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.