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Are hard-liners deviants or true believers? JAKARTA - Some of the moderate and liberal Muslims (I consider myself as part of this group) often charge that hard-liners, jihadists, terrorists and suicide bombers are not true believers. The jihadist and terrorists are more aptly called deviant Muslims, people with a fallacious understanding of Islam. We also blame their activities as tarnishing the name of Islam and harming its reputation before the hallmark of modern civilization. Their interpretation of Islam is also said to be destroying the religion's fundamental and truest mission. This is what we have to say about them.

For the terrorists, jihadists, and hard-liner camps, there is a strong conviction that their activities are solely for the sake of the purity of Islam. The real intention of their jihad is for the glory of Islam. They bravely conduct the most despised acts in the mind of Westerners - i.e. terrorism - in the hope that Islam will eventually seize power. By doing so, peace in this world will become a reality.

Abu Bakar Ba'aysir once said, "If they want to have peace, they have to accept being governed by Islam." This group of people understand Arabic language and recite the Koran well. They follow the fatwa of authoritative clerics such as Sayyid Qutb, Ibn Taymiyyah, Muhammad bin Abdul Wahab, Al-Maududi, Abdullah ibn Baz, and Syekh Rabi' Hadi al Madkhaly. Imam Samudra, for instance, recounts why he bombed Bali.

He quoted a translation for that verse from Yusuf Ali that takhawwuf means "to terrorize", not "to make them afraid." "To whom the terror should be directed? To the enemies of God, the enemies of Islam."(Tempo, 10/9/04) As a counter to moderate Muslims, Samudra accused them of hiding valid prophetic tradition such as, "I am chosen as a Rasul (prophet) close to the Day of Judgment to bring the sword."

Moderate Muslims, for him, display a hypocritical character before Westerners for the sake of money. From the ritual point of view, it seems that it is more accurate for the radicals and terrorists to call themselves Muslims. Compared to liberal and moderate Muslims, they are more likely to be proud to use Islamic symbols, attend majlis ta'lim (Islamic study group) more regularly, visit the mosques more often, and are more eager to deliver Friday sermons. If we go around Jakarta on Friday and visit some mosques, it is terribly difficult to find liberal Muslims giving the Friday sermon.

Even though they are well aware that the Friday sermon is, perhaps, the best way to promote a peaceful interpretation of Islam to the Muslim community, moderate Muslim groups prefer to voice their views by writing articles in major newspapers. In other words, liberal Muslims are probably an elite group or an elite movement that does not have a concrete tool to liberate the Indonesian Muslim. They do not have, to use Paulo Freire's term, "the pedagogy of the oppressed" or, in the Indonesian context, "the pedagogy of the frustrated Muslims".

From the social point of view, it is not so difficult to point out that some Islamic hard-liners are diligent in conducting social work. Proponents of zakat (philanthropy) movements in Indonesia, for instance, are dominated by people from this group. Just visit and mingle with some zakat activists, from organizations such as Dompet Dhuafa, PKPU, and Hidayatullah. Many activists of the sharia movement in economic discourse and activities are also against a liberal interpretation of Islam.

Now, the question is who are the true believers, the moderate, liberal or radical Muslims? Who has the mandate from God to say that this group is deviant while that group is true? Which group more accurately represents Islam? What kind of evidence is needed to say that a group is deviant? When two or three Islamic groups take the same texts as their sources for claiming their monopoly on the truth or accuse other groups of having a wrong interpretation of Islam, can we use or take the same texts as a tool to judge that the claim of one of them is the most accurate?

Might it be reasonable to say that the truth is not one, but many, multifaceted and diverse. From the perspective of human rights and democracy, it seems that the religious understanding of the liberal and moderate Muslims is right, moral, lawful and legitimate; while the religious performance of the radicals are wrong, bad, sinful, illegal and illegitimate.

However, if we look at their outward appearance, hard-liner groups look more Islamic, devout and orthodox. We do not have a reliable instrument or mechanism to test and verify the right or wrong of a certain belief and religious understanding. I do not pretend to be a judge or referee for this case. I also do not pretend to be able to give a correct answer.

These two extreme groups of Islam, liberal and radical, are problematic. In finding a solution to the problems faced by Muslims today, they have some apologetic claims, standard and ready-made answers. In response to the issue of jihad, suicide bombing, the status of women, human rights and democracy, the liberals boringly claim that: "Islam is a peaceful religion," "tolerance and democracy have very deep roots in Islam", and "Islam liberates women and honors human rights."

They repeat this jargon. While the same dull theme is declared in public by the hard-liners, such as: al-Islam huwa al-hal (Islam is a total solution), al-Islamu shalihun likulli al-zaman wa al-amkinah (Islam can be applied anytime and anywhere, it has no boundaries), and Islam is din wad daulah (Islam is religion and a system of government). The former group suffers from a crisis of identity, while the later bears an acute social frustration, projecting an enduring feeling of powerlessness, defeat and alienation by defining Islam as the exact antithesis of the West.

The writer, Ahmad Najib Burhani, works at the Research Center for Society and Culture in the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), and is a member of Muhammadiyah.

Posted in Religion @ 18 November 2005 by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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