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Political Communiqués — 2017 2018-02-20T14:43:07+00:00

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]!”

At its conclusion, the Conference adopted and conveyed a set of formal recommendations to President Joko Widodo and his administration. One section—entitled “Prevention and Combatting Radicalism”—specifically addressed the weaponization of religion for political purposes, which dramatically impacted the 2017 Jakarta gubernatorial election and threatens to undermine national unity in the run up to national elections in 2019. Key points include:

“The government needs to act decisively to overcome the threat of radicalism by fostering a humanitarian approach” (Prevention and Combatting Radicalism, point 1); “Political parties and politicians must stop exploiting religious sentiment as a weapon in their political competition. The manipulation of religious sentiment in a constantly recurring power struggle—to obtain 5-year terms in office—constitutes highly irresponsible behavior that threatens the very life of our nation” (point 5); “Law enforcement officers must guarantee citizens’ constitutional rights, refuse to buckle under to pressure from radical groups and firmly crack down on: a) any illegal acts conducted in the name of religion, especially hate speech and incitement to violence, so that [sectarian hatred and violence] do not spiral out of control; b) the use of religious sentiment as a weapon by political parties and politicians, so as to deter such behavior” (point 6).

On the international front, the NU welcomed recent statements by the government of Saudi Arabia that it wishes to return to moderate Islam; invited the government of Saudi Arabia to work with the government of Indonesia to bring this about; and called upon the government of Indonesia to encourage a successful transition to moderate Islam in Saudi Arabia, in harmony with the mainstream understanding and practice of Islam in Indonesia.

Download a PDF copy of this communiqué.

2017_11_17_Saudi Mosque in Brussels

Scholar Cites Nahdlatul Ulama General Secretary’s Rolein 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).”

Dr. Dorsey was quoting an interview of the NU General Secretary published by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on August 19, 2017, which generated waves of policy discourse and viral media coverage throughout much of Europe and North America. The complete interview was translated into Flemish (Dutch) and published by the leading Belgian news magazine, Knack, on August 23rd.

In that interview, Yahya Staquf said:

Over the past fifty years, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have spent massively to promote their ultraconservative version of Islam worldwide. After allowing this to go unchallenged for so many decades [to our common detriment], the West must finally exert decisive pressure upon the Saudis to cease this problematic behavior.

From your perspective, what do the Saudis hope to achieve through their actions?

They’re pursuing their own political interests and agenda. Saudi Arabia and Iran are engaged in competition, each seeking to acquire geopolitical and religious supremacy. Iran is Shi’ite. Thus, it is politically advantageous for the Saudis to portray Shi’ites as infidels. However, when you denounce non-believers as enemies whose lives are legitimately forfeit [under the tenets of classical Islamic law], the deadly impact of such propaganda will not be felt by Shi’ites alone. Iran is engaged in similar activities among Shi’ite communities around the world. However, it is the Saudi strategy of propagating Wahhabism and Salafism that has turned the world into a powder keg [due to the fact that the vast majority of Muslims are Sunni, not Shi’ite].

Key NU figures, including KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf and KH. A. Mustofa Bisri, have long been familiar with the Grand Mosque in Brussels and the extremist orientation of its leadership, which sought and failed to undermine cooperation between the NU and Western colleagues during the May 2011 launch of The Illusion of an Islamic State at the EU Parliament.

The NU and its youth movement, GP Ansor, have repeatedly urged Middle East governments to stop weaponizing sectarian differences, nurturing religious extremism and stimulating the spread of terrorism throughout the world (cf. ISOMIL Nahdlatul Ulama Declaration and the Gerakan Pemuda Ansor Declaration on Humanitarian Islam).

“I view this as a positive sign,” said KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf when asked about the controversy raging over control of Brussels’ Grand Mosque. “Both the Saudis and Europeans are having to confront the real world consequences of their respective policies related to Islam. Rather than deny that there’s any causal relationship between terrorism and certain problematic tenets within orthodox Islam—such as enmity between Muslims and non-Muslims, which the Saudi religious establishment has deliberately fostered for decades—both sides need to acknowledge this problem and address it.”

The NU General Secretary went on to add, “The Saudi government should immediately cease and desist funding extremist networks and ideology worldwide. We hope that Muhammad bin Salman is serious about ‘returning Saudi Arabia to moderate Islam.’ However, we also need to keep in mind that religious extremism has already metastasized into a global threat, and that it will require a highly coordinated worldwide effort to address and ultimately eradicate this threat. The Nahdlatul Ulama is prepared to cooperate with Belgium, Saudi Arabia and other governments and non-government institutions worldwide, to contain the threat of Islamist terrorism and foster harmonious relations between the world’s diverse peoples, religions and cultures.”

Download a PDF copy of this 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

On May 22nd, 2017 the world’s largest Muslim young adults movement, Gerakan Pemuda Ansor, issued an historic declaration calling for the reform of problematic tenets within Islamic orthodoxy “in order to bring about a world in which Islam, and Muslims, are truly beneficent and contribute to the well-being of all humanity.” The Gerakan Pemuda Ansor Declaration on Humanitarian Islam provides a concrete strategy and road map explicitly designed to address “obsolete tenets of classical Islamic law, which are premised upon perpetual conflict with those who do not embrace or submit to Islam” (point 42).

The road map is divided into five sections, viz., “Identification and Containment of the Threat (points 40 – 66); Conflict Resolution (points 67 – 72); New Theological Discourse to Recontextualize Islamic Teachings for the Modern Era (points 73 – 87); Development and Adoption of New Educational Curricula Throughout the Islamic World (points 88 – 95); and Grassroots Movement to Build Societal Consensus and the Political Will Necessary to Resolve the Crisis” (points 96 – 112).

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 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.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung:

“Terrorism and Islam are Intimately Connected”

“The West must stop equating a rational critique of Islamist terrorism with Islamophobia,” warned Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) General Secretary Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf in an exclusive interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ, August 19, 2017). Published in the wake of another devastating terror attack, the NU General Secretary’s advice resonated with a broad cross-section of German public opinion. The official website of the Roman Catholic Church in Germany, which appears to lean to the “humanitarian left,” swiftly published an op-ed in which Volker Resing, chief editor of Herder Korrespondenz (Orbis Catholicus), declared that “[t]he present discourse on Islam suffers from an ideological overload” that reflects polarization between the political left and right, and endorsed the NU General Secretary’s conclusion: “A problem that is not acknowledged cannot be solved.”

“The discussion about Islam and terrorism is back!” declared BILD, which hailed the role of “a major Islamic scholar… with 40 million followers” in facilitating discussion of this volatile issue. BILD summarized key points of the FAZ interview for its 2.5 million readers following a lede that proclaimed: “It is an alarm call – from an authoritative source: ‘There is a clear relationship between fundamentalism, terror and the basic assumptions of Islamic orthodoxy.’”

The NU General Secretary’s message was quickly translated and conveyed via print and internet/social media throughout the EU, eliciting a strong, favorable response across the political spectrum and the continent, in regions as diverse as Spain, Belgium, Poland, Denmark and Finland. A noticeable follow-on effect also occurred, with the publication of complementary thought pieces such as “Jihadists as the Elite Troops of Islam” (FAZ, August 29, 2017), in which Dr. Suzanne Schröter cited the NU General Secretary as an authoritative voice calling for “confrontation with ideas that legitimize violence, which circulate so freely among Muslim associations in Europe.” Significantly, Dr. Schröter highlighted the problematic theological nexus between jihadists, Wahhabis/Salafis, Muslim Brotherhood activists and other Islamist movements, which is rooted in the idea of a “fundamental, irreconcilable conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims.”

Viral News Chart—a subscription service that publishers and brand managers employ to track the dissemination of news stories—identified the General Secretary’s FAZ interview as one of the most widely-disseminated media stories published worldwide, in any language, during the month of August 2017. Viral dissemination of the FAZ interview led to its publication by TIME magazine on September 7th—with an embedded link to the NU General Secretary’s July 18th video address to the EU Council TWP—and a renewed wave of viral coverage of TIME’s English-language interview.

Well-known public figures shared Yahya Staquf’s interview with millions of followers on social media and numerous websites, often accompanied by favorable remarks, such as Richard Dawkins (“An Islamic scholar who really lives up to the name. If only his kind of enlightened Islam predominated” – 2.4 million followers on Twitter); Sam Harris (“Well, this is refreshing” – 926,000 followers); Niall Ferguson (“Essential reading” – 124,000 followers); Milo Yiannopoulos (2.3 million Facebook followers) and the controversial website Jihad Watch, which described the interview as “vitally important” and clear proof that “not all Muslims ascribe to a victimology narrative and the ‘Islamophobia’ canard that generally accompanies it.”

Although published by a center-left news outlet, the TIME interview attracted major attention on the political right. A significant percentage of those who posted comments regarding Yahya Staquf’s interview appeared to agree with Volker Resing, editor of Herder Korrespondenz (Orbis Catholicus), that “The Muslim scholar is not saying [these things] to strengthen anti-Islamic sentiment in the West, but rather, to facilitate co-existence between those of different faiths. These problems must be clearly identified, in order to permanently improve relations between Muslims and non-Muslims. ‘A problem that is not acknowledged cannot be solved.’ That is very true—even amidst the heat of a national election campaign.”

 

The timing and extent of media coverage within Germany—combined with a nuanced analysis of that nation’s September 24th election results—suggest that the Nahdlatul Ulama General Secretary’s FAZ interview legitimized public discourse regarding the relationship between terrorism and Islam, and thereby accelerated European voters’ abandonment of political parties that refuse to acknowledge any causal relationship between Islamist terrorism and certain problematic elements of orthodox Islamic teachings and practice.

This result is in keeping with GP Ansor’s strategy to develop a peaceful common platform and alternative bloc in support of the principles, strategy and objectives articulated in the Gerakan Pemuda Ansor Declaration on Humanitarian Islam, including the need to identify and contain the threat posed by Islamist extremism.

Download a PDF copy of this 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.’”

“‘We must reach a point [of societal consensus], so that any [fundamentalist] view of Islam that posits the traditional norms of Islamic jurisprudence as absolutes, will be rejected out of hand as false. Religious teachings must be contextualized and religious values aligned with social reality. And it must be crystal clear, to all, that state laws have precedence and will prevail [in the event of perceived conflict between Islamic tradition and state law],’ said the Islamic scholar in his interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.”

One month earlier, the NU General Secretary delivered a video address to senior EU officials and representatives of the 28 Member States at the headquarters of the European Council, which defines the EU’s overall political direction and policies, as part of a broader expert presentation. That address, and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung interview, come at a time of acute social and political discord—within and 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 threaten to rend the fabric of social harmony in Germany and other Western nations.

Read the FAZ Interview (in English and German).

View the EU Council TWP (4-minute) video address.

Download a PDF copy of this communiqué.

2017_07_18_Presentation to EU Council TWP (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.

“Why are so many Muslims prepared to be combatants, collaborators and cheerleaders for the jihadis? Why, no matter how many [terrorists] we kill or put in jail, new recruits are always coming to join them? Here is the fact: the problem lies within Islam itself. Jihadist doctrine, goals and strategy can be readily traced to specific elements of orthodox, authoritative Islam and its historic practice, including those portions of fiqh—classical Islamic law or shari‘ah—that enjoin Islamic supremacy, encourage enmity towards non-Muslims and require the establishment of a universal Islamic state, or caliphate,” said Kyai Yahya, who is one of Indonesia’s leading religious scholars and a renowned expert on the theory and practice of Islamic law. His organization, the Nahdlatul Ulama, has over 50 million followers and 14,000 madrasahs.

“Lasting peace cannot be attained without addressing those elements of orthodox Islam that underlie and animate jihadist movements, and constitute their center of gravity. Islam must reform itself in order to live in peace with the rest of the world. But a great reformation of the Muslim faith cannot be imposed from the West. It requires the reform of classical Islamic law and the ascendance of a pluralistic, tolerant and spiritual view of Islam that is at peace with itself and the modern world.”

View the EU Council TWP (4-minute) video address.

Download a PDF copy of this 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.

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.”

In the words of Ansor Chairman H. Yaqut Qoumas, which also appear in the Declaration: “No progress can be made towards neutralizing a threat, unless it is understood and identified. It is false and counterproductive to claim that the actions of al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram and other such groups have nothing to do with Islam, or merely represent a perversion of Islamic teachings. They are, in fact, outgrowths of Wahhabism and other fundamentalist streams of Sunni Islam…” The Declaration goes on to state, “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.”

“Muslims face a choice between starkly different visions of the future. Will they strive to recreate the long-lost ideal of religious, political and territorial unity beneath the banner of a Caliphate—and thus seek to restore Islamic supremacy—as reflected in their communal memory and still firmly entrenched within the prevailing corpus, and worldview, of orthodox, authoritative Islam? Or will they strive to develop a new religious sensibility that reflects the actual circumstances of our modern civilization, and contributes to the emergence of a truly just and harmonious world order, founded upon respect for the equal dignity and rights of every human being?”

The road map is divided into five sections, viz., “Identification and Containment of the Threat (points 40 – 66); Conflict Resolution (points 67 – 72); New Theological Discourse to Recontextualize Islamic Teachings for the Modern Era (points 73 – 87); Development and Adoption of New Educational Curricula Throughout the Islamic World (points 88 – 95); and Grassroots Movement to Build Societal Consensus and the Political Will Necessary to Resolve the Crisis” (points 96 – 112).

Download a PDF copy of this 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:

“Normative practices governing relations between Muslims and non-Muslims, including the rights, responsibilities and role of non-Muslims who live in Muslim-majority societies, and vice versa; relations between the Muslim and non-Muslim world, including the proper aims and conduct of warfare; the existence of modern nation states and their validity—or lack thereof—as political systems that govern the lives of Muslims; and
state constitutions and statutory laws/legal systems that emerged from modern political processes, and their relationship to shari‘ah.”

The XXIst National Conference of GP Ansor issued a mandate to Ansor’s Central Board, instructing it to “replicate GP Ansor’s View of the Republic of Indonesia’s Strategic Interests and National Security Agenda, and socialize its contents throughout the ranks of GP Ansor [down to the grassroots level], and to outside parties as deemed necessary.” Adoption of the Decree comes as GP Ansor prepares to hold an international gathering of ulama (Muslim scholars) in May of 2017, to “carefully examine and address those elements of fiqh (classical Islamic law) that encourage segregation, discrimination and/or violence against those perceived to be ‘non-Muslim.’”

Gerakan Pemuda Ansor is the world’s largest Muslim youth (i.e., young adults) movement, with nearly 5 million registered members. Of these, approximately 1.7 million belong to Barisan Ansor Serbaguna Nahdlatul Ulama, or Banser—an active militia force. GP Ansor constitutes the front line and primary kinetic element within the world’s largest Muslim organization—the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU)—and the primary vehicle for the grassroots mobilization of NU followers. GP Ansor’s principal mission includes the defense of NKRI (the Indonesian nation state); the 1945 Constitution, which established Indonesia as a multi-religious and pluralistic nation; Pancasila; Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (“Oneness Amid Diversity”); and the profoundly spiritual—i.e., humanitarian—values of Sunni Islam, which flourished in harmony with pre-existing East Indies civilization and cultures to produce Islam Nusantara.

Download a PDF copy of this 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.

Speakers included H. Yaqut Qoumas, Chairman of GP Ansor; KH. Said Aqil Siradj, Chairman of the NU Executive Board; KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf, General Secretary of the NU Supreme Council; C. Holland Taylor, CEO of LibForAll Foundation and Deputy Chairman of Bayt ar-Rahmah; Alissa Wahid, the daughter of Indonesia’s fourth president, H.E. KH. Abdurrahman Wahid; and Puti Guntur Soekarno, granddaughter of Indonesia’s first president. Numerous diplomats attended the event, at which Ms. Wahid and Ms. Soekarno presented Ansor with a painting that vividly illustrates why the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation and democracy was established as a multi-religious/pluralistic state, with a constitutional guarantee of equal rights for all its citizens.

Ansor’s initiative represents a concrete step to implement the 5-year Work Program adopted at its November 2015 National Congress, and follows the May 2016 Global Unity Forum, at which Ansor called “for an end to conflict in the name of religion, and for qualified ulama (religious scholars) to carefully examine and address those elements of fiqh that encourage segregation, discrimination and/or violence towards those perceived to be ‘non-Muslim.’” Ansor’s initiative is also a response to the 2016 International Summit of Moderate Islamic Leaders (ISOMIL) Nahdlatul Ulama Declaration, which identified “specific modes of interpreting Islam as the most significant factor causing the spread of religious extremism among Muslims” (point 8) and committed the NU “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” (point 16).

At the March 30th event, Ansor Chairman H. Yaqut Qoumas appointed KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf as the organization’s Emissary to the Islamic World, and C. Holland Taylor as Emissary to the United Nations, Americas and Europe. He described their mission as “developing an international network that will lead to the emergence of a global movement dedicated to the well-being of humanity as a whole, inspired by Humanitarian Islam.” The Chairman also said that Ansor will convene an international bahtsul masa’il, or gathering of qualified religious scholars, in May of 2017, to formulate a road map leading to the recontextualization (i.e., reform) of Islamic teachings.

“We firmly believe that religion should be a source of universal love and compassion—flexible and responsive to the needs of humanity in every time and place. Our purpose is simply to realign certain elements of Islamic teaching with the primary message, and purpose, of the Prophet himself (pbuh)” said the Ansor Chairman, when announcing this historic development.

Download a PDF copy of this communiqué.