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‘Wise’ politicians key to religious tolerance
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Indonesia needs wise politicians to encourage Indonesians to refrain from committing acts of religious intolerance, an expert on religion says.
“The attacks on the minority sect Ahmadiyah is the perfect illustration of a modern nation state where someone has decided to impose their beliefs on the whole nation,” James W. Morris, professor of theology at Boston College in the US, said during the international seminar on Anthropology of transcendent philosophy in Jakarta.
“The politics in the United States is exactly the Indonesian equivalent of these Republican politicians in America,” he added, referring to a recent debate on a plan to construct an Islamic center near ground zero in New York City, which in his opinion was deliberately raised to attack US President Barack Obama’s administration.
“One certain political party wants to pick an issue like this and use a minority sect as a scapegoat for political purposes, the result is horrifying,” he said on Saturday.
That is why, he continued, “if you don’t have wise politicians you’ll end up with civil war.”
James, who wrote the book, Orientations: Islamic Thought in a World Civilization, said that Islam had been historically and traditionally tolerant.
“Classical thinkers like [Jalaluddin] Rumi represent the more universal Islamic traditions which are tolerant, inclusive, diverse and creative. One of the core principals in the Koran and hadith is you can’t force people to adopt the practice of religion.”
Practical solutions like education are also required, he said.
It takes efforts from not only the government but also Islamic scholars and teachers who know the meaning of Arabic, understand the Koran and the hadith and explain to other people to think for themselves, not to see it as an ideology.
Seyyed Ahmad Fazelli, director of Islamic College Jakarta, agreed, adding that, “to give freedom for people to think is to give them a free way to express their rationality”.
James also emphasized that the purpose of educating people was to help them make the connection between the issues that human beings faced today. Poetry, art, music, social organizations, schools provide the connection, he went on.
“Understanding allows Muslims to agree to disagree. Once intolerance grows, it will become a disease that will destroy the society,” he said. (swd)