2022_11_09_The Hill

German Marshall Fund scholar hails the G20 Religion Forum (R20) as “the world’s most important interfaith venue”

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On 9 November 2022, The Hill, a top U.S. political newspaper that is widely read by Washington insiders, published an article describing the newly established G20 Religion Forum (R20) as “hugely significant” and “in just its first year, the world’s most important interfaith venue.”

According to the author, Muddassar Ahmed, a visiting fellow at the German Marshall Fund:

A remarkable transformation has been taking place in the Muslim world, a years-long shift towards pluralism and tolerance belying common assumptions about Islam.

Maybe we missed this earlier: A lot has been going on, after all. But last week in Bali, at the G20’s ground-breaking Religion Forum, the R20, that transformation took center stage. Not only is it an epochal moment in modern Islam, but this moment also helped create the world’s most important interfaith conversation. 

By expanding beyond the G7 to the G20 — the world’s 20 largest economies — the developed world has created more space for non-Western populations to enter the space of global governance and bring their perspectives and insights with them. That extends to India, with the world’s largest Hindu population and a massive Muslim minority, as well as three Muslim-majority countries: Turkey, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.

Over the course of a week in Bali, I watched, spellbound. Three hundred senior leaders from the world’s major faith traditions explored how to interject religious frameworks into questions of global governance. . . .

It’s not only the world’s many people of faith who gain from having their religious leaders exposed to high-level political conversations that connect the West and other parts of the world. The same can be said for secular leaders enriched by the insights of faith leaders they might never have otherwise interacted with — how, after all, can Western leaders pursue global challenges without understanding what shapes most global sentiments?

But what if I told you that’s not the most important thing about the R20? Continue reading full communiqué. . .

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2022_11_02_R20 Plenary Session 1

G20 Religion Forum (R20) Opening Session

President Joko Widodo of Indonesia addresses R20 participants:
“[R]eligious leaders of different faiths and nations must work together to strengthen religion’s contribution to solving the world’s problems, reduce rivalry, end conflict, and achieve a peaceful, united world.”

BALI, Indonesia, 2 November 2022 — Over 400 religious leaders and scholars from around the world gathered for the first annual R20 Summit, which the Government of Indonesia welcomed as an official “main event” during its Presidency of the G20. Reflecting the profound spirituality characteristic of Nusantara (“East Indies,” or Indonesian) civilization, the R20 was carefully designed to infuse the world’s political and economic power structures with moral and spiritual (i.e., religious) values, rather than instrumentalize religion to serve a purely secular agenda.

Frankly acknowledging that religion has often contributed to identity-based conflict, both throughout history and in the present day, Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama founded the G20 Religion Forum (R20) in order to “help ensure that religion functions as a genuine and dynamic source of solutions, rather than problems, in the 21st century.”

This communiqué provides extensive excerpts from addresses delivered on the morning of Thursday, 2 November 2022, during the R20’s opening session. These excerpts are intended to allow readers — including religious leaders, policy makers, scholars, journalists, and other interested parties — to readily access and understand the substantive nature of the R20’s agenda and of the presentations delivered by prominent religious leaders at the R20 Summit in Bali. Continue reading full communiqué. . .

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2022_10_31_R20 Spiritual Ecology Movement

Muslim and Hindu Leaders Launch Spiritual Ecology Movement at Historic R20 Gathering in Bali

Mahamahopadhyay Bhadreshdas Swami:
“Dharma is that which upholds the whole universe.
Similarly, spiritual ecology is that which protects the whole of creation.”

BALI, Indonesia — On the afternoon of 31 October 2022, religious leaders met to break new ground by launching a global “spiritual ecology movement” to foster balance within nature and society. The event was held at Puja Mandala, a religious complex consisting of five houses of worship built side-by-side, including a Hindu temple, a mosque, Protestant and Catholic churches, and a Buddhist vihara.

The gathering began with a ritual purification ceremony and offerings made by Balinese Hindu priests (photograph below) prior to the planting of twenty trees considered sacred within Hindu cosmology. This ceremony and tree planting are believed to enliven the spiritual unity that connects all of creation and thereby secure harmony and balance between the seen and unseen worlds. Continue reading full communiqué. . .

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2022_10_02_Religious Soft Power

Indonesia’s Religious Soft Power on Display in the Middle East

As Qatar doubles down on its support for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Saudi-based Muslim World League has “forged an unlikely alliance with Nahdlatul Ulama”
Indonesia’s “Nahdlatul Ulama is arguably the world’s only mass movement propagating a genuinely moderate and pluralistic form of Islam”

DOHA, Qatar and MECCA, Saudi Arabia — The fierce competition for religious soft power between Middle East nations was on stark display in September with the announcement of diametrically opposed initiatives by major Islamic organizations backed by the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Reflecting the growing influence of the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, Indonesian religious leaders are at the heart of both initiatives.

As reported by geopolitical analyst Dr. James Dorsey, on 10 September:

[F]ormer Indonesian Minister of Social Affairs Habib Salim Segaf Al-Jufri was named Secretary General of the Qatar-based International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), founded by controversial Islamic scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the world’s foremost Muslim theologians associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Mr. Al-Qaradawi died on Monday in Doha at the age of 96.

Intriguingly, Mr. Al-Jufri, a senior member of Indonesia’s Brotherhood-affiliated Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), also represents the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) in East and Southeast Asia, a Saudi government-funded organization initially established in the 1970s to promote Saudi religious ultra-conservatism globally.

Arab commentators have described Al-Jufri as a Muslim Brotherhood loyalist and argue that his election reflects not only the difficulties confronting the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East, but also the group’s hope to expand its footprint in Southeast Asia. Continue reading full communiqué. . . 

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2022_09_23_Official Statement by the Nahdlatul Ulama Central Board

Official Statement of the NU Central Board Regarding R20 and Ongoing Discussions with India & RSS

“Nahdlatul Ulama encourages people of good will of every faith and nation to reject the weaponization of identity”

JAKARTA, Indonesia — The Nahdlatul Ulama Central Board has published an official statement that outlines the vision and objectives of the newly-established G20 Religion Forum (R20), and its approach to interreligious conflict.

Signed by NU Chairman, KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf, and its General Secretary, H. Saifullah Yusuf, the document states:

Nahdlatul Ulama believes that the only way to overcome entrenched historical grievances and promote peaceful co-existence is to engage all parties and refuse to indulge in the sentiment of enmity and hatred, based upon a claim of unique communal victimhood. 

Nahdlatul Ulama is aware of the potential for genocide in South Asia, not only because of contemporary geopolitical dynamics, but also due to the history of the region, including the Bangladesh genocide of 1971; the massacres that accompanied Partition in 1947; British colonial policies of divide and rule; and centuries of invasion from the northwest, accompanied by massive destruction, slaughter, and enslavement. Even the Emperor Ashoka is known for his massacre of over 100,000 inhabitants of Kalinga during the third century B.C.E., prior to his conversion to Buddhism. Continue reading full communiqué. . .

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2022_08_14_G20 Religion Forum and the Muslim World League

G20 Religion Forum (R20):

“Helping to ensure that religion functions as a genuine and dynamic source of solutions, rather than problems”

Nahdlatul Ulama invites Muslim World League Secretary General to co-chair R20 Summit

JAKARTA, Indonesia and RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — The official host of this year’s G20 Summit — the Republic of Indonesia, led by popular two-term President Joko Widodo — has decided to place religion and religious leaders near the center of geopolitical discourse for the first time in the history of the G20.

The world’s largest Muslim organization, Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama, established the G20 Religion Forum (R20) in order to “help ensure that religion in the 21st century functions as a genuine and dynamic source of solutions, rather than problems.”

In order to fulfill this vision, the R20 will mobilize diverse religious, political and economic leaders from G20 Member States and elsewhere throughout the world “to prevent the weaponization of identity; curtail the spread of communal hatred; promote solidarity and respect among the diverse peoples, cultures and nations of the world; and foster the emergence of a truly just and harmonious world order, founded upon respect for the equal rights and dignity of every human being.” Continue reading full communiqué. . . 

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2022_07_07_The Print: Islam Nusantara Can Help India Too

Major Indian media outlets praise NU and the G20 Religion Forum (R20):

“[A] unique and significant initiative. . . that will bring together leaders of all the important world religions to assist G-20 governments in building a united, pluralist and peaceful world”
“Islam Nusantara aims to transform the role of religion from being a source of conflict and hatred to a wellspring of compassion and collaboration”

Home page of The Print (July 8, 2022)

NEW DELHI, India — July 7, 2022: Leading Indian news outlets have published a pair of articles that highlight the newly established G20 Religion Forum and the potential role of Islam Nusantara (“East Indies Islam”) in countering Islamist extremism in India, whose Muslim population is second only to that of Indonesia.

On July 7, an article authored by Indonesian scholar Hadza Min Fadhli Robby appeared in The Print under the title: “Islam Nusantara saved Indonesia’s Muslims from ISIS. It can help India too.” The brainchild of award-winning journalist Shekhar Gupta, The Print is an online newspaper launched in 2017 with the support of prominent Indian billionaires, including N.R. Narayana Murthy, Ratan Tata, Nandan Nilekani, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Vijay Shekhar Sharma and Nirmal Jain.

Dr. Robby, who lectures at the Indonesian Islamic University (UII) in Yogyakarta, highlights the role of Nahdlatul Ulama Chairman KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf in establishing the G20 Religion Forum (“R20”). This coming November, Nahdlatul Ulama will launch the R20: a first-of-its-kind G20 event designed to tackle religious extremism and establish a framework to help ensure that religion functions as a source of genuine solutions, rather than problems, in the 21st century. Continue reading full communiqué. . . 

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2022_05_20_Center for Shared Civilizational Values

Nahdlatul Ulama and the Center for Shared Civilizational Values

Striving to ensure that religion in the 21st century functions as a genuine and dynamic source of solutions, rather than problems”

JAKARTA, Indonesia and WINSTON-SALEM, North Carolina, May 20, 2022 — In the midst of rising identity-based conflict world-wide, leaders of Indonesia’s 90-million-member Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) have created an organizational vehicle to “identify shared values that may serve as the basis for harmonious coexistence between the diverse people, cultures, nations and religions of the world.”

The North Carolina-based Center for Shared Civilizational Values (CSCV) provides an institutional platform for global cooperation between Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

CSCV was incorporated in June of 2021 by the former head of the NU Supreme Council,  KH. A. Mustofa Bisri; the Chairman of the Nahdlatul Ulama Central Board, KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf; and Indonesia’s Minister of Religious Affairs, the Honorable Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, with Americans C. Holland Taylor, F. Borden Hanes, Jr., and Dr. Timothy Samuel Shah. Continue reading full communiqué. . .

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2022_05_18_India Today: The Integration of Muslim Minorities in Europe

“Unless serious efforts for greater integration on the lines of NU are made, the divide between Muslims and non-Muslims is bound to grow.”
Humanitarian Islam seeks to unite the center-left and center-right in blocking the political weaponization of identity

NEW DELHI, India, May 18, 2022 — Writing in South Asia’s leading news magazine, India Today, a major Hindu social and political leader has analyzed the severe challenges European nations face in integrating their Muslim minority populations. The article concludes that Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama, with its systematic efforts to reform obsolete and problematic tenets of Islamic orthodoxy, may hold the key to overcoming obstacles to Muslim integration in Europe and elsewhere.

“NU leadership has fearlessly championed the cause of Islamic reform”

Significantly, the author of the article, Sri Ram Madhav Varanasi, acknowledged that dangerous forms of “anti-Islamist radicalism” have emerged among non-Muslim populations in many parts of the world, triggered in part by Islamist separatism, supremacism, and violence. Mr. Madhav concludes his article by calling for “enlightened citizens and governments of the world” to combat Islamic radicalism through a serious and responsible program of reform, and thereby avert a catastrophic eruption of identity-based violence. Continue reading full communiqué. . .

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2022_05_12_Muslim World League: Forum on Common Values

At Saudi Conference, NU Chairman Invites Religious Leaders to Develop a Strategy for Transforming the Mindset of Religious Communities Worldwide

“Many religious communities still view the relationship between religions as a form of political competition. Hence, it is no surprise that religion is often used as a political weapon to acquire or retain power.”
Will Saudi Arabia sever its long-standing ties with Indonesian groups that seek to establish an Islamic state?

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — May 12, 2022: For the first time in its 61-year history, the Saudi-funded Muslim World League has chosen to engage substantively with the world’s largest Muslim organization — Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama — and convey NU’s message of religious pluralism and tolerance to Muslims worldwide.

Long known for spending billions of dollars to promote ultra-conservative Sunni Islam, in recent years the Muslim World League (MWL) has begun to shift its messaging and modes of engagement under the leadership of Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim al-Issa, who was appointed Secretary General of MWL in 2016.

On May 11 – 12, 2022, the Muslim World League convened 90 religious leaders for the Forum on Common Values among Religious Followers. Participants included 47 Muslim scholars, 24 Christian leaders, 12 rabbis and 7 Hindu and Buddhist figures. Continue reading full communiqué. . . 

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2022_05_09_Can Indonesia’s Humanitarian Islam inspire a Hindu nationalist equivalent?

“Reawakening the ancient spiritual, cultural, and socio-political heritage of the Indianized civilizational sphere”

JAKARTA and NEW DELHI, May 9, 2022 — Amid rising hostility between the world’s great powers, Hindu and Muslim leaders have begun to explore strategies to “stem the tide of chaos” and preserve a rules-based international order, by strengthening “the humanitarian values of the East.”

These discussions are unfolding against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; ongoing wars and the threat of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East; China’s Belt and Road Initiative; and the continuing spread of identity-based conflicts in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. Significantly, Indonesia will host leaders of the world’s largest economies (the “G20”) in November of 2022, while India will hold the G20 presidency next year.

On May 9, Hindu social and political leader Ram Madhav Varanasi traveled to Jakarta to meet with NU Chairman Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf and C. Holland Taylor, co-founders of the Humanitarian Islam movement and the Center for Shared Civilizational Values. Continue reading full communiqué. . .

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2022_04_23_India Today – Cover Story

“A Deepening Divide?”

“How India can avert strife” by embracing the “inclusive and humanitarian Islam… promoted by organisations like Nahdlatul Ulama”
“Indian social leaders need to stand up to the forces of hatred and violence” on both sides of the communal divide.

NOIDA, UTTAR PRADESH, India – April 23, 2022. The most widely circulated magazine in India, with a readership of close to 8 million, has published a cover story advocating the embrace of “a more inclusive and humanitarian Islam” by Indian Muslims, in order to help bridge that nation’s deepening communal divide.

Authored by Hindu social and political leader Sri Ram Madhav, the essay was one of seven commissioned by India’s leading news magazine, in the midst of rising polarization in a country with the world’s second-largest Muslim population and a highly popular Hindu nationalist government, which has been widely criticized by Western media and human rights organizations for its treatment of religious minorities.

Mr. Madhav, the former National General Secretary of India’s ruling political party, BJP, was recently described by a prominent Western observer as a moderate alternative to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who has been accused of expressing anti-Muslim sentiments. “I personally think [Ram] is smart and world-savvy,” wrote the observer, “and is the most compelling BJP candidate to succeed [Narendra] Modi” as India’s Prime Minister. Continue reading full communiqué. . .

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2022_04_01_The Ashoka Approach

“The ‘Ashoka Approach’ and Indonesian Leadership in the Movement for Pluralist Re-Awakening in South and Southeast Asia”

Capital of inscribed Ashoka pillar at Sarnath, India (250 BCE; photographed in 1904)

JAKARTA, Indonesia and NEW DELHI, India — Leaders of Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest Muslim organization, are working to consolidate South and Southeast Asia as an alternate pillar of support for a rules-based international order founded upon respect for the equal rights and dignity of every human being. Integral to this effort is a regional strategy called the “Ashoka Approach,” which seeks to reawaken the ancient spiritual, cultural, and socio-political heritage of the Indianized cultural sphere, or “Indosphere” — a civilizational zone that pioneered, long before the West, key concepts and practices of religious pluralism and tolerance.

Roughly co-extensive with South and Southeast Asia, the Indosphere is a vast geographic and cultural zone stretching from Pakistan to Indonesia, which was formatively and permanently shaped by the great spiritual traditions — particularly Hinduism and Buddhism — that originated in the Indian subcontinent. Continue reading full communiqué. . .

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2022_03_23_Autocratic vs. Democratic Islam

“Dr. James Dorsey has drawn a stark contrast between Nahdlatul Ulama’s democratic vision and the autocratic view of Islam represented by Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah”

SINGAPORE — The world’s largest Muslim organization, Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama, is moving to dismantle a key legacy of President Suharto’s 32-year authoritarian regime (1966 – 1998), as part of its continuing effort to reconcile Islam and democracy.

Majelis Ulama Indonesia (the Indonesian Council of Islamic Scholars, or MUI) is a quasi-governmental body created in 1975 by the Suharto regime, which sought to by-pass the religious authority of Nahdlatul Ulama — an organization that has steadfastly maintained its independence from government since its founding in 1926. Following President Suharto’s relinquishment of power in 1998, in the wake of the Asian financial crisis, dozens of extremist organizations infiltrated MUI and have sought to use its perceived authority to advance an Islamist agenda, backed by a government-issued monopoly on the certification of halal products.

Writing in The Times of Israel, geopolitical analyst and scholar Dr. James M. Dorsey has drawn a stark contrast between Nahdlatul Ulama’s democratic vision and the autocratic view of Islam represented by Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah, Chairman of the United Arab Emirates Fatwa Council. An 87-year-old Mauritanian-born scholar of classical Islamic law — who for many years played a key role in Saudi Arabia’s and Qatar’s propagation of ultra-conservative Sunni Islam — Shaykh bin Bayyah severed his close ties with Muslim Brotherhood figure Yusuf al-Qaradawi in the wake of the Arab Spring and moved to Abu Dhabi. Continue reading full communiqué. . .

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2022_03_14_The Classical Intellectual Heritage of Islam Nusantara

Nahdlatul Ulama challenges Middle East claims to possess a monopoly on Islamic authority and religious discourse

Nahdlatul Ulama Chairman:

“Re-awakening the rich intellectual heritage of East Indies ulama will enable us to contribute significantly to the future of world civilization in partnership with stakeholders from other great civilizations, including Europe, India, China and the Middle East”

NU Central Board members and the Governor of Jakarta attended the launch of an exhibit on the classical Islamic heritage of Islam Nusantara (East Indies Islam)

JAKARTA, Indonesia, March 14, 2022: In a move reminiscent of Martin Luther’s challenge to the authority of Rome in the 16th century — which launched the Protestant Reformation and paved the way for an explosion of scientific and technological progress in Europe — Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) is challenging Middle East governments’ claim to possess a monopoly on Islamic authority and discourse.

Islamic institutions and public discourse are tightly controlled by governments throughout the Arab world, as well as in Iran and Turkey. Nahdlatul Ulama — a traditional Sunni Muslim organization with over 90 million followers — offers a stark contrast to such authoritarian-friendly models of Islam, and to the extreme violence perpetrated by ultraconservative Sunni groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda. Continue reading full communiqué. . . 

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2022_03_04_Saudi Arabia and Indonesia: Clashing Visions of Moderate Islam

Dr. James Dorsey:

Muhammad bin Salman and Yahya Cholil Staquf represent “diametrically opposed visions of moderate Islam,” mirroring the global struggle between autocracy and democracy in the 21st century

SINGAPORE, March 4, 2022: Drawing a stark contrast between two “clashing visions” of Islam and its global future, a new essay by award-winning journalist and geopolitical analyst Dr. James Dorsey highlights the profound civilizational differences between the religious reform agenda of Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama and that being proffered by Middle East governments, including Saudi Arabia.

For nearly twelve centuries, Muslim populations in the Middle East were ruled by Islamic caliphates, which systematically fused religious doctrine and political power. The 17,000 islands of the Indonesian archipelago, on the other hand, were never part of the Ottoman Empire or any previous caliphate. Rather than weaponize religion for political purposes or coercively impose religious norms upon unwilling populations, Islam Nusantara (East Indies Islam) has historically prioritized peaceful coexistence with diverse ethnic and religious communities. Continue reading full communiqué. . . 

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2022_02_24_Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine Threatens the Current World Order

“The Russian invasion of Ukraine requires an urgent response from the world community”

“General Chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama Central Board Responds to Conflict Between Russia and Ukraine”

JAKARTA, Indonesia — On February 24, 2022, shortly after the Russian Federation launched a full-scale military invasion of Ukraine, the Chairman of the world’s largest Muslim organization described the attack as a profound threat to the post-World War II international order and called for a global response to Russia’s violation of Ukrainian territory.

Yahya Cholil Staquf, General Chairman of Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama, said that the attack also risks undermining stability within the Islamic world by normalizing aggression between states — a practice that was widespread throughout human history prior to the United Nations Charter of 1945. Continue reading full communiqué. . . 

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2022_02_23_Kompas: Nahdlatul Ulama’s Civilizational Mission

“Sharing the vision of a universal humanity — i.e., universal humanism has become an integral part of NU’s efforts to project strategic influence upon the world stage”

Pictures of Nahdlatul Ulama figures line the entry hall at NU headquarters in Jakarta, Tuesday (6/8/2019). KOMPAS/RADITYA HELABUMI

JAKARTA, Indonesia — On February 23, 2022, Indonesia’s largest and most influential newspaper, Kompas, published another in a series of articles examining the impact of KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf’s December 2021 election as General Chairman of the Nahdlatul Ulama Central Board. With an estimated daily readership of 2.25 million people, Kompas is Indonesia’s “newspaper of record,” helping to shape public opinion in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation and democracy. Continue reading full communiqué. . . 

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2022_02_18_Leading Hindu Nationalist Endorses Humanitarian Islam

“Indian Muslims Need to Emulate the Indonesian Model:
The humanitarianism of eastern Islam”

Sri Ram Madhav addressing the Centrist Democrat International (CDI) Eurasia Forum in Yogyakarta, Indonesia on January 24, 2020. Others (left to right) are: C. Holland Taylor, co-founder, Humanitarian Islam movement; Dr. Teresita Cruz-del Rosario, National University of Singapore; Antonio López-Istúriz White, Secretary General, CDI and European People’s Party; and Dr. James M. Dorsey, geopolitical analyst.

NEW DELHI, India: February 18, 2022 — An influential Indian politician, author, public intellectual and member of the National Executive of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the group that gave birth to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has called on Indian Muslims to emulate Indonesia’s concept of Humanitarian Islam.

Writing in Open, an Indian current affairs weekly magazine, former BJP General Secretary Sri Ram Madhav Varanasi advocated that India and Indonesia “join hands as nations with the world’s largest and second largest Muslim populations, respectively, to steadfastly promote the concept of the ‘Humanitarian Islam of the East’.”

Mr. Madhav’s endorsement of Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama for “champion[ing] a version of Islam that promotes peace and pluralism” — in contrast to Wahhabi and other forms of Islamist extremism that originate in the Middle East — is significant, given that the RSS has been a driving force of Hindu nationalism for nearly a century. Continue reading full communiqué. . . 

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2022_02_11_Indonesian Government Restores Hindu and Buddhist Worship at UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Indonesia’s Minister of Religious Affairs:

“Prambanan Temple will no longer be simply a tourist destination, but rather a center of active worship for Hindus from Indonesia and throughout the world”
The restoration of Hindu and Buddhist worship at the great temple complexes of Prambanan and Borobudur reflects the compassionate spirit of Islam Nusantara (“East Indies Islam”) and offers a glimmer of hope amid the widespread destruction of religious and cultural sites across the world

YOGYAKARTA, Indonesia — On February 11, 2022, senior Indonesian government officials and religious leaders met to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on the Use of Prambanan Temple and Borobudur Temple for the Religious Interests of Hindus and Buddhists in Indonesia and the World. As a result, two of Asia’s most renowned sacred sites, which in recent decades had been largely closed to ritual worship, are now available for the performance of Hindu and Buddhist religious rituals on a regular basis.

This development comes amid a dramatic rise in the destruction of religious and cultural sites, not only in the Middle East and Africa, where Muslim extremists seek to destroy the world’s diverse cultural and religious heritage, but also regions such as Europe and North America. In Canada alone, at least 56 churches were set aflame or vandalized in the summer of 2021, many of them burned completely to the ground, while over the past decade thousands of churches were desecrated, vandalized and/or set ablaze in Europe. In recent years, synagogues, churches, mosques, and other houses of worship have been the target of deadly attacks in many Western nations, including Canada, the United States, France, and New Zealand. Continue reading full communiqué. . . 

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2022_01_31_Inauguration of Nahdlatul Ulama Central Board

President Joko Widodo of Indonesia:

“NU’s contribution to our religious and national life has transformed Indonesia into a nation united by the principle of ‘Oneness Amid Diversity.’ This achievement may serve as a model and an inspiration to other nations.”
Welcoming Nahdlatul Ulama’s Centennial: Nurturing the Earth and Building a Global Civilization

BALIKPAPAN, East Kalimantan, Indonesia: On January 31, 2022, Indonesian political leaders gathered to witness the inauguration of the newly elected Nahdlatul Ulama Central Board, which will govern the world’s largest Muslim organization from 2022 – 2027 under the Chairmanship of Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf.

Held on the island of Borneo, at the city of Balikpapan’s Sport and Convention Center, the event was attended by Indonesian President Joko Widodo (“Jokowi”); Vice President KH. Ma’ruf Amin; former Vice President Jusuf Kalla; Puan Maharani, the granddaughter of Indonesia’s first president Sukarno and currently Speaker of Indonesia’s National Assembly; nine cabinet ministers; and Indonesia’s chief of police. Continue reading full communiqué. . .

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2022_01_27_International Holocaust Remembrance Day
NU Chairman Kyai Haji Yahya Cholil Staquf:
Holocaust remembrance serves as a memorial and vivid reminder of the cruelty, violence and suffering that so many human beings… have, for thousands of years, inflicted upon others.
“Today, in remembrance of the Holocaust and its millions of victims, Nahdlatul Ulama and I wish to raise our voices in a simple, heart-felt call:
“‘Let us choose compassion!’”

U.S. Senator Alben W. Barkley (D-Kentucky) looks on after Buchenwald’s liberation

LOS ANGELES and MANAMA, Bahrain. On January 27, 2022, KH. Yahya Cholil Staquf — newly elected Chairman of the Nahdlatul Ulama Central Board — joined global leaders in commemorating the United Nations International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which takes place every year on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz on January 27, 1945.

In doing so, Mr. Staquf is walking in the footsteps of his predecessor and mentor, H.E. Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid, who convened the historic Bali Holocaust Conference in 2007 to reject “The Evils of Holocaust Denial” and affirm religion as a source of universal love and compassion (rahmah).

Jointly sponsored by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and The King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Coexistence, the global webinar featured former Israeli Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, who is also a child Holocaust survivor; President Isaac Herzog of Israel; Reverend Johnnie Moore, leading American Evangelical Pastor and former member of the US Commission for International Religious Freedom; Rabbi Marvin Hier, CEO and Founder of Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Museum of Tolerance; and former U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo. Continue reading full communiqué. . .

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2022_01_26_Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, RSIS

“Humanitarian Islam”: New Nahdlatul Ulama Chairman and the Global Initiative to Promote Religious Moderation

Alexander Raymond Arifianto   |   26 January 2022

Humanitarian Islam at work: teaching the children. Photo by Andri Helmansyah on Unsplash.


Nahdlatul Ulama — Indonesia’s largest Islamic organisation — recently elected Yahya Cholil Staquf as its new chairman. A close analysis of his background and past accomplishments reveals that Yahya has a potential agenda to transform the organisation into a global voice on religious moderation through his promotion of “humanitarian Islam”.


On 24 December 2021, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) — Indonesia’s largest Islamic organisation — concluded its 34th national congress (muktamar) in Lampung. Congress delegates elected Yahya Cholil Staquf, formerly general secretary of the organisation, as its next chairperson.

Yahya’s election means that NU, which claims nearly 100 million Indonesian Muslims as its followers, will once again be led by a cleric with a strong genealogical linkage to the family of its founding fathers, what NU activists internally refer to as “blue blood” (darah biru). The last NU chairman who came from a “blue blood” background was the late Abdurrahman Wahid, who later became Indonesia’s first democratically elected president. Continue reading full communiqué. . .

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