The Jakarta Post
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo laid the first stone for the construction of a new state university that carries his administration’s high ambition to make Indonesia “the center of Islamic civilization in the world” and to promote Indonesia’s Islam, which is “plural, tolerant and open”.
The international university, Indonesia International Islamic University (UIII) in Depok, West Java, is to follow up Presidential Regulation No. 57/2016, which was signed by Jokowi two years ago.
“We hope UIII will really become the center of study and research on Islamic civilization in Indonesia,” he said during the groundbreaking ceremony, according to a release from the presidential press bureau.
As the most populous Muslim country, Jokowi said, it was appropriate that Indonesia became the global reference for progress in Islamic civilization in the world. “This will be the place,” he said.
Jokowi said the university would have a “futuristic” design.
The government had allocated Rp 700 billion (US$50.4 million) for the construction on 142 hectares of land.
The university is expected to be completed in four years. However, Jokowi hoped that students could start using parts of the building next year.
Several ministers and local officials attended the ceremony, including Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, Public Works and Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono, Research, Technology and Higher Education Minister Mohamad Nasir, Cabinet Secretary Pramono Anung and West Java Governor Ahmad Heryawan.
The university will have graduate and postgraduate programs, but no undergraduate courses. It will have seven departments: Islamic studies, social science and humanities, education science, Islamic economy, natural sciences and technology, as well as architecture and arts.
Besides teaching facilities, it will have an Islamic arts and culture museum, which will act as a reserve for “Islam Nusantara manuscripts”, Minister Lukman said in his speech. Islam Nusantara is the concept of a Muslim-majority nation with moderate views and one that embraces religious tolerance.
The university is expected to be of international quality, and talks about cooperating with the famous Al-Azhar University in Egypt have been ongoing.
In April, Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Puan Maharani visited Egypt and met with Al-Azhar’s grand imam, Ahmed Muhammad Ahmed el-Tayeb. The grand imam, Puan said, agreed to send lecturers to teach at UIII, to give UIII a “competitive edge”.
Minister Lukman said on Tuesday that he was aware of questions about making a brand new university instead of improving the many existing Islamic universities.
He said the government wanted UIII to focus not only on “domestic needs” but also on global demand in Islamic higher education.
“We want to cement Indonesia’s position as the leader in the international Islamic world,” he went on.
When the international community talks about Islamic civilization, he said, it talks about Islam in the Arab world, Persia or Turkey. Indonesia has always been off the radar.
UIII is expected to change that situation and promote to the world Indonesia’s Islam, which is “tolerant and plural”, Lukman said. (evi)