The Global Peace Festival (GPF) Malaysia recently interviewed with Dr. H. Marsudi Syuhud, fondly known as Pak Marsudi, on his view about Indonesia’s diversity and interfaith experience. He is currently the General Secretary of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the largest Muslim organisation in Indonesia, and is an influential force in Indonesia’s peaceful coexistence among its Muslim-majority, diverse ethnic society.
Below is an excerpt of the interview:
|GPF Malaysia||After the 9/11, there’s a surge rise in Islamic fundamentalism and Islamophobia among Muslims and non-Muslims alike. What can the world learn from the Indonesia’s interfaith experience with the role of Islam?|
|Pak Marsudi||As stated clearly in the Quran – “Ya ayyuhan-nas, inna khalaqnakum min dzakarin wa untsa, wa ja’alnakum syu’ubaw wa qaba-ila, lita’arafu.”Translation: “Hai manusia! Sesungguhnya Kami menjadikan kamu dengan perantaraan laki-laki dan perempuan, serta Kami jadikan kamu bersuku-suku dan bergolong-golongan, supaya kamu berkenal-kenalan”.The purpose for Allah to create men and women in the world with differences – in languages, in tribes, in religions, is for people to get to know each other better
|GPF Malaysia||As a Sunni Muslim-majority nation, Indonesia is also home to many religious minority groups, including Islamic sects such as Shi’a and Ahmadiyya, whom are often being the target of religious extremists. What has NU done in promoting interfaith understanding and peace in Indonesia?|
|Pak Marsudi||During the establishment of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) in 1926, before the independence of Indonesia, there were Christians, Buddhists, and Hindus in Indonesia. Also there were other Islamic sects like Ahmadiyya.At Jogjakarta, Central Java, the office of Ahmadiyya is situated in front of the office of Nahdlatul Ulama. They are located side by side with us but we have no problem living together with them in peace.In our NU doctrine, we promote the importance of Brotherhood – brotherhood among Muslims (Al Ukhuwah Islamiah), brotherhood among nations, (Al Ukhuwah Wathaniah), and brotherhood among people (Al Ukhuwah Insaniyah), these are the three formations in our brotherhood.|
|GPF Malaysia||Indonesia has maintained inter-religious peace among its diverse faith communities throughout the years. From the Indonesia’s experience, how does religious intolerance spread in a nation?|
|Pak Marsudi||In reality, intolerance is not caused by religion per se but by other factors.For example, the Sunni-Shi’a sectarian conflict happened in Madura – there were two brothers, one became a Sunni while the other one became a Shi’a. Both of them loved the same woman. The woman ended up married one of them. The conflict arise not because of the religious friction between the Shi’a and Sunni, but because of the brothers competing for the woman’s affection.Another example is the Ciketing incident, a conflict between the Muslims and non-Muslims. The Christians wanted to establish a church there but most of the Muslims in the village have little social interactions with the Christians there. This is because the Christians had recently migrated and populated the village, which had caused traffic congestions to the area.
On the other hand, if the Muslim and Christian communities have known each other well, there would have open heartedly allowed if the Christians wanted to build a church or if the Muslims wanted to build a mosque.
In fact, behind the Nahdlatul Ulama office there are five churches of different sects. Nevertheless this is also a problem, usually Muslims would build only one mosque in one village for prayers. But among the Christians, they are not able to pray together in one church, therefore, they have to build many churches, even though there may already have a church in the village.
That is why in one village there can be five churches. Most of the Muslims do not know, ‘you already have one church but why you build one again?’ So, the problem is not always between different religions, but sometime local religious practices can also contribute to the inter-religious conflict.
Another example is the case of religious worship at the church in Yasmin, Bogor. This is actually an administration/ government bureaucracy problem. When I asked the chairman of the Bogor village on why they do not give the permission for the Christians to perform church service, he said it is because the church has not completed and given all the documents required by the local government for building approval.
Actually a problem like these happen everywhere in the world. In Switzerland, the Muslims cannot build “Menara” (Minarets) for their mosques. This problem is actually our problem – not only a Muslim problem, or a Christian problem or other religions’ problem.
|GPF Malaysia||Would NU want to establish an Islamic state in Indonesia?|
|Pak Marsudi||NU wants to establish a state like the Medina state (a modern city in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, and the capital of Al Madinah Province, where we live among others in peace even though we are different.When the Prophet Rasullah established the Medina state, the state has many tribes and religions, like the Jews, Christians, Muslims and Majusi living together in peace. That is why here in Indonesia we established Negara Panca Sila as the defining document of our country’s core values.|
|GPF Malaysia||Should politics and religions be separated?|
|Pak Marsudi||The world is divided with different opinions. There are some people with opinions that religion and politics should be separated. While some people believe that religion, politics or societal should be unified and need to be one.Where does Nahdlatul Ulama stand on this issue?Nahdlatul ulama stands in the middle like a coin – two faces of the coin but they are unified to be one coin. We believe the values of Islam can be part of our lives, our politics, our state, our business, in every form of our daily lives.|
|GPF Malaysia||NU has been forming solid relationships with Islamic organisations and Muslim leaders globally, such as from Syria, Palestine, Egypt and more, working on issues related to global Islam. Can you share the experience?|
|Pak Marsudi||There are many civil society organisations established before the independence of Indonesia, such as Nahdlatul Ulama, Muhamadiyah, Sarekat Islam, and al-Irshad al-Islamiyah.This is different with countries with no organisation, for example in Syria, the Muslim leaders there are very intellectual but since they have no proper organisation, they cannot do as well as Muslim leaders in Indonesia as we have an organisation to support the intellectual flourishing of Muslims.Besides, when there is conflict in Indonesia, we (NU) can just say ‘stop’ (stand against the issuse).NU is an inclusive organisation where NU members consist of different political parties and ideologies. Yet, in Egypt the el-ekhwan al-muslimūu (MuslimBroherhood) is a one party with only one ideology of Muslims. That is why when they are in trouble with their political leadership among Egyptians, it becomes very hard for them to resolve the conflict. So organisation’s value is important.|
|GPF Malaysia||Malaysia has been in the centre of international attention with the ‘Allah’ issue. Does the Christians and Muslims in Indonesia face any religious sensitivity or restriction on the usage of the word “Allah” in the Indonesian language?|
|Pak Marsudi||We as Muslims should first believe in the Holy Book of Quran, but we should also believe in the book of Torah (Taurat), Bible (Injil), and Zabur (Holy Book of Dawud). We should also believe in the existence of prophets. Allah is the creator of all human beings, thus our religion comes from Allah.In Indonesia, there is no problem for Indonesians to refer to God as Allah. Muslims use the word Allah because it is an Arabic word. And Christians use the word Allah as well.|
“UNITY IN DIVERSITY: BUILDING SOCIAL COHESION FOR SUSTAINABLE PEACE THROUGH UNIVERSAL ASPIRATIONS, PRINCIPLES AND VALUES”
GLOBAL PEACE CONVENTION, 5-8 DECEMBER 2013, KUALA LUMPUR