ISLAMABAD/ JAKARTA: A lively session of the Online Internship Program “Contemporary Dynamics of Indonesia” had an interesting an enlightening discussion on “Commitment to Islam Rahmatan Lil ‘Alamiin”. Renowned Indonesian scholar Dr. Dicky Sofjan from the Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies (ICRS) Yogyakarta, was the speaker at this session of the Online Internship Programme OIP which is a collaboration between the Indonesian Embassy and the Bahria University Islamabad.
The session discussed the contemporary challenges Muslims were facing in the ever growing multicultural world. It also shed light on the issue of tolerance, pluralism, inclusion, Islamophobia and tendencies of extremism and how Muslims embrace the change and engage with people from various culture and with different world view under the guiding principles of Wasatiyah and Islamic universal values of Rahmatanlilalamin.
“As a religion of peace, the beauty of Islam is in its universal appeal for the entire mankind with its guiding principles of moderation in life and rejection of prejudices based on race, caste and creed” the speaker said while sharing his thoughts.
Dr. Dicky Sofjan highlighted Indonesia’s mega biodiversity, rich culture, and diverse traditions, including 700 psycholinguistic groups and over 400 local indigenous belief systems. Islam is the predominant religion, alongside Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Indonesia is not an Islamic state but has “Pancasila” as its state ideology and philosophical basis, making it a diverse and multicultural country, he added.
The speaker emphasized the importance of respecting and appreciating various worldviews, stating that Muslims believe Prophet Muhammad is sent as a mercy and blessing to the Multiverse and that these teachings are relevant to contemporary contexts.
“The Islamic universal doctrine of Rahmatan Lil ‘Alamiin’s needs to be contextualized in the broader understanding that the world is moving towards a multicultural society with increasing diversity of world views becoming a reality” the speaker shared his insight.
Dr. Dicky Sofjan discussed how homogenous country like Japan was becoming multicultural due to increasing acceptance of Islam, similar to the other changes occurring in the UK and USA in line with the growing multiculturalism.
The speaker while discussing the concepts of tolerance, pluralism and inclusion dismissing that they were creating misconception that all religions were the same. He explained that tolerance embraces differences and pluralism acknowledges that people’s experiences are influenced by their environment, upbringing, and ethnic identity. He also underlined the importance of inclusion in social interactions, politics, and economy, arguing that extreme views cause conflict.
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While discussing pluralism, he also cited examples of differences within Islam and other religions like Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism. He said that the main challenge was engaging people who may be different in fundamental values, rituals, and practices arguing that studying religion and multiculturalism can help develop better understanding among people of different world views.
Dr. Dicky Sofjan attributed the rise in anti-Islamic sentiments to religious illiteracy and mistrust towards Muslims’ ability to embrace modernity and engage with others. He stressed the importance of good character in displaying Islam, stating that discrimination and stereotyping hinder the development of understanding and integration of Muslims globally.
“One of the toughest question we face is that why Muslims were economically backward, undemocratic, without technology innovation and at the lowest rankings in all indexes be it GDP, investment, education, health or financial systems” the speaker lamented.
Sharing his thoughts on the rise of the internet and digital world, he said that social media is transforming our lives in both positive and negative ways. Social media has led to negative fragmentation of religious communities with people learning Islam from the internet rather than authentic sources, he added.
“Big data analytics, machine learning with robotics, and artificial intelligence have also being used to propagate certain world views and as we move towards a multicultural world, the world becomes even more polarized causing frictions and competitions both online and offline” Dr. Dicky Sofjan said while mentioning another emerging unique and complex challenge.
As the people are coming across new cultures and ideologies, the speaker emphasized the importance of being Muslims and the significance of Islam in preventing nihilism and the notion of no meaning of life. He urged on the need for Muslims to appreciate diversity and be kind and emphatic towards others who may be different from them. He stressed the need for strategic actions and propagation and avoid being unmindful of emerging realities and challenges.
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