Tag Archives: Abu Zayd

Indonesian Muslim Clerics Demand Freedom Of Expression

Indonesia’s two largest Muslim organizations criticized the Religious Affairs Ministry for barring a liberal Egyptian Islamic thinker from addressing an international youth conference in East Java. Din Syamusuddin, Chair of Muhammadiyah, who is a noted professor of Islamic thought, commented: “his visit should have instead been used for tabayyun(clarification) with Abu Zayd to find the truth about his Islamic thoughts. We should have discussed this kind of issue in a forum or debate with broad-mindness and tolerance.” Abu Zayd has been attacked in Egypt for arguing the Koran should be regarded as a cultural document The leader of Nahdiatul Ulama, Masdar Farid Mas’udi, also expressed concern over the ban. “I am not interested in judging whether Abu Zayd’s Islamic thought is right or heretic… but I think it’s not wise to promote an excessive suspicion of new things considered to be violating the mainstream view.” Both men expressed dismay that the Indonesian government was allowing extremist Muslim groups to dominate a religious dialogue.

The American media attempts to portray Muslims as being completely under the control of extremist religious fanatics. Indonesia is the largest Muslim nation in the world and its two largest Muslim organizations made a strong stand for religious freedom. Will their expressions of religious toleration be reported on Fox News?

Liberal Muslim Scholar Not Wanted In Indonesia

Liberal Egyptian Koranic scholar, Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd, said he was pressured by Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Ministry to cancel a scheduled appearance at an Islamic seminar in East Java. He believes the government was urged by the Indonesian Ulema Council to forbid his talk on grounds that Abu Zayd was preaching doctrines they disliked. Abu Zayd now lives in exile in the Netherlands after the Egyptian government persecuted him because he regards the Koran as a religious, mythical and literary work. He is will known among Indonesian Islamic thinkers for his views on Islamic theology and is regarded as a liberal who holds ideas not necessarily shared by the majority of religious figures.

Abu Zayd was also forced to cancel other scheduled talks in Indonesia when the Ulema Religious Council apparently did not want someone with religious views contrary to their own to speak in public. The Council noted in a press release, “In Indonesia, blasphemers of the Koran at state Islamic universities nearly always refer to Abu Zayd.” They are upset because he does not regard the Koran as a divine document, but more as a cultural product. One can only wonder if the Ulema Council is convinced they are right concerning the Koran why they do not wish to engage in open public debate with a figure who is supposedly so openly incorrect. Surely, the truth will prevail.