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MUI’s edicts cause more violence, scholars say
Hera Diani, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Jombang regency in East Java is known as home of moderate Muslim clerics, including former President Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid of the largest Muslim organization in the country, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU).
In recent months, however, there has been a growing tendency towards radicalism, with several clerics previously thought to be tolerant becoming more conservative and antipluralist.
“Even within NU, the principles of brotherhood among Muslims, at the level of state, and with fellow human beings, has faded,” said Muslim scholar Lily Munir in a discussion on Tuesday.
“All because of the fatwas from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI),” she added, shaking her head.
The state-sanctioned council issued a number of controversial edicts last July, which many slammed as justifying violence against different religious groups, instead of endorsing peace.
One of the edicts, for instance, states that Islamic interpretations based on liberalism, secularism and pluralism “contradict Islamic teachings.”
The edicts also state that Muslims must consider their religion to be the one true religion, and to consider other faiths as wrong. It also stipulated that Ahmadiyah, an Islamic group that does not recognize Muhammad as the last prophet, to be a heretical sect, and its followers “murtad” (apostate).
The issuance of these fatwas consequently sparked violence against the Ahmadiyah congregation, the most recent incident in Cianjur in September, where dozens of houses and mosques were destroyed.
Liberal Muslim groups were also targeted, such as the Liberal Islam Network (JIL), which was urged to shut down its base in Utan Kayu, East Jakarta.
Many are concerned with how radicalism has infused to the grassroots level, with people unfamiliar with religious discourse, but the clerics continue to preach provocatively against faith differences and pluralism.
Muslim scholar and gender activist Yunianti Chudzaifah said that radicalism has intruded into schools, as students as early as kindergarten in Solo, Central Java, for instance, being given flyers warning against “Christianization.”
“I’m worried because the curriculum at pesantren (Islamic boarding school) always describes Islam history as bloody, with the emphasis on wars against infidels.”
Yunianti said that there seems to be a wide gap between the liberal groups and the grassroots, as the former always campaign about pluralism but the latter is bombarded with preaching against Jews, Christians and others.
JIL executive Hamid Basyaib revealed a survey by the group about the increasing radicalist tendency.
According to this survey, 18 percent of the Muslim population support hardliner groups, while those who are involved in such groups number 6.5 percent.
“Maybe the number is relatively insignificant, but out of 210 million population, it can be quite significant. It’s enough to build their own country,” Hamid said.
The survey also showed that 79.9 percent were certain that Islam would eventually reap victory over their enemies, whoever they are, and 83 percent are willing to die to defend God’s religion.
“It’s fertile ground (for radicalism). And the fatwas triggered it.”
There is no other solution, Hamid said, except for the intervention of a neutral and secular state.
Lily said that people have a negative perception of secularism, while all it means is that religion should not be used as a political vehicle by the state.
“If religion has become institutionalized, it’s dangerous. I’m really afraid that we will become like the Taliban in Afghanistan, who were like little gods and punish those who oppose them.”