Radicalism was a central theme in the meeting of the Jesuits Among Muslims (JAM) group held in Mojokerto near Surabaya, Indonesia. About 20 people including Jesuits from Indonesia, Philippines, Japan, Pakistan, India, Nigeria, Italy, Spain, Germany, Turkey and Algeria came together from August 7 to 11 to experience and learn about the Muslims living in an Islamic context that is different from the Arab.
Dr Haula Noor, a Muslim scholar, spoke about the role of family engagement, religious upbringing and family climate in jihadism. She argued that parents’ engagement in jihadism, the ability to create a family climate and religious upbringing facilitate the transmission of desired values from parents to children. “Because children are their parents’ responsibility, there is a duty to educate parents to contribute to counter-extremism programmes run by civil society and governments, as well as to protect their children from radicalism,” she said.
Prof Azumardi Azra from Syarif Hidayatullah Islamic State University in Jakarta shared his reflection on the rampant violence and terrorism in the majority of the Muslim countries of the Arab world, South Asia and Africa perpetrated by groups such as ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Boko Haram and Al-Shabab, as well as violence and terrorism committed by Muslims in Europe, North America, Southeast Asia and Central Asia. He also mentioned the continuing conflicts, civil wars and self-destruction in Yemen, Libya, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, saying these countries are challenged not to fall into the danger of becoming ‘failed states’. The mass migration from the Arab world and South Asia to Europe, Southeast Asia, North America and Australia is also another challenge.
“One has to realise that the problem is very complex, involving various aspects, not only religious, but also political, economic and social,” said Prof Azra, noting that the contribution of Indonesian Muslims to the world is their modern concept of a nation state. Indonesia adopted democracy rather than Islamic theocracy.
“Muslims accept democracy for it is regarded as compatible with Islam,” he said, pointing out that Indonesia enjoys political stability and steady economic growth. He added that religious-based civil society organisations, such as Nahdatul Ulama (the Awakening of Ulama), Muhammadiyah and other smaller organisations across the country, which are inclusive and accept multiculturalism, “play an instrumental role in growing and strengthening ‘civic culture’ and ‘civility’, which are crucial for democracy to grow, for the maintenance of social cohesion and the provision of alternative socio-political leadership”.
Sidney Jones brought up the ongoing armed conflict in Marawi, Philippines against Islamic State-linked terrorists. “President Duterte’s administration’s response to Islamist extremism so far has been to try to crush it militarily,” she said, “but too often strong-arm tactics only breed more fighters — and fighters with a desire for revenge”. Her view is that the Philippine government must instead come up with a comprehensive strategy to fix the social, economic and political problems that have led Islamic State ideologues to exert so much appeal in Mindanao.
After hearing from the Islamic experts, one group visited the Sunan Ampel Islamic State University in Surabaya, a prestigious Islamic university connected to Indonesia’s largest moderate Islamic organisation Nahdatul Ulama. The other group visited Tebuireng Islamic Boarding School in Jombang built in 1899 by Hasyim Ashari who, along with several traditional Islamic leaders, founded Nahdatul Ulama in 1926.
This year, the situation in Pakistan and Turkey drew special attention during the sharing. “There are few Jesuits working there and the apostolates in those countries offer certain challenges as well as opportunities,” shared Fr Heru Prakosa SJ, Delegate for Islam under the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations in Rome and Coordinator of Dialogue with Islam for the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific. “There is no question that Pakistan and Tukey are frontier territories for the Jesuits,” he said.