“Yesterday we told all of our students that THIS [R20] is the jihad of today”
Short Film: R20 in Java. The permanent secretariat of the G20 Religion Forum (R20) has released the second of two films documenting the inaugural R20 Summit in Bali and a subsequent planning conference held in Yogyakarta, the heartland of Javanese civilization. Created by a team of European filmmakers who have decades of experience producing advertisements for some of world’s major fashion houses and corporate brands, the 10-minute film enables viewers to directly experience the culture that gave birth to Nahdlatul Ulama and the R20.
“Shine Your Light, the great Light, so that we may grasp the beauty of Truth and follow it, and can grasp the consequences of evil and stay away from it.”
~ Prayer composed by KH. A Mustofa Bisri
Bayt ar-Rahmah (Home of Divine Grace). On December 9, 2014, Kyai Haji A. Mustofa Bisri, Chairman of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Supreme Council and KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf — the NU’s Secretary for International and Political Affairs — joined with American businessmen C. Holland Taylor and F. Borden Hanes, Jr. to establish Home of Divine Grace for Revealing and Nurturing Islam as a Blessing for All Creation (Bayt ar-Rahmah li ad-Da‘wa al-Islamiyah Rahmatan li al-‘Alamin), a U.S.-based religious corporation that will serve as a hub for the expansion of NU operations worldwide. Nahdlatul Ulama is the world’s largest Muslim organization, with over 50 million members and 14,000 Islamic boarding schools, or madrassahs.
Bayt ar-Rahmah is part of a global effort conceived by Indonesia’s first democratically-elected head of state, H.E. Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid (1940 – 2009), to help realize Indonesia’s strategic potential as an engine of civilizational progress for all humanity. In 2003, President Wahid established LibForAll Foundation with his close friend and associate, North Carolina native C. Holland Taylor, to help meet international peace and security needs in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the first Bali bombing. Under President Wahid’s and Mr. Taylor’s leadership, LibForAll quickly became “a model of what a competent public diplomacy effort in the Muslim world should look like” (Wall Street Journal), achieving a string of notable successes that would ultimately result in the foundation of Bayt ar-Rahmah.
Bayt ar-Rahmah will facilitate the global expansion of Nahdlatul Ulama operations, and leverage the practical and civilizational experience of the world’s largest Muslim organization to “eliminate the widespread practice of using religion in order to incite hatred and violence towards others.”
“The primary reason we must oppose hardline movements is to restore honor and respect to Islam, which the extremists have desecrated, while at the same time preserving Pancasila and the Unitary State of the Republic of Indonesia. Victory in the struggle against extremists will restore the majesty of Islamic teachings as rahmatan lil-‘alamin—a blessing for all creation—and this represents a vital key to building a peaceful world.”
~ H.E. Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid, “The Enemy Within”
Editor’s Foreword to The Illusion of an Islamic State
“Light upon light,
God guides to His Light
whom He will.”
~ al-Quran, 24:35
Historic Nahdlatul Ulama congress a battleground between opposing forces. From the perspective of Muslim extremists, the 33rd NU Congress held in Jombang, East Java from 1 – 5 August 2015 was a disaster. The opportunist/extremist alliance painstakingly assembled by Hasyim Muzadi over the past five years not only failed to secure control of the NU Central Board; its members were completely shut out of any positions of authority. Future selection of the NU’s leadership will be in the hands of senior ulama who are (hopefully) insulated from money politics. The new board has embraced the concept of Islam Nusantara (East Indies Islam), and will seek to promote its values both domestically and internationally, as a living, breathing alternative to radical Islam.
Also of great significance were decisions made by the NU’s Bahtsul Masa‘il Commission, which deliberates major issues from the perspective of Islamic law. In an article entitled “Gus Mus’s Charisma and the Secret Behind the Greatness of the NU’s 33rd National Congress,” a participant describes how the Bahtsul Masa‘il Commission overcame Wahhabi-tinged objections to reaffirm a crucial decision made during KH. Abdurrahman Wahid’s term as NU Chairman: that is, to reopen the doors of ijtihad (“independent reasoning”) and engage in istinbath (“digging into the source—i.e., the Qur’an and Sunnah—so that new interpretations of Islamic law may emerge”).
The importance of this decision, in light of current world developments — including ISIS and al-Qaeda’s use of Islamic law to justify their actions — should not be underestimated. With over 14,000 pesantren (madrasahs) and an enormous network of ulama trained in the classical traditions of Sunni Islam, both formal and spiritual, the NU represents the largest single body of religious scholars in the Muslim world positioned to address this vital issue.
Civilizational Nobility: Nahdlatul Ulama General Secretary issues call to embrace nobility of character as the unifying attribute of an emerging global civilization. On February 11, 2018, KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf received a standing ovation after delivering a keynote address to representatives of think tanks from over 20 nations throughout the Asia Pacific region, who gathered in Jakarta for the 2018 Asia Liberty Forum, co-hosted by the Center for Indonesian Policy Studies and the Atlas Network. The Nahdlatul Ulama General Secretary outlined his vision for establishing a common platform — inspired by the universal, humanitarian principles embedded within the preamble to Indonesia’s 1945 Constitution — to manage ideological, religious, ethnic, cultural and political differences that jeopardize international peace and security, and threaten to rip asunder the very fabric of modern civilization.
TIME magazine has named Ibu Sinta Nuriyah Wahid—widow of Indonesia’s fourth President, H.E. Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid—as one of “The 100 Most Influential People of 2018.”
In a profile of Ibu Sinta written by the Egyptian/American journalist Mona Eltahawy, TIME states that “The self-identified Muslim feminist has degrees in both Shari‘a law and women’s studies; she understands how politicized religion is particularly cruel to women and minorities. She has counseled transgender women, supported a Christian former governor of Jakarta who was convicted of blasphemy and more—choosing to support the vulnerable rather than settle into a risk-free life as a former President’s widow.”
Impact Analysis: NU General Secretary’s historic visit to Jerusalem helped shape public discourse amid the heat of Indonesia’s 2018 regional election campaign. A firestorm of controversy over how the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation and democracy should respond to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict unexpectedly dominated Indonesia’s print, broadcast and social media during the decisive final weeks of that nation’s 2018 regional election campaign, which many experts view as a bellwether for national legislative and presidential elections to follow in 2019.
A long-planned visit to Jerusalem by Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf — General Secretary of the world’s largest Muslim organization, the Nahdlatul Ulama — triggered the controversy, when the Palestinian ambassador to Jakarta sought (and failed) to block the visit, and leading politicians from the Muslim Brotherhood political party PKS and Gerindra — both staunchly opposed to incumbent President Joko Widodo (“Jokowi”) — seized upon the visit as a de facto campaign issue.
The morning after regional elections, headlines across Indonesia proclaimed: “All the PKS/Gerindra ‘Roosters’ Quacked Like Ducks in Java’s Gubernatorial Elections.” As another internet meme explained, “PKS elites and cadres brought about their own electoral disaster by attacking leaders of the NU Central Board, including the General Secretary of the NU Supreme Council. If anyone asks you why the NU just beat the living daylights out of PKS, answer them: ‘Don’t insult NU kyais and ulama. Obey them.”
Multi-Faith Vanguard Unites to Adopt Nusantara Statement and Join Global Humanitarian Islam Movement. A coalition of international religious and political figures joined leaders of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU)—the world’s largest Muslim organization—in signing the Nusantara Statement at the Second Global Unity Forum (GUF II), held on October 25 – 26, 2018 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Signatories “call[ed] 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.”
The Second Global Unity Forum constitutes another step within a long-term, systematic and institutional effort by key elements of the NU—including its 5-million-member young adults organization, GP Ansor, and its international affiliate, Bayt ar-Rahmah—to address obsolete and problematic tenets within Islamic orthodoxy that threaten international peace and security. The Nusantara Statement also builds upon the legacy of late Indonesian President and NU Chairman H.E. KH. Abdurrahman Wahid. President Wahid’s eldest daughter, Alissa, addressed the Forum and a heavily-attended press conference, stating: “We must unite the world around noble values and prevent religion from being weaponized for political purposes, in ways that denigrate rather than uplift humanity.”
H. Yaqut Qoumas’ Pekalongan Address
Speech by H. Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, General Chairman of the Gerakan Pemuda Ansor Central Board, delivered before the President and First Lady of the Republic of Indonesia, assembled Kyais (Nahdlatul Ulama Religious Scholars) and 100,000 Banser (i.e., Ansor Militia) cadres mustered in Pekalongan, Central Java, to commemorate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad (saw.) and National Heroes’ Day
Thursday 22 November 2018
Mr. President, beloved kyais and respected members of our audience:
Exactly four weeks ago — on October 26, 2018 — the epic journey of Gerakan Pemuda Ansor’s Kirab Satu Negeri (“One Nation Parade”) concluded in Yogyakarta. This enormous undertaking lasted a total of 41 days. On September 16, we launched the Kirab at five strategic points at the outermost fringes of the Indonesian Archipelago: Merauke (on the island of Papua); Miangas (Sulawesi); Rote Island (East Nusa Tenggara); Nunukan (Borneo); and Sabang (Sumatra).
At each of these five locations, Ansor raised aloft seventeen (17) Red and White flags [to commemorate the founding of Indonesia as a Pancasila nation state on August 17, 1945]. In all, 85 Red and White banners were raised upon wooden flagstaffs and paraded across each of our nation’s 34 provinces, including 188 [out of 514] regencies and cities, where millions of our Indonesian brothers and sisters — from countless ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic backgrounds — joined us in celebrating the rich diversity of our nation.
President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) and First Lady Iriana Joko Widodo attended an event commemorating the birth of the Prophet Muhammad (saw.) and National Heroes’ Day at the Great Square of Kajen, Pekalongan Regency, Central Java, on the evening of Thursday the 22nd of November.
The President used the opportunity to express his pleasure to be in the midst of the Gerakan Pemuda Ansor family, because GP Ansor is always in the forefront safeguarding Pancasila; preserving the spirit of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (“Unity Amid Diversity”); guarding the Republic of Indonesia and its 1945 Constitution; and protecting Indonesia from separatism and terrorist acts.
President Joko Widodo and Gerakan Pemuda Ansor move to block the political weaponization of Islam. One month after Gerakan Pemuda Ansor and its international affiliate, Bayt ar-Rahmah, hosted the Second Global Unity Forum in Yogyakarta, Ansor Chairman H. Yaqut Qoumas announced the adoption of the Nusantara Statement at a mass rally of over 100,000 Ansor members, and presented a commemorative steel plaque engraved with the Statement to Indonesian President Joko Widodo (Jokowi).
The Statement conveys the essence of the historic Nusantara Manifesto, through which Gerakan Pemuda Ansor and Bayt ar-Rahmah have officially launched a process of systematically recontextualizing (i.e., reforming) obsolete and problematic tenets within Islamic orthodoxy.
Muslim Emissary warns Europe from its Balkan Faultline: “Act now to address Islamist extremism, terror, and migration, or face mass upheaval.” On December 17, 2018, Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf — General Secretary of Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest Muslim organization and Emissary of Indonesia’s largest Islamic political party (PKB) — addressed the Slovenian nation at the invitation of its former Prime Minister, Janez Janša. The address, delivered at a heavily-attended public forum in the capital Ljubljana, on the topic of “Migration, Terrorism [and] Freedom of Speech,” came three years after a mass influx of largely Muslim migrants flooded through Slovenian territory into Central and Western Europe, triggering continent-wide social and political upheaval; a wave of Islamist terrorism; and the resurgence of populism as a potent political force for the first time since the Second World War.
Mr. Staquf’s Ljubljana address is part of a wider effort to build the societal consensus necessary to block the political weaponization of Islam in Europe and worldwide. In 2017 the Rotating Presidency of the EU Council introduced policy recommendations by Mr. Staquf via the EU Council Terrorism Working Party to help reconcile the severe policy differences — triggered by mass migration — that have strained relations between Western European nations led by Germany and the V4 (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia). Interventions by the NU General Secretary helped shape public discourse amid the heat of Germany’s 2017 national election campaign and helped strip Saudi control of a Brussels terror mosque linked to Islamic State attacks in the Belgian capital as well as Paris.
Nahdlatul Ulama-based PKB joins Centrist Democrat International: Indonesia’s largest Islamic political party to project “soft power” globally. On March 22, 2019, a delegation representing the world’s largest political network—Centrist Democrat International (CDI), with over 100 affiliated parties in more than 70 nations—visited Jakarta, where they met with the Central Board of Indonesia’s largest Islamic political party. H. Muhaimin Iskandar, Chairman of the National Awakening Party (PKB) and Deputy Speaker of the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), greeted the delegation, headed by César Rosselló, CDI’s General Coordinator for Asia Pacific and Latin America. CDI—originally, an exclusive coalition of Christian Democrat parties—approved PKB’s accession unanimously and in record time at a meeting of its Executive Committee in Cape Verde on November 27, 2018.
Indonesia’s print and broadcast media heavily covered the event, providing widespread favorable publicity for PKB in the midst of a national election campaign. The nation’s presidential and legislative elections will be held on April 19, 2019. PKB is allied with President Joko Widodo (“Jokowi”) of Indonesia and the party controls four cabinet posts in the current Jokowi administration. The nation’s leading newspaper, Kompas, reported that PKB—the first Indonesian political party to join an international network—was swiftly granted full membership status by CDI “due to its party ideology, which is based on democracy, moderation and anti-radicalism.”
The Shimbun AKAHATA
Japanese Communist Party showcases Islamic mass movement. On March 22, 2019, Red Flag (Shimbun Akahata)—the official newspaper of the Japanese Communist Party (JCP), with a distribution of 1.2 million copies—published an extensive interview with Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf, General Secretary of the world’s largest Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU). Entitled “Islam Needs Tenets that Reflect Contemporary Reality,” the article examines the role of the NU in defending Indonesia’s pluralistic, tolerant and multi-religious nation state from Islamist extremists motivated by obsolete and problematic elements of Islamic orthodoxy. The last in a 5-part series on Indonesia’s April 2019 presidential and legislative elections, the interview with Mr. Staquf underscores rising concern among traditional leftist political movements about the weaponization of ethnic, religious and political identities worldwide.
Calls for U.S. to engage with Nahdlatul Ulama in the wake of Indonesia’s presidential election. United States diplomats, government departments and foreign policy practitioners are being encouraged to engage with Nahdlatul Ulama (NU)—the world’s largest Muslim organization, with over 90 million followers—after NU-oriented voters from the heavily-populated island of Java, which constitutes the geographic, political and economic center of Indonesia, proved “decisive” in re-electing moderate Muslim leader Joko Widodo (Jokowi) to his second and final term in office. Writing in Christian foreign policy journal Providence, A.J. Nolte—assistant professor of politics at Regent University’s Robertson School of Government—noted how “Jokowi’s winning coalition was based almost entirely on support from areas of East and Central Java dominated by the Islamic organization Nahdlatul Ulama.”
“NU. . . represents one of the few genuinely influential, well-organized, and politically powerful voices of moderate Islam.”
~ Professor A.J. Nolte, Policy Expert and Religious Freedom Advocate
African American Muslims welcome Nahdlatul Ulama and Humanitarian Islam. On the evening of Thursday, July 18, 2019, Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf — General Secretary of Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest Muslim organization — delivered a sermon that was live-streamed to members of the African American Muslim community gathered in mosques, Islamic centers and homes throughout North America and abroad. Mr. Staquf spoke from the hallowed precincts of Masjid Muhammad, The Nation’s Mosque, home to the oldest Muslim community in Washington, DC. Masjid Muhammad was the first mosque built from the ground up in America’s capital city by its citizens, and also the first in the U.S. built by descendants of enslaved African Americans.
The Nation’s Mosque belongs to the community of Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, whose father Elijah Muhammad led the controversial black separatist movement, Nation of Islam, from 1934 until his death in 1975. W. Deen Mohammed was himself a progressive African American Muslim leader, theologian, philosopher, Muslim revivalist and Islamic thinker, who disbanded the original Nation of Islam in 1976 and transformed it into an orthodox mainstream Islamic movement, which continues his legacy of compassion and forgiveness to this day.
Leaders of the W. Deen Mohammed community visited Indonesia in October of 2018 to participate in the Second Global Unity Forum, where a multi-faith vanguard of international religious and political figures joined Nahdlatul Ulama leaders in signing the Nusantara Statement, and affirming their support for the global Humanitarian Islam movement. These visitors included Imam Talib Shareef and Imam Albert Sabir of The Nation’s Mosque, and Imam Abdul Rahman Shareef, leader of the Tauheed Islamic Center in Wilmington, North Carolina.
The NU General Secretary delivered his address following the salat al-maghreb, or sunset prayer. The full text of KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf’s sermon, as revised and edited for publication, may be read by here.