Top Indonesian Muslim Scholar Says Stop Pretending That Orthodox Islam and Violence Aren’t Linked

Top Indonesian Muslim Scholar Says Stop Pretending That Orthodox Islam and Violence Aren’t Linked, by Marco Stahlhut.

Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country, has a constitution that recognizes other major religions, and practices a syncretic form of Islam that draws on not just the faith’s tenets but local spiritual and cultural traditions. As a result, the nation has long been a voice of, and for, moderation in the Islamic world.

Yet Indonesia is not without its radical elements. Though most are on the fringe, they can add up to a significant number given Indonesia’s 260-million population.

Among Indonesia’s most influential Islamic leaders is Yahya Cholil Staquf, 51,advocates a modern, moderate Islam. He is general secretary of the Nahdlatul Ulama, which, with about 50 million members, is the country’s biggest Muslim organization. …

Nahdlatul Ulama is the largest independent Islamic organization in the world with membership of 40 million in 2003. It’s in the country next door, has people wearing military style uniforms, and I’d never even heard of it until now … have our media mentioned it?

From the interview with Yahya:

Western politicians should stop pretending that extremism and terrorism have nothing to do with Islam. There is a clear relationship between fundamentalism, terrorism, and the basic assumptions of Islamic orthodoxy. So long as we lack consensus regarding this matter, we cannot gain victory over fundamentalist violence within Islam.

Radical Islamic movements are nothing new. They’ve appeared again and again throughout our own history in Indonesia. The West must stop ascribing any and all discussion of these issues to “Islamophobia.” Or do people want to accuse me — an Islamic scholar — of being an Islamophobe too? …

Within the classical tradition, the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims is assumed to be one of segregation and enmity.

Perhaps there were reasons for this during the Middle Ages, when the tenets of Islamic orthodoxy were established, but in today’s world such a doctrine is unreasonable. To the extent that Muslims adhere to this view of Islam, it renders them incapable of living harmoniously and peacefully within the multi-cultural, multi-religious societies of the 21st century. …

Within the Islamic tradition, the state is a single, universal entity that unites all Muslims under the rule of one man who leads them in opposition to, and conflict with, the non-Muslim world. …

[ISIS’s] goal of establishing a global caliphate stands squarely within the orthodox Islamic tradition. But we live in a world of nation-states. Any attempt to create a unified Islamic state in the 21st century can only lead to chaos and violence …

Many Muslims assume there is an established and immutable set of Islamic laws, which are often described as shariah. This assumption is in line with Islamic tradition, but it of course leads to serious conflict with the legal system that exists in secular nation-states. …

Too many Muslims view civilization, and the peaceful co-existence of people of different faiths, as something they must combat. Many Europeans can sense this attitude among Muslims.

There’s a growing dissatisfaction in the West with respect to Muslim minorities, a growing fear of Islam. In this sense, some Western friends of mine are “Islamophobic.” They’re afraid of Islam. To be honest, I understand their fear … The West cannot force Muslims to adopt a moderate interpretation of Islam. But Western politicians should stop telling us that fundamentalism and violence have nothing to do with traditional Islam. That is simply wrong.

Over the past 50 years, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have spent massively to promote their ultra-conservative version of Islam worldwide. After allowing this to go unchallenged for so many decades, the West must finally exert decisive pressure upon the Saudis to cease this behavior … I admire Western, especially European, politicians. Their thoughts are so wonderfully humanitarian. But we live in a time when you have to think and act realistically. …

And there’s an extreme left wing whose adherents reflexively denounce any and all talk about the connections between traditional Islam, fundamentalism and violence as de facto proof of Islamophobia. This must end. A problem that is not acknowledged cannot be solved.

How come a Muslim cleric can speak realistically, but none of our politicians are allowed to be speak realistically by our media?

hat-tip Stephen Neil, Scott of the Pacific