Every time terrorists kill innocents in the name of Islam, Muslims all over the world pay the price for those inhumane actions.
Islamophobic sentiments are running high. The Muslim population fears demonization after the recent mass killing in California and the devastating attacks in Paris — despite the fact that Muslim leaders and scholars all around the world have condemned and denounced such incidents as un-Islamic.
Many in the Western world fail to realize that the Islamic State group is pushing to spread rigid, medieval version of Islam, brainwashing people to accept that such extremism is the devout Muslim’s religious duty.
In reality, ISIS ideology is nothing but the missionary efforts of Wahabi preachers. For those unaware, Wahabism is an ultra-conservative reform movement, fueled by Saudi Arabia, that rejects the modern notion of the separation of church and state.
Since people have come to associate Muslims with this version of fanaticism, a very large Muslim organization in Indonesia has declared that it is the time to fight back.
Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest independent Islamic group with 50 million members, has launched its global anti-extremism initiative. The part Sunni, part political and part charity organization aims “to spread messages about a tolerant Islam in their respective countries to curb radicalism, extremism and terrorism,” which “often spring from a misinterpretation of Islamic teachings.”
The NU also released a feature-length film, The Divine Grace of East Indies Islam, to criticize the Islamic State’s interpretations of the Quran and Hadith.
“The spread of a shallow understanding of Islam renders this situation critical, as highly vocal elements within the Muslim population at large — extremist groups — justify their harsh and often savage behavior by claiming to act in accord with God's commands, although they are grievously mistaken,” said Mustofa Bisri, the spiritual leader of the group. “According to the Sunni view of Islam, every aspect and expression of religion should be imbued with love and compassion, and foster the perfection of human nature.”
In December 2014, NU created an American nonprofit called Bayt ar-Rahmah in North Carolina to serve as headquarters for its international activities. Moreover, the organization is also planning “an international conference and cultural event in Washington, D.C.” in spring 2016, according to the Huffington Post.
Nahdlatul Ulama’s other notable initiatives include a “prevention center” in Indonesia that will train Arabic-speaking students to combat jihadist rhetoric. It has also formed a joint program with the University of Vienna, Austria to "produce counter-narratives against radical ideas and propagate them globally.”
“We are directly challenging the idea of Isis, which wants Islam to be uniform, meaning that if there is any other idea of Islam that is not following their ideas, those people are infidels who must be killed,” Yahya Cholil, general secretary of the organization’s supreme council, told The New York Times. “We will show that is not the case with Islam.”
While there are some domestic concerns about the organization in Indonesia, one thing is for certain: There is an imminent need for such an initiative since the country with world’ biggest Muslim population has suffered its fair share of terrorism.
Nahdlatul Ulama founded nearly 90 years ago to combat Wahabism. Watch the trailer for their 90-minute long anti-ISIS movie below: