Vice President Jusuf Kalla says religion is not a source of conflict and that recent incidents of extremism and terrorism across the globe are the result of an incorrect interpretation of Islam.
In a public lecture at the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies in England on Thursday (18/05), the vice president touched on a variety of issues, including wealth disparities, as the root causes of radicalism in Indonesia.
“There are many root causes of radicalism – from economic, political, social and cultural factors combined. These factors then, as a rule, are justified by a twisted interpretation of religious teachings,” Kalla said in his address, as quoted in a press release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jakarta on Friday.
Kalla said the government is planning to establish an international Islamic university in Jakarta, which will become a center for teaching peace and tolerance.
He said Indonesia is contributing to regional and global peace efforts by empowering moderate Muslims, or ummatan wasatan. Despite rising religious tensions in the archipelago, Kalla said Indonesian Muslims belong in this category, because they are inclusive, tolerant and harmonious believers.
“Only by empowering moderate Muslims in Indonesia and the Islamic world can we reduce the influence of radicalism and political extremism,” Kalla said.
He added that the government is doing its best to improve the welfare of Indonesians and to eradicate poverty.
“Only through such measures can we eliminate economic injustice, which is an ideal breeding ground for political extremism,” Kalla said.
He also encouraged mosques in Indonesia to “continue to play a role in promoting tolerance and pluralism,” as well as in creating prosperity, which he said can be achieved by them creating economic opportunities.
He concluded his speech by saying: “Diversity is a blessing, but unity must be earned.”
Responding to a question related to the recent Jakarta gubernatorial election and the sentencing of incumbent Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama to a two-year prison term for blasphemy, Kalla emphasized that these events do not constitute discrimination but that it is proof of a democratic and lawful process, without government intervention.
BBC Indonesia meanwhile reported that Kalla likened Ahok’s case with breaking lèse-majesté laws, or the crime of violating the dignity of a reigning sovereign, which exist in countries such as Thailand and the United Kingdom.
“If you insult the king, you will be imprisoned. It’s similar in many other countries, including Indonesia. You cannot insult religion and Ahok – after a six-month trial – has been found guilty,” Kalla reportedly said.
The Oxford Center for Islamic Studies, established in 1985, is a recognized independent center at the University of Oxford. Its mission is to encourage the scholarly study of Islam and the Islamic world.