Prof. James Hosterey’s Lecture on ‘Wasathiyyah Islam in a Globalizing World’ at UIII

February 06, 2024

Contributor: Kante Hamed | Editor: Supriyono

UIII, DEPOK - January 10, 2024, marked a significant milestone for the Universitas Islam Internasional Indonesia (UIII) with the closing of its foundational Wasathiyyah Course. The momentous event featured a keynote lecture titled “Wasathiyyah Islam in a Globalizing World” led by the renowned Prof. James Hosterey from Emory University, the United States.

The virtual gathering saw over 130 students deepening their understanding of Wasathiyyah Islam, a principle of moderation within Islam, and its broader impact in the context of our increasingly interconnected world. This Zoom session, which ran from 19.00 to 20.30 Jakarta time, served as the concluding segment of a UIII-organized series aimed at broadening students' perspectives in Islamic studies.

A leading figure in academic circles, Prof. Hosterey is at the helm of a significant research project that delves into the interplay of diplomacy, soft power, and the crafting of "moderate Islam" in regions like Egypt, Morocco, and Indonesia. Funded by the Henry Luce Foundation's Program on Religion & International Affairs, his work is a testament to his profound influence in the realm of religious diplomacy.

In his lecture, Prof. Hosterey, known for his in-depth research on Indonesia, provided valuable insights from his recent work on Wasathiyyah. His presentation transcended traditional theological discourse, weaving in elements of sociology and diplomacy. He shared his experiences from visits to Indonesian pesantren (Islamic boarding school) and interactions in various high-level political and social circles.

A particularly captivating part of his talk involved exploring the nuanced distinction between "true" and "false" Muslim identities and how moderate Islam is perceived in both Western and Indonesian contexts. He discussed the strategic use of soft power, leveraging cultural and value-based approaches for influence, which he illustrated with examples such as Indonesia's diplomatic response to the Bali bombing incident.

Prof. Hosterey also shed light on the phenomenon of ‘Arabisation’ in Indonesian Islam and its depiction in everyday life, drawing contrasts between Egyptian and Indonesian representations of Islam in media, using "Ayat-Ayat Cinta" a novel by Habiburrahman El Shirazy as an example.

The session wrapped up with an interactive 45-minute Q&A segment, stimulating active discussion among the students. Dr. Zezen Zaenal Mutaqin, a prominent faculty member at UIII’s Faculty of Islamic Studies, detailed the Wasathiyyah course methodology, underlining its flexibility to suit the diverse educational needs of the students.

Prof. Hosterey concluded the lecture with a note of appreciation for his colleagues at UIII whilst leaving the attendees with a richer understanding of Wasathiyyah Islam's relevance in societal, diplomatic, and everyday contexts.

This event signifies a crucial achievement for UIII in its endeavor to deliver a well-rounded and insightful Islamic studies education, nurturing a generation of students adept at navigating the intricacies of their faith in today's global landscape.