An Indonesian Muslim Response to Trump’s Divisive Approach to Islam

An esteemed Muslim academic warns that Trump’s attitude towards Islam may prove counterproductive

Professor Azyumardi Azra is the former rector of Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University Jakarta, a prolific author, and in 2010 was awarded a CBE by the British government for services to interfaith dialogue (to list just a few of his many achievements). So when he raises concerns about interfaith relations, it is wise to pay attention.

The below is a brief translated excerpt from his recent article in Republika, a major Islamic news website in Indonesia. This was written before Trump signed his executive order restricting entry to the US for refugees and citizens of certain Muslim-majority countries, but that order adds yet greater force to the argument:

The statements of President Trump from the campaigning period through to his inauguration speech seem to have rejected diversity…

It seems that Trump has not changed much since he was chosen as president. In his inauguration speech, it’s true Trump did not again mention ‘banning Muslims entering the US’. But he did put out statements that were no less confrontational, among others ‘[we] will unite the civilised world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.’

There is a big question mark over how Trump can unite the ‘civilised world’ with a confrontational manner and a hard approach. Various academic studies about eradicating terrorism have shown that a hard approach is not always effective in overcoming radicalism and terrorism – not only among Muslims, but also among followers of other religions.

But besides the above-mentioned problem, Trump’s confrontational and Islamophobic tone received condemnation from many moderate Islamic figures, both leaders and academics. Condemning Trump does not meaning that they ‘approve of’, let alone support, radicalism or terrorism. Simply put, Trump’s statements and approach may be very counter-productive in their efforts to overcome the problems of radicalism and terrorism. Conversely, tension, conflict and violence may find a new raison d’etre and momentum on a scale that is difficult to imagine.