiastic about education. Now I would like to ask you about the currently emerging issues in Indonesia and how you are tackling them. Ayang : Some issues of intolerance have been observed in the last ten years. Now, we are close to the regional election in Jakarta.

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Emiko : I now understand why you are so enthusiastic about education. Now I would like to ask you about the currently emerging issues in Indonesia and how you are tackling them.

Ayang : Some issues of intolerance have been observed in the last ten years. Now, we are close to the regional election in Jakarta. Some Muslim splinter groups and Muslim politicians use Islam as a political means to counter this incumbent because of his ethnicity and religion. Peaceful demonstrations that abide by the law are allowed according to the principles of democracy in Indonesia. But what I criticize and disagree with is how some ulama and vocal minority Muslims organizations target this incumbent just because of ethnic and religious reasons.

I cannot tolerate this. Bringing in religion into the political arena is very dangerous because politics is something of the mundane.

Attacking the mundane with the sacred to justify your actions is tremendously fatal and perilous. We are afraid that some provocative actors will make the demonstration too chaotic.

At least protestors and seventy-nine police officers were injured during the clash. Emiko : I think in many places, the word "jihad" is frequently used for attacking other groups. Because of this, many people misunderstand Islam that it is a very violent religion or that its followers are extremists.

Ayang : Yes, I think one of the most misunderstood concepts in Islam is jihad. They hijacked Islam for their own agenda: they are using Islam, but they do not understand what Islam is. Jihad is not that what they are doing. What is happening in the Middle East has to do with economy and I don't want to speak about geopolitics and international relationships. But we are now seeing that using religion in politics is becoming the most effective and efficient destructive factor for one country.

I think it is our own duty to educate Muslims that the best jihad is not going to war but to manage the waste, to provide clean water and employment, to give better education for our children, to lead a "rooted" life to contribute and support the nation. That is the true jihad.

Emiko : Let's talk more about Indonesia and Islam. Indonesian Islam is thought to be very moderate and tolerant. Is there a historic background for that? Is it different from Islam in other countries? And how do you think these characteristics have contributed in building the Indonesian society?

Ayang : The arrival of Islam to Indonesia was done in two stages. The first stage was the dakwah [indirect-proselytism] by Arab and Persian Muslim merchants who passed through the Indonesian archipelago, then called Nusantara, to go to the Far East.

This happened until the twelfth century. The second stage was the direct-proselytism by devout Muslim preachers who yielded to the establishment of a Muslim community and Islamic political institution in the second half of thirteenth century in Aceh, Sumatra. The presence of the sultanate is confirmed by the discovery of the tombstone of its first sultan, Malik al-Saleh, dated A.

These two stages of arrival of Islam were peaceful and gradual. Ayang : That's right. Islam was carried into Nusantara by merchants and zealous Muslim proselytizers in a peaceful manner. From the beginning of its arrival, Islam in Indonesia is already very distinct. In addition, Islam was also smoothly adapted into the cultures and traditions of the archipelago too.

I think the basic thing that makes Indonesian Islam different is how these indigenous cultures are deeply respected by Muslims. I sincerely do believe that indigenous cultures and traditions in the Indonesian archipelago have greatly contributed in shaping its moderate version of Islam.

Beside that, I am assuming the nice tropical Indonesian weather has also greatly impacted Indonesian religious behavior since we do not have severe climate conditions—very hot weather in the summer or very cold weather in the winter—like in other Muslim countries in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Near East, North Africa, and South Asia. These three concepts of solidarity mean, "We are Muslim, but before being Muslim, we are human beings and brothers in this nation. In terms of the relationship between Islam and the state, Indonesia is neither a theocratic nor secular country: we are not a theocratic country like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh, some states in Nigeria and so forth where their constitutions state very clearly that their countries are Islamic and that their constitutions follow sharia [Islamic] law.

In our constitution, we do not say that we are an Islamic country or that Islam is the only official religion. And we also recognize hundreds of local beliefs. Having said that, we are not secular in the way that it is understood in France or Japan where a state or the government cannot intervene in religious matters. Ayang : In order to implement these teachings and values on the level of the nation state, two large Muslim mass organizations play important roles in Indonesia: Nahdlatul Ulama NU and Muhammadiyah.

We don't exactly know the number of members and adherents of these two organizations. Some claim that Muhammadiyah has more than twenty to forty million members, while NU has between thirty to eighty million members. All these Islamic organizations are working very hard to disseminate and spread a peaceful, tolerant, and just Islam.

The NU and Muhammadiyah have their own Islamic schools to educate Indonesian Muslims and they also have hospitals and orphanages located around the country. Emiko : Not only schools, but hospitals and orphanages too? The roles of Islamic organizations in the people's lives in Indonesia are so big, isn't it? Ayang : Yes. They have philanthropic associations too. They have a huge body of networks that empower and educate people in Indonesia which has greatly contributed to the success of Indonesian Islam.

Happily, our government and these two organizations cooperate together. NU and Muhammadiyah also have Islamic institutions which consist of madrasah [Islamic schools], pesantren [Islamic boarding schools], and Islamic universities. These institutions are owned either by the government or by the said Islamic organizations including NU and Muhammadiyah. These Islamic institutions contribute widely and largely to practice and teach what Indonesian Islam is.

In the same vein, the State Islamic University in Jakarta where I come from and other State Islamic Universities in the country really act as a bulwark against fundamentalism and radicalism.

Intellectual Muslim figures and moderate ulama who lecture in universities, write in newspapers, or appear on national television are also important in defending and disseminating moderate Islam. Their writings and thinking are very influential. Especially the role of the ulama is important as they have deep knowledge on Islam and are considered to be the source of Islamic authority by the society.

These three elements—Islamic organizations, Islamic institutions, and intellectual Muslims and ulama —have been working together to shape and structure the identity of our Indonesian Islam. To sum up, Indonesian Islam is the convergence of Islam and local cultures. In other words, we take the essence of Islamic teachings so that it could interact positively and actively with local customs, wisdoms, and traditions. Taking Islam as a source of inspiration, values, norms, and ethics, we wrap it together with the local cultures.

In this way, Islam would not contradict with local cultures. Emiko : Do you think that Indonesian Islam could be a model for other Muslim countries? Indonesian Islam could show how Islam can interact actively and positively with local cultures. I would say that we might "export" the ideas of Indonesian Islam to other Muslim countries.

See More. Challenges in the Indonesian Society and the True Jihad Emiko : I now understand why you are so enthusiastic about education. Related Page.


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The term da'wah has other senses in the Qur'an. In sura chapter , for example, it denotes the call to the dead to rise on the Day of Judgment. When used in the Qur'an, it generally refers to Allah 's invitation to live according to His will. During the Expedition of Al Raji in , [5] Muhammad sent some men as missionaries to various different tribes. Some men came to Muhammad and requested that Muhammad send instructors to teach them Islam, [5] but the men were bribed by the two tribes of Khuzaymah, who wanted revenge for the assassination of Khalid bin Sufyan Chief of the Banu Lahyan tribe by Muhammad's followers.


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