Friday, February 03, 2006

The Tolerance in Islam

In reference to a letter from Ahmad Qisa'i (The Jakarta Post, Jan. 26), I would like to state that I see no conflict between my statement and what the Post (Jan. 18) reported. What the Post reported that the pesantren (Islamic boarding schools) are "no hive of tolerance" should be seen within the context of this qualitative research with an in-depth interview involving members of 20 pesantren in West Java.

The context, among other things, is related with tensions amid the global accusation that pesantren are a breeding ground of terrorists, the perceived inequality between non-Muslim and Muslim countries, the perceived double-standards of the West when addressing Muslim issues and the recent edict from the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) that prohibits pluralism, secularism and liberalism.

At the same time, I also assert that there is actually a seed of tolerance in Islam that could further be developed. This was clearly stated by Prof. Machasin of Sunan Kalijaga Islamic State University of Yogyakarta during our seminar on Jan. 17-19 that Islam has actually a rich history of pluralism as it spans a long period of time and has an abundance of diverse thoughts, and many of them have sometimes been at odds with each other.

Even during the seminar, while some members of pesantren looked a bit anxious at first, the discussion was productive and at the end some of them were enthusiastic to offer their pesantren as the venue of our next training on multiculturalism.

I therefore agree with Ahmad Qisa'i that it is now homework for Indonesian Muslims to develop this seed of tolerance and enhance the moderate nature of Islam in Indonesia.

Syafi'i Anwar
Executive Director, of ICIP, (International Center for Islam and Pluralism), Jakarta

The Jakarta Post, 3 February 2006

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