Indonesia’s Minister of Religious Affairs, Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, set the bar high for both President Joko Widodo and Nahdlatul Ulama, the religious backbone of Mr Widodo’s government, when he set the agenda for his country’s presidency in the Group of 20 largest economies.
Speaking to the G20 interreligious forum in Bologna as Italy was preparing to hand over its presidency to Indonesia, Mr Qoumas also gaunted Indonesian rivals in the Middle East over the degree to which Islam should apply principles of tolerance , embodies pluralism and gender equality, secularism and human rights as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The struggle, which is also likely to determine which country or countries with a Muslim majority will be recognized as leaders of the Islamic world, is growing in importance with the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and concerns about Taliban’s policy towards militants on Afghan soil.
Meanwhile, uncertainty about the US’s reliability as a guarantor of security in the Gulf region is causing regional enemies to contain their differences to ensure they don’t get out of hand, and focus on projecting soft power.
Turkey’s 2022 budget seems to signal the postponement and importance that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attaches to this particular challenge.
The budget of the powerful Directorate of Religious Affairs, or Diyanet, is slated to increase by 20 percent for the 2022 budget year, giving it more financial flexibility than the Ministries of Home Affairs, Foreign Policy, Trade, Industry and Technology, Environment and Urbanization, Energy and Natural Resources and Culture and tourism.
These ministries are key to enabling Turkey to solve its economic problems, compensate for the consequences of the pandemic and increase its attractiveness as a potential leader in the Muslim world.
Another sign of Mr Erdogan’s emphasis on religious rather than national identity, the Diyanet recently urged Turks to use the religiously framed greeting Peace Be Upon (SelamÃ¼n aleykÃ¼m) You instead of phrases like Good Morning (Gunaydin) used in the Turkey has been established as a republic since its almost a century ago.
Diyanet President Ali Erbas argued in a recent Turkish-language book: Human religion and religion in the information agethat the greeting ‘good morning’ has its origins in pre-Islamic times.
These recent moves suggest that Mr Erdogan is leading his country, which is also a member of the G20, on a path that is diametrically opposed to what Mr Qoumas argued in Bologna.
Contrary to Mr Erdogan’s policy, the minister claimed that religion âhas the potential to block the political weapon of identity; limit the spread of community hatred; Promoting solidarity and respect between the different people, cultures and nations of the world; and promote the emergence of a truly just and harmonious world order based on respect for the equal rights and dignity of every human being. To realize this potential, however, we need to wisely manage the inevitable struggle between competing values ââas globalization brings very different peoples, cultures and traditions closer together. “
Mr. Qoumas made his remarks when an Islamist journalist asked Mr. Erdogan to avoid arming the religion.
Registered mail Karar, a Turkish publication believed to be close to Erdogan’s former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who left the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to create his own party, journalist Ahmet Tasgetiren warned that the President apparently politicize the Diyanet.
Compared to the politicization of the Turkish judiciary by Mr. Erdogan, Mr. Tasgetiren stated that this “weakens people’s trust in them”. In a plea with Mr. Erdogan, Mr. Tasgetiren warned that âthe politicization of religion and the Diyanet is ruining people’s relationship with religion … I think you would never want this for religion. For the sake of religion, please. “
Mr. Qoumas, the offspring of an influential Nahdlatul Ulama family and former head of the group’s powerful youth wing, GP Ansor, said in his speech that âIt is a great task ahead of us to identify and scrupulously observe These universal values ââthat the Majority of the world’s population already recognizes the virtues of honesty, search for truth, compassion and justice. Another parallel task is to develop a global consensus on common values ââthat the different cultures of the world must adopt if we want to live together peacefully. “
The minister implicitly stated that, unlike its rivals Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Iran, Nahdlatul Ulama is one of the world’s largest Muslims in the struggle to transform mainstream Islam Civil society, put your money where your mouth is.
Mr. Qoumas noted that a gathering of more than 20,000 Muslim religious scholars related to Nahdlatul Ulama in 2019 ruled that the legal category of infidels was “neither relevant nor applicable in the context of a modern nation-state”. In this way, Nahdlatul Ulama became the world’s first significant contemporary Sunni Muslim religious entity that endeavored to update and modernize Islamic jurisprudence.
Mr. Qoumas stopped short of setting an agenda for dealing with other concepts in Islamic law that the clerics of Nahdlatul Ulama identified as either problematic or obsolete, such as blasphemy. Nahdlatul Ulama has argued that concepts such as the dhimmi or persons of the book recognized in classical Islamic jurisprudence but not on an equal footing before the law and apostasy have been invalidated by the judgment on infidels.
It is true that countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, in which Islamic law is at least constitutionally recognized as the main source of legislation, if it is not the main source of legislation, have considerably liberalized social rights.
Saudi Arabia has made significant improvements to women’s rights in recent years by lifting bans on womenâs driving, liberalizing gender segregation, limiting men’s control over women’s lives, and expanding job opportunities.
Similarly, last November, the United Arab Emirates announced a major overhaul of the country’s Islamic personal laws that would allow unmarried couples to live together, relax alcohol restrictions, and criminalize “honor killings,” a widely criticized religiously packaged tribal custom that does it male relatives allowed to kill an accused woman to dishonor a family.
The liberalization of social mores in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates was enshrined in civil law, rules and regulations, but contrary to the process initiated by Nahdlatul Ulama, none of the countries adopted Islamic jurisprudence.
In this way, in contrast to Indonesia, the two Gulf states are trying to maintain strict state control over their interpretation of Islam without any influence from civil society.
The dichotomy raises fundamental questions, such as whether what Nahdlatul Ulama calls the ârecontextualizationâ of Islam can be achieved by autocratic or authoritarian regimes that want to ensure their survival and see themselves in a positive light internationally, or whether religious reforms the population must be anchored and supported by civil society.
Although Mr. Qoumas was in the government, he implicitly gave his answer to the question by quoting a poem by Kyai Haji Mustofa Bisri, a prominent spiritual leader of the Nahdlatul Ulama. The poem, entitled “Religion,” focuses on individual behavior rather than the role of the state.
âReligion is a golden carriage prepared by God to carry you on your way to His Divine Presence.
Don’t let its beauty mesmerize you, let alone be so enchanted that you argue with your own brothers and sisters about who occupies the front seat.
Fly away! “Reads the poem.