UIII as a Center of Excellence

The term "center of excellence" is always associated with other words, namely "civilization." In the world of science, both are not new terms. However, I felt a new energy and spirit when the term was recently conveyed by the Vice President of the Republic of Indonesia, Prof. K.H. Ma’ruf Amin.

Several weeks ago, I attended the invitation to the Coordination Meeting for the Development Progress of UIII at the Vice President's Palace of the Republic of Indonesia, Jl. Medan Merdeka Selatan No. 6, Central Jakarta. On that occasion, Vice President Ma’ruf Amin enthusiastically said that the government was building the International Islamic University of Indonesia (UIII) "to become a global center of excellence for Islamic civilization, which does not just adopt the pattern of UIN (State Islamic University) with an international campus status."

Vice President Makruf Amin's message repeats and reinforces what President Joko Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla had said much earlier that UIII is designed as a new mecca for world-class Islamic education and introduces Wasathiyah Islam which is developing and practiced in Indonesia.

He also said that, several months ago, he was visited by the Secretary-General of the Al-Muslimin Hukama Council and his staff. The purpose of the delegation's arrival was to learn from Indonesia regarding the successful implementation of Wasathiyah Islam (moderate) which is a global trend today. They are of the view that now is not the time for Arabic thoughts to be translated into Indonesian, but on the contrary, thoughts from Indonesia need to be translated into Arabic. Based on that, Vice President Maruf Amin hopes that UIII as a new campus can provide answers to expand and strengthen this global trend so that it can be applied in various parts of the world.

It is an honor and at the same time a tough task for us at UIII to be able to carry out this mandate. The input and direction from Vice President Maruf Amin became a trigger for all of us to re-read with a broader view of the university's vision and mission, after all this time we may have been too busy with some routines.

We are in a discourse room that contains major narratives such as the center of excellence, civilization, Islamic Washatiyah, etc., which have not been studied academically as is usually the case with university traditions. In the context of UIII, such academic studies must also involve international stakeholders from elements of scientists, diplomats, political leaders, research institutions, and world universities.

If we talk about Islamic civilization, for example, then our country can contribute to the Wasatiyah model of Islam which has become the tradition and practice of the Muslim community in the archipelago for centuries. However, because Islamic Civilization is cosmopolitan, we also need to be open to contributions from other Muslim countries. In other words, our epistemic community is extended into a kind of international network.

As a mechanism for the transmission of knowledge, epistemic networks become one of the foundations in building a global civilization. This network is important both at the level of theoretical and practical knowledge development, by involving governments in their respective countries.

In addition to epistemic foundations, we also need a moral foundation in its broadest sense of the word. Every civilization needs a central idea. And throughout history, the great civilization of mankind was often built upon a religious mandate as its central idea. In Indonesia, the temples of Borobudur (Buddhist) and Prambanan (Hindu) are concrete examples of how the civilization project was founded on religious ideas that are cosmopolitan, even universal, so that people around the world may feel they belong to something, regardless of their cultural and religious background.

In the context of UIII, when we talk about the Islamic civilization project, we must also consider the cosmopolitan aspect of Islamic civilization itself. What we call Indonesian Islamic civilization, one of which is Washatiyah Islam, we must place it within the framework of thinking about cosmopolitanism. Other Muslim countries, with their respective strengths and characteristics, will be in a joint project to build the so-called global Islamic civilization.

In addition to these epistemic and moral foundations, another important aspect is the institutional foundation. In this regard, UIII has and will continue to portray itself as the institutionalization of the central ideas of universal Islamic civilization, and at the same time, disseminating them in the established epistemic network.

From the establishment of UIII a few years ago until now, we have continued to strive to build networks and synergies with stakeholders, especially with other parties abroad, both government and private. There might not be any other educational institution in Indonesia that can be used as an example to build such a central project. Neither do Islamic universities in the country. It is a pioneering project. Since this is not an instant project, it might take some time to get it established. Also, it takes a fair amount of time to judge its successes and failures.