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Ulema from India, Indonesia discuss interfaith peace, counter radicalisation

AsiaUlema from India, Indonesia discuss interfaith peace, counter radicalisation

The Ulema from India and Indonesia held a seminar on the role of the Ulema in promoting a culture of interfaith peace, countering radicalism

Muslim clerics, the Ulema, from India and Indonesia came together on Tuesday to hold day-long reflections, organized by the India Islamic Cultural Centre (IICC), which was launched with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Indonesia’s coordinating minister for political, legal, and security affairs.

India and Indonesia emphasized the role of the Ulema at a conference in the national capital on Tuesday as both nations recognize the Ulema plays a vital role in spreading education among Muslims and countering radicalization and extremism.

Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Dr. Mohammed Mahfud MD came to New Delhi at the invitation of NSA Ajit Doval. Mahfud was accompanied by a delegation comprising high-level Indonesian Ulema, officials from the coordinating ministry for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs, and officials from the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

The two attended the conference on interfaith peace and social harmony and aspired to bring together Indian and Indonesian Ulema and Islamic scholars to promote tolerance, harmony, and peaceful co-existence to counter the fight against violent extremism, terrorism, and radicalization.

Dr. Mahfud and the Indonesian Ulema called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and also held meetings with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Ajit Doval.

Top Points of the Seminar:

The discussion was spread over three sessions:

Islam: Continuity and Change.
Harmonizing inter-faith society: Practice and Experience.
Countering Radicalisation and Extremism in India and Indonesia.

The timing of the dialogue on peace and the role of Ulema (Muslim religious scholars) is noteworthy given that it comes after the G20 summit in Indonesia held earlier this month where the statement on measures to counter terrorism formed part of the “Bali Declaration” adopted by member-countries including India.

The declaration states that member countries “recognize the need for the international community to step up their efforts to effectively combat terrorism financing”. India will officially assume the G20 presidency in December and Tuesday’s dialogue is being seen as a step to send a strong message.

IICC President Sirajuddin Qureshi said he is hopeful that the discussion will reinforce the message of peace and help quell misconceptions being spread by certain elements about Islam. “Indonesia has the second largest population of Muslims in the world and therefore if they, along with India, deliberate on issues of interfaith harmony it sends a strong message,” Qureshi said

Indian Ajit Doval’s Speech

In Ajit Doval’s speech, he said, “In a democracy, there is no place for hate speech, prejudice, propaganda, demonization, violence, conflict, and misuse of religion for narrow ends.

He stressed the role of Ulemas in “educating the people on original tolerant and moderate principles of Islam.” “It’s here that the Ulema have a pivotal role to play… Our youth should receive special attention towards this end. They are often the primary target of radicalization, but if their energies are nurtured in the right direction, they can emerge as harbingers of change and building blocks of progress in any society,” he said.

The NSA said that the essence lies in disseminating the positive discourse far and wide, and not merely in reacting to the agenda set by inimical forces. “State institutions also need to come together in detecting and identifying potential negative influencers and share information to counter their activities. In this, Ulemas, due to their deep connect with civil society, can play a vital role.”.

Mr. Doval said the Ulema must also be proficient in the use of technology and use it to thwart propaganda and hate. He said against the background of tectonic shifts in the global order, India, and Indonesia, given their rich history, diversity, shared traditions, and increasing bilateralism have the prospect to enrich prospects of peace, regional cooperation, and prosperity in Asia.

India and Indonesia are home to the world’s largest Islamic populations, Indonesia is the world’s largest Islamic country, and India is home to the third largest Muslim population in the world, he said.

“Countries like India and Indonesia, with their experience of multi-faith harmony and coexistence, can send a joint message to the world to eschew violence and conflict. This will be a powerful symbol of the determination of two large countries (together we have 1.7 Billion of the world population) to preserve and promote the true values espoused by religion,” he said.

Doval said that together we should strive to propagate the moderate virtues of Islam as a beacon of hope and cooperation for the entire world.

The NSA said that extremism and terrorism are against the very meaning of Islam because Islam means peace and well-being. He said that opposition to such forces (extremists and radicals) should not be painted as a confrontation with any religion.

“None of the ends for which extremism, radicalization, and the misuse of religion are employed are justifiable on any ground. This is a distortion of religion against which all of us need to raise our voices,” Doval said.

He stressed the extensive and massive economic and cultural links between the two countries saying both countries play important roles in flourishing democracies in the Indo-Pacific region.

Indonesian Prof Dr. Mohammed Mahfud’s Highlights of Speech

Prof Dr. Mohammed Mahfud MD said the Ulema has contributed immensely to fostering the culture of inter-faith, peace, and social harmony. He also urged everyone to work together in creating a harmonious society.

“We have to go out of this and improve. Religion, I think, should be a source of peace, not the reason for discord, conflict, or violence. Religion should be a unifying tool, not a divisive instrument,” he said.
The minister said the world is facing difficult challenges, ranging from poverty, climate change, food insecurity, pandemic, corruption, unemployment, armed conflicts, income inequality, and human rights abuses.
“Where are religions when the world fights against all these common concerns?,” he said.

The Indonesian delegation will visit Agra on November 30.

JOINT PRESS RELEASE FROM THE SEMINAR

A Seminar on the Role of Ulema in Fostering a Culture of Interfaith Peace
and Harmony in India and Indonesia was held in New Delhi on 29 November
2022.

The seminar was attended by Ulema from India and Indonesia, as well as
attendees from other faiths. The meeting discussed the historical and cultural
context of Islam in their respective countries and Islam’s teachings on peaceful
co-existence and tolerance.

The Ulema also shared views on the experience and
practice of Islam in multi-religious societies like India and Indonesia. They
appreciated the prevalence of religious freedom, pluralism, and equality before
the law in both societies.

2. Contemporary challenges of religious radicalization and extremism in India
and Indonesia was discussed along with the need to counter disinformation
and propaganda that can impede peaceful co-existence among the followers of
different faiths. Noting the key role of Ulema and other religious leaders as well
as education in countering radicalization and extremism, the participants agreed
on the need to work together to develop common narratives on deradicalization.

3. The religious leaders agreed that a better understanding among different
faiths is a constructive element in the efforts to build harmonious societies. The
participants denounced all hate speech, prejudice, propaganda, demonization,
violence, and conflict and condemned the misuse of religions for these ends. The
discussions emphasized the need to contribute all efforts possible toward
building mutual understanding, trust, and respect in order to build secure,
peaceful, and prosperous societies.

4. The Indonesian delegation also met with leaders of different religions from
India. They emphasized the role of religious leaders in promoting inter-faith
understanding towards building a harmonious society.

5. The participants agreed to encourage further engagement between
themselves and the larger communities of both countries, including scholars,
academia and students by exploring cooperation between civil society
organizations, think tanks, universities, and other social as well as educational
institutions.

Who are the Ulema?

In Islam, the Ulema means “the learned ones”, in Islam. They are known to be called the guardians, transmitters, and interpreters of religious knowledge in Islam, including Islamic doctrine and law. From ancient tradition, the Ulema are educated in religious institutions (madrasas). The Quran and sunnah (authentic hadith) are the scriptural sources of traditional Islamic law.

The authority of the ulema class in defining the right doctrine and right practice within Islam has been tremendous in Muslim history. During the Abbasid period, the Ulema began to gain both powerful political influence and popular respect, as Abbasid caliphs and their wazirs sponsored institutional schools in which scholars could develop the intellectual foundations of Islam.

Once seated, the Ulema became an essential element of Muslim societies. The expansion of the Muslim world, containing many different cultures and traditions, did not prevent the need for a scholarly class whose direct functions were to preserve the intellectual tradition and deliver religious and scientific guidance to the people.

Over time, a huge majority of Muslim societies, both past, and present, have included a class of scholars, usually given the noble name Ulema.

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