Interfaith Activists Lament Islamic Council’s Fatwas Against Pluralism in Indonesia

August 6, 2005


On August 6, 2005 reported, "Muslim and non-Muslim advocates of interfaith dialogue have expressed concern about a state-sanctioned Islamic council declaring that liberalism, secularism, pluralism and interfaith prayers are forbidden. On July 28, Majelis Ulama Indonesia (MUI, Indonesian Ulama Council) issued 11 fatwa (religious edicts) during its four-day national congress. About 300 ulama (religious scholars) from across the country attended the meeting. Among those 11 editcs are declarations outlawing liberal Islamic thought and declarations that secularism and pluralism are forbidden in Islam. The fatwa produced by MUI's Fatwa Commission also ban interfaith prayers unless a Muslim leads them. One of the recently declared fatwa asserts, 'Regarding interfaith prayers where believers say prayers in turn, it is forbidden by Islam to say "amen" to the prayers of other religions.' Azyumardi Azra, rector of State Islamic University, told UCA News on July 31 he regrets the council issuing fatwa against pluralism and interfaith prayers. The commission's understanding of issues is 'too [literal],' Azra said, 'not in line with Indonesia's pluralistic reality or the developments of the times.' He warned that since Indonesia is not an 'Islamic country,' the fatwa could trigger conflict and division, not just between Muslims and non-Muslims, but also among Muslims themselves. It would be better for MUI to issue 'a fatwa forbidding violence in solving problems,' he said. And in formulating any fatwa, he recommended that MUI not only use Islamic jurisprudence but also 'hold an open discussion with people from different fields of expertise.'"