Nusantara Statement

“We call upon people of goodwill

of every faith and nation

to join in building a global consensus

to prevent the political weaponization of Islam,

whether by Muslims or non-Muslims,

and to curtail the spread of communal hatred

by fostering the emergence of

a truly just and harmonious world order,

founded upon respect for the equal rights and dignity

of every human being.”

~ October 25, 2018

Download a one-page PDF copy of this statement.

The Nusantara Manifesto

Adopted and promulgated by

Gerakan Pemuda Ansor and Bayt ar-Rahmah

in Yogyakarta, Indonesia on

October 25, 2018

The Nusantara Manifesto represents a significant milestone within a long-term, systematic campaign—guided by the spiritual leadership of the world’s largest Muslim organization—designed to block the political weaponization of Islam, whether by Muslims or non-Muslims, and to curtail the spread of communal hatred by fostering the emergence of a truly just and harmonious world order, founded upon respect for the equal rights and dignity of every human being.

This Manifesto was officially adopted and promulgated by Gerakan Pemuda Ansor and Bayt ar-Rahmah at the Second Global Unity Forum, held in Yogyakarta, Indonesia on October 25 and 26, 2018.


  1. On May 9 and 10, 2016, the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) held an International Summit of Moderate Islamic Leaders (ISOMIL) in Jakarta, Indonesia, attended by approximately 400 Muslim scholars from 30 nations. At the Summit’s conclusion, the NU Central Board promulgated a 16-point declaration that identified the salient factors driving Islamist extremism and terror worldwide, called upon “people of good will of every faith and nation to join in building a global consensus not to politicize Islam” and explicitly affirmed that the NU will “strive to consolidate the global ahlussunnah wal jamaah (Sunni Muslim) community, in order to bring about a world in which Islam, and Muslims, are truly beneficent and contribute to the well-being of all humanity” (ISOMIL Nahdlatul Ulama Declaration, points 15 and 16);
  1. On May 12, 2016, the First Global Unity Forum—jointly sponsored by Gerakan Pemuda Ansor and Bayt ar-Rahmah—issued a 3-page statement that includes “The GP Ansor Call… for an end to conflict in the name of religion, and for qualified ‘ulama’ (Muslim religious scholars) to carefully examine and address those elements of fiqh [classical Islamic law] that encourage segregation, discrimination and/or violence towards those perceived to be ‘non-Muslim’”;
  1. On March 30, 2017, Gerakan Pemuda Ansor and Bayt ar-Rahmah announced the launch of a concerted effort to promote Humanitarian Islam (al-islam lil-insaniyah), by developing and operationalizing a global strategy to recontextualize (i.e., reform) the teachings of orthodox, authoritative Islam and thereby reconcile certain problematic elements of classical Islamic law (fiqh, often conflated with shari‘ah, or “Divine Guidance”) with the reality of contemporary civilization, whose context and conditions differ significantly from those in which classical Islamic law emerged;
  1. On April 18, 2017, the XXIst National Conference of GP Ansor issued a formal decree (Number 04/KONBES-XXI/IV/2017) entitled: Gerakan Pemuda Ansor’s View Regarding the Republic of Indonesia’s Strategic Interests and National Security Agenda within the Cauldron of Current Geopolitical Dynamics. This decree states, in part: “[T]he crisis that engulfs the Islamic world is not limited to armed conflicts raging in various and sundry regions. Whether conscious or not, willing or not, the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims find themselves in the midst of a profound religious crisis. How they respond will determine the future not only of Muslims worldwide, but also of human civilization itself.”
  1. On May 22, 2017, Gerakan Pemuda Ansor and Bayt ar-Rahmah hosted an international gathering of nearly 300 Muslim scholars at PP (Madrasah) Bahrul ‘Ulum in Jombang, East Java, in order to “Develop a Strategy to Manifest Islam as a Genuine Blessing for Global Civilization.” At the conclusion of this event GP Ansor issued the Gerakan Pemuda Ansor Declaration on Humanitarian Islam: an 8,000 word document that examined the nature and purpose of religious norms (maqasid al-shari‘ah); analyzed the manner in which state and non-state actors “cynically manipulate religious sentiment in their struggle to maintain or acquire political, economic and military power… by drawing upon key elements of classical Islamic law (fiqh), to which they ascribe divine authority, in order to mobilize support for their worldly goals”; called for “the emergence of a truly just and harmonious world order, founded upon respect for the equal rights and dignity of every human being”; and laid out a detailed road map to address “obsolete tenets of classical Islamic law, which are premised upon perpetual conflict with those who do not embrace or submit to Islam”;
  1. On September 16, 2018, Gerakan Pemuda Ansor launched Kirab Satu Negeri—a nation-wide campaign to address three major threats facing Indonesia, by reaffirming the role of Islam as a source of unity and strength within diversity, rather than polarization and division. The campaign was, in part, a response to the contentious 2017 Jakarta election, which resulted in the defeat of the incumbent Chinese Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (“Ahok”) and his subsequent conviction on blasphemy charges.

The threats in question all stem from the weaponization of religion and its abuse for political purposes. These include: first, extremist groups that reject the existence of Indonesia as a multi-religious and pluralistic nation state; second, extremist claims to have a monopoly on the correct interpretation and practice of Islam, which they seek to impose on others; and third, the silent majority’s failure to speak up and address these threats.

The Kirab Satu Negeri (“One Nation Parade”) set off from five points along the fringes of Indonesia’s vast archipelago on September 16, and proceeded along various routes on Indonesia’s major islands, uniting millions of people of different faiths and ethnicities in a reaffirmation of the traditional Indonesian view of religion as a source of harmony and not division;

  1. On October 25 and 26, 2018, Gerakan Pemuda Ansor and Bayt ar-Rahmah hosted an international summit of religious, cultural and political leaders: the Second Global Unity Forum. Held in conjunction with Kirab Satu Negeri, participants discussed the need to re-enliven the pluralistic and tolerant values that lie at the heart of Indonesia’s national consensus; to revitalize the understanding and practice of religion as rahmah (universal love and compassion); and launch a global effort to curtail the spread of communal hatred, supremacy and violence, which constitute a profound threat to international peace and security, and to the domestic tranquility of nearly every nation on earth.

Read the full Nusantara Manifesto (PDF).

Gerakan Pemuda Ansor Declaration on Humanitarian Islam

“8. Social and political instability, civil war and terrorism all arise from the attempt, by ultraconservative Muslims, to implement certain elements of fiqh [classical Islamic law] within a context that is no longer compatible with said classical norms.

“9. Any attempt to establish a universal Islamic state—al-imamah al-udzma (the Great Imamate), also known as al-khilafah (the Caliphate)—will only lead to disaster for Muslims, as one aspirant battles with another for dominion of the entire Islamic world.

“11. When this effort is fused with the orthodox injunction to engage in offensive war against non-Muslims—until they convert or submit to Islamic rule, so that the entire world may be united beneath the banner of Islam—this constitutes a summons to perpetual conflict, whose ever-widening appeal to Muslims is rooted in the very history and teachings of Islam itself.

“12. Indeed, authoritative elements of fiqh describe such conflict as a religious obligation—which, at times, is incumbent upon the Muslim community in general, and others, upon every Muslim adult male, depending on the circumstances involved—for these religious norms emerged at a time when conflict between Islam and non-Muslim neighboring states was nearly universal.

“13. If Muslims do not address the key tenets of Islamic orthodoxy that authorize and explicitly enjoin such violence, anyone—at any time—may harness the orthodox teachings of Islam to defy what they claim to be the illegitimate laws and authority of an infidel state and butcher their fellow citizens, regardless of whether they live in the Islamic world or the West. This is the bloody thread that links so many current events, from Egypt, Syria and Yemen to the streets of Mumbai, Jakarta, Berlin, Nice, Stockholm and Westminster.

“14. Civil discord, acts of terrorism, rebellion and outright warfare—all pursued in the name of Islam—will continue to plague Muslims, and threaten humanity at large, until these issues are openly acknowledged and resolved.

“15. Clearly, the world is in need of an alternative Islamic orthodoxy, which the vast majority of Muslims will embrace and follow.

“16. The question that confronts humanity—Muslims and non-Muslims alike—is: how can we encourage, and ultimately ensure, that such an alternative not only arises, but becomes the dominant orthodoxy?”

Read the full Declaration on Humanitarian Islam (PDF).

International Summit of Moderate Islamic Leaders (ISOMIL) Nahdlatul Ulama Declaration

“1. Nahdlatul Ulama offers the insights and experience of Islam Nusantara (East Indies Islam) to the world, as a salutary paradigm of Islam in which religion contributes to civilization, by respecting pre-existing cultures and prioritizing social harmony and peace.

“5. Within the worldview of Islam Nusantara, Islam does not enjoin its adherents to conquer the world, but rather, to engage in the continuous development of akhlaqul karimah, or noble character and virtue, for it is only through akhlaqul karimah that Islam can manifest as Divine Grace for all creation.

“8. The Nahdlatul Ulama regards specific modes of interpreting Islam (tafsir) as the most significant factor causing the spread of religious extremism among Muslims.

“9. For many decades past, various governments in the Middle East have exploited religious differences, and a history of enmity between sects, without regard to the consequences thereof for humanity at large. By ‘weaponizing’ sectarian differences, these governments have sought to exercise both soft and hard power, and exported their conflict to the entire world. These sectarian propaganda campaigns have deliberately nurtured religious extremism, and stimulated the spread of terrorism throughout the world.

“15. The Nahdlatul Ulama calls upon people of goodwill of every faith and nation to join in building a global consensus not to politicize Islam, and to marginalize those who would exploit Islam in such a way as to harm others.

“16. The Nahdlatul Ulama will strive to consolidate the global ahlusunnah wal jamaah (Sunni Muslim) community, in order to bring about a world in which Islam, and Muslims, are truly beneficent and contribute to the well-being of all humanity.”

Read the full Nahdlatul Ulama Declaration (PDF).

Ansor Global Unity Forum Declaration

II. The GP Ansor Call

“Certain that Islam was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (saw.) to serve as a ‘blessing for all creation,’ and as a means to perfect noble character and virtue, the Ansor Youth Movement calls for an end to conflict in the name of religion, and for qualified ulama (Muslim religious scholars) to carefully examine and address those elements of fiqh (classical Islamic law) that encourage segregation, discrimination and/or violence towards anyone perceived to be ‘non-Muslim.’”

Read the full Ansor Global Unity Forum Declaration (PDF).

Vienna Observatory for Applied Research on Terrorism and Extremism (VORTEX)

VORTEX combines academic rigor with theological expertise and generations of experience countering radical ideology and movements. Its objective is to compete with extremist ideology on a global basis; contest the “monopoly on truth” that Islamist movements have claimed for decades; undermine their digital hegemony; and, ultimately, dismantle their ability to project strategic influence in the Muslim world and the West.

Read the full VORTEX profile (PDF).

The Illusion of an Islamic State

Editor: H.E. Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid

“The Illusion of an Islamic State represents a landmark achievement in the field of counter-radicalization, which demonstrates how an alliance of moderate Muslim leaders can effectively isolate, and discredit, the ideology of religious hatred, supremacy and violence that underlies and animates terrorism. As such, it warrants serious study—as well as the wide dissemination, and application, of its findings—by public policy makers, journalists and people of good will of every faith and nation, who care about the threat to humanity posed by Islamist ideology, terrorism and a rising tide of Islamophobia in the West.”

Read sample chapters (PDF).

Indonesia’s ‘big idea’: Resolving the bitter global debate on Islam

by Kyai Haji A. Mustofa Bisri and C. Holland Taylor

“Prior to his death in December 2009, our friend Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid, who fully recognized these facts, set in motion a pair of interrelated endeavors to help realize Indonesia’s strategic potential as an engine of spiritual progress for humanity. The first of these… seeks to establish a lasting foundation for a renaissance of Islamic pluralism, tolerance and critical thinking, and foster the necessary conditions for the development of just societies and the protection of universal human rights throughout the Muslim world, so that Islam may truly function as rahmatan lil ‘alamin, or a source of love and compassion for all God’s creatures.

“The second endeavor consists of a systematic effort to help educate and mobilize Western governments, civil society and public opinion at large, to address the complex array of threats posed by Islamist ideology, terrorism and a rising tide of Islamophobia in the West. This strategic endeavor, jointly undertaken by the Nadhlatul Ulama and LibForAll Foundation, seeks to develop a broad center-left to center-right coalition in North America and Europe that will unite the ‘humanitarian left’ and ‘national security-oriented right’ in forging the societal consensus required to marginalize and discredit both Islamist extremism and its mirror phenomenon in the West, namely Islamophobia. This entails preventing the instrumentalization of Islam for political purposes, whether by Muslim extremists or by Western politicians, political parties and/or their ideological allies, and helping to ensure the ascendency of a pluralistic, tolerant and spiritual understanding of Islam throughout the world, including the Sunni and Shiite heartlands of the Middle East.”

Read the full article (PDF).

How Islam learned to adapt in ‘Nusantara’

by Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf

“Within this nonpoliticized atmosphere, Islam has proved more successful at grounding its core teachings in public life than in many parts of the world. This is because of Nusantara Islam’s willingness to empathize with others and engage in dialogue with reality, rather than seek to impose one’s own understanding of reality upon others by force. The success of Nusantara Islam also stems from its conviction that religion should serve as a path to enlightenment for individual souls, and that Shariah should serve to promote the well-being of humanity, rather than function as a tool of repressive authority. In Nusantara, Islam was free to fulfill its mandate in the Koran: to become a source of universal love and compassion.”

Read the full article (PDF).

The universal values of Indonesian Islamic civilization

by Kyai Haji A. Mustofa Bisri

“According to the Sunni view of Islam, every aspect and expression of religion should be imbued with rahmah (love and compassion) and foster the perfection of human nature, as expressed through sublime moral character (akhlaqul karima). This may be achieved—in fact, may only be achieved—if one’s understanding and practice of the exoteric norms of religion (such as ritual prayer, fasting, etc.) is augmented by a full grasp of its inner, spiritual dimension.

“When Muslim extremists act in ways that contradict the substantive teachings of religion—while loudly claiming to represent the true teachings of Islam—it is only natural that many non-Muslims will take these extremists at their word and develop (or, in light of history, ‘rediscover’) an aversion towards Islam itself.”

Read the full article (PDF).

Theology matters: The case of jihadi Islam

by Rüdiger Lohlker

“[I]t is crystal clear—to virtually anyone who has the linguistic capacity to grasp and the opportunity to witness what jihadists are actually saying, writing and doing, both online and offline—that religion matters…

“[W]ithout deconstructing the theology of violence inherent in jihadi communications and practice, these religious ideas will continue to inspire others to act, long after any given organized force, such as the Islamic State, may be destroyed on the ground….

“Flatly denying the importance of religion causes many in the West to overlook a crucial element of jihadi thought and action. This is particularly evident with regard to the mantra so often repeated in the wake of each new terrorist attack, viz.: “Islam is the religion of peace.”  The claim that religion motivates only positive behavior among human beings, and the implicit denial that religion may ever legitimize negative behavior, cannot withstand intellectual scrutiny. History provides countless examples of both positive and negative behavior legitimized by religion….”

Read the full article (PDF).

Maneuvering within Islam’s narrative space

by Brian L Steed

“Life is lived in the narrative space. What we hear, read or see is sorted and evaluated based on our narrative space terrain. Influence comes easiest through understanding this terrain.”

Maneuver in the narrative space: Lessons from Islam Nusantara

by  C. Holland Taylor

“There has been a centuries-long struggle between competing forces, maneuvering in both the physical and narrative space, producing Indonesia’s uniquely pluralistic, tolerant and spiritual brand of Islam. It should be celebrated.”

Read both articles (PDF).

Enduring threat, global ramifications

by Yahya Cholil Staquf

A rising tide of Islamism in its myriad forms – they run the gamut from preman berjubah (thugs draped in Arab garb) to social media activists, proselytism movements, educational networks, political parties and even terrorist groups affiliated with Al Qaeda and the Islamic State – has been among the most noteworthy phenomena to emerge in Indonesia during the past 20 years.

Individually and collectively, these developments threaten the unity of Indonesia and its people, often in ways more subtle and profound than the bloody conflicts waged in the name of Islam in regions as diverse as Ambon, Poso and Aceh. And yet, this threat is far from new. Both before and after Indonesia achieved independence, its founding fathers had to grapple with the tension that exists between Islamic orthodoxy and the ideals of the modern nation-state. In June 1945 the members of the Preparatory Committee for Indonesian Independence reached a temporary consensus with the Jakarta Charter, which subsequently formed the basis for the preamble to the Constitution of Indonesia. It originally included an obligation for Muslims to abide by Islamic law (Shariah).

Read the full article (PDF).

Towards a Reform of Islamic Teachings, and Principles, Regarding Muslim/Non-Muslim Relations

by Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf

“The politicization of Islam is readily enabled by the fact that supremacist political theories— which became fully established during the Middle Ages and continue to hold sway to the present—represent a core element of orthodox Islam. This supremacist belief structure has been continuously nurtured for over a thousand years by those who rely upon Islam as a primary source of political legitimacy and authority, and by various forms of Islamic activism.”

Read the full paper (PDF).

God Needs No Defense

Foreword by H.E. Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid

“Sanctions against freedom of religious inquiry and expression act to halt the developmental process of religious understanding dead in its tracks—conflating the sanctioning authority’s current, limited grasp of the truth with ultimate Truth itself, and thereby transforming religion from a path to the Divine into a ‘divinized’ goal, whose features and confines are generally dictated by those with an all-too-human agenda of earthly power and control.”

Read the Foreword (PDF).

Independence (Day) Prayer

Painting by Kyai Haji A. Mustofa Bisri

by Kyai Haji A. Mustofa Bisri

A poem that illustrates the intimate relationship between spirituality and patriotism, which is characteristic of the Nahdlatul Ulama and Islam Nusantara in general.

As point 4. of the ISOMIL  Nahdlatul Ulama Declaration states: “From the perspective of Islam Nusantara, no conflict exists between religion and nationalism. Hubul watan minal iman: ‘Patriotism is integral to faith.’ Whoever lacks patriotism either has no native land, or is devoid of attachment to it. Those who lack a native land will be devoid of history.”

Read the poem (PDF).

In This Perishable World

by Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf

Published and widely distributed in July 2014, amid blatant attempts to steal Indonesia’s presidential election. A vibrant and courageous civil society movement—rooted in a profoundly spiritual understanding of Islam—succeeded in preserving the nation’s democracy.

Read the poem (PDF).