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Promoting pluralism is Muslims’ job, clerics say
Hera Diani, The Jakarta Post/Jakarta
With pluralism put at risk in 2005, as illustrated by increasing conservatism and interreligious conflicts, a scholar says that Muslims as the majority in the country hold the greatest responsibility in promoting pluralism.
Masdar Farid Mas’udi, who chairs the Association of Islamic Boarding Schools and Community Development (PPPM), said that Muslims could demand their rights only after they fulfilled their obligations.
“Prophet Muhammad said ‘the majority must care for the minority, while the minority must respect the majority. That’s the basis of solid harmony.
“The past has been filled with suspicion of people from different groups and religions. We have to end that negativity,” he said while addressing a year-end gathering of Muslim clerics on Wednesday evening.
Attended by Muslim scholars and clerics as well as several Christian leaders, the gathering called for campaigns to spread peace and fight terrorism by those using the name of Islam for jihad.
Prominent scholar Ahmad Syafii Maarif, a former chairman of the nation’s second largest Muslim organization, Muhammadiyah, urged Islamic organizations to continue promoting and spreading the views of moderate Islam.
“The views that project Islam as a blessing for humankind assure pluralism, and promote tolerance and inclusivity. Pluralism is not only required to contain terrorist acts perpetrated in the name of religion, but is also the main prerequisite for democratization in the country,” he said.
Syafii criticized Muslim groups that veered heavily toward puritanism, saying they tried to deconstruct civilization in the West without offering a better alternative.
He also blasted the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) for fueling anarchy, vandalism and undemocratic practices within society with its controversial fatwas.
In July, MUI issued 11 fatwas, including the highly criticized ban on religious teachings influenced by pluralism, liberalism and secularism, as well as branding the Ahmadiyah Islamic group as heretical.
“Indonesia is built on the pillars of pluralism and religious tolerance. This only emphasizes the immaturity of Muslim religious views,” Syafii told the gathering.
The forum also criticized the government’s measures in combating terrorism, which particularly portrayed pesantren (Islamic boarding schools) as breeding grounds for terrorists.
Former president Abdurrahman “Gus Dur” Wahid, who formerly led the country’s largest Muslim organization Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), said the government should stop interfering too much in religious issues.
“It is inappropriate for the government to close down pesantren, or ban a congregation considered heretical,” Gus Dur said.
It is up to people to decide whether a teaching is heretical or not, he said, suggesting that legal steps be taken against any group considered to be disrupting public order.
“It has to be clear, though, which party is the most responsible for it. I think it would be the Supreme Court,” said Gus Dur, a pluralist scholar.
Christian scholar Frans Magnis Suseno said that it took intensive communication between followers of different faiths and cultures to build a feeling of togetherness as a nation.
“It’s not easy, but religion must emphasize a positive attitude and openness toward differences. Religion must put on a friendly face, assuring safety to others to practice their religion without fear,” he said, referring to frequent attacks and bans on churches in this predominantly Muslim country.