Preserving Islamic Culture and Civilization (1)

There are at least two interesting facts about Indonesia and the Muslim world. First, Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world. With more than 260 million people, Indonesia is the 4th most populous country in the world, and here Islam is the most adhered to religion. With approximately 87 % of its population are Muslims, the largest Muslim population in one country lives in Indonesia.

Second, a large number of Muslim majority countries are not Arabs. According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 20 percent of Muslims live in Arab countries. Turkey and Iran, two non-Arab countries, are the largest Muslim-majority countries in the Middle East. Meanwhile, South Asia and Southeast Asia cover around 62 percent of the world’s Muslims. Indonesia alone is home to 12.7 percent of all world’s Muslims.

These two facts show Indonesia’s unique position in the Islamic world. On the one hand, Indonesia is one of the farthest countries from the Arab World, but Islam that comes from there has been deeply rooted in the daily lives of many Indonesian Muslims. On the other hand, Indonesia which was colonized for more than three hundred years by Western colonialism, did not take for granted the inìuence of Arab cultures, and even more in contact with modernity, both directly and indirectly introduced by way of colonialism.

In short, in Indonesia, local norms and values meet the Western and Middle Eastern inìuences; this is a Muslim country that has a unique blend between the West and the Middle East. In this context, the moderation practiced generally by Indonesian society is a powerful characteristic that distinguishes its form of Islam from that of developed in other countries. This is what makes many world leaders, encourage Indonesia to play a greater role in international forums and contribute positively to world civilization. In the midst of heated conìicts and the onset of wars in various parts of the world, Indonesia – with its typical Islamic moderation — is increasingly encouraged to propose real efforts in dealing with conìicts and support peace-building in the world in due process. In late March 2019, the Director of Islamic Higher Education of Indonesia’s Ministry of Religious Affairs, Arskal Salim, invited several Indonesian experts and alumni of some notable Western and Middle Eastern universities in a special meeting.

The relatively rare but very enlightening meeting took place at the Santika Premiere Bintaro Hotel, March 27-28 2019, and was attended by Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, Indonesia’s Minister of Religious Affairs (MORA). He was accompanied by Oman Fathurahman, one of his Ministry Expert Staffs in communication and information management, as well as Kamaruddin Amin, MORA’s Director General of Islamic Education.

The forum was intended to socialize the academic drafts on Islamic studies to be introduced in a new university called IIIU (Indonesian International Islamic Universities), while bringing together experts and prospective students interested in Islamic studies in Indonesia. At the event, several experts and university alumni in Islamic studies from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Iran and other countries discussed the crucial points in the academic drafts prepared by IIIU’s national development planning, led by Komaruddin Hidayat and Bahtiar Effendy to prepare strong an academic higher institution that would contribute to understand the world better by studying Islam in its vast and different manifestations.

Several years ago, to preserve and promote Islamic culture and civilization, including Indonesia’s rich and diverse ones, Indonesia had taken an important step by establishing a new university called Indonesian International Islamic University (IIIU). UIII, or locally called Universitas Islam Internasional Indonesia (UIII), was founded under the mandate of Presidential Regulation Number 57 of 2016 on the Establishment of the Indonesian International Islamic University as a higher education with International standards. It is hoped to be a leading Islamic higher education institution in the ëelds of Islamic studies, education, political and social sciences, arts and humanities, law, economy and finance, applied and fine arts, and science and technology.

On June 5, 2018, in a formal ceremony during the holy month of Ramadan, President Jokowi Widodo laid the ërst stone of the building on the vast and green area of 143 hectares to be used as a new campus, located in Cimanggis, Depok, West Java. He gave a very inspiring speech to the audience, emphasizing the necessity for Indonesia to develop and produce scientiëc knowledge of Islam, not only for Indonesia but for the world.

In this historic moment, the President was accompanied by Jusuf Kalla, Indonesia’s Vice President, Minister of Public Housing Mochamad Basoeki Hadimoeljono, Minister of Education and Culture Muhadjir Effendy, Minister of Religion Lukman Hakim Saifuddin, as well as Ahmad Heryawan, the then-Governor of West Java. The event was also attended by hundreds of distinguised guests, ambassadors of Muslim countries, notable experts and representatives of major Islamic organizations such as Nahdlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah as well as Islamic universities across Indonesia. Rectors of several IAIN and UIN universities also participated in this inauguration of the new university.

Prof. Dr. Komaruddin Hidayat

Rector of the Indonesian International Islamic University