2017_11_25_NU National Assembly and Conference

Nahdlatul Ulama Targets the Weaponization of Religion for Political Purposes

MATARAM, Lombok, Indonesia: From 23 – 25 November 2017, the world’s largest Muslim organization convened 1,200 religious scholars for a National Assembly of Ulama and Major Conference, whose primary agenda was to strengthen the values of nationalism, counter religious extremism and improve the economic welfare of all sectors of Indonesian society. Attendees included Indonesia’s President and Vice President; the chiefs of Indonesia’s military, national police and state intelligence agency; numerous cabinet ministers; and foreign emissaries, including ambassadors from Iran and Saudi Arabia.

In his opening address, NU General Chairman Kyai Haji Said Aqil Siradj said that “Indonesia is different from the Middle East, where people who are religious are generally not nationalists, and those who are nationalists are generally not religious…. We are fortunate that our situation is so different from that in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and so many other nations, whose people are overwhelmingly Muslim and yet trapped in horrendous civil wars with no end in sight… To preserve the unity of the Republic of Indonesia and the tranquility of its people, radical groups and their ideology must be expelled [from the public space]!” Read the entire communiqué…

2017_11_17_Saudi Mosque in Brussels

Scholar Cites Nahdlatul Ulama General Secretary’s Role in Debate Over Saudi Mosque in Brussels

Dr. James M. Dorsey—a widely-recognized expert on the Middle East and senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore—recently published an in-depth analysis of the controversy raging over an attempt by “Belgium’s Parliament… to wrest control from Saudi Arabia of Brussels’ downtown Grand Mosque after three years in which Belgians played a prominent role in Islamic State attacks in the Belgian capital as well as Paris.”

As Dr. Dorsey notes in his article: “A prominent Indonesian scholar, wittingly or unwittingly, lent justification to the Belgian move rooted in calls for the furthering of a more tolerant, pluralistic, European version of Islam by unequivocally linking ultra-conservatism to extremism.

“‘There is a clear relationship between fundamentalism, terrorism, and the basic assumptions of Islamic orthodoxy. So long as we lack consensus regarding this matter, we cannot gain victory over fundamentalist violence within Islam,’ said Yahya Cholil Staquf, the 51-year old general secretary of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU).” Read the entire communiqué…

2017_10_19_Impact Analysis

Nahdlatul Ulama General Secretary’s “Message to Europe” Helped Shape Public Discourse Amid the Heat of Germany’s 2017 National Election Campaign

In June of 2017, several organizations affiliated with the spiritual wing of the Nahdlatul Ulama—including Gerakan Pemuda Ansor, Bayt ar-Rahmah and LibForAll Foundation—launched a strategic messaging campaign and began implementation of the [Gerakan Pemuda Ansor Declaration on Humanitarian Islam] road map. In July, this messaging penetrated to the heart of the European Union, via the Rotating Presidency of the European Council. On August 19th one of Germany’s leading newspapers, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) published a hard-hitting interview with NU General Secretary Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf, which promptly went viral amidst an historic election campaign in Germany.

Over the next three weeks, strategic messages embedded within the FAZ interview generated waves of policy discourse and viral media coverage throughout much of Europe and North America, as described in this communiqué. Analysis of their impact on public opinion and voting patterns in Germany suggests that Humanitarian Islam may have the potential to help reconcile policy differences and facilitate the emergence of a broad societal consensus in the West regarding Islam and Muslims. Read the entire communiqué…

2017_08_19_Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

NU General Secretary to Europe’s Intellectual and Political Elites: “The West must stop equating a rational critique of Islamist terrorism with Islamophobia”

FRANKFURT, Germany: In the wake of yet another devastating terror attack in Europe—which killed or injured over 140 on the streets of Barcelona—Germany’s leading newspaper published a lengthy interview with Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) General Secretary Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf. Headlined “Terrorism and Islam are Intimately Connected,” the interview was placed on the front page of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung’s widely-read Feuilleton (arts and culture) section, which also addresses moral issues that transcend partisan politics. Within hours of its publication, the interview was trending as one of the most popular articles shared in Germany.

Promoted as a Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) exclusive, the newspaper’s internet home page linked to a description of the interview which reads:

“‘There is a crystal clear relationship between fundamentalism, terror and the basic assumptions of Islamic orthodoxy,’ says Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf, General Secretary of the largest Muslim organization in Indonesia… This is particularly true in regard to the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims. The position of Muslims vis-à-vis the State and its legal system are also problematic and lead to segregation and enmity. ‘Too many Muslims view civilization, and the peaceful co-existence of people of different faiths, as something they must combat’ says Yahya Cholil Staquf. As a result, the West’s growing fear of Islam is completely understandable. And it is essential that people speak clearly about the connection between Islam and terrorism: ‘The West must stop equating the rational discussion of these issues with Islamophobia.’” Read the entire communiqué…

2017_07_18_Presentation to EU Council Terrorism Working Party

NU General Secretary to the European Union and Its 28 Member States: “You cannot win if you do not fight back”

BRUSSELS, Belgium: On Tuesday 18 July 2017, Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf—General Secretary of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Supreme Council—delivered a video address to senior EU officials and representatives of 28 Member States at the headquarters of the European Council, which defines the EU’s overall political direction and policies. His address was part of a broader expert presentation on risk assessment hosted by the government of Estonia, which currently holds the rotating Presidency of the EU Council. Member States holding the rotating Presidency work together in groups of three to set long-term goals and prepare a common agenda determining the topics and major issues that will be addressed by the Council over an 18-month period. The presentation was delivered to the Terrorism Working Party (TWP), which leads and manages the Council’s agenda on counter-terrorism. Attended by law-enforcement and security officials of the 28 EU Member States, TWP is also responsible for exchanging information and assessments of terrorist threats; countering radicalization and recruitment of potential terrorists; and carrying out peer evaluations of Member States’ best practices in the fight against terrorism.

The address came at a time of rising controversy and political discord between EU Member States regarding the volatile issues of mass migration, the distribution of refugees and counter-terrorism policy. The NU aims to reduce polarization between Muslim communities and the West, and help generate the societal consensus required to address the threat posed by Islamist extremism and terror. If heeded, NU/Bayt ar-Rahmah recommendations could help reconcile severe policy differences—regarding Islam and Muslims—that have strained relations between Western European nations led by Germany and the V4 (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia). Inclusion of the NU General Secretary’s address within the TWP agenda may thus be interpreted as a move by the EU rotating Presidency to bridge policy differences and establish a common platform capable of addressing issues that threaten not only international peace and security, but EU solidarity as well. Read the entire communiqué…

2017_05_22_Ansor Declaration on Humanitarian Islam

World’s Largest Muslim Youth Organization Publishes Detailed Road Map for the Reform of Islamic Orthodoxy: “Let us Honestly Acknowledge, and Address, the Primary Cause of Islamist Terrorism”

JOMBANG, Indonesia: On 21 – 22 May 2017, over 300 Indonesian religious scholars gathered with colleagues from South Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North America to address “obsolete tenets of classical Islamic law, which are premised upon perpetual conflict with those who do not embrace or submit to Islam.” The event was held at PP (Madrasah) Bahrul ‘Ulum in Jombang, East Java—birthplace of the Nahdlatul Ulama and its 5-million-strong youth movement, Gerakan Pemuda Ansor.

KH. A. Mustofa Bisri—former Chairman of the Nahdlatul Ulama Supreme Council and currently Chairman of Bayt ar-Rahmah—opened the event with a prayer that the assembled scholars’ deliberations would constitute “a humble act of religious piety and a blessing for all humanity… [as well as] the starting point of a movement that may bring the rays of enlightenment to a desperate world.” The two-day international gathering of ulama concluded with the adoption of Gerakan Pemuda Ansor’s Declaration on Humanitarian Islam, an 8,000 word analysis of the manner in which state and non-state actors have “weaponized” orthodox Islamic teachings, and detailed road map that calls for “a serious, long-term socio-cultural, political, religious and educational campaign to transform Muslims’ understanding of their religious obligations, and the very nature of Islamic orthodoxy.” Read the entire communiqué…

2017_04_18_National Security Agenda

Gerakan Pemuda Ansor’s View Regarding the Republic of Indonesia’s Strategic Interests and National Security Agenda

JAKARTA, Indonesia: On April 17 – 18 2017, representatives of the world’s largest Muslim young adults movement, Gerakan Pemuda Ansor (est. 1934), gathered for the organization’s XXIst National Conference. Regional and provincial leaders discussed a number of geopolitical developments that pose a grave threat to Indonesia’s security. These include “the brutal conflicts raging in the Middle East and other hot spots; the rampant social turbulence that prevails almost everywhere in the Muslim world; the spread of religious extremism and terrorism, which pose a global security threat; and a rising tide of Islamophobia among non-Muslim populations, in response to these developments in the Muslim world.” Conference delegates also discussed “the threat posed by the political and military agenda of the People’s Republic of China, as it seeks to achieve regional hegemony in East and Southeast Asia.”

After extensive deliberation, GP Ansor issued a formal Decree (Number: 04/KONBES-XXI/IV/2017) that states, in part: “the 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. Among the key issues that lie at the heart of this complex religious crisis, which require extremely delicate handling, are:… Read the entire communiqué…

2017_03_30_Humanitarian Islam

World’s Largest Muslim Organization Launches Global Effort to Recontextualize (i.e., Reform) Classical Islamic Law

JAKARTA, Indonesia: On March 30th, 2017, Gerakan Pemuda Ansor (the Nahdlatul Ulama Young Adults Movement) announced the launch of a concerted effort to promote Humanitarian Islam (al-islam li al-insaniyyah), by developing and operationalizing a global strategy to recontextualize the teachings of orthodox, authoritative Islam and thereby reconcile certain problematic elements of classical Islamic law (fiqh, aka shari‘ah) with the reality of contemporary civilization, whose context and conditions differ significantly from those in which classical Islamic law emerged.

The elements in question include those portions of fiqh that address relations between Muslims and non-Muslims, the structure of governance and the proper aims and conduct of warfare. It is precisely these elements that are often employed by terrorists to justify their actions, and by those who seek to use Islam for political purposes, fostering a sense of grievance and alienation from the modern world. Read the entire communiqué…