Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) and Muhammadiyah are nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for their role in promoting religious tolerance and pluralism in the country and region. The Jakarta Post’s Riyadi Suparno interviewed Indonesian Ambassador to Norway Todung Mulya Lubis, the man behind the nomination of the country’s two-largest Islamic groups, to learn about his efforts and views about their chance of winning the prestigious prize.
What’s your main reason for orchestrating the nomination of the NU and Muhammadiyah for the Nobel Peace Prize?
I’ve seen radicalism, fundamentalism and sectarianism enter Indonesia and spread, seemingly getting stronger. I don’t want to imagine Indonesia becoming another Syria or Libya one day because we have all this potential to become a great nation. The nightmare could come true if we let it grow or if we did nothing to stop it.
Just look at the 212 Movement demonstrations in Jakarta. The capital was not like the Jakarta we once knew. It looked more like Riyadh, where people wear white Arabic attire.
We have to do something. The state cannot do it alone, therefore it needs partners. And the right companions would be the NU and Muhammadiyah. If we encourage the NU and Muhammadiyah to remain the guardians of pluralism, we will be safe.
However, if we let radical groups penetrate the NU and Muhammadiyah, it will be dangerous because they have thousands of schools, boarding schools and universities. If their curriculum, teaching materials, books and textbooks are filled with radical teachings, such as easily labeling others as kafir (infidels) or declaring other people’s blood halal, it would be dangerous. This will eventually destroy our pluralism.
Although I don’t always agree with the NU and Muhammadiyah 100 percent, I can say that they play an important role in protecting our pluralism. Therefore, I’m fighting for their nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Who supports the nomination of the NU and Muhammadiyah for the Nobel Peace Prize?
Those who can nominate a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize are Nobel Peace Prize winners, professors or academics of social sciences, international court justices, legislators or high-ranking government officials and the Nobel Peace Prize committee.
Around 40 people have signed for the nomination of the NU and Muhammadiyah. They include Vice President Jusuf Kalla, Islamic scholar Azyumardi Azra, Catholic priest Franz Magnis-Suseno and many more renowned scholars from Australia, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, the United States and Britain. We have also former Nobel Peace Prize winners. This is the first time that an Indonesian or Indonesian institution has registered as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Do you think people outside Indonesia, especially here in Norway where the Noble Peace Prize committee is located, know the NU and Muhammadiyah? What are their chances of winning the prize?
I understand that people here are not familiar with the NU or Muhammadiyah. That’s why I brought along representatives of the NU and Muhammadiyah here to speak.
I also understand that we have many competitors. But winning is not everything. Mahatma Gandhi was nominated nine times and he never won the Nobel Prize. But because of his nominations, his non-violence teachings spread to many parts of the world. The European Union was nominated 10 times before it won.
We have nominated the NU and Muhammadiyah. If they don’t win, it’s OK. We can nominate them again in the future. What’s more important is our efforts to encourage the NU and Muhammadiyah to maintain their role as the guardians of pluralism in Indonesia.
If they win, then they will gain appreciation. They would have a moral obligation to remain the guardians of pluralism and spread Islamic teachings of pluralism to a wider audience.
If they are not known outside of Indonesia, why do you think the Nobel Peace Prize committee should give the prize to the NU and Muhammadiyah? How can the prize also benefit people outside Indonesia?
The world should not look at Islam from the Middle East only but also from Indonesia as we have the largest Muslim population. They should know that we promote a more moderate, tolerant and peaceful Islam. They have to understand that. And they have to help us keep our Islam this way.