Academic journal article Comparative Civilizations Review

Philanthropic Aspects of Islam: The Case of the Fundamentalist Movement in Indonesia

Academic journal article Comparative Civilizations Review

Philanthropic Aspects of Islam: The Case of the Fundamentalist Movement in Indonesia

Article excerpt


The contemporary image of Islam in the West seems to have risen to a new level of negativity; numerous terrorist acts have been executed, and mutual distrust between the West and Islamic world is at a peak since the 9/11 attacks.2 At the beginning of the twenty first century, a politician from the U.S. reported that there existed "a large group of citizens" that regard Islam to be a potential threat to the U.S, a Christian nation.3 More recently, in January 2015, a group of Muslim militants attacked a publisher, Charlie Hebdo, in Paris, which published a magazine featuring a caricature of Prophet Muhammad. Dozens of tourists have been also victimized when several Muslim militants attacked Tunisia's National Museum in March 2015. It is said that these terrorist acts are linked with Muslim militant groups such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria known as ISIS.4 The former was a perpetrator of the September 11 attacks in the U.S., and the latter is one of the most feared militant Muslim groups in the contemporary world.

The existence of ISIS has been recognised by the international community since the former's declaration of the establishment of a caliphate in June 2014. Using Internet technology, ISIS has adopted a sophisticated media strategy, which has often involved broadcasting, in an extremely inhumane fashion, the execution of hostages through a popular user-generated video site such as YouTube.

These acts surely have contributed to the building of a negative image of Islam in the West, while encouraging people who criticize and spread stereotypical images of Islam. One of the most recognizable, if not popular, of these Western anti-Islam campaigners is a Dutch politician, Geert Wilders; he states that "Islam is the cause of terror and misery."5 It might be true that Islam and fundamentalism in general are seen as a "threat to global security."6 Wilders was once charged with inciting hatred and discrimination for his comments against Islam but he was acquitted in June of 2011; the judge said that "they were (his comments) acceptable within the context of public debate."7 In focusing his attention on the immigration policy of the Dutch government, and in urging it to ban further Muslim immigrants, he seems to have failed to distinguish between terrorists and other Muslims who appreciate humanity and peace.

In fact, there has been indignation about, and disagreement with, ISIS from different Islamic communities in the world. These include the reactions from the most populous Muslim nation, Indonesia. The Indonesian Council of Ulama or Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI) issued a statement regarding ISIS in August of 2014 in which ISIS is described as "radical." In criticising ISIS by saying that "it devastates innocent people and the holy places of Islam," MUI has made clear their rejection of the militant group.8

However, in spite of the efforts of some Muslims to exhibit an Islamic appreciation of humanity, we still find a strong belief within non-Islamic communities worldwide that Islam is an uncivilized religion without any philanthropic nature. This can be the cause of distrust between Muslims and non-Muslims, as exemplified by statements made by Geert Wilders. Is this Western perspective on Islam justifiable? Can we refer to the activities of some Indonesian Muslims in order to shine a light on Islamic nature that may otherwise be unnoticed in the West?

ISIS and Indonesian Muslims

The statement made by MUI indicates that, in the main, Islam in Indonesia officially stands against ISIS. Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the largest Islamic organisation in Indonesia, also vehemently rejects the actions of ISIS. Said Aqil Siradj, the chairperson of NU, articulated such a sentiment. In his opinion: "...What is carried out by ISIS is apostasy of Allah, and it does not reflect the spirit of al-Quran. Violence is by no means justified in the teachings of Islam".9

The view is echoed by a respected Indonesian Islamic scholar, Ali Musthofa Yaqub, who states that "ISIS does not appear from the (true) Islamic community. …

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