Scholars urge universities to promote moderate Islam

Updated 15 August 2017
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Scholars urge universities to promote moderate Islam

JAKARTA: A conference of Islamic scholars from Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Malaysia on Monday explored the role of universities in strengthening moderate Islamic thought.
They urged Muslim communities to combat religious extremism and societal division by spreading knowledge about moderate Islam.
The conference was organized by the Muslim World League (MWL) and Al-Azhar Indonesia University in Jakarta.
The scholars said intensifying dialogue on moderate Islam will help veer young Muslims away from those who want to destroy the religion, its people and its civilization.
In his opening remarks, MWL Secretary-General Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa said a small faction of the roughly 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide has distorted understanding of Islam.
“The majority of Muslims around the world understand the right conception about Islam, except a minority few who have no idea about the core of Islamic teachings,” he said, adding that universities play an important role in rectifying misconceptions about Islam and terrorism.
Daesh “is just a small community in Islam, but it’s widespread due to the proliferation of the Internet. It’s our obligation, including universities, to set the record straight about the real Islamic teachings.”
Jakarta’s Governor-elect Anies Rasyid Baswedan, who was a panelist at the conference, said extremism flourishes when people do not think critically.
“It’s not just religious extremism but extremism in any field, any sector. University is the place to nurture critical thinking and creativity,” said the former rector of Paramadina University and education minister.
Indonesia has had to deal with rising extremism among its youths. A 2016 study by the Wahid Institute in Jakarta showed that more than 60 percent of 1,626 activists in Islamic study groups in schools and universities expressed willingness to wage what they believe is jihad in areas torn by religious conflict.
According to police data, some 600 Indonesians have gone to Syria to join Daesh. Some have returned in phases, most recently a group of 18 Indonesians who arrived in Jakarta on Saturday and are in police detention.
A Wahid Institute survey released in February showed that Indonesia saw an increase in violations of religious freedom from 190 in 2015 to 204 last year.
Institute Director Yenny Wahid said while the common perception is that lack of education is the main cause of radicalization, the survey found that economic inequality and feelings of alienation contributed the most to radicalization.
Speakers at the conference said it is important for the MWL and educational and social institutions in Indonesia to cooperate further to provide educational assistance to Muslims in Southeast Asia, roll out development programs in the region and address problems such as poverty.
Indonesian Religious Affairs Minister Lukman Hakim Saifuddin said moderation is an Islamic characteristic that promotes fairness, respect for diversity and openness to various groups in society.
“One of the main principles of dialogue to maintain diversity and togetherness is not to look down on other people and insult other religions’ symbols, which could cause a backlash,” he said.
Din Syamsuddin, head of the Indonesian Council of Ulemma’s advisory board, said in order for various faiths’ followers to get along, they should respect each other’s religious domains.


British boat rescues migrants trying to cross Channel

Updated 43 min 27 sec ago
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British boat rescues migrants trying to cross Channel

  • British border officials have picked up 34 people who were trying to cross the English Channel in a small boat
  • The Home Office said the passengers are thought to be migrants and their nationalities were not known yet

LONDON: A British boat rescued 34 migrants crossing the Channel aboard a small motorised boat on Monday, Britain's interior ministry said.
"Today Border Force responded to an incident in the Channel involving a small boat containing 34 people," the ministry said in a statement.
"The group were brought to Dover and have been transferred to immigration officials for interview," it added, saying that men, women and children were on board and that three men were arrested on suspicion of immigration offences.
French authorities earlier said that "a fishing boat gave the alarm shortly after 8:00 am (0700 GMT)" after spotting the boat off the tip of northern France.
French navy, police and customs launched a helicopter, a tug boat and three fast vessels, while sea rescue services also tried to rescue the migrants.
By the time they reached the migrants' location, however, "they had crossed over to the English side" of the Channel where they were picked up by a British vessel, said the regional authority in northern France.
Two British Border Force cutters and a coastal patrol vessel were involved in the rescue, according to UK authorities.
Some 500 people -- most of them over the last two months of 2018 -- attempted to cross the Channel to Britain last year, compared with just 13 known attempts in 2017.
French interior ministry figures show 276 people successfully reached British waters last year.
London in December dispatched a navy ship to help coastguard boats watch over the 21 miles (33 kilometres) of sea that separate France and Britain at its narrowest point.
France also responded by announcing broader surveillance measures in early January.
The number of Channel crossings was just a tiny fraction of the 55,756 successful attempts made across the Mediterranean to Spain that were recorded by the UN's refugee agency in 2018.