EU turns to RI’s Muslims
for advice on democracy

The European Union has initiated a dialogue with Indonesia to increase its awareness of Islam’s contribution to resolving major global challenges, such as climate change, human rights and the promotion of democracy.

Speaking at a seminar on Wednesday, Julian Wilson, the EU Ambassador to Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam, announced plans to analyze the role that Islam plays in both European and Indonesian society, stating that they have much to learn from each other. As the world’s largest Muslim-majority democracy, he acknowledged that Indonesia is a natural leader on interfaith issues, whilst identifying this as a key facet of the country’s foreign policy.

Wilson also noted a strong Muslim presence in Europe today, with around 5 percent of the EU’s population professing Islam as their faith. The seminar intended to recognize the valuable contribution of this community, whilst trying to expose the harmful impact of Islamophobia, the rise of extreme-right political parties and anti-Islamic rhetoric in Europe.

Dian Wirengjurit, from the Foreign Ministry, said that such a dialogue was “very, very timely and important”, hoping that it would “strengthen cooperation and relations” between the Islamic world, the EU and Indonesia.

He was joined by eminent British, Polish and Indonesian academics who presented research on the cohesion between Islam and democracy in Indonesia, and proposed how this could be emulated in Europe.

Komarudin Hidayat, rector of Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University in Jakarta, identified Indonesia as “one of the stabilizer nations in Southeast Asia” that was pivotal in ensuring economic stability and security in the region. He identified the key characteristic of Indonesian Islam to be a shared Pancasila ideology, which stresses moderate beliefs, and non-competitive relations between religion and the state.

Above all, the Indonesian approach to Islam is “facilitative and accommodative”, he said, which encourages broader perspectives on citizenship and identity. He placed Indonesia as “much more advanced than Arabic countries” in the upholding of human rights.

He highlighted the differences between Arabic and Indonesian Islamic cultures, stating that governments had a tendency to involve themselves unnecessarily within the private sphere.

“One of the existing problems is the state’s attention to its citizens through interfering with their private lives, such as their religious beliefs. Indonesia is well-known for upholding religious moderation based on a rich heritage of religious pluralism and collective memory.”

The discussions have followed the first session of the EU-Indonesia Human Rights Dialogue, which occurred on Tuesday, marking closer cooperation in numerous fields, and a core set of common values.

The EU also hopes to create more “people-to-people links” with Indonesia in order to deepen relations, and increase the number of EU business investments in the country, which currently stands at 750. Tourism is another key area for expansion, as is an educational partnership — with a planned increase in academic exchanges.

Silvia Escobar, Ambassador-at-Large for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Spain, said, “religious peace can only occur with an interfaith dialogue. Only by using that as a common reference point can we have a framework for human rights”.

Post Your Say

Selected comments will be published in the Readers’ Forum page of our print newspaper.