One of Indonesia’s most influential Muslim leaders, Yahya Cholil Staquf, 51, admitted in an interview that Islam and terrorism are linked.
The interview, which was first published on Aug. 19 in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, has been translated and published in TIME from the original Bahasa Indonesia into English.
According to Yahya Cholil Staquf, “Western politicians should stop pretending that extremism and terrorism have nothing to do with Islam.”
“There is a clear relationship between fundamentalism, terrorism, and the basic assumptions of Islamic orthodoxy,” he explains. “Radical Islamic movements are nothing new. They’ve appeared again and again throughout our own history in Indonesia. The West must stop ascribing any and all discussion of these issues to “Islamophobia.” Or do people want to accuse me — an Islamic scholar — of being an Islamophobe too?”
Yahya is one of the most influential Islamic leaders in Indonesia. He is the general secretary of the Nahdlatul Ulama, the countries biggest Muslim organization of around 50 million members. Yahya pushes for a modern, moderate Islam and can clearly identify the issues surrounding the ideology at present.
“Within the classical tradition, the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims is assumed to be one of segregation and enmity,” he continues. “Perhaps there were reasons for this during the Middle Ages, when the tenets of Islamic orthodoxy were established, but in today’s world such a doctrine is unreasonable. To the extent that Muslims adhere to this view of Islam, it renders them incapable of living harmoniously and peacefully within the multi-cultural, multi-religious societies of the 21st century.”
Although Yahya explains Islam is not the only factor which causes segregates Muslims in the west and their native neighbors, he does admit “traditional Islam — which fosters an attitude of segregation and enmity toward non-Muslims — is an important factor.”
He also explains in traditional Islam “the state is a single, universal entity that unites all Muslims under the rule of one man who leads them in opposition to, and conflict with, the non-Muslim world,” and that the call of ISIS, to create a caliphate, is not un-Islamic.
“[ISIS’s] goal of establishing a global caliphate stands squarely within the orthodox Islamic tradition,” he says. “But we live in a world of nation-states. Any attempt to create a unified Islamic state in the 21st century can only lead to chaos and violence … Many Muslims assume there is an established and immutable set of Islamic laws, which are often described as shariah.”
“Any [fundamentalist] view of Islam positing the traditional norms of Islamic jurisprudence as absolute [should] be rejected out of hand as false. State laws [should] have precedence,” he adds.
“I would guess that you and I agree that there is a far right wing in Western societies that would reject even a moderate, contextualized Islam,” the interviewer asks Yahya.