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Jakarta Post

NU to gather global Islamic figures to end misinterpretation of jihad

  • Marguerite Afra S.

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, March 26, 2016   /  07:03 pm
NU to gather global Islamic figures to end misinterpretation of jihad

Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) chairman Said Agil Siradj (right) sits next to NU rais am (supreme leader) Ma'ruf Amien at the muktamar (national congress) on August 5, 2015 where they were elected as the new leaders of the country's largest Muslim organization.

Indonesia'€™s Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the largest Islamic organization in the most populated country in South East Asia, is set to hold an international summit of moderate Islamic leaders to establish the contextual interpretation of jihad in the 21st century.

Scheduled for May 9 to 11 in Jakarta, it will be the first international summit initiated by NU, in an attempt to disseminate tolerant teachings of Islam to counter the rise of extreme ideologies disguised as Islamic teaching.

"The moderate ulema are all against that [radical interpretation of Islam]. Therefore, we want to make a covenant on the interpretation of jihad that, hopefully, will prevent more misinterpretations in the future," said Masduki Baidlowi, a steering committee member, on Wednesday evening.

The urgency to address the issue, he underlined, was because some extremist groups had misinterpreted the definition of jihad. They went outside the context of Islamic teaching and put a whole different context to support their groups'€™ causes.

The interpretation made by the Islamic State (IS) movement, combined with its takfiri doctrine had harmed Islam and even resulted in Islamophobia around the world, Baidlowi said. Takfiri is a radical Wahabbi dogma that views non-adherents, including Muslims, as infidels and liable to be killed.

Islam Nusantara, the tolerant concept of Islam with an Indonesian spirit, according to Baidlowi, was the interpretation of moderate Islam that would function as the medicine to eradicate radicalism and terrorism.

NU first introduced the concept of Islam Nusantara in 2015 through a campaign in Jombang, Central Java, aimed at creating a unique and genuine identity for Indonesian moderate Muslims that is different from Muslim societies in the Middle East.

Maksum Mahfoedz, NU's deputy chairman who will serve as the summit's chairman, said there were people who interpreted jihad as killing the infidels and based their argument on the fact that Prophet Muhammad used to go to war.

"Jihad means we give all of our lives to our spiritual journey. That does not correlate with killing people," he told

Ideally, people should interpret the word jihad in accordance with prevailing conditions and in fact, relating jihad to war in this era is wrong since the situation today, socially and politically, is different from the era of Prophet Muhammad, Mahfoedz said.

According to him, the current misunderstanding of jihad that involved a bloodbath to establish a caliphate contravened the main spirit of Islam as Rahmatan lil alamin (a blessing for the universe).

Therefore the outcome of the summit, called the Jakarta Declaration, would articulate the real interpretation of jihad in today's life, where the definition would be settled without involving any political desires, Mahfoedz said.

With about 300 active participants, the summit has invited not only ulema from 40 Islamic countries, but also a number of government officials such as Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, and the National Counterterrorism Agency (BNPT) chief Insp. Gen. Tito Karnavian.

The summit has also invited experts from all around the world namely IS expert Nico Proca from the University of Vienna, the former Grand Mufti of Egypt Sheikh Ali Gomaa, Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus from Bangladesh, and the presidential envoy to the Middle East and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Alwi Shihab. (ags)

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