A massive anti-extremism movement is underway in Indonesia.
Indonesia is home to the largest Muslim population in the world, comprising an estimated 205 million practitioners of the faith. It is there that we may finally see the beginning of the end of ISIS. There have been Muslims around the world who have spoken out against the Islamic State and its perversion of the tenets of Islam. ISIS has been roundly denounced by Muslim leaders and scholars, and in the United Kingdom, the Muslim Youth League has declared “ideological holy war” against the extremism in the Muslim community. But the actions of Indonesian Muslims may finally sound the death knell for ISIS.
With a membership of 50 million, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) is the largest independent Islamic organization on the planet. It is a melding of Sunni religion, political party and charity that was founded in 1926 as a response to the ultra-conservative reform movement known as Wahhabism. Rejecting the notion of separation of church and state, Wahhabism is the guiding principle behind the religious zealotry of ISIS. The terrorist organization uses the religious textbooks of the movement, rejects the idea that religion is a purely private activity and holds dear the hardline concept of killing those who are unbelievers.
Last week, in Malang, Indonesia, NU launched its global anti-extremism initiative themed “Upholding Islam as Rahmatan Lil Alamin,” which translates to “blessing for the universe.” The goal is to “spread messages about a tolerant Islam in their respective countries to curb radicalism, extremism and terrorism.”
NU has a global mission, and the New York Times reports it has created an American non-profit, Bayt ar-Rahmah, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina to serve as its headquarters for international activities like hosting conferences and seminars. In Indonesia, the organization is building a prevention center with the intent to train Arabic-speaking students to “engage with jihadist ideology” with the assistance of NU theologians. It is also working in concert with the University of Vienna, Austria to produce messages to counter the online Islamic State propaganda.
Home to one of the most moderate Islamic populations in the world, Indonesia has faced deadly extremist attacks in the past several years, including attacks on beach resorts and luxury hotels. NU says its efforts will be applied “equally to local radicals.” The organization stresses the differences between the moderate and tolerant Indonesian Islam versus the hardline practices of Middle Eastern Islam should be encouraged throughout Indonesia and the wider world. On November 14, the Indonesian Ulema Council, which includes NU and is Indonesia’s foremost Muslim clerical body, announced an ambitious plan to mobilize 50,000 preachers to spread moderate Islam in Indonesia.
Indonesian Muslims comprise a majority in the country, but live side by side with the Hindus and Buddhists who were there before them. They share and mix spiritual traditions, thus demonstrating adherence to the national motto of “unity in diversity.” It serves as a backdrop to a 500-year-old strain of Sunnism that places emphasis on Hindu-Buddhist principles of nonviolence and religious tolerance.
The Divine Grace of Islam Nusantara is a 90-minute film released by NU. In it, Islamic scholars denounce and criticize the radical ISIS interpretations of the Quran and Hadith. It is an indictment of radical Islam and a call for Muslims of the world to combat the extremism that has lead to so much terror and destruction.
Secretary General of the International Conference of Islamic Scholars, Hasyim Muzadi, summed up the scope of the anti-extremism platform put forward by NU. “At the upstream level, it is the job of clerics to combat embryos of terrorism, while on the downside, it is the job of law enforcement institutions to do so.”
Ann Werner is the author of thrillers and other things. Visit her at Ann Werner on the Web
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