IN THE JOURNAL | INDONESIA 360
Indonesia's 'big idea': Resolving the bitter global debate on Islam
July-September 2012
By: A Mustofa Bisri , C Holland Taylor

As Dr Hassan Wirajuda, the editor-in-chief of Strategic Re­view, recently observed in the pages of this journal, for In­donesia to earn its place as a leading figure in the commu­nity of nations, it must do so not as a producer of raw materials, but of ideas - and more specifically, “big ideas” that will help shape the world of tomorrow in a manner beneficial to humanity at large. Men and women who embody the exemplary values of our ancient culture, including its profoundly spiritual view of reli­gion, constitute what may be Indonesia’s most geopolitically sig­nificant - and certainly its most unique - strategic asset. This is es­pecially true in light of what the late Indonesian president and Islamic cleric Abdurrahman Wahid called the “crisis of misunder­standing” about Islam that afflicts so many Muslims and non-Mus­lims throughout the world. “Dry grass burns fast and hot,” warns an old Javanese proverb, whose truth is on display whenever and wherever a harsh, narrow and rigid (ie, spiritually arid) interpreta­tion of religion gives birth to hatred, supremacism and violence.

One of Indonesia’s leading intellectual and spiritual figures, former Muhammadi­yah chairman Dr Syafii Maarif, referred to this vexing issue when he said, “The Sha­riah we know today is the result of ijtihad, or centuries-old human reasoning, and thus time-bound. As a result, a huge project such as creating an Islamic system of governance [as desired by many contemporary Muslims] is extremely difficult, if not impossible, without rethinking the very basis of our ideas about Shariah. Small, narrow minds cannot pro­vide a solution to the problems facing Mus­lim societies today. We need big, broad minds to understand the fundamental message of the Quran as rahmatan lil ‘alamin - a source of love and compassion for all humanity - and how to bring this message down to earth.”

Because of its particular cultural and his­toric circumstances, Indonesia is uniquely positioned to help lay the foundation for a cultural, theological, legal, political, intellec­tual and spiritual renaissance of the Islamic world that will enable Muslims to build a bridge between their traditions and the mod­ern world of freedom, democracy and hu­man rights. In the words of Wahid, Indone­sia can help “restore honor and respect to Islam, which the extremists have desecrated,” and “restore the majesty of Islamic teach­ings as rahmatan lil ‘alamin, which represents a vital key to building a peaceful world.”



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