Muslimah Reformis

Islam as a Source of Inspiration for Peace

First of all, I would like to convey my sincere gratitude and pleasure to the organizer, the Platform Women and Sustainable Peace for having given me precious time to share my practical experience as part of Indonesian Moslem women in promoting peace and justice in Indonesia, and of course in this regard I would like to explain my experience from Islamic perspective.

As we know, promoting peace and justice is actually the set of initiatives by diverse actors in government and civil society to address the root causes of violence and all form of discriminations against human being, particularly for those marginalized people. So, the ultimate objective of promoting peace and justice is to reduce and eliminate the frequency and severity of violent conflict. This effort seeks to prevent, reduce, transform, and help people recover from violence in all forms.

Talking about peace and justice, I believe that women play a vital role, particularly in securing the three pillars of sustainable peace: economic recovery and reconciliation; social cohesion and development; and political legitimacy, security and governance. However in the reality, women have traditionally played a limited role in peacebuilding processes even though they often bear the responsibility for providing for their families’ basic needs in the aftermath of violent conflict. Many societies’ patriarchal cultures prevent them from recognizing the role women can play in promoting peace and justice.

Islam a source for community development

As a Muslim woman, I do believe that one of the praiseworthy characters of God is al-salâm (the Most Peaceful). Thus, Islamic religion sent down to humans has to reflect this praiseworthy character. Both the words Islâm and al-salâm originate from the same root, salima, which means peace and preclusion from all that is condemned and disgraceful.

Theologically, Islam is a blessing for all nature (rahmatan lil alamin). Its teachings contain universal values that cover all aspects of human life, encompassing all the problems of human beings from the cradle to the grave. From the aspects of law, Islam covers various problems that human beings are facing in their role as both individuals and members of a society. From the psychological aspects, its teachings provide all-encompassing peace both materially and spiritually, physically and mentally. From anthropological aspects, its teachings are aimed at all the nations and peoples.

Islam brings out the importance of the teaching of equality among mankind. All the teachings of Islam bring to the fore the equality of  human beings regardless of their gender, etnicity, and social status, as provided in the Qur’an.

Even if there is a big difference among human beings, such a difference is not intended to oppress one another, to discriminate one another, and to be hostile towards one another but for a noble objective, that is, to know one another for building mutual understanding, and at the same time, to put them to the test in order to find out who is religiously more devout to Him.

A human being is only distinguished from another human on the basis of his/ her achievements and the quality of his/ her religious devotion. Such is the noble teaching that is enshrined in the Qur’an.

However, distortions abound here and there when the noble teachings were sent down to earth and implemented in the life of mankind. Human beings as we know are often subjected to unequal treatment and discrimination on the basis of color, social status, and so on and this is echoed everywhere.

Islamic teachings are full of values that can be developed as a basis for the concept of justice, peace, tolerance and human dignity. One of them can be taken from the following verse.

Some barriers in promoting peace and justice in Indonesia

In my experience, the core of peace and justice is safeguards human beings against harm, creates secure environment, enhance human development, radiates the soul, strengthen religious piety, increases faith and love, creates tranquility in the home, fosters healthy families, helps children to live fruitful lives, increases wealth, brings prosperity to nations, promotes individual responsibility, strengthens our inner resources, fosters creative thinking, allows culture and arts to flourish, heightens respect and appreciation for others, recognizes all humans as equal, affirms that all religion are for peace and justice.

However in reality it is so difficult to improve our efforts in promoting peace and justice. There are at least four barriers in improving peace and efforts in Indonesia. First, the cultural barriers. A number of studies on peacebuilding in Indonesia explain that the main obstacle in promoting peace and justice is cultural barriers. Indonesian people still holds firm the values of gender inequality, feudalism and intolerance which are not conducive for the implementation of democracy and human rights. Our society still holds firm the values of patriarchal culture, which are not conducive for the principle of democracy. The indicators of such culture, among others, are: Our society still adheres to beliefs that give preference according to sex. In all matters men have the advantage over women, boys have priority over girls. This culture is deeply interwoven in society and introduced into all aspects of life, such as in religion, education, economy, and politics.

The culture obtaining in the society indoctrinate that husband is the leader of the family. The man is the master, the boss of the household.  So, decision making at home also places the right in the men’s hands. As a result, many women do not have the liberty of choosing their leader or rather of taking part in making important decisions in their life.

Secondly, the structural barriers. Structural obstacle in the form of discriminative public policies and laws, particularly towards women, minority religion groups and vulnerable people. The ICRP has recorded more less 147 discriminative regulations in regards to the implementation of democracy and fulfillment of human rights. As long as those laws are permitted to prevail, there is always a strong potential for violence and conflict in society.

Third, the political barriers. In many cases, the government, especially the police, judges and prosecutors are too weak to ensure protection of the people’s human rights, particularly in regards to religious freedom for minority groups. A number of cases, such as the ban of the Ahmadiyah, burning of churches, anarchic acts towards the Syi’ite group, prohibition to build houses of worship for those not included in the six acknowledged religions. The same applies to failure to ensure protection of civil rights to vulnerable groups, such as children, women, poor, disable, and the elderly people.

And last but not least, the theological barriers in the form of patriarchal misinterpretations of Islamic teachings. In general, Islamic interpretations widely disseminated in our society are still exclusive, unsympathetic towards non-Muslim congregations and also still discriminative against women and minority groups and so on.

There is a belief in many mainstream Muslim societies that Islamic law is God’s law and is, therefore, infallible and unchangeable, rendering any effort at reform to be regarded as un-Islamic. Many Muslims believe that men and women do not have equal rights in Islam generally, such that demands for equal rights men and women are portrayed as against God’s law. Many Muslims still believe that only the ulama (Muslim man religious scholars or jurists) have the authority to speak on Islam. Thus, women’s groups in Muslim societies face difficulties advocating for reform when they do not have the support of government or those perceived to have religious authority.

And also many Muslims are afraid to speak out on Islamic issues in public, especially if their views are contrary to majority. They fear controversy or being labeled as anti-Islam. This fear extends to progressive scholars who have the knowledge and credibility to speak out, but choose to remain silent for fear of jeopardizing their jobs and livelihoods, invoking community hostility, or facing threats to their safety. Those are the real barriers in peacebuilding in Indonesia.

Why the role of women is important?

Violence against women is a real phenomenon. Women face violence everywhere in the world, including Indonesia regardless of religion, class, ethnic, or other boundaries. Violence against women takes many different forms: in the battlefield using rape as weapon of war; in the domestic realm with men socially sanctioned to strike their wives or daughters; in economic sphere where trafficking of women and forced prostitution of girls and women; and in work, particularly as domestic work, they are exploited and sexually mistreated, in the media and popular culture when women are often depicted in degrading positions. Whatever form it takes, we all feel the reverberations as we coexist in today’s “global village”. One part of the world can no longer afford to ignore the pain and suffering of another.

In reality the data on violence against women in Indonesia indicates a growing and spreading trend. So, we as women have no choice other than to acknowledge the significance of different forms of violence, and to work to heal its wounds and eliminate its sources.

Women have a different perspective and experience in understanding peacebuilding, but we as women division of ICRP (Indonesian Conference on Religion for Peace) commit to strengthen woman participation in peacebuilding process in Indonesia, especially in advocacy and the elimination of violence against women. We focus our strategy at two levels: discourse level (cultural reconstruction and reinterpretation of religious teachings); and practice level (involving woman as a subject of reformation and social change process. And also to empower the community to recognize women’s potency and capacity as agent of peace and to involve woman effectively in the social reconstruction process of the society.

In my experience, the most important effort in improving women’s role in peacebuilding is women empowerment and raising society’s awareness of the importance of respecting human-beings and humanistic values through education in widest meaning, especially family education. And secondly, widespread dissemination of the culture of equality, starting from the home, from the family life through a democratic child-bearing pattern, and in society through democratic learning methods in both formal and informal educational institutions. In sum, peacebuilding must begin from home, from family life.

The bases of peacebuilding in Indonesia

In my experience there are at least three important bases can be used as the foundation of peacebuilding in this country. First, Pancasila as the state ideology that contain very conducive values for the construction of peacebuilding activities. Second, the 1945 Constitution that is very clearly guarantees peace, diversity, welfare, equality and justice for all the people. Third, the development of civil society groups, especially among the religious circles with strong awareness on the importance of fulfillment of human rights without discrimination for all the people.

The basic principles of peacebuilding

In my opinion, there are at least three fundamental principles that must be fulfilled in peacebuilding.

First, the principle of humanity. Frankly speaking as religious community we tend to take on the position of God, by acting arrogant and being judgmental. In all honesty, we tend to judge and find fault in others instead of devoting ourselves to each other and caring for each other. We always claim to be in the right and others are always wrong, misguided and infidels. As a result, religion-based wars and conflicts become the main stories in the media all over the world.

Taking on the position as God in living together will be very perilous because we will always look at other people from a wrong perspective. We see people of other faiths as infidels and misguided. In living together, we must always maintain our position as human beings, not as God. Our duty is to contend for goodness, and leave judgment on whether our devotion is acceptable or not to God. So, our task as humans is only to try our utmost to do good as much as we are able to do. And then we leave everything to Him. We don’t know who among us will be saved, who among us will have our devotion accepted, only God knows that.

Second, the principle of one family. As religious community we must consider other people, of whatever faith, as our brothers and sisters, as part of one family. We must realize that we all come from the same origin, namely from God. Although we call Him by different names. All of us come from the One and because of it we are family. This affinity can become a force that has unprecedented meaning in building peace among different human beings. This kinship will give birth to love, compassion, and affection among us, and in turn, eliminate hatred, hostility and conflict. A sense of affinity will generate sincere respect and appreciation for others. This feeling of affinity will eventually lead us to social solidarity. We don’t want to see other people in trouble or in pain. Ultimately, we will realize that, as brothers and sisters, we have a common enemy. The enemy of all religions is no other than injustice, oppression, greed, ignorance and poverty. Once we have this awareness, as people of faith we can work together to eradicate the common enemy. We can work together to rid the world of injustice, we can cooperate to eliminate all forms of violence, oppression, greed, ignorance and poverty.

Third, the principle of democracy. As religious community we should actively promote the principle of democracy. Democracy stems from respect and appreciation for other people. The essence of democracy is respect for the nature and dignity of human beings as noble beings. In a society that upholds democracy, all citizens are treated the same in the eyes of the law. The terms majority and minority don’t exist. All communities have the same basic rights, which is to live as human beings.

In a democratic nation, we must not be anarchic. Even if other people commit sins, we should not take the law into our own hands. Leave it to the law enforcers to punish them accordingly. In this context we should urge the state and the government to enforce the law fairly and take a neutral stance. There should be no public policies or legal decisions that are discriminative to any groups, especially to women and minority groups.

The fact is that in a country, the government is often unable to be impartial and neutral, especially towards religious minority groups. This discriminative attitude can be very dangerous and may well become the starting point of numerous conflicts and humanitarian tragedies. In a nation with such a heterogeneous population in regards to religion and culture, such as Indonesia, the government should take a more prudent stance and apply the principle of human rights, especially the right of religious freedom.

Forth, the principle of religious pluralism. One of the major problems faced by religious community in this era of globalization is religion-based conflict and violence, both internally as well as between congregations of different religions. Religion-based conflicts and violence frequently occur in Indonesia and these conflicts and violence usually occur as a result of growing politics of identity. Certainly, in every conflict, women are the ones most vulnerable to become victims

In order to achieve peace and harmony in living together, all parties in society should adopt a tolerant and pluralistic attitude. Tolerance is the ability to constrain oneself and one’s emotions in order to minimize and eliminate potentials of conflict. Meanwhile, pluralism is much more than tolerance. Pluralism is the willingness to recognize differences and accept diversity as a natural force in life to subsequently be committed to build solidarity and cooperation for the sake of peace and harmony.

Pluralism must be built upon a principle of love, caring, equality and the recognition of human dignity. Pluralism urges for the fulfillment of human rights, including women rights. When one is a pluralist, it does not mean that one does not recognize the existence of religious differences, because such differences are natural, intrinsic, and given and can’t be avoided. But such religious differences can become the source for a healthy inter-religious relationship as a uniting force, and not as a divider that threatens certain religious identity and culture. Pluralism is built upon a foundation of inter-religious dialogue.


As a conclusion, I would like to share some of Muslim women efforts in promoting peace and justice in Indonesia.

Firstly, Cultural reconstruction efforts through education in its wide sense, from education in family life to formal education in school then non formal education in society life. To reconstruct the culture, particularly the culture of peace and justice is very important. Why? Respect for different culture and religion should be incorporated into education curriculum at various levels, whether in state or private education institutions.

These efforts are absolutely very much needed because culture of peace, tolerant and inclusive cannot emerge naturally and spontaneously in society, instead it must be arranged in such way through education system, particularly in family education. I do believe that peace and justice must be begun from home, from family life.

Secondly, Religious reinterpretation, especially Islamic reinterpretations. Some efforts have been done regarding promoting humanistic, inclusive and progressive Islamic interpretations which are more conducive for the fulfillment democracy and the principles of human rights. Those are the real Islamic teachings which are compatible with the democratic values and will free human being from all form of violence, tyranny, hatred and injustice.

Last but not least, law reform efforts. Many efforts have been done in line with amending and revision of some important laws and public policies which are not conducive to the establishment of peace and justice. As a consequence, we need to encourage awareness and sensitivity to variety and diversity. In this context, regulations and all public policies in Indonesia must take into account such diversity. Hence, it is hoped that a model of diversity which is inclusive, open, guarantees peace and justice for all people can emerges.

As a Muslim woman and as a human being, I must do whatever I can do and give whatever contribution I can make. I do all of these efforts is just for establishing Islamic teachings that compatible with democracy and human rights; campaigning Islamic teachings that friendly women; and last but not least for the birth of a civilization which respects humanity. With however small contributions that I can give, there at some point time in the future I will never repent having lived in this mortal world.