Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Pope, Islam and Future of Interfaith Dialogue

Pope, Islam and future of interfaith dialog

The Jakarta Post, 21 September 2006

Muhamad Ali

Pope Benedict XVI's controversial comments on Islam at the University of Regensburg, Germany, despite his prompt apology, has left us some crucial issues to rethink in terms of promoting interfaith dialog.

I have tried to understand why the pope made a reference to Islam when he was talking about Christian belief, reason and Western civilization, and now better understand why he was upset by the unexpected reaction to his comments and later regretted his words.
Before becoming pope, the then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in 2004 that Christianity should be revitalized amid a secularizing Europe and West. The Hellenistic civilization influenced Byzantine, and led to the establishment of a continent that would eventually become the basis for Europe.

For Benedict, there are spiritual and rational roots in Europe and the West in general that should be defended and revitalized. In his controversial speech, Benedict intended to put into context the historical connections between those great civilizations and Western Christian civilization, and he found this context in a 14th century conversation between a Byzantine emperor and a Persian scholar representing a rival civilization of the time. In his speech, the pope seemed to be trying to bridge the gap between secularists and Catholics.

Adel Theodore Khoury, the editor of the book Polimique Byzantine contre l'Islam, said what the pope quoted was actually an advocation for genuine harmony among Abrahamic believers. According to Khoury, "Membership in the posterity of Abraham can foster an open encounter between the faithful of the three Abrahamic religions."

"...Rather than being an object of dispute and wrangling between the three faiths that claim him, Abraham can become the initiator and the guarantor of a serious dialog between them and of a fruitful cooperation for the good of all humanity."

Thus, in my reading, the pope's selection of the quote was more likely motivated by his intention to provide a context, not an opinion.

For many Muslims, however, the problem with the speech was that the selected quotation failed to portray a complex relationship between Islam and reason, merely for the purpose of reasserting the compatibility of Catholicism with Hellenistic rationality.
In retrospect, the pope could have quoted other phases and sides of history which provide more complex and diverse experiences of the relationship between Muslims and Christians in connection with faith and reason.

In the medieval history of Islam, many Muslim scholars, philosophers, Sufis and theologians believed in the compatibility between Islamic belief and reason, progress and humanism, despite others who believed otherwise. There are also the histories of peace and coexistence between Muslims, Christians and Jews in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and all over the world. In fact, shared and connected civilizations have long existed in parts of the world.

Religion is a complex historical and theological phenomenon. Catholicism, Islam, Judaism and other religions (and secular ideologies) have dark histories -- of polemics, conflicts and wars -- that everyone should realize and understand as part of world history. Religious believers keep the faith that their religions are essentially good. Yet, double standards have occurred: many Catholics may emphasize the normative ideals of their religion while pointing to the bad practices of other religious communities. Many Muslims say and write about the normative ideals of their religion, while at the same time criticizing the bad practices of Christians and Jews. Self-criticism is a very rare practice among believers, although it is crucial in terms of bridging the perception gaps and creating peaceful coexistence.

The pope's speech was not his first on Islam. In Cologne on Aug. 20, 2005, Benedict delivered a speech to the Muslim community. His major concern was the spread of terrorism in the name of religion, and he said, "I know that many of you have firmly rejected, also publicly, in particular any connection between your faith and terrorism and have condemned it. I am grateful to you for this, for it contributes to the climate of trust that we need. The life of every human being is sacred, both for Christians and for Muslims."

He reaffirmed that "the Church wants to continue building bridges of friendship with the
followers of all religions, in order to seek the true good of every person and of society as a whole" (L'Osservatore Romano, April 25, 2005).

For Benedict, the Magna Carta of the dialog with Muslims remains the Second Vatican Council: "the Church looks upon Muslims with respect. They worship the one God living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to humanity and to whose decrees, even the hidden ones, they seek to submit themselves whole-heartedly, just as Abraham, to whom the Islamic faith readily relates itself, submitted to God ..." (Declaration Nostra Aetate, n.3).

Not to repeat the mistakes of the Crusades should not mean not learning from and studying the history. Many studies on the Crusades have uncovered many revealing facts as well as mysteries. The Crusades have tended to be viewed from partial perspectives, from the Muslim side or from the Christian side (Carole Hillenbrand, The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives, 1999).
There are certainly more theological and ethical issues that Muslims, Christians and all others need to discuss in facing the complex challenges of modern or postmodern times. As Benedict said in 2005: "Dear Christians and Muslims, we must face together the many challenges of our time. There is no room for apathy and disengagement, and even less for partiality and sectarianism ... interreligious and intercultural dialog between Christians and Muslims cannot be reduced to an optional extra. It is in fact a vital necessity".

The great historian Arnold Toynbee once said that the fate of a society always depends on its creative minorities. Muslims, Christians, Jews and others, in their respective countries everywhere, should play their roles in helping the world into peace and prosperity.
The future of interfaith dialog is still bright if everyone is sincere and serious, and Pope Benedict XVI has given a very valuable example for everyone about sincerity, empathy and seriousness in dialog and mutual understanding.

The writer is a PhD candidate in history, a fellow at the East-West Center and a lecturer at State Islamic University, Jakarta. He can be reached at

A Reader's Response to the Above Article

The Pope and Islam Saturday, October 07, 2006

It is a sweet irony that while according to some the Pope's Regensburg address is suggesting that there may be a contradiction between Islamic faith and logos, the most reasonable reaction so far, in my opinion, has come from an Islamic intellectual, Muhamad Ali.

My congratulations to him. At least someone has really read and understood this controversial lecture. Of course there is always room for interpretation and reading between the lines, like some ideologists eagerly do.

Nevertheless, a less sweet irony is that while the lecture was about the relation between faith and reason, many Muslim religious and political leaders have angrily condemned the Pope for "insulting the Muslims" and have repeatedly asked for an apology.

If they condemn someone without really knowing the facts, then where is "reason"? And wouldn't that make the Pope's lecture very relevant too? Separate faith from reason, add a media which seems to rather play the role of "news and sensation maker" instead of "reporter of facts", and hatred, distrust, violence and even the killing of an innocent nun results.

Another interpretation of the Regensburg address is that it accuses Islam of promoting violence. So what were those people, who call themselves Muslims, who reacted violently, trying to prove? Right, there is some basic rationality, logos, missing in their reasoning.

Now let me say in honesty -- and the truth sometimes hurts but we can learn from it -- that many people in Europe have gotten a less favorable opinion about Islam and Muslims as a result of the reactions (including those of respected leaders) to the Pope's lecture.

People like Muhamad Ali, the majority of Indonesian Muslims, as well as the rich scholarly tradition of Islam and science, prove that Islam, reason, tolerance and peacefulness can go together perfectly.

Furthermore, Muslims have the right to ask the same questions substituting Islam by Christianity or Western secularism and they do. For example, we are regularly reminded of the crimes of the Crusaders, Western (Christian) colonization, the present day suffering of Muslims in for instance the Palestinian territories, Southern Thailand, Chechnya, Kashmir and the inability of the West to deal with this. They are right to do so. But similarly, non-Muslims should have the right to remind Muslims of their dark pages in history as well as the suffering in Darfur, the long Shiite-Sunni conflict, Papua, and with -- what they perceive as -- the inability of the Muslim world to deal with terrorism and fanaticism which are just as well factors in the deadlock of several conflicts.

It should be clear that they are talking not about Islam as a faith but about something completely different. Muslims should acknowledge that and respect that too. In fact, it would be helpful if they would realize that the real insults to Islam are those people or entities who claim to be Islamic but practice un-Islamic acts.


Friday, September 15, 2006

Pope's remarks on Islam

Pope's remarks on Islam shows how he should have learnt more about the history and teachings of Islam, about the diversity of meaning of jihad. He should have not talked about Islam if he merely quotes. It is regretable that in the situation where there has been already a huge gap between Muslims and others in the West, Pope made such careless remarks in Germany reported throughout the world. On the other hand, Muslims do not need to show their disagreement in violent ways; what they need to do is learning more about the history of Islam, about the meaning of jihad and other misunderstood terms, and learning more about the history of other religions. Comparative religions is a subject undevelopped in all countries, in the West and in the Muslim world. Mutual respect and mutual understanding do not come from ignorance and carelessness. They come from endless learning and dialogue.

Hale Manoa, September 15, 2006
Muhamad Ali

Muslim anger grows at Pope speech , September 15, 2006

The Pope's comments came on a visit to GermanyA statement from the Vatican has failed to quell criticism of Pope Benedict XVI from Muslim leaders, after he made a speech about the concept of holy war.

Speaking in Germany, the Pope quoted a 14th Century Christian emperor who said Muhammad had brought the world only "evil and inhuman" things.
Pakistan's parliament passed a resolution on Friday criticising the Pope for making "derogatory" comments.
The Vatican said the Pope had not intended to offend Muslims.
"It is clear that the Holy Father's intention is to cultivate a position of respect and dialogue towards other religions and cultures, and that clearly includes Islam," said chief Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi in a statement.
But in spite of the statement, the pontiff returned to Rome to face a barrage of criticism, reports the BBC's David Willey in Rome.
The head of the Muslim Brotherhood said the Pope's remarks "aroused the anger of the whole Islamic world".
Violence and faith
In his speech at Regensburg University, the German-born Pope explored the historical and philosophical differences between Islam and Christianity, and the relationship between violence and faith.

The remarks do not express correct understanding of Islam
Mohammed Mahdi AkefMuslim Brotherhood
Stressing that they were not his own words, he quoted Emperor Manual II Paleologos of the Byzantine Empire, the Orthodox Christian empire which had its capital in what is now the Turkish city of Istanbul.
The emperor's words were, he said: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."
Benedict said "I quote" twice to stress the words were not his and added that violence was "incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul".
'Angry and hurt'
Pakistan's parliament passed a resolution demanding that the Pope retract his remarks "in the interest of harmony between religions".
"The derogatory remarks of the Pope about the philosophy of jihad and Prophet Mohammed have injured sentiments across the Muslim world and pose the danger of spreading acrimony among the religions," the AFP news agency quoted the resolution by the country's national assembly as saying.
Meanwhile, the "hostile" remarks drew a demand for an apology from a top religious official in Turkey - where the Pope is due in November on his first papal visit to a Muslim country.
Ali Bardakoglu recalled atrocities committed by Roman Catholic Crusaders against Orthodox Christians and Jews, as well as Muslims, in the Middle Ages.
In Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood head Mohammed Mahdi Akef said the Pope's words "do not express correct understanding of Islam and are merely wrong and distorted beliefs being repeated in the West".
In a statement, he was "astonished that such remarks come from someone who sits on top of the Catholic church which has its influence on the public opinion in the West".
Sheikh Youssef al-Qardawi, a prominent Muslim cleric in Qatar, rejected the Pope's comments, in remarks reported by Reuters.
"Muslims have the right to be angry and hurt by these comments from the highest cleric in Christianity," Mr Qardawi reportedly said.
"We ask the Pope to apologise to the Muslim nation for insulting its religion, its Prophet and its beliefs."
The 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference also said it regretted the Pope's remarks, and news agencies reported a furious reaction on Islamic websites

Thursday, September 14, 2006

US Image in the world

I think the poll below reflects the general attitude in Indonesia toward American policies in Middle East Conflict, and the attitudes is actually not permanent, depending on how American government deal with the conflict; if the Indonesians see that the U.S. show a double standard, or support Israel, not the other side, then Indonesians would think that the U.S. does badly in their goodwill to solving the conflict. Not many Indonesians know very well of American diversity regarding Middle East problems; what they know is that if Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not resolved peacefully and justly, Iraq conflict is not dealt effectively and quickly, then they put the blame on the U.S. because they see how the U.S. had intervered.

The perception gap between the US and the Muslim world is still wide, and everyone should take part in bridging it.


Poll finds distrust of U.S. over Lebanon

Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

A majority of Indonesians believe the United States was directly or indirectly involved in the recent conflict in Lebanon, according to a survey by a global polling group.

The poll by Gallup International Association, which groups market research companies in some 60 countries, involved 403 Jakartans from across the economic spectrum.

Seventy-three percent of respondents believed the U.S. was involved in the war. Only 3 percent thought Iran or Islamic extremists had something to do with the conflict, according to the poll results released Wednesday.

Globally, only a third of all people surveyed thought the U.S. was involved in the conflict in Lebanon.

The poll, conducted between Aug. 11-13, was part of a survey of almost 25,000 respondents in 33 countries to determine global opinion on the war in Lebanon.

Of the Indonesian respondents, 85 percent thought Israel had gone too far in its military action.
"Opinions are clear as to who initiated the conflict," a report on the poll results said. "In 24 countries included in the survey, more people mention Israel than Hizbollah. Of those interviewed in Indonesia, four out of five echoed this same opinion."

"The results are predictable," Hariyadi Wirawan, an international relations expert, told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.

"The poll results are just an accumulation of anti-American sentiment here, resulting from U.S. support for Israel in Lebanon and Palestine."

He said the negative views of the U.S. were reinforced by a recent visit to Indonesian by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is admired here for his fiery rhetoric.

"Whatever the facts, most Indonesians will think that it was all the work of the U.S. Worse, when it comes to Israel, the U.S. doesn't care to improve its image," Hariyadi said.
Around 1,100 people in Lebanon and 156 Israelis died in the conflict, which began after Hizbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12. Only after the UN Security Council issued Resolution 1701, which took effect in mid-August, did the 34-day conflict end.

The United Nations is trying to assemble a multinational force of 15,000 soldiers to help keep the peace in southern Lebanon. Indonesia will send some 850 soldiers to Lebanon by the end of this month as part of the peacekeeping force.

Ninety-six percent of Indonesian respondents in the poll agreed the country should send peacekeeping troops to Lebanon.

Globally, the majority of respondents believe there can be no peace in the region without the settlement of the Israel-Palestine issue, and that the U.S. should not interfere in the conflict. These two sentiments were echoed by those interviewed in Indonesia, the poll report said.
Some 95 percent of Indonesian respondents were also of the opinion that the war in Israel and Lebanon would likely expand and come to involve other countries.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The epithet Islamic Fascism is Unhelpful

Why the epithet 'Islamic fascism' is unhelpful to search for peace

Muhamad Ali, The Jakarta Post, September 13, 2006

President George W. Bush's epithet "Islamic fascists" in talking about the arrest of the suspected terrorists in London and about Hizbollah and Hamas and the popularization of the epithet by other politicians associating a particular strand of Islamic ideology with "a new type of fascism" does more harm than good in our attempt at bridging the perception gap between the Muslim world and the West.

These buzzwords and excessive jargon, especially among American fundamentalists, have shifted us from identifying and solving the real problems and the root causes of transnational terrorism, the enemy of all world citizens.

There are some reasons why the labeling of a group of terrorists as Islamic fascists is unhelpful in our peace-making and peace-building efforts.

First, "Islamic fascism" is more a fanciful invention than an explanation of fact and historical truth. Of course President George W. Bush and others using the term do not feel the need to explain their definition and do not care about how this term might insult the Muslim majority, because for Bush and others it has becomes clear that terrorists fight against freedom and democracy. The terrorists do not use the word fascism and most moderates do not view them as such. Fascism which emerged in Italy was then used very loosely to mean all manner of things.

Second, it will incite the Muslim radicals to use more buzzwords. The term Islamic fascism can be misused by the radicals and the terrorists themselves in their counterattack. In world history, the use of buzzwords during wars is common among conflicting parties, Today there are the same buzzwords used to demonize the West, America, Jewish people and Israel, such as the "infidels", etc.

For example, in an Iranian newspaper, Bush is depicted as "the 21st century Hitler" and Tony Blair as "the 21st century Mussolini". Certainly Bush and Blair do not like to be called that.
It is thus the task of the leaders and moderate groups everywhere to moderate the extremists on both sides of the conflict. Demonization creates further demonization, and violence comes very easily from and with this. But for the 21st century generation of peacetime leaders they must stop using terms and jargon that are not in conformity with facts and realities.

Third, the moderates feel uneasy and uncomfortable about the attachment of the term fascism to the peaceful religion of Islam since fascism has been commonly used in a derogatory and negative manner. It will become harder for the moderates and liberals to bridge the gap between themselves and the radicals when they learn how Western leaders make fun of Islam by attaching extremist words to the religion.

For the moderates, terrorism, or fascism, is alien to Islam, and this should be borne in mind. When al-Qaeda uses Islam for its violent acts the moderates can easily say "that is not our Islam" and the later can work to discount their theology of violence.
But when the outsiders or the enemies of the terrorists label the terrorist group with Islamic fascism, the moderates cannot say "that Islamic fascism is not our Islam" because the terrorist themselves do not use the term nor do they show a full conformity with the characteristics of fascism.

Fourth, when Islam is attached to an extreme ideology, it may imply that Islam plays a part in the creation of such extremist ideologies. All scriptures, the Old Testament, New Testament, Veda, and the Koran can be interpreted to legitimize any strand of political ideology, but the majority of religious believers would not accept their interpretation of religious scriptures.
The feeling of the majority will not be different when for example Christianity or Judaism is associated with fascism by some. The same feeling will also arise when for example terrorism is associated with Americans -- "American terrorism", as many people in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Vietnam, describe it.

Therefore, labeling is always simplistic, but can become unhelpful and dangerous when the majority, whether they be Muslims, Americans or Westerners etc., do no share certain derogatory epithets.

If they want to refer to group of terrorists, they may name them, such as al-Qaeda, Jamaah Islamiyah, Islamic Jihad, HAMAS, Hizbollah, etc. instead of using the word Islamic for any ideology emerging from the Muslim tradition and history without a clear definition and full understanding of the characteristics and diversity of Muslim movements.

To quote French philosopher Claude Levi-Strauss: "Words are instruments that people are free to adapt to any use, provided they make clear their intentions." Categorization becomes useful and helpful if it clarifies what one is trying to say in order to facilitate communication and understanding.

The war today seems to be waged by fundamentalists on both sides, both Western fundamentalists and Muslim fundamentalists. Extremism and the use of violence have emerged from sectors of the Western peoples, as well as from the part of the Muslim world.
We may say this is the clash of fundamentalism, and in most cases, a clash of ignorance, since neither sides wishes to moderate their attitude. They fight against each other on behalf of God and in the name of God. And God might well be laughing watching His people fighting against each other, killing civilians, and destroyed civilizations in His name and in His service.

It is a difficult task for moderates and liberals in the Muslim world to explain to the Muslim audience why American leaders keep using such buzzwords as Islamic fascism to refer to a handful of terrorist groups. Why is it so easy for non-Muslim westerners to associate the noble and sacred term Islam with such a popularly perceived enemy as fascism?
Both sides, Western governments and the terrorists, have to understand the limits of their powers if peace is to be achieved. If they continue to be preachers of hate and actors of war peace will never materialize. What we need now is not to appease both Western arrogance and to appease the terrorist groups.

What we need today are "boundary leaders" who are honestly and seriously willing to transcend their own way of seeing things, to understand why they hate us as well as why we hate them, and to find pragmatic ways to solve the root causes, not by perpetuating the long-existing gaps. What we need now are convincing speeches that try to talk to and to convince as many people as possible to pursue world peace

With Azyumardi Azra in Hawaii September 2006

Bersama Prof Azyumardi Azra di Hawaii, yang diundang Seminar tentang Pendidikan Tinggi sebagai Milik Publik dan Privatisasi di East-West Center, saya mendapat banyak pengetahuan dan pengalaman yang dishare secara santai dan terus terang. Semoga kebersamaan ini menambah motivasi saya untuk terus mengembangkan ilmu dan integritas kepribadiaan yang amat mahal itu. I hope that exchange of views and experiences with Pak Azra helps me strengthen my dedication to knowledge and its development in the future for the benefit of humankind and the universe.

Belajar dari Kak Edy

Oleh: Muhamad Ali

Kak Edy, begitulah kolega yunior biasa memanggilnya. Sebagian memanggilnya Pak Azyumardi, dan orang di luar negeri Prof. atau Dr. Azra. Kami, mahasiswa dan dosen muda yang sedang studi di luar negeri, terus belajar banyak dari kiprah Kak Edy sebagai cendekiawan Muslim yang diakui dalam bidangnya, sejarah, dan kajian-kajian Islam, juga sebagai duta Islam di dunia Barat, dan sebagai manajer perguruan tinggi yang berhasil.

Cendekiawan Muslim
Dalam sebuah kesempatan, Prof Nurcholish Madjid (almarhum) memuji Kak Edy sebagai rektor dan cendekiawan yang paling sering dimintai pendapat-pendapatnya mengenai berbagai isu sosial keagamaan dan politik. Sebagai cendekiawan Muslim, Kak Edy punya wawasan luas, menerawang ke banyak sisi yang sering luput dari pengamatan banyak orang.

Dengan koleksi perpustakaan pribadi sekitar 20 ribuan saat ini, buku memang jadi teman dekatnya. Kak Edy sangat mencintai buku. Anak-anaknya ketika ulang tahun diajak ke toko buku dan disilahkan membeli buku. Bahkan untuk kemudahan akses, sudah ada on-line library sehingga kalangan akademik dan masyarakat bisa memanfaatkannya. Kak Edy sangat produktif menulis. “Saya menulis sebelum dan sesudah Subuh, karena inilah waktu yang terbaik buat saya”, dan karena itu saya berusaha tidur tidak terlalu malam.” Di manapun pergi dia coba membaca dan menulis. Kesibukan sebagai pejabat tidak membuatnya enggan menuangkan pikiran-pikirannya.

Banyak mahasiswa dan dosen muda yang meminta surat rekomendasinya untuk bisa mendapatkan beasiswa studi di luar negeri. Berpuluh-puluh, bahkan mungkin ratusan penulis, baik politisi maupun akademisi, memintanya untuk menulis kata pengantar buku-buku mereka dari berbagai disiplin ilmu. Ada kepuasan intelektual ketika penulis mendapatkan pengakuan Azyumardi Azra lewat kata pengantarnya.

Duta Islam di Barat

Seperti Ketua Umum Muhammadiyah sekarang Prof M. Dien Syamsuddin, dan Ketua PB Nahdlatul Ulama, KH Hasyim Muzadi, peranan kak Edy sebagai juru bicara Muslim Indonesia sudah dikenal dunia. Karena kemampuannya membaca sejarah dan peristiwa kontemporer, banyak cendekiawan dan diplomat di Amerika Serikat (AS) dan di Negara-negara lain memuji. Contohnya, seorang pengamat politik asal AS pernah menulis, “Pak Azra selalu memberi nilai tambah dalam setiap pertemuan mengenai Islam.” Seorang yang lain mengatakan, “Kami sangat berterima kasih atas kesediaan Pak Azra mengikuti konferensi ini.” Dan seorang profesor pernah berkata, “He is very knowledgeable and smart”.

Dalam konferensi dan tulisannya, Kak Edy menekankan bahwa Islam di Indonesia itu moderat dan anti kekerasan apalagi terorisme. Media dan pemerintah Barat masih banyak yang tidak paham ajaran Islam yang mencintai perdamaian, dan tidak paham bahwa mayoritas Muslim di dunia, terutama di Asia Tenggara, adalah moderat. Karena itu kerjasama internasional, dari berbagai agama dan ideologi politik, sangat diperlukan untuk dapat memenangkan perang melawan terorisme itu.

Kak Edy berusaha berpikir dan berpendapat obyektif sesuai dengan wawasannya. Dia berkata, “Janganlah anti Amerika secara membabi buta; kita harus kritis terhadap Amerika secara obyektif, terhadap kebijakan-kebijakan pemerintahnya yang membahayakan, tapi kita juga perlu menghargai peran Amerika dalam pendidikan dan kerjasama-kerjasama dalam berbagai bidang.”

Pak Azra adalah sosok dengan jaringan akademik dan pemerintahan yang luas. Dengan jaringan itulah, kerjasama-kerjasama pendidikan bisa lebih mungkin. Kepemimpinan terasing dan eksklusif tidak akan membantu perkembangan lembaga pendidikan tinggi. Kerjasama bisa terbuka, tidak hanya dengan Amerika Serikat, tapi juga Iran, bahkan Rusia, Cina, Timur Tengah, dan sebagainya, sejauh bertujuan mengembangkan ilmu pengetahuan.

Ketika ditanya mengapa sering ke luar negeri, Kak Edy menjawab hal itu demi pencitraan Islam Indonesia atau Asia Tenggara, Indonesia yang majemuk dan moderat, sekaligus memajukan institusi universitas yang dipimpinnya. “Datang saja ke kampus di Ciputat”, begitu jawabnya ketika orang mempertanyakan kenapa sebagai rektor dia sering ke luar negeri. “Saya tidak suka jalan-jalan, ketika diundang ke seminar-seminar ke berbagai Negara, paling-paling saya berada di tempat konferensi dan hotel tempat menginap. Saya menggunakan uang dinas untuk kepentingan dinas, dan tidak mau menggunakan uang dinas untuk kepentingan jalan-jalan, tinggal di hotel mewah, belanja, dan seterusnya. Saya menyempatkan ke toko buku.”

Manajer Perguruan Tinggi

Kerjasama-kerjasama internasional dibawah Pak Azra memang fenomenal, dari banyak pemerintah dan lembaga-lembaga swasta. Fakultas Kedokteran misalnya mendapat bantuan dana dari sebuah lembaga Jepang. Bahkan Library of Congress siap membantu perpustakaan kampus Universitas Jakarta. Seorang sejarawan Merle Ricklefs misalnya sudah berwasiat akan memberikan seluruh bukunya jika wafat nanti ke perpustakaan UIN Jakarta.

Terhadap para karyawan di kampus Pak Azra punya perhatian besar. “Jangan kita menuntut satpam untuk bekerja keras tapi gajinya sangat tidak manusiawi.” Dia merasakan korupsi sistemik di kalangan pejabat di departemen-departemen, disebabkan banyak faktor selain lemahnya penegakkan hukum, adalah gaji yang tidak layak. Korupsi para pejabat, politisi, dan masyarakat sudah akut, sehingga tugas pemberantasan korupsi juga harus melibatkan para moralis dan agamawan yang bergerak secara subtantif, dan bukan sekedar formalistik ritualistik.

Kak Edy telah berhasil mentransformasi institut yang awalnya hanya ilmu-ilmu agama konvensional menjadi Universitas Islam Negerti (UIN) yang berusaha mengintegrasi ilmu-ilmu agama dan ilmu-ilmu umum, sesuai yang dimandatkan, dan menbangun sistem pendidikan tinggi yang lebih baik, UIN menjadi universitas riset internasional di masa depa. Dengan keterbatasan yang masih ada, terutama sumber daya manusia pengajar dan karyawan, Kak Edy berharap UIN mampu mengejar ketinggalan dan berkompetisi dengan universitas-universitas lain yang lebih dahulu mapan.

Setelah rektor nanti, Kak Edy akan tetap berkiprah, akan terus membaca, menulis, dan memberikan sumbangan pemikiran bagi kemaslahatan umat dan bangsa. Kami belajar banyak dari Kak Edy, seperti dari banyak tokoh lainnya yang telah dan terus berjasa bagi pencerahan kehidupan bangsa. Bangsa ini butuh lebih banyak lagi cendekiawan pemimpin yang berdedikasi pada pengembangan ilmu pengetahuan dan keterlibatan aktif membantu bangsa ini keluar dari krisis multidimensi.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

survey U.S Image

Survey: U.S Image Deteriorates in Asia

The Jakarta Post, September 10, 2006

TOKYO (AP): The image of the United States has deteriorated across Asia in recent years, particularly in countries with large Muslim populations, according to a survey published in a Japanese newspaper Sunday.

The seven-nation survey, jointly conducted by the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, the Korea Times and the Gallup group, showed the proportion of respondents with a positive view of the U.S. image dropped in all countries from the last poll in 1995.

Positive views about the U.S. outnumbered negative ones overall, but more people said their opinion of the United States had diminished, the Yomiuri said.
"The proportion of respondents who said their perception of the United States was good slipped, and those giving negative responses increased in most of the countries compared with the results of a 1995 survey," the newspaper said.

The seven countries surveyed were Japan, India,Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam. The survey did not ask respondents why their views of the U.S. had diminished.
The rise of anti-U.S. sentiment was most evident in predominantly Muslim Malaysia, where respondents with negative views of the U.S. surged 30 percentage points to 41 percent.

In Indonesia, the world's most populous Islamic nation, the percentage of negative responses jumped 16 points to 40 percent.

In South Korea, the percentage of negative respondents increased 14 percentage points to 48 percent, while in Japan, a staunch U.S. ally, negative responses rose 7 points to 25 percent.
But in India, where the question was not asked in the 1995 survey, 83 percent said their image of the U.S. was good and only 15 percent said it was bad.

In Thailand, 74 percent of respondents said the U.S. was good, while 88.6 percent of Vietnamese queried gave positive answers.

Comparisons to the 1995 survey weren't given for the two Southeast Asian nations.
More than 1,000 people were interviewed in June and July in each of the seven countries. No margin of error was provided. (***) -->