The world isn’t going to banish Islam, but it can and must banish the scourge of Islamic extremism. This will require Muslims and non-Muslims to work together, drawing on peaceful aspects of Islamic teaching to encourage respect for religious pluralism and the fundamental dignity of every human being.
The most enduring way to address an extremist religious ideology is to recontextualize its teachings and reform it from within. Four centuries ago, Catholics and Protestants routinely killed each other; now they coexist. I believe the same type of change can occur within Islam in one or two generations. What’s needed is a credible alternative that is consistent with Islamic orthodoxy and developed and promulgated by those with religious and political authority in the Muslim world.
Indonesia’s Nahdlatul Ulama, the world’s largest independent Muslim organization, for which I serve as general secretary, is promoting such an alternative. Positioned firmly within the spiritual, intellectual and legal traditions of orthodox Sunni Islam, we recognize that much of the fiqh constitutes not the unchanging, spiritual essence of religion, known as thawabit, but rather its historically contingent expressions, or mutaghayyirat. These latter expressions of Islam may be changed.
Countless Indonesian Muslims have taken up this task of reform in recent decades. Starting in the 1980s, prominent heirs to this tradition led Nahdlatul Ulama officially to sanction collective ijtihad: the application of independent reason to renew temporal elements of fiqh and ensure that Islamic teaching and practice embody universal love and compassion, the primary message of Islam.
The most enduring way to address an extremist religious ideology is to recontextualize its teachings and reform it from within, writes Yahya Cholil Staquf https://t.co/BG9m162al4
— WSJ Editorial Page (@WSJopinion) January 15, 2021