In a decade when Islam has been castigated and condemned as a result of the combined efforts of Islamic extremists who seem bent on destroying it and the Western struggle against them, the massive majority of moderates in the Muslim world have felt pushed into a corner and marginalized.
Yet in Jakarta, a small voice of reason was heard, and even reached page three in the newspapers, that most Muslims want to recognize their problems and deal with them, and fight back against them. With the Christmas season upon us, it is a good time to listen to what they have to say.
Ridwan Max Sijabat reported from Jakarta that the largest Muslim mass organization in Indonesia, the Nahdlatul Ulama, (NU), held a joint meeting of the International Conference of Islamic Scholars (ICIS) along with the International Forum of Islamic Scholars. This hosted more than 100 Muslim intellectuals from Iran, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine, Jordan, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia.
Haysim Muzadi, the NU Chairman, said that 60 percent of problems among Muslims reflected internal conflicts which should be addressed.
"The world´s Muslim community has been fragmented because of the emergence of internal factions (each) with their own claims to be the truest one. In Iraq, Lebanon and Pakistan, this has provided the main reasons to kill one another." he said. He argued part of the Muslim community is trapped in internal conflicts and that this was not a reaction to the global economic crisis.
The ICIS meeting pursued three logical lines of argument with positive global implications for Muslim communities:
First, that the Sunni-Shiite split should be addressed by dialogue and not by sectarian violence, civil war and political splits. Haysim said, "Although the ideologies are different, we are now sitting together for extensive dialogue to achieve a common vision."
The secretary-general of the World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Thought, Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Taskhiri, supported this, arguing that Islamic factions have common reasons to pursue mutual acceptance and recognition.
"This conference is important for the pursuit of peace. It gives an important and strategic significance to the reality of the world´s Muslim community because it features delegates from countries playing roles in determining the development of Islam in the world," he said.
Second, Said Agil Siraj argued that current disputes among Muslims, either within the country or abroad, had been (largely) triggered by political differences, not religious differences. "We have to fight against ignorance, which has become Islam`s largest enemy," he said.
Finally Islamic scholar Sri Mulyati called for the promotion of unity in diversity, arguing that "Tolerance should be a political and legal requirement". Sadly this comes as some Indonesian local authorities are doing the reverse.
As Ridwan Max Sijabat reported, these "Islamic leaders urged fragmented Muslim communities to pursue unity and solidarity to settle internal conflicts, and that majority tyranny over minorities must end to achieve tolerance and harmony".
So the conference called for an end to sectarian warfare between Sunni and Shiite extremists, an end to Muslim tyranny over other Muslims, a call for tolerance between Muslims of different traditions as well as with others and above all to join the battle together against ignorance and under-development, which are dragging Islam down.
These Muslim leaders also said that Muslims can deal with these things if they face up to them and that the world Muslim community has the capacity and the responsibility to help put Islam on the right track and not to simply accept divisions, destruction and derision.
When Muslims can face their own problems squarely and fight to put their own house in order, then it becomes easier to deal with Islamophobia and the West.
But the voice of reason only reached page three. Page one is still reserved for the extremists and political opportunists who are pulling Islam down. But let´s be grateful for one miracle at a time.
By Asia Sentinel
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