Ministry forces out Islamic scholar


Surce: Muhammad Nafik and Wahyoe Boediwardhana, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta,
Malang (26 November 2007).

A controversial Egyptian Koranic scholar has canceled a planned appearance in Indonesia after pressure from the government. Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd was to speak at an international Islamic seminar in Malang, East Java, on Tuesday, but according to seminar organizers, dropped out after a request from the Indonesian Religious Affairs Ministry on unday.

Ministry director of Islamic higher education institutions Abdurrahman Mas’ud said his office had received demands from “people and Islamic organizations” to bar Abu Zayd rom attending. “We suggested that Abu Zayd not attend (the forum) in Malang for its
goodness and damage … It is not a ban but suggestion,” Abdurrahman said in an SMS to The Jakarta Post.

Forum committee secretary Mutmainah said Prof. Abu Zayd expressed deep regrets to the organizers for having to cancel his presence at the seminar. In an SMS forwarded by Abu Zayd to the Wahid Institute, Abdurrahman said the move against the liberal Egyptian scholar was approved by Religious Affairs Minister Maftuh Basuni. “This reminder is so crucial and final that we are not responsible for his attendance. Again sorry for this inconvenience. Thank you for the attention and cooperation, ” the SMS said.

Wahid Institute executive director Ahmad Suaedy said Abu Zayd was in Surabaya, East Java, on Sunday and will fly to Jakarta on Monday to hold a joint press conference with former president Abdurrahman Wahid at the institute’s office on Jl. Matraman. Abu Zayd has also canceled his attendance at the Annual Conference on Islamic Studies in Pekanbaru, Riau, which was opened by the religious affairs minister last Wednesday. This followed the Riau chapter of the Indonesian Ulema Council’s move to reject Abu Zayd’s presence at the forum.

Abu Zayd is well-known among Indonesian Islamic thinkers as one of the leading liberal theologists in Islam. He is famous for his work on humanistic Koranic hermeneutics. He lives in exile in the Netherlands, where he moved after suffering religious persecution in Egypt for his views on the Koran.


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