Assalamu’alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh,

Dr. Farhan Ahmad Nizami,

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,

  • First of all, I would like to thank you for your kind invitation to deliver a lecture at this august forum. It is indeed an honor not only for myself but also for Indonesia—the largest Muslim country in the world.
  • I would like to convey my heartfelt congratulations on the establishment of the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies; may this will boost further the important role it plays.
  • I sincerely hope that the Center could give more enlightenment for both Islamic and non-Islamic community on Islam itself.

The World Nowadays

Distinguished guests,

  • The world has become more interdependent. At the same time, we live in a world full of uncertainties and conflicts.
  • In spite of the advancement of technology, disparity between the rich and the poor is increasing and social tension is mounting in many parts of the globe.
  • Disparity among the countries has also been rising. The North-South gap remains staggering.
  • Many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America still face multiple challenges in maintaining sovereignty, stability and achieving their development goals.
  • Both economic and political disparity is a breeding ground for anger and hatred which could lead to increased conflicts and violence.
  • Therefore, building bridges among countries and societies, including between the Islamic world and the West has become more important than ever. Nevertheless, the challenges that we face are not easy at all. We need to strive to face all those challenges in order to rebuild mutual trust, cooperation and hope for better livelihood across different faiths, cultures and communities.

Islam in the World

Ladies and gentlemen,

  • The combined population of Islam is around 1.6 billion or 23% of the world population as of 2010. Yet, as we all see, much of the Islamic world is mired with poverty, conflicts, and increased threat of radicalism.
  • In addition to those challenges, the Islamic world is also facing problems of under development and socio-economic inequalities.
  • Many Asian and African countries, more specifically Muslim countries, are experiencing protracted internal conflicts as well as against other country. These conflicts lead to radicalism and terrorism which often times are spilling over to countries with no domestic conflicts, such as in the US and some European countries.
  • People in those countries, including in London, UK, have directly or indirectly become the victims of terrorism. Why people become radical and violent ? There are many root-causes of radicalism –from economic, political, social and cultural factors combined. These factors then, as a rule, are justified by twisted interpretation of religious teachings.
  • The radical groups were also the by-products offailed states which were mired with prolonged internal conflicts as well as foreign intervention.
  • The Mujahedeen and Al Qaeda fought against the Soviet Union during its invasion in Afghanistan, then later on against the US.
  • We also see the destruction of Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Libya by both native dictatorship and invasion by foreign countries. As a result, people in those countries see their country fell into abject poverty and loss of hope which led to anger, frustration and revenge.
  • It is regrettable to note that most of the foreignmilitary invasion launched was taken unilaterallyor without mandate from the United Nations. And the worst among those was the fact that the attack on Iraq was based on false information regarding its weapons of mass destruction.
  • These continuing political conflicts and economic crises led to the exodus of millions of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan seeking a safer place and providing better future for them, particularly Europe, is another terrible impact that we all see almost on daily basis.
  • These destructed countries are the place where terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda and ISIS have successfully recruited large numbers of supporters from various countries with the concept of fighting to regain the glory of Islam or
    dying as a martyr.
  • Extremist ideologies and radicalism often also develop in countries where civil and political liberties are limited, and there are not many avenues to express dissenting opinions in a peaceful way.
  • The seeds of terrorism can also be sown in areas where social and economic injustice, marginalization, rampant poverty, and long-term conflict and instability occur.
  • Radical ideologies oftentimes provide a safe haven and an alternative form of leadership. Through the misuse of the concept of jihad, ideologies like these sell the dream of living a better life in heaven because life on earth has become too unbearable.
  • With these rewards in mind, these supporters are brainwashed and are not able to comprehend that acts of terror can only bring destruction, not glory, let alone heaven. The most extreme example of this kind of “intoxicated-mind” is the suicide bombers, because there is no available reasons or explanations why he or she did it. Surely it is not for his or her political gains nor financial benefit, but heaven.
  • As a result, Islamophopia or Muslimophobia emerges. There are various causes of the fear of Islam. One of those is because of those terrorist attacks where the perpetrators were identified as Muslim or related to an Islamic organization.
  • Nonetheless, we learn from the terrorist attacks in France and Belgium that those perpetrators were indeed Muslims. Yet, if we look into their tracks, they did not learn and practice the right way of Islam, as they drank alcohol and smoked marijuana.
  • In this regard, we need to promote the existing cooperation, not only in our joint efforts to counterterrorism, but also in economy, social, culture as well as education. Improving the latter areas is themost effective way to tackle the root causes ofradicalism and terrorism.

Islam in Indonesia

Ladies and gentlemen,

  • You may have learnt that Indonesia is the third largest democracy with the biggest Muslim population in the world, but Indonesia is not an Islamic state. Our state foundation is Pancasila, the Five Principles, which places religion in a noble place as the first principle “Believe in One Supreme God”.
  • Indonesia is wellknown for its diversity, with diverse ethnicities, religions, customs and local languages. Diversity is celebrated under the state principle of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika which means Unity in Diversity. Bhinneka Tunggal Ika was derived from the Sanskrit language, which is mostly associated with Hinduism.
  • Under the principle of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika, Indonesia always celebrates diversity that leads to tolerance and peaceful co-existence among different groups of Indonesian people. This principle has therefore shaped the country and helped achieve its development goals.
  • Islam came to Indonesia peacefully, through sufi teachers, trade or marriage, not with force nor war. Thus, Islam in Indonesia has developed in peaceful ways too.
  • And now, 88% (eighty eight percent) of the total population of 260 (two hundred sixty) million is Muslim. Nevertheless, we have six-state recognized religions: Islam, Christianity (Protestantism), Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.
  • This religious diversity is also celebrated throughofficial commemoration of major religious sacred days as national holidays. Also, each religion has always been represented in the Presidential Cabinet. Even we had once a Sikh Minister. I believe this uniqueness is rarely found in other places where the population is dominated by one religious group.
  • In this regard, allow me to take this opportunity to sincerely congratulate and commend the city of London for having elected a respectable Muslim Mayor. In Indonesia, we also have several non- Muslim Governors and Mayors in majority Muslim provinces and cities/regencies.
  • Another example of our religious tolerance is that the beautiful Cathedral stands across the Istiqlal Mosque, the biggest mosque in Southeast Asia.
  • Again, Islam came to South-East Asia including Indonesia and Malaysia not by war or forced occupation. It was brought and spread by Sufi teachers and Arabian traders during eighth and ninth centuries and blended with local cultures and wisdoms which then lead to the creation of Middle Path Islam or Wasatiyah.
  • There are many Wasatiyah Muslim organizations in Indonesia, most of which were established during Dutch colonial period.
  • Along with our nation’s history, some smaller organizations or groups have been found to have inclination to or links with radical or terrorist movements, especially after the rise of Al-Qaeda and ISIS. Their radical thinking was carried by the returning voluntary mujahedeen from Afghanistan (who have been found responsible for the Bali Bombing in 2002) and ISIS recruits from Iraq.
  • However, such deviant groups have never succeeded in spreading their radical teachings thanks to the important roles played by two largest Muslim organizations, namely Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah which have around 100 million members.
  • NU and Muhammadiyah are the guardian of Wasatiyah teaching and practices of Islam. Both organizations together with other Wasatiyah Muslim organizations across the country consistently convey anti-radicalism and anti-terrorism messages while strengthening a moderate stance.
  • With regard to recent case of blasphemy by Governor of Jakarta, let me remind everyone that the legal and judicial processes are still underway and has been covered widely by the press. Under Indonesian law, the Supreme Court has yet to consider the case soon. He was accused of blasphemy by making a reference to a passage of the Quran during his campaign which is against the law in Indonesia. Mr. Purnama or more popularly called “Ahok”, whom I personally knew as a dedicated governor but rather impulsive and high-tempered, insinuated that his opponents had used a Quranic verse to trick people into voting against him. This had led to a series of peaceful protests in Jakarta.
  • I am fully aware that UK and countries in Europe have different law and legal system on this matter, but as part of democratic system we must uphold the rule of law and Court’s independence, and mutually respect one another.
  • It is in this context that as the Chairman of the Indonesian Mosque Council (Dewan Masjid Indonesia), which oversees around 800.000 mosques, I encourage mosques in Indonesia to continue to play its role in promoting tolerance and pluralism, as well as in creating prosperity. In this last respect particularly, I promote development of economic activities of mosques.
  • Mosques are expected to play its role to increase the understanding of Wasatiyah Islam and tolerance among the people, supporting government’s programs in deradicalization and counter-radicalization, anti-drugs measures, family education which would increase people’s wealth.
  • Hence, mosques also serve not only as a worship place but also as centers of social, cultural, educational activities and health services as well as centers of economic enterprises and activities.
  • I also encourage the mosques management in Indonesia to keep up with technology because it can make their works more effective.

Ladies and gentlemen,

  • With the above mentioned facts, it does not mean that Indonesia is free from threats. As a highly heteregenous nation, Indonesia realizes that the potential for conflict is ever-present. Conflict sometimes creates radical and extremist movements, while most of the time, religion is blamed as the culprit.
  • Religion is not the source of conflict. In many cases it was just manipulated or misused to spread solidarity. In my own experience, the “prima causa” of most conflicts are injustice, be it political, economic or social. The various cases of extremism and terrorrism that have taken place in many parts of the world, which supposedly took place under the name of Islam, are actually a manifestation of a falsely- understood Islam.
  • We can take the example of the conflict in Ambon and Poso, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia which occurred in 1999. The population of both regions are shared almost evenly by Christians and Muslims.The conflict occurred not long after the new government introduced political reforms following the fall of the previous authoritarian regime. With the spirit of democratization all parts of the country started to implement direct local elections and regional autonomy. Unlike the consensus-type election applied before, where leadership is shared between two religious groups alternately, democracy which sticks to one-man-one-vote ended with the winner takes all situation. In 1999, Muslims won the Governor and Vice Governor positions and majority seats of local parliament.
  • This election result instantly triggered the conflict between Christians and Muslims which sadly took more than 5000 lives. Religious factor did come into play but merely for the sake of gaining wider solidarity. Muslim and Christian citizens involved in the conflict believed that violence was an acceptable option and by killing their enemies they would be rewarded with heaven. This belief is clearly wrong.

Indonesia ’s Role

Ladies and Gentlemen,

  • This is where I see an important role that Indonesia can play as well as cooperation that can be built between the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies and various universities, research centres and civil societies in Indonesia.
  • As the largest Middle Path Muslim country in the world, Indonesia may provide different perspective to address the challenges faced by Islamic world.
  • Muslims in Indonesia, who are known as “ummatan wasatan” (al-Qur’an, Surah al- Baqarah, Chapter 2: verse 143), could share their experiences on how to develop Islam Wasatiyah, a middle path Islam which is inclusive, tolerant and able to live side-by-side with other religious believers, to achieve Islam as rahmatan lil’alamin or a blessing to the entire universe (al-Qur’an Surah al-Anbiya, Chapter 21: verse 107).
  • Currently, the Indonesian Government is preparing an ”Indonesian International Islamic University” in Jakarta. It is our hope that this University could become the new “Center” for the study of Islam, as well as contribute to the introduction and dissemination of tolerant and peaceful Islam or Wasatiyah Islam to the world.
  • We hope from this University, more Middle Path Muslim thinkers will be born, who could contribute to the achievement of a peaceful world.
  • Middle Path Muslims (ummatan wasatan) are indeed an important and crucial asset to the region and the world. An empowered Middle Path Muslim can deter radical and extremist beliefs. This is the contribution of Indonesia to the peace building in the region and the rest of the world.
  • Indonesia is also in the position to offer scholarship and technical cooperation and capacity building under bilateral and the South- South Cooperation schemes.
  • Only by empowering the moderate Muslims in Indonesia and Islamic world can we reduce the influence of radicalism and political extremism.
  • It is also in this context that European countries can contribute more in empowering the Middle Path Islam in Indonesia and Muslim countries in general.
  • Nowadays, unity is needed more than ever. Unity provides strength, whereas fragmentation leads to weakness. When a nation is weak, then it is susceptible to invasion by radical and extremist beliefs.
  • We have seen examples of countries that have failed and gave birth to the rise of a young generation that is hopeless and skeptical of their future, and thus easily influenced by violent ideologies and errant religious beliefs.
  • A nation can be equated to a body. If the body is strong, then it will not be susceptible to being infected by virus. On the other hand, a weak body is easily infected by virus. Similarly, a weak nation can be easily influenced by terrorist ideologies.

Ladies and gentlemen,

  • The number of Muslim believers in the world is increasing. A study predicts that Islam will become the largest religion in the world by the end of 2075. It is also predicted that by the end of the century, the Muslim population will make up approximately 35% of the world population.
  • I continuously encourage the Muslims in Indonesia to enhance their abilities and welfare in the world. Islamic organizations in Indonesia also need to do more economically in order to achieve a just and prosperous society for all.
  • It is my hope that soon there will be more people
    giving zakat (alms) than receiving it in Indonesia.
  • Muslims in Indonesia have proven that they can be a tolerant community that co-exists peacefully with other faith communities. In fact, this is the very foundation upon which Indonesia was established as a country in 1945. This is something that we pride ourselves on. However, this also needs to be balanced with enhanced capacities in the sphere of economics, so that Indonesian Muslims can truly be an example of a thriving Islamic civilization in this modern era.
  • Indonesians are used to living with the concept of gotong-royong (mutual help). Even the building of mosques is done by gotong-royong. Around 90 per cent of around 800.000 mosques in Indonesia are built by the surrounding communities themselves, not by the government.
  • In this way, many mosques in Indonesia teach transparancy. Regularly, usually every Friday the clerics announce the balance and use of the received contribution. Particularly during the Ramadhan month of fasting where muslims donate more.


Distinguished Ladies and gentlemen,

  • In closing, I would like to share two main challenges facing us all: o First, the ICT. Information and communication technology or ICT undeniably has very important roles in creating huge efficiency as well as making our life much easier than ever before. Like two sides of a coin, however, it has also made untrusted and unwanted contents such as hatred, radicalism and sectarianism spread easily through social media in an instant manner. Unfortunately, we have to live with it whether we like it or not.
  • The second challenge that need our serious attention is maintaining harmony in domestic politics. As we all aware, ICT has brought with it new understanding about politics.
  • The Arab Spring has taught us one important lesson that the conventional definitions of audience, constituent, nationals and even citizen has been all changed by on-line or “virtual commanders”. Yet the non-virtual issues of under-development, disparity and poverty remain factual and tangible for any government.
  • Therefore, it is fundamental for any government to pay special attention to maintain harmony particularly when dealing with religious and other primordial issues since they tend to make people extra sensitive and no longer neutral. This sensitivity is much higher in multi-ethnic societies and in everyplace where inequality, unemployment and poverty exist.
  • The government of Indonesia is doing its best to improve peoples’ welfare and fight poverty in the country. Only by conducting such measures can we eliminate the economic injustice that can be an ideal breeding ground for political extremism.
  • Middle Path Indonesian Muslim community is asset for the world. To achieve the vision of Indonesia as the center to study Wasatiyah and modern Islam, we need to collaborate with as many as like-minded friends and world’s centres of excellence.
  • Religious leaders and Muslim communities in the world have the task of showing to the world that terrorism done in the name of Islam is not Islam. Many world leaders and citizens have shown their support towards the Muslim community in conducting this task, because it is a task that can be done only by the Muslim community itself.
  • This worldwide support proves that we are all working towards the same goal, of creating a world where people can co-exist peacefully and are safe from the threat of terrorism.
  • At the same time, we should never allow any big power repeating the mistakes of the past which have left horrendous destruction of countries and societies like in Iraq and Syria.
  • Hence, once again, it is the responsibility of all of us to create an environment conducive to justice in political and economic realms.
  • Young generation needs to be constantly reminded that it is highly important to nurture the unity in diversity in their countries and communities. Diversity is a blessing, or hikmah, but unity shall be earned.

I thank you and may God bless us all.