Extremism Isn't Islamic Law (K.H. Abdurrahman Wahid)

For a few days this year the world's media focused an intense spotlight on the drama of a modern-day inquisition. Abdul Rahman, a Muslim convert to Christianity, narrowly escaped the death penalty for apostasy when the Afghan government -- acting under enormous international pressure -- sidestepped the issue by ruling that he was insane and unfit to stand trial. This unsatisfactory ruling left unanswered a question of enormous significance: Does Islam truly require the death penalty for apostasy, and, if not, why is there so little freedom of religion in the so-called Muslim world?

The Koran and the sayings of the prophet Muhammad do not definitively address this issue. In fact, during the early history of Islam, the Agreement of Hudaibiyah between Muhammad and his rivals stipulated that any Muslim who converted out of Islam would be allowed to depart freely to join the non-Muslim community. Nevertheless, throughout much of Islamic history, Muslim governments have embraced an interpretation of Islamic law that imposes the death penalty for apostasy.

It is vital that we differentiate between the Koran, from which much of the raw material for producing Islamic law is derived, and the law itself. While its revelatory inspiration is divine, Islamic law is man-made and thus subject to human interpretation and revision. For example, in the course of Islamic history, non-Muslims have been allowed to enter Mecca and Medina. Since the time of the caliphs, however, Islamic law has been interpreted to forbid non-Muslims from entering these holy cities. The prohibition against non-Muslims entering Mecca and Medina is thus politically motivated and has no basis in the Koran or Islamic law.

In the case of Rahman, two key principles of Islamic jurisprudence come into play. First, al-umuru bi maqashidiha ("Every problem [should be addressed] in accordance with its purpose"). If a legal ordinance truly protects citizens, then it is valid and may become law. From this perspective, Rahman did not violate any law, Islamic or otherwise. Indeed, he should be protected under Islamic law, rather than threatened with death or imprisonment. The second key principle is al-hukm-u yadullu ma'a illatihi wujudan wa adaman ("The law is formulated in accordance with circumstances"). Not only can Islamic law be changed -- it must be changed due to the ever-shifting circumstances of human life. Rather than take at face value assertions by extremists that their interpretation of Islamic law is eternal and unchanging, Muslims and Westerners must reject these false claims and join in the struggle to support a pluralistic and tolerant understanding of Islam.

All of humanity, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, is threatened by the forces of Islamist extremism. It is these extremists, masquerading as traditional Muslims, who angrily call for the death of Abdul Rahman or the beheading of Danish cartoonists. Their objective is raw political power and the eventual radicalization of all 1.3 billion Muslims worldwide. Western involvement in this "struggle for the soul of Islam" is a matter of self-preservation for the West and is critical given the violent tactics and strength of radical elements in Muslim societies worldwide.

Muslim theologians must revise their understanding of Islamic law, and recognize that punishment for apostasy is merely the legacy of historical circumstances and political calculations stretching back to the early days of Islam. Such punishments run counter to the clear Koranic injunction "Let there be no compulsion in religion" (2:256).

People of goodwill of every faith and nation must unite to ensure the triumph of religious freedom and of the "right" understanding of Islam, to avert global catastrophe and spare millions of others the fate of Sudan's great religious and political leader, Mahmoud Muhammad Taha, who was executed on a false charge of apostasy. The millions of victims of "jihadist" violence in Sudan -- whose numbers continue to rise every day -- would have been spared if Taha's vision of Islam had triumphed instead of that of the extremists.

The greatest challenge facing the contemporary Muslim world is to bring our limited, human understanding of Islamic law into harmony with its divine spirit -- in order to reflect God's mercy and compassion, and to bring the blessings of peace, justice and tolerance to a suffering world.

The writer is a former president of Indonesia. From 1984 to 1999 he directed the Nadhlatul Ulama, the world's largest Muslim organization. He serves as senior adviser and board member to LibForAll Foundation, an Indonesian- and U.S.-based nonprofit that works to reduce religious extremism and terrorism.

(Washington Post, May 23, 2006, editorial page)

Get well soon...

Jangan kelamaan sakitnya ya.
Sedih saya.

Biarpun saya kadang-kadang jengkel sama kamu.
Sering-sering bosan mendengar keluhanmu.

Tapi saya senang mendengar suaramu waktu kamu tahu-tahu menelepon cuma untuk bilang: "Kok masih di kantor?" (Lah, sama kan?). Atau saat kepalamu muncul dari balik pintu ruangan saya. Apalagi ketika saya lihat kamu muncul bersama temanmu di restoran tempat saya makan siang dengan kawan-kawan kita yang lain, padahal tadi kamu menolak ajakan saya untuk bergabung di tempat yang sama, hihihihi....

Cepat sembuh, ya, Dasi Merah:-).

Voice for Papua


please check out this new blog, Voice for Papua, and let the administrators know what you think about it.

Proliferation on the exhaustive issue? I don't think there is such a proliferation for efforts to provide better life and more justice for our brothers and sisters there.

Sharing birthday with... a ghost?

The Embassy of Indonesia in Washington DC is seated in a beautiful mansion that once belonged to the wealthy Walsh family, the quite high profile socialites back in the early years of the twentieth century. Evalyn Walsh-McLean, the only daughter of tycoon Thomas Walsh, was not only well known for being an American mining heiress as well the wife of Edward Beale McLean (the heir of The Washington Post publisher), but also for possessing the Hope Diamond. Legend says that the 400-year old, 67-carat diamond -- now safe in Smithsonian Institution -- had become a curse for its propietors. (But then, which diamond wouldn't be? People fight and die to have even a much smaller one!)

The urban legend also says that the mansion (aka the Indonesian Embassy building!) is haunted. Several people, including some embassy's staff or their family member, have claimed to see Evalyn's ghost at some certain points. Since I came here, I've never had such a chilling experience, though I often work until very late at night. So those stories never really bothered me.

Anyway, I just found out today that Evalyn shared the same birthday with me! Ha! How do you see the fact? Interesting? Spooky? Both? Or neither?

By the way, check out a short version of the Walsh mansion now occupied by the Indonesian Embassy here. I'll find some times later to share with you the complete story.

Step Back in Time

Thank you, for revealing it.

I got your message: let's move on with our lives. (Damn! Why should it feel like a slap on my face?)

So this is a reply from my angelic personality: Good luck. Like I told you, there is real-life case for such scenario. Anything is, therefore, possible. Moreover, when you want to pursue it, you will. And no, I don't buy sentences like "it was not intended for the recipient." Judging from previous experience, that may well be a gambling thing, heheheh... (Hm, maybe now my evil personality is speaking. Or is it the human side?).

As for me, I know I will have to step back now. Should've done it much, much, much earlier, actually. When I took the decision. And not let myself entrapped in my own mixed emotions, or deceived by false perceptions, conclusions and floating hopes which based on what -- some meaningless cyber-conversations? Duh. The evidence has been there all this time, before my very eyes. Silly me! *jitak kepala sendiri, keras-keras! Bangun, bangun!*

Hanya dalam hitungan beberapa jam...


Saya : "Ya?
Dia : "Hey! Saya sudah kasih ke kamu dokumen bla-bla-bla itu, belum?"
Saya : "Oh, yang isinya bla-bla-bla?"
Dia : "Iya, betul itu!"
Saya : "Sudah di sini kok. Terima kasih ya.."
Dia : "Sama-sama. (diam sejenak). OK deh."
Saya : "OK..." (nada suara agak diperpanjang, bersiap-siap pihak sebelah sana menutup gagang telepon duluan)
Dia : "...Eh! Kamu enak ya.."
Saya : "Enak? Enak kenapa?"
Dia : "Kamu tidak usah buat appointment dengan kontakmu."
Saya : "HEH?" (benar-benar tidak mengerti)
Dia : "Iya. Kamu satu kelompok dengan Mas Anu kan?"
Saya : "Yap. Lalu?"
Dia : "Itu dia. Kamu tidak usah buat appointment dengan kontakmu."
Saya : "Loh, memang kenapa? Yang bersangkutan sudah dihubungi Mas Anu?"
Dia : "Tidak juga. Saya yang disuruh Mas Anu untuk menghubungi orang-orang itu."

Ah! Begitu toh!

Saya : "Wah, maaf, saya tidak tahu apa-apa soal itu. Terima kasih banyak sudah memberitahu saya. Tapi maksud kamu apa dengan mengatakan hal ini ke saya?"
Dia : "Wah, tidak ada apa-apa kok." (nada suara agak kaget).
Saya : "Hm. Ya sudah. Terima kasih sekali lagi."
Dia : "Eh iya..".

Setelah beberapa detik keheningan:

Saya : "OK deh. Terima kasih dokumennya ya."
Dia : "Sama-sama..."


Saya tidak tahu mengapa kamu melakukannya. Menyindir karena kamu melakukan hal yang seharusnya saya, sang "pejabat negara" alias "keparat pemerintah" yang melaksanakannya? Sekedar bercerita? Atau untuk menunjukkan bahwa kamu lebih memahami aspek-aspek dari pekerjaan yang akan kita usung bersama ini?

Sayang sekali. Baru tadi siang saya mengatakan kepada seorang teman baik bahwa hari ini kamu tampak sungguh tampan, dan matamu bagus sekali, bersinar. Dalam hitungan beberapa jam, semuanya berubah. Sayang sekali.

Not So Ideal Idol

Why oh why such an asshole like Taylor Hicks could pass with striking number of votes? I'd have to craft a perfect strategy to rule the world and afterward impose a regulation which strictly prohibits snobs - no matter how talented they are - to join any competition! Instead, they should be sent to dog obedience schools!