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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Violence in contemporary Indonesian Islamist scholarship: Habib Rizieq Syihab and the 'enjoining good and forbidding evil' (International Workshop on Islamic Peace Ethics)

The workshop “Islamic Peace Ethics: Legitimate and Illegitimate Violence in Contemporary Islamic Thought” was held from 15th to 17th October 2015 in Hamburg, Germany. It was organized in the frame of an ongoing research project on contemporary Islamic peace ethics at Institute for Theology and Peace (Institut für Theologie und Frieden, ithf). Ithf is a research institute that studies since 1978 the theological and ethical aspects of peace and war from Catholic-Christian perspective. The institute views, however, researches on peace in other traditions a part of its task as a contribution to the interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding. In this regard ithf has had several research projects about peace and war in Jewish tradition. Recently, due to the increasing debates on Islam and violence, the institute has launched this underlying research project and workshop on peace and war in the Islamic thought.

More than twenty researchers from different countries including Indonesia, Pakistan, Iran, Germany, UK USA, and Belgium participated in this workshop. The presented papers discussed the peace and war in contemporary Islamic thought from different disciplines such as theology, philosophy, religious studies, cultural studies and political sciences. The workshop focused on the methodological aspects of the contemporary Islamic peace ethics. Rather than the positions, the methodology and structure of the arguments used by contemporary Muslim scholars for legitimization and delegitimization of violence were concerned. A main characteristic of the workshop was its diverse topics and approaches: it included papers discussing peace ethics of different groups and scholars representing both Sunni and Shia branches of Islam as well as different positions towards violence from pacifist and traditionalist to fundamentalist groups and scholars. This text is a very brief review about eighteen papers of the workshop1 that can be categorized in two main groups: “methodologies and theories” and “case studies”.

Asfa Widiyanto (State Institute for Islamic Studies (IAIN), Salatiga, Indonesia) introduced
the argumentation of Habib Rizieq Syihab, an Islamist scholar from Indoneisa, for religious violence
using the concept of “commanding good and forbidding evil”. According to Widiyanto, the
founding fathers of FPI (most notably Habib Rizieq Syihab) thought that the government of
Indonesia remains silent towards the cases of evil which spread throughout the country, and
accordingly felt the necessity of “commanding good and forbidding evil”, by organizing some
necessary actions to stop evil in Indonesian society. Widiyanto focused on Syihab’s book entitled
Hancurkan Liberalisme, Tegakkan Syariat Islam (Destroy Liberalism, Enforce Islamic Law, 2011)
and discussed subsequent problems: (a) How does Syihab justify the violence in the corpus of
Islamic doctrines? (b) What are the rhetorical modes that Syihab employs in his book Destroy
Liberalism, Enforce Islamic Law? (c) What agency does Syihab uses in transmitting his idea of
“commanding good and forbidding evil”? (d) To what extent is Syihab’s Destroy Liberalism,
Enforce Islamic Law appreciated in web 2.0? and (e) What are the socio-political factors which
surround Habib Rizieq Syihab’s idea on violence?

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