The faith-based hate of Islamic State has been lacking a counter-narrative, and an Indonesia-based movement may be developing one, says an
absorbing report in the New York Times.
The Nahdlatul Ulama movement holds nothing back in the counter-attack, as the Times tells it. N.U. says the extremists are shallow, savage, unfaithful to God, even "mired in filth." And it challenges the ISIS claim that there is only one way to be Muslim.
This 1,300-word Times article is laudably ghost-free, providing a (mostly) thorough understanding of the issues, including religious ones. It offers background on the violence that has often plagued the world's largest Islamic nation. And it directly quotes several leaders of N.U., even its top man:
“The spread of a shallow understanding of Islam renders this situation critical, as highly vocal elements within the Muslim population at large — extremist groups — justify their harsh and often savage behavior by claiming to act in accord with God’s commands, although they are grievously mistaken,” said A. Mustofa Bisri, the spiritual leader of the group, Nahdlatul Ulama, an Indonesian Muslim organization that claims more than 50 million members.
“According to the Sunni view of Islam,” he said, “every aspect and expression of religion should be imbued with love and compassion, and foster the perfection of human nature.”
N.U.'s main weapon thus far is Rahmat Islam Nusantara (The Divine Grace of East Indies Islam), a 90-minute documentary that blends music, poetry, history and interviews with Indonesian Islamic scholars. They "challenge and denounce the Islamic State's interpretations of the Quran and Hadith," the story says. And it links to a colorful, two-and-a-half-minute trailer for the film.
We also read some background on ISIS theology and its roots in the Wahhabi movement. (However, the Times missteps in calling Wahhabis "fundamentalist," without defining that subjective term.) The story says ISIS "takes its cues from medieval Islamic jurisprudence, where slavery and execution of prisoners was accepted." Interestingly, N.U. leaders accept the medieval statements "but argue that Islamic law needs to be updated to 21st-century norms."
At times, the story verges on p.r. and marketing in praising Indonesia and moderate Islam: