Hope for 'Indonesia's Islam'

Hope for 'Indonesia's Islam'

Muslims in particular have been hurt and horrified by continued reports of violence in the name of Islam.

Both domestic and international Islamic leaders have reiterated that theirs is a religion of peace. And yet, because it takes just a few violent people to terrorize many, this united voice is drowned out by each new incident.

Pakistani children gunned down in their school; cartoonists and hostages executed or even burned alive; reports of some 100 Indonesians recruited into the Islamic State movement, which is outlawed here - all these acts are those from which Muslims generally quickly dissociate.

But the responsibility of each and every Muslim remains - to make others understand that violent "jihad" is not part of their faith. A responsibility particularly important in the world's largest Muslim-majority nation.

In closing the 6th Indonesian Muslims Congress (KUII) in Yogyakarta, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo mentioned "challenges" in interfaith relations, but stressed "there is no immense extremism" in the country that has shown that "tolerance and mutual respect is strong."

However, many have raised concerns about increasing intolerance and even lethal violence being used against minorities, including among Muslims themselves.

But concerns of intolerance and home-grown terrorism were not made explicit in the Yogyakarta Treatise (Risalah Yogyakarta) issued by the congress - so great is the sense that Muslims are the victims of political, economic and cultural alienation caused among others by "liberalism".

Older Muslims lived through authoritarian rule, which even crushed any sign of piousness, viewed as fundamentalism threatening to Soeharto's regime.

The treatise called for Indonesian Muslims "to unite and work together for political, economic, social and cultural strengthening which is just and civilized."

The treatise also calls on the government and society "to be on the alert for […] cultures incompatible with Islamic sharia and the nation's noble culture".

Indeed, many among our over 200 million Muslims are young, poor and poorly educated, creating fertile ground for those recruiting for violent "jihad".

Regrettably, the gathering of Islamic leaders failed to clearly address the danger of abusing religion given such vague phrases.

Clerics preaching violence and murder against "infidels" quote directly from the Koran and the Prophet Muhammad: are their statements compatible with Islam?

No wonder the non-Islamic world is confused - the stigma of Islam being a "religion of war" is strengthened by each new report of terror in the name of Islam.

The learned leaders and clerics must explain to the masses which verse and which Prophet's sayings have been taken out of their historical context and explain why that has occurred.

Strengthening Muslim unity would help cut off radicalization of new recruits.

But we also urgently need waves of clerics and preachers to halt the brainwashing that creates murderers proclaiming a faith beyond the recognition of many believers.

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