Earlier this month, members of European and Asian parliaments under the banner of Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) and Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) met Abdurrahman Wahid, Indonesia’s former President, at his party’s office in Jakarta. Led by ALDE’s chief, Graham Watson, they had a discussion on the need to build a bridge between Islam and the West.
According to Wahid, currently, there is a global tendency to institutionalize Islam instead of adopting Islam as a culture. This situation has made Islam in a collision course with the West. They both claim to be the savior of humanity thus putting them in an enmity.
Globalization has partly contributed to this situation. The fact that in globalized world, the world has become “flat”, to use the term coined by Thomas L. Friedman, and a small village has been created in which each and every member of the communities that live in the village bumps into and interacts with each other. Globalization has obliterated any distance that ever exists.
Thus collisions, frictions and fierce competitions become inevitable. Survival of the fittest becomes the rule that everyone must embrace. And current trend, in which domination of Western civilization upon global village has become apparent, has made other group, in this case Islam, to feel insecure. The recent development of Islam in Indonesia provides example to this phenomenon.
Several Muslim groups in Indonesia advocate an aggressive stance toward the West. They believe that Islam is incompatible with the West and seek to destroy it. Their diminutive number yet aggressive and opposing stance over the “enemy of Islam” have put Indonesian Muslims in a difficult position: to be branded as radicals and fundamentalists.
The feeling of being insecure and threatened has forced people to seek solace and protection from something or someone. When a group feels threatened over a perceived domination by other group, they would dig deep into their own self to seek answers as a rejection of domination. And if Islam, for an example, is threatened by other civilization, by Western civilization for an example, Muslims would dig deep into Islam and come up with ideas and answers to reject that domination. And the efforts to dig deep into one self might give different results which could be contradictory.
The first result is strong rejection and confrontation. By digging deep into Islam, a Muslim might come up with an idea of fundamental Islam that rejects anything that is different. Fundamentalist movements in the name of religion then spruce up to fight the “enemy”. Thus if the domination of the West is perceived as a threat to Islam, it must then be rejected and confronted with all force. Violence and force must be maximally utilized to implement this idea and as a show of force that they exist. Furthermore, these fundamentalists believe that Islam must win over Western civilization with all costs.
The second result brings about the moderate values and principles of Islam and teaches its followers to confront any differences wisely and with an open heart. This has been reflected in what is called moderate Islam. Moderate Muslims put Islam as a way of life that possesses a high degree of tolerance towards other groups or followers of other religions for the sake of creating a harmonious society in the midst of disparities and differences. Moderation is the key and Islam teaches its followers to be moderate. Thus any perceived threats to Islam must be solved wisely through the process of dialogs and discussions to find the middle way and to avoid confrontation and the use of force.
From the illustration above, we find that from one source there are two contradictory results: first, a proposal of fundamentalism and the use of force and violence; and, second, moderation and dialog as tools to solve problems and differences.
So far, the first group, though in minority, has been dominating the limelight with their aggressive actions. They stole the show and successfully painted a bleak picture of Islam: Islam means violence. Meanwhile, the second group, the majority of Muslims, has been in silence and unable to project the moderate values of Islam. They seem to struggle to erase the depiction of Islam as a religion of violence. Thus, it is time to re-define Islam.
Islam rejects violence and the use of force to solve problems. Instead, Islam clearly advocates dialog and discussion to find the middle way. Muslims must understand this principle in order to change the current the situation. Loud rejection of violence and the use of force along with the promotion of dialog and discussion to solve problems by the moderate Muslims will, I believe, erase the depiction of Islam as a religion of violence.
Furthermore, reciprocal action must also be taken to successfully change the situation. Non-Muslims, notably the West, must also help this process. Both sides need to embark upon developing sustainable dialog to understand each other’s culture and civilization. It is only through this process of dialog and willingness to understand each other’s culture and civilization that any clash between the two in this globalized world can be avoided and the notion of fundamentalism and radicalism can be suppressed.