Muslim religious leaders need to embrace moderation and play a more active role in countering radicalism, participants agreed at an international gathering of clerics in Indonesia this week.
The call was one of six recommendations in the “Padang Declaration” issued Thursday at the end of the four-day conference attended by about 700 ulemas from Southeast Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Ulemas are Muslim scholars recognized as having special knowledge in sacred law and theology.
“We see the role of ulemas as very important and strong in guiding people to avoid extreme thinking, either far right extreme like terrorism and radicalism, or far left extreme, toward liberalism,” Muhammad Zaitun Rasmin, the head of Southeast Asia Ulema Association, told BenarNews.
“But the most important thing is to come with the same understanding on the meaning of moderate Islam that brings blessings to all,” Rasmin said.
Rasmin also leads a conservative Muslim organization that rallied earlier this year for the arrest of then-Jakarta Gov. Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, an ethnic Chinese Christian who was later convicted for comments deemed insulting to Islam.
Islamic unity is important to help Rohingya in Myanmar, Palestinians, and Muslims elsewhere who are facing oppression, Rasmin said.
“Although there are differences and threats of disunity as has happened in Arab countries now, as long as all parties are willing to sit together and communicate, the unity of the Muslim community can be realized,” Rasmin said.
Among those attending the conference were Shaykh Hassan Bukhari, imam of the Great Mosque of Mecca in Saudi Arabia; Abdel Rahman Swar al-Dahab, former president of Sudan; and Osama Bin Mohammad Abdullah Al Shuaibi, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Indonesia.
“As the imam of the Great Mosque, I expressed joy for the happiness and blessing on this ulema meeting,” Bukhari said.
Abdullah Al Shuaibi expressed appreciation to Indonesia for hosting the annual ulema conference, which it initiated, three years in a row.
“I am grateful to the government of Indonesia that always calls for unity. Indonesia is the example for the world of how Muslims unite,” he said.
He said his government fully supported Indonesian government efforts to teach moderate Islam according to the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad.
“Moderate in terms of neither a far right extreme nor a far left extreme,” he said. “Saudi Arabia fully supports every effort to teach moderate Islam, which does not teach radicalism and encourages dialogue for all parties.”