President Joko Widodo is calling on Indonesia’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, to increase its role as a representative of moderate and peaceful Islam and to address the issue of extremism wreaking havoc in the Muslim world.
Joko said NU, which is one of the oldest Islamic organizations in Indonesia and has an estimated 60 million followers across the archipelago, has played a significant part in supporting and preserving the pluralistic spirit of the nation since its establishment in 1926.
He called on NU members to hold fast to the group’s “moderate Islamic values,” but also increase its role in curbing Islamic extremism by helping address the root cause of the rising global phenomenon.
“NU, which has promoted moderate values of Islam since its birth, can heighten its partnership with various parties in order to build a just global order, especially in regards to eradicating poverty, backwardness and inequality — which are the root cause of terrorism and radicalism,” Joko said in his speech during the opening ceremony of NU’s National Congress in Jombang district, East Java, on Saturday evening.
The president reminded the audience of how NU founding figures had contributed to the establishment of the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia — proof of the organization’s commitment to nationalism and pluralism.
“As a role model for the promotion of an Islam which is ‘rahmatan lil alamin‘ [a blessing for the entire universe]… NU members must make Islam their guide in building an advanced community — those who make religion a source of advancement, justice and peace.”
Joko cited his meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron, saying the latter had been “impressed” with the role of moderate Muslim groups, such a NU and Muhammadiyah, in promoting a tolerant and peaceful face of Islam in Indonesia.
Cameron visited Jakarta for two days last week to boost bilateral trade and promote British investment in Indonesia, as well as to forge a cooperation between the two countries in addressing the growing threat of religious extremism and terrorism – especially after the rise of the jihadist Islamic State movement in Syria and Iraq.
Members of Indonesia’s Interfaith Forum (FLI), whose representatives were participating in the NU congress in Jombang, voiced their support for Joko’s appeal.
FLI spokesman Husein Muhammad said the congress, which runs through Wednesday, must underline the blaring issue of growing intolerance in Indonesia.
“[Incidents like Tolikara] must not be repeated,” said Husein, an NU cleric and senior teacher at an Islamic boarding school in West Java. “All of us [FLI members] present here support the suggestion that NU should pay special attention to tackling intolerance in our country.”
Another FLI official, Aan Anshori, added that the Tolikara incident also highlighted local governments’ failure to safeguard religious tolerance in their respective regions.
Meanwhile, Wirya, a representative from Buddhist organization Mahavihara Buddha Trowulan in Mojokokerto, East Java, asked for “concrete recommendations” from the NU congress to address the pressing issue.
Reports of attacks carried out by Buddhist monks on the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar have also sparked malicious sentiments against Buddhists in Indonesia among some hard-line Muslim groups.
Source: Aries Sudiono (Jakarta Globe)