JAKARTA: The IS group is driven by the rivalry between Sunni and Syiah Muslims, says Indonesian Islamic activist Yenny Wahid (pic), who is also the daughter of former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid or Gus Dur.
“The ‘apolitical’ Muslims cannot see that (Sunni-Syiah rivalry). They have been fed all these misguided (Islamic) verses to justify supporting IS and all these radical movements, and we feel that this is not correct.
“Nowadays, we see more and more prosecution and intimidation against minorities. But this is due to the global political dynamics.
“In Sunni majority countries, the Syiahs are being persecuted while for decades, we were living in harmony. Our religious and theological teachings are quite different but it doesn’t mean we have to persecute them,” said Yenny.
“We have been telling our people not to get involved in this (Sunni-Syiah rivalry) because this is not our war.
“We are calling for politics to be taken out from the dynamics of society. If you take out politics, people will find a way to live side by side.”
She said there was a need for all moderate Muslims to work together to counter IS and its twisted ideology, which is marked by brutal beheadings of hostages and dissidents.
“We need all moderate Muslims in the world to hold hands, fight back and reclaim the space that the radicals have captured,” said Yenny.
As part of the effort, Indonesia’s largest Muslim organisation, Nahdlatul Ulama, organised the International Summit of Moderate Islamic Leaders last month to find solutions to conflicts considered to have emerged from misinterpretation of Islamic teachings.
“What the radicals do is promote verses that were issued in the context of war ... and of course, they contain passages of violence because they tell the story of war.
“We are in a situation of peace (in Indonesia). We are not at war with anyone at the moment. Muslims are not being persecuted for their beliefs.
“We don’t have to wage ‘jihad’ against anyone. They (youths) need to understand this basic concept,” said Yenny, a director of the Wahid Institute which works to seed pluralistic Islam.
There is a need for a support system that Muslim youths can turn to for answers to their questions about their faith, and that steers them towards Quranic verses that promote peace and tolerance, she said.
“So, when a young person starts feeling a calling for more religiosity, he has a support system that guides him to a better way of practising the religion,” said Yenny.
“We need to steer them (youths) to a peaceful way of looking at the verses (in the Quran).”
She said Indonesia was not “doing too badly” in terms of dealing with extremism. Of about 225 million Muslims in the country, only 500 had joined IS.
“When David Cameron visited Indonesia (last year), he asked how it was possible that in a country of over 200 million Muslims, only 500 went to Syria while in the United Kingdom, 800 out of two million Muslims joined IS,” said Yenny.
“I think we are doing not so badly if you look at the numbers.
“Indonesia has a lot to share with the world in terms of the way we live our lives and the way we carry out our traditions.
“We feel that we can inspire other Muslim from different countries – that you can reconcile Islamic teachings with a tradition of tolerance and moderation.”