In a political environment where terrorism and Islam have taken center stage, Abdurrahman Wahid, the former president of Indonesia and former head of the Nahdlatul Ulama – a Muslim organization counting more than 40 million members based on religious values – addressed these issues last night to members of the University community.

Shabina Khatri
LISA OSHINSKY/Daily
Former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid speaks yesterday at the School of Social Work.

Wahid, who is blind, discussed terrorism in Southeast Asia, the presence of militant Muslims in Indonesia and the relationship between Islam and the West. But much of his lecture, titled “Moderate Muslim Assessment of Terrorism in Southeast Asia,” focused on the looming war in Iraq.

Wahid – or Gus Dur, as he is also known – is a proponent of inter-ethnic tolerance, pluralism and interfaith, which promotes moderate Muslim views. He was president from 1999 to 2001, and was educated in Indonesia, Egypt, Iraq and Canada. Currently, he is a member of the advisory board of NU.

The presence of militant Muslims presents a continual threat to peace in Indonesia, Wahid said.

“Militant Muslims in Indonesia try to disturb peace … as in the case of Bali,” Wahid said, referring to the October 2002 bombings in Bali, which were attributed to terrorists.

Indonesia has been the site of continual conflict between Muslims and Christians, especially in recent years with the emergence of terrorist campaigns by the Laskar Jihad, he said. The group is a paramilitary organization whose members say they are waging a holy war against Christians in the Moluccan Islands.

While militant terrorist activities continue to be a problem in Indonesia, Wahid said, the threat is diminishing. “All in all, terrorist attacks are subsiding,” Wahid said.

He added that if the government is able to effectively curb militant Muslim activities, terrorist attacks can be stopped.

“In the past, there was no control,” Wahid said. Terrorists “were able to bomb, like in Bali,” Wahid said.

Addressing the relationship between Islam and the West, Wahid said Muslim youth feel endangered by the West.

But the differences between the two cultures do not have to result in violence, he said.

“We are different from each other but that doesn’t mean that we have to be against each other,” Wahid said. “We will be able to overcome the challenges of Western civilization.”

In the political climate after the Sept. 11 attacks, Wahid said the public needs to be educated about Islam.

“We have to explain to the masses,” Wahid said. “Osama bin Laden is not Muslim.”

He said Bush’s pre-emptive war in Iraq is largely based on Middle Eastern oil.

“I feel that George Bush will fail in his objectives,” Wahid said. He added that the Southeast Asian nations will speak out against U.S. action if a full-fledged war takes place.

Cleaven Yu, an Engineering graduate student, said the lecture was an excellent way to understand the current political situation.

“Islam and terrorism are such a hot topic right now,” Yu said. “What better way is there to learn about them than from a well-versed person?”

effectively curb militant Muslim activities, terrorist attacks can be stopped.

“In the past, there was no control,” Wahid said. Terrorists “were able to bomb, like in Bali,” Wahid said.

Addressing the relationship between Islam and the West, Wahid said Muslim youth feel endangered by the West. But the differences between the two cultures do not have to result in violence, he said.

“We are different from each other but that doesn’t mean that we have to be against each other,” Wahid said. “We will be able to overcome the challenges of Western civilization.”

In the political climate after the Sept. 11 attacks, Wahid said the public needs to be educated about Islam.

“We have to explain to the masses,” Wahid said. “Osama bin Laden is not Muslim.”

He said Bush’s pre-emptive war in Iraq is largely based on Middle Eastern oil.

“I feel that George Bush will fail in his objectives,” Wahid said. He added that the Southeast Asian nations will speak out against U.S. action if a full-fledged war takes place.

Cleaven Yu, an Engineering graduate student, said the lecture was an excellent way to understand the current political situation.

“Islam and terrorism are such a hot topic right now,” Yu said. “What better way is there to learn about them than from a well-versed person?”

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