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Al-Tawassuṭ wa-l I‘tidāl: The NU and Moderatism in Indonesian Islam

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Abstract Moderate Islam is a paradox. In the United States, Muslim intellectuals and activists use this term with super caution and reservation, avoid it when possible. In contrast to that, their counterparts in Indonesia enthusiastically and proudly claim to be the champions of moderate Islam. The question is why those intellectuals and activists from the same religion but coming from different continent and type of country responded the idea of moderate Islam differently, if not contradistinctively. Given that this term is commonly used as a translation of Qur’anic term umma wasaṭ, it is also important to ask the meaning of this term in Islamic history, how Muslim exegetes throughout Islam history conceptualise umma wasaṭ? And finally, how Indonesian Muslims define moderatism after the 9/11 and what are the criteria of moderate Islam in their views? By analysing the concept of moderate Islam as adopted by the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the largest Islamic movement in Indonesia, this article shows that the meaning moderate in Indonesia is more theological, while in the US it is more political. Moderate Islam in Indonesia is more related to the doctrine of Aswaja, while in the US this notion has more connection with George W. Bush’s ‘war on terror.’

Affiliations: 1: University of California Santa Barbara


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