Senior Indonesian Muslim Leader Calls for Reform to Combat Extremism

January 19, 2021

Yahya Cholil Staquf, the General Secretary of the Nahdlatul Ulama in Indonesia, has published an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, calling on Muslims to challenge extremism within their midst. “How to Make the Islamic World Less Radical” argues that: “Nearly a generation after 9/11, the world has made little progress in freeing itself from the threat of radical Islam.”

Yahya argued that, “the doctrine, goals and strategy of these extremists can be traced to specific tenets of Islam as historically practiced. Portions of classical Islamic law mandate Islamic supremacy, encourage enmity toward non-Muslims, and require the establishment of a universal Islamic state, or caliphate.”

He went on to argue,
The problem is that these tenets, which form the core of Islamist ideology, are inimical to peaceful coexistence in a globalized, pluralistic world. But we can’t bomb an ideology out of existence. Nearly 1 in 4 people in the world is Muslim, and many Muslims—me included—are prepared to die for our faith.

The world isn’t going to banish Islam, but it can and must banish the scourge of Islamic extremism. This will require Muslims and non-Muslims to work together, drawing on peaceful aspects of Islamic teaching to encourage respect for religious pluralism and the fundamental dignity of every human being. The most enduring way to address an extremist religious ideology is to recontextualize its teachings and reform it from within…

What’s needed is a credible alternative that is consistent with Islamic orthodoxy and developed and promulgated by those with religious and political authority in the Muslim world. Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest independent Muslim organization, for which I serve as general secretary, is promoting such an alternative”.

The Nahdlatul Ulama, of which Yahya is the General Secretary, claims a membership of over 90 million and runs over 14,000 madrassas. It is thought to be the most populous, independent Muslim organisation in the world.

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