An Indonesian cleric who heads the world’s biggest Muslim organization in world made a bold statement on Islamophobia, arguing that fear of Islam is a direct reaction to Islamic extremism.
Yahya Cholil Staquf is the secretary general of the Indonesian organization Nahdlatul Ulama, with has more than 90 million members.
In an article for U.K.’s Daily Telegraph, Staquf shared his belief that “to prevent another Christchurch [attack], Islam must confront the attacks in its name that have radicalized the West.”
The fact that one of the senior members of the world’s largest Muslim organization has publicly made that statement (which is usually made only in private), gives hope to others to be able to have bold dialogues on critical generational and theological issue.
In 2016, Clarion’s National Correspondent Shireen Qudosi testified before Congress saying that ideological terror groups within Islam draw their inspiration from prophetic legacy. Qudosi maintained that thousands of Muslims would like to put the concept of Islamophobia aside and look at what is inspiring the religion’s most extremist followers.
The aspect of theology here is important. In his article, Staquf was not pointing to race, which is often used as a the deflection strategy by Islamists. He was directly pointing to theology. If there is any seed of violence in Islamic theology that justifies extremism, it’s time to talk about it open and honestly, for all our sakes.
With 90 million followers, Indonesia is leading on that front. As Staquf shared in his article:
If Muslims do not address the key tenets of Islamic tradition that encourage this violence, anyone – at any time – can harness them to defy what they claim to be illegitimate laws and butcher their fellow citizens, whether they live in the Islamic world or the West. This is what links so many current events, from Syria to the streets of London.
Staquf’s call has been echoed among Muslim reformers globally, who pointedly contend that we must rise to the occasion and have honest conversations about Islam.
It is important to note that the first victims of Islamic extremism, historically and to present day, are other Muslims. This never had anything to do with Islamophobia, which is just a newly-minted phrase designed to stifle debate.