“Indian Muslims are better than Indonesian Muslims in various aspects. They have advanced religious scholarship and thoughts, the phenomenal progress that Indian Muslims have achieved.That was because we have been facing more challenges here, as a minority, than you people have to deal with”
“Indian Muslims are better than Indonesian Muslims in various aspects. They have advanced religious scholarship and thoughts, the phenomenal progress that Indian Muslims have achieved”, said a well-known Indian writer to me at my visit to his resident in the Muslim area of Nizamuddin, New Delhi. The Mawlana was sitting on the flour surrounded by a lot of Islamic books – many of them are written in Arabic and Urdu – wearing a simple dress, white in color. It was an honor for me to sit with this respected and wise man who has achieved numerous international awards including that of the noble award. His opinion on the comparison between Indian Muslims and Indonesian Muslims was quite right to me since many religious books are written by Indian Muslim scholars, a lot of genius fatwas were issued and new thoughts were produced by Indian ulamas. In other words, India has produced numerous prominent Muslim intellectuals. All these facts proved their high ability and excellent quality.
“That was because we have been facing more challenges here, as a minority, than you people have to deal with”, he continued. I listened to him and come to the conclusion that the challenge he meant must be referred to the anti-Muslim movement. As a nation, India had been shaken by several religious problems. Since the partition, the nation was threatened with disintegration. When India was set free on August 15, 1947, the whole country was caught in the grip of a severe anti-Muslim wave. The struggle between Hindus and Muslims is the immortal phenomena. The incident in Bombay and Hindu-Muslim clash in Gujarat and the demolition of the Babri Masjid were well-recorded in our mind. As the result, many Muslim groups aroused, named by the government as fundamentalist groups. The police department blames that these groups were responsible for severe bomb blasts and other terror acts in India. The attack on Indian Parliament in New Delhi on Dec. 13, 2001, killing 14 people, was done by an Indian Muslim allegedly facilitated by foreign Islamic guerrillas, or vise versa.
On the other hand, Muslims in Indonesia are the majority (Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world), therefore they have lesser challenges and enjoyed the position of a major religious group. Islam in Indonesia appears in its peaceful face – at least before religious chaos occurred in Poso, Celebes. Indonesia is the sample of the country where the minority enjoys the equal right with the majority and can live without having to worry about their safety. I told the Mawlana that Indonesia was Hindu before the advent of Islam in the region. The remnant of Hindu architecture can be seen throughout the archipelago. Reversely, Muslim emperors had ruled India for centuries, but left only 15% are Muslims from the total population. “But we are good in quality instead of quantity”, the Mawlana smiled. I wonder, what quality did he mean?. Though many Indian Muslims personalities deserve thumbs up, but we can not ignore the ignorant Muslims who practice Hindu teachings and believe in Hindu deities.
There are many religious groups in India, some are more radical than others. That is because they felt discriminated and alienated by the Hindus. That kind of feeling is commonly found in the minor community which I call minority complex, or minority panic. Thus appeared two divisions of Indian Muslims, one is extreme and the other moderate. Each division strives to disseminate its thought and opinion about their belief. The competition between the two divisions makes them strong and progressive in their thought. Yet the dispute between them, don’t make them apart because as a Muslim community vis-à-vis Hindu community they are united. The struggle between two divisions has produced the man like Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, Wahiduddin Khan and Ashghar Ali Engineer, fighters of pluralism. The conservative and extreme groups have provoked the opposite groups to maintain peace and become more tolerant to the current condition as a minority.
Contrary, in the case of Indonesia, The Muslims are already moderate in its origin. The five religions known to the country – Islam, Catolic, Protestan, Hindu, Budhis - live peacefully side by side. The communal riot rarely happened. The Muslims don’t face any significant challenges from other religious groups. Yes, the feeling of insecurity against other religious groups existed but it was provoked by the outsiders, not originally comes out from the heart of the Islamic adherent of Indonesia. The nature of the people is love in peace and Islam too came to Indonesia by peace. Yet some Indonesian Muslims consider it was necessary to struggle for the minority cause. Abdurrahman Wahid, Nurcholis Madjid, Ulil Absar Abdalla are worthy of mention as the fighters of pluralism in Indonesia. Ulil often refers to Ashgar’s thought as found in almost all of his articles. Moreover, he goes far beyond what Ashgar or Wahiduddin might think about Islam and Islamic law. He has been influenced, in considerable range, by Ahmadiyah teachings, the sect that was unaccepted in India, its own birthplace. He once received the death sentence by the Fatwa of a group of ulama, due to his view saying that Muhammad was not the last prophet. Ulil-kind of intellectual has proceeded to provoke Indonesian Muslims to resist and counter his view.
In India the challenges comes from the non-Muslim first and then it divides Muslim into moderate and radical. From that condition aroused the progressive and reputable intellectuals. While in Indonesia the problem comes from Muslim itself who have much worried of disintegration, thus offers unnecessary care for the non-muslims – things that the non-muslim don’t really need it – and at last encountered by other Muslims. The wise Mawlana who was sitting with me may now begins to realize that the challenge for Indonesian Muslim has been increasing now and Insha Allah will benefit us as it did to Indian Muslim.