Jakarta. With just a few days to go until Barack Obama arrives in Indonesia, a prominent American Islamic scholar has called on President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to show the Western world the true face of Islam.
“The real battleground is between the moderates of all religions against the radicals of all religions,” Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, founder and chief executive of the American Society for Muslim Advancement and leader of the Al-Farah mosque in New York, said at the State Palace in Central Jakarta on Friday.
Feisal was giving a lecture to Yudhoyono and his cabinet as part of the series of presidential lectures held regularly at the palace.
During the talk, Feisal said the president’s meeting with Obama next week presented an opportunity to promote cooperation and change negative perceptions of Islam.
“By working together, we can help break the cycle of fear, of misunderstanding and of violence that threatens the stability of the world,” he said.
“You will have the opportunity to discuss with my president in the next few days … how we can work together and cooperate together to create this kind of momentum — global momentum.”
Feisal said Muslims should be responsible to help change negative attitudes toward Islam by intensifying interfaith dialogue and fighting radicalism.
Radicalism, he said, was now one of the top three issues threatening world security, alongside weapons of mass destruction and global warming.
“I am convinced that with the right behavior, the right ethics, we will change the hearts and minds of people in America toward Islam,” he said.
“We will be an architect of a global movement of peace, bridge what divides us as human beings.”
Feisal said trust and mutual understanding was needed to create harmony.
Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, although its long-held reputation as a tolerant country has in recent years been eroded by increasing religious fundamentalism and violence against religious minorities, including attacks on churches and minority Muslim sects.
Speaking after the lecture, Yudhoyono said the country was working hard to maintain harmony and promote tolerance.
“I have to admit that maintaining harmony, brotherhood and togetherness is not to be taken for granted,” he said.
“There’s always challenges, there’s always problems, especially in this era of globalization where there is a network of radicalism that spans the globe.”
Yudhoyono said Islam was one of the most misunderstood religions, among Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and it was important to spread the true teachings of Islam.
“We must fight to eliminate Islamophobia and other current sources of humiliation for Muslims,” he said.
“It is a matter of emotion, it is a matter of psychology.”