Nahdlatul Ulama moves to block the political weaponization of religion amidst the escalating Gaza crisis
“We urge that religious inspiration — including the values of universal love and compassion, human fraternity, and justice — be brought to the forefront of public awareness to help resolve conflict at every level of society, from the grassroots to the corridors of state power.”
~ Nahdlatul Ulama Central Board
JAKARTA, Indonesia — On 9 October 2023, the world’s largest Muslim organization released an official statement in response to the Gaza crisis and its potentially devastating regional and global consequences.
The statement by Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) comes amid escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians, which threatens to destabilize societies worldwide by enflaming ethnic and religious tensions in regions as diverse as North America, Latin America, Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and Australia.
Indonesia, which will hold national elections in February 2024, is not immune to such upheavals. Since its transition from authoritarian rule to democracy in 1998, Indonesia’s election campaigns have often been roiled by inflammatory rhetoric and divisive appeals to religious identity, accompanied by efforts to undermine the state philosophy of Pancasila. Extremist attempts to transform the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation and democracy into an Islamic state or caliphate threaten Indonesia’s constitution and its Pancasila philosophy, which have defined the Republic of Indonesia as a multi-religious and pluralistic nation state since its founding in 1945.
Nahdlatul Ulama represents the primary bulwark of support for Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution, which are essential to the preservation of Indonesia’s territorial integrity, social stability, and the protection of its religious minorities, who actually constitute a majority of the population in several key provinces.
NU issued its Statement two days after Hamas commandos broke out of the Gaza Strip and massacred over a thousand Israelis, including hundreds of women and children. Leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Hamas movement have urged Muslims worldwide to support their violent campaign (jihad) to annihilate Israel.
NU’s Statement on the Gaza crisis garnered immediate viral coverage throughout Indonesia, including in print, broadcast and social media
In its public statement, Nahdlatul Ulama “call[ed] upon the international community to act more decisively in pursuit of a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in accord with existing international laws and agreements.”
NU also “urge[d] people and governments everywhere to refrain from weaponizing identity or appealing to religion to fuel hatred and hostility, including in relation to the conflict and violence between Israel and Palestine.”
The statement “urge[d] that religious inspiration — including the values of universal love and compassion, human fraternity, and justice — be brought to the forefront of public awareness at all times, to help resolve conflict at every level of society, from the grassroots to the corridors of state power.”
Finally, the NU Central Board “urge[d] Muslims worldwide, including Nahdlatul Ulama members, to perform salat al-ghaib (funeral prayers in absentia); to collectively pray for the souls of all who have perished in the escalating violence; and to pray that the path of peace and justice may be swiftly realized.”
In urging Muslims “to collectively pray for the souls of all who have perished in the escalating violence,” Muslims and Jews alike, Nahdlatul Ulama is acting in a manner consistent with its long-standing defense of religious pluralism and of non-Muslim minority communities in Indonesia, whose vulnerability increases whenever there is heightened social and political instability. This includes both Christians (approximately 10% of Indonesia’s population) and a miniscule yet highly visible Jewish community in the province of North Sulawesi.
Nahdlatul Ulama’s “Statement in Response to Escalating Violence Between Israel and Palestine” arises from the organization’s strategy and systematic endeavors to:
In all these endeavors, Nahdlatul Ulama seeks to prevent the political weaponization of identity; curtail the spread of communal hatred; promote solidarity and respect among the diverse peoples, cultures, and nations of the world; and foster the emergence of a truly just and harmonious world order, founded upon respect for the equal rights and dignity of every human being.
An English-language translation and the Indonesian original of Nahdlatul Ulama’s Statement may be accessed by clicking the image below.
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