UAE-based Islamic council visit Indonesia to support fellow religious scholars

The Muslim Council of Elders, who are visiting Jakarta, are led by Ahmed El Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar.

Powered by automated translation

ABU DHABI // Members of a council of high-ranking Islamic scholars flew from Abu Dhabi to the Indonesian capital on Sunday to provide support to fellow scholars in Jakarta.

Led by the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Ahmed El Tayeb, the Muslim Council of Elders will share ideas with hundreds of Indonesian Islamic scholars on how to highlight the true moderate essence of Islam to the masses, following extremist attacks in the country last month.

The initiative follows projects carried out by the council since its inception in Abu Dhabi in July 2014, such as sending peace envoys to areas of conflict and sending letters to extremist groups. The members are 14 Islamic experts and scholars who aim to fight extremism by promoting peace and correct religious speech.

Dubai Grand Mufti Dr Ahmed Al Haddad, who is a council member, said that despite the facts that Indonesia has unified, moderate Islamic principles and follows one Sunni sect, it has been invaded with “new, intrusive” thoughts that are alien to its society.

Since the country has the largest Muslim population in the world, with about 100 million Indonesian Muslims, “they are looking up to the council and what it will offer them”, Dr Al Haddad said.

The visit will strengthen Indonesian religious authorities and scholars, because they are being supported personally by the head of the oldest and most prominent Islamic university, Al Azhar.

“Al Azhar has a great status ‎in Indonesia, especially since many of the country’s scholars graduated from it,” said Dr Al Haddad. “So they share the same ideas.”

The fact that he is accompanied by a council of elders also boosts their image and credibility among society to ward off extremist influence, he said.

Dr Kaltham Al Muhairi, council member and assistant professor at the Zayed University Institute of Islamic World Studies, said the visit in itself delivers a message to the Muslim world‎ that “we are with you wherever you are and whenever you desire”.

Dr Ali Al Nuaimi, secretary general of the council, said the visit was requested by Indonesian president Joko Widodo.

The elders will also share ideas and expertise with heads of Islamic societies and students at universities and institutes.

The council will meet Mr Widodo on Monday morning. The meeting will be followed by an open discussion with about 300 Indonesian scholars.

The elders’ seventh meeting will take place on Monday afternoon.

Several plans that came out of previous council meetings have been carried out on the ground, such as sending peace envoys to spread awareness on correct understandings of Islam.

The envoys have visited the US, Italy, France, Pakistan, Chad, South Africa and Indonesia, and will visit 16 more countries this year.

hdajani@thenational.ae