EMBASSY OF THE REPUBLIC OF INDONESIA
Australian and Indonesian Academics Discussed
the Ideas of Gus Dur
’Gus Dur is a minority groups defender, for those who are ignored both in politics or economic.’ This was quotion of remarks of Indonesian Ambassador to Australia and Vanuatu in Canberra, HE. Mr. Primo Alui Joelianto in Public Discussion: Islam and Pluralism in Indonesia Post Gus Dur Era, 23 January 2009, at Balai Kartini, Indonesian Embassy in Canberra. This event was co-organized by Nahdatul Ulama community –Australia and New Zealand Branch, Australia-Indonesia Student Association-ACT and the Indonesian Embassy.
In his opening remarks, the Ambassador reminded us that the late former President K.H. Abdurrahman Wahid, widely known as Gus Dur, was a moderate and tolerant Muslim champion. He argued that national integrity should be placed above diversity. The event invited four prominent scholars on Islam and pluralism who are are also personally closed to Gus Dur, namely: Prof. Greg Barton from Monash University, Dr. Nadirsyah Hosen from Wolongong University, Prof. James Haire from Charles Sturt University and Mr. Ismatu Ropi, PhD Candidate from the Australian National University.
Prof. Greg Barton reviewed the legacy of Gus Dur in contribution to Islam and pluralism in Indonesia. According to him, Gus Dur was an al-dakhil or pioneer of democracy in Indonesia and also a cultural broker who was widely accepted in many communities, not only in Indonesia but also in the world. Gus Dur was also a humanism champion who unified Islam and humanism. His inimitability is strongly memorized by Paul Wolfowitz, former U.S Ambassador to Indonesia who recognized Gus Dur as one of the greatest international leaders. Gus Dur’s views also reflected Muslim as a friendly and peaceful religion. Not less important, Gus Dur was a fighter who integrated modernism and traditional religious movement.
‘Gus Dur and Soeharto were leaders who believed in constitution’ argued Dr. Nadirsyah Hosen. Nevertheless, Soeharto interpreted the 1945 Constitution, and Pancasila literally, while Gus Dus interpreted them contextually. In addition, Gus Dur also very respected Bhineka Tunggal Ika, where he interpreted the meaning of Bhineka Tunggal Ika as “minority has equal rights with majority.” In his conclusion, Dr. Nadirsyah Hosen argued that to preserve and continue the legacy of Gus Dur, Indonesia should revise Chapter 29 of the 1945 Constitution in order to give more rooms and give better protection of the rights of all faiths and religions in Indonesia.
Prof. James Haire also analyzed some legacies of Gus Dur. Those legacies include how Gus Dur integrate religion and politics, incorporate his view as a religious social commentator and a traditional cleric. Gus Dur’s views on pluralism was based on history where Gus Dur saw 1945 as a basic and important period. Our founding fathers acknowledged the diversity in Indonesian community. Gus Dur also saw daily informal dialog as the core of interfaith harmony.
As the last presentater, Mr. Ismatu Ropi examined how a country regulates faiths or religions. Indonesia is one of the countries who regulate faiths. It is his opinion that such regulation by state is crucial as state and faiths could not be separated. However, in order to better protect the rights of citizens, many of religion regulations in Indonesia should be revised.
The participants of discussion were very enthusiastic. Numerous questions, inputs and ideas were given to the presenters. This was a sign that the discussion was succesful and also an indication that Australian and Indonesian communities in Australia are very interested in the legacy of Gus Dur and his contribution to Islam and pluralism. Finally, the participants agreed that to appreciate his contribution to Indonesia and international community, all positive ideas of Gus Dur should be developed and implemented.
Canberra, 25 January 2010