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Dawam Rahardjo: Fighting for pluralism to the end

No individuals or organizations — or even old age — can stop Muslim scholar Dawam Rahardjo from spreading the spirit of pluralism.

The figure who struggles for the rights of minorities in the world’s most populous Muslim country continues to dedicate himself to the cause and dares to challenge everyone and  everything trying to prevent him from striving to create peace among religions in Indonesia.

Even now, at almost 70 years of age, Dawam is still fighting the battle despite his worsening health.

The founder of the Institute for Religious and Philosophy Studies (LSAF) has refused to succumb to old age and diabetes that have taken their toll on his eyesight and his ability to walk.

“I am still doing some monitoring with LSAF. I am also involved in the filing of a judicial review against the blasphemy law as well as taking part in a movement that defends churches, which have been forcibly closed down, so they can be re-opened again,” Dawam said of his hectic schedule during an interview with The Jakarta Post.

The interview took place at his humble office, one wall dominated by a giant rack stuffed with piles of books, the other side filled with framed articles reminiscing from his heyday as a noted economist and influential human rights activist.

The man says he still reads books even though he has to wear glasses to see the letters. He is also a productive writer, with three upcoming books set to be released on his 70th birthday on April 20.

“I set the font size at 16 and bold it,” he shared of his method to overcome his poor vision.

Dawam also shared his plan to revive the now-defunct Muslim magazine Ulumul Qur’an. He has even taken charge of the publication and is the editor in-chief of the magazine that will be published this month.

Looking at Dawam’s current physical condition, it is amazing to observe his spirit amid all his activities. His quiet voice during the interview still rings loudly on the issue of pluralism and religious tolerance.

The man is still a pluralism fighter that strongly believes that pluralism is a way to peace and tolerance of other religions.

“We cannot use religion to do violence, because that will destroy society and the nation,” said the former chairman of the Association of Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals (ICMI).

Dawam has defended the rights of all minorities in Indonesia to have the same chance as their fellow Muslims to worship. The controversial minority group Komunitas Eden, whose leader, Lia Aminuddin, claims to be the manifestation of Gabriel, and Ahmadiyah, which has been declared blasphemous by certain Muslim organizations in the country, are on his list of religions that he stands up for.

“What is the foundation that makes us think other faiths are wrong? If that is the case, those religions can also assume we are the ones who are faulty. Why do we blame each other? The right thing to do is to respect each other and live harmoniously,” said the man, who once attacked the Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI) for its stance against Ahmadiyah.

Other Muslim figures have alienated him and he has been threatened because of his strong views and actions.

The second biggest Muslim organization in the country, Muhammadiyah, expelled him in 2006.

His name was also on the list of mail bomb recipients targeted by hardliners, with the latest package sent to the Liberal Islam Network (JIL) leader Ulil Abshar Abdalla last year.

The biggest consequence of his actions has been to see many people doubting Dawam’s faith as a
Muslim, an accusation that he has denied, explaining that he did all of that for his love for Islam.

“It is because I am a strong Muslim, I know Islam is a peaceful religion and against violence. I am trying to save my religion from destruction,” said the man who was brought up in Surakarta with a strong religious education.

Dawam spent most of his formative years at Islamic schools in Surakarta, Central Java. His father, Zuhdi Rahardjo, was a Muhammadiyah teacher and entrepreneur, and a great role model  in his life.

Dawam went to Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta to study economics. Apart from becoming a pluralism fighter, Dawam has been known as an economist with a “people’s economy” approach.

Before dedicating himself to society, Dawam worked for Bank of America.

Realizing that the office job was not his passion, he resigned from the prestigious company after two years and joined the Institute for Economic and Social Research, Education and Information (LP3ES).

“I felt the excitement, being free. I could grow out my hair and had a beard. I enjoyed being in the field, dedicating myself to the public,” recalled Dawam, who headed the respected think tank for six years, between 1980 and 1986.

His interest in social development and empowerment can be seen from his involvement in various NGOs, including the Institute for Social Science Studies, the Institute for Development Studies, the Agriculture Society Development Center and the latest LSAF.

The man, who has a penchant for writing, is also the brains behind the establishment of the now defunct intellectual magazine Prisma.

Apart from being so active, Dawam is also a dedicated academic.

The man was awarded a professorship from Mummadiyah Malang University in 1993, and currently is a rector at Proklamasi 1945 University in Yogyakarta, occasionally giving lectures.

Dawam has proven that old age cannot stop someone with drive. The scholar said he still has things he wants to achieve in life.

Those ambitions include preparing the new generation of modern Muslim scholars, reviving the Muslim Trade Association complete with its people’s economy approach, and continuing the legacy of Ulumul Qur’an.

During the interview, he also revealed his surprising and recently discovered aspiration to become a politician or a president, an ambition that he is gladly letting go due to his condition.

“I didn’t have political ambitions, but I regret that. I should have them because with politics I can make changes. Now what I can contribute is only thinking without being capable of effecting change,” Dawam said.

He may not be the president or a politician, but he is still as busy as ever. Despite his health,
he still goes to work every day, dividing his time between Jakarta and Yogyakarta offices as LSAF
director and rector.

The word retirement seems to have never existed in his dictionary.

The old man confessed that his work fighting for peace and pluralism has turned into passion. And for him, working passionately does not know the word stop or retire.

The figure who struggles for the rights of minorities in the world’s most populous Muslim country continues to dedicate himself to the cause and dares to challenge everyone and  everything trying to prevent him from striving to create peace among religions in Indonesia.

Even now, at almost 70 years of age, Dawam is still fighting the battle despite his worsening health.

The founder of the Institute for Religious and Philosophy Studies (LSAF) has refused to succumb to old age and diabetes that have taken their toll on his eyesight and his ability to walk.

“I am still doing some monitoring with LSAF. I am also involved in the filing of a judicial review against the blasphemy law as well as taking part in a movement that defends churches, which have been forcibly closed down, so they can be re-opened again,” Dawam said of his hectic schedule during an interview with The Jakarta Post.

The interview took place at his humble office, one wall dominated by a giant rack stuffed with piles of books, the other side filled with framed articles reminiscing from his heyday as a noted economist and influential human rights activist.

The man says he still reads books even though he has to wear glasses to see the letters. He is also a productive writer, with three upcoming books set to be released on his 70th birthday on April 20.

“I set the font size at 16 and bold it,” he shared of his method to overcome his poor vision.

Dawam also shared his plan to revive the now-defunct Muslim magazine Ulumul Qur’an. He has even taken charge of the publication and is the editor in-chief of the magazine that will be published this month.

Looking at Dawam’s current physical condition, it is amazing to observe his spirit amid all his activities. His quiet voice during the interview still rings loudly on the issue of pluralism and religious tolerance.

The man is still a pluralism fighter that strongly believes that pluralism is a way to peace and tolerance of other religions.

“We cannot use religion to do violence, because that will destroy society and the nation,” said the former chairman of the Association of Indonesian Muslim Intellectuals (ICMI).

Dawam has defended the rights of all minorities in Indonesia to have the same chance as their fellow Muslims to worship. The controversial minority group Komunitas Eden, whose leader, Lia Aminuddin, claims to be the manifestation of Gabriel, and Ahmadiyah, which has been declared blasphemous by certain Muslim organizations in the country, are on his list of religions that he stands up for.

“What is the foundation that makes us think other faiths are wrong? If that is the case, those religions can also assume we are the ones who are faulty. Why do we blame each other? The right thing to do is to respect each other and live harmoniously,” said the man, who once attacked the Indonesian Council of Ulemas (MUI) for its stance against Ahmadiyah.

Other Muslim figures have alienated him and he has been threatened because of his strong views and actions.

The second biggest Muslim organization in the country, Muhammadiyah, expelled him in 2006.

His name was also on the list of mail bomb recipients targeted by hardliners, with the latest package sent to the Liberal Islam Network (JIL) leader Ulil Abshar Abdalla last year.

The biggest consequence of his actions has been to see many people doubting Dawam’s faith as a
Muslim, an accusation that he has denied, explaining that he did all of that for his love for Islam.

“It is because I am a strong Muslim, I know Islam is a peaceful religion and against violence. I am trying to save my religion from destruction,” said the man who was brought up in Surakarta with a strong religious education.

Dawam spent most of his formative years at Islamic schools in Surakarta, Central Java. His father, Zuhdi Rahardjo, was a Muhammadiyah teacher and entrepreneur, and a great role model  in his life.

Dawam went to Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta to study economics. Apart from becoming a pluralism fighter, Dawam has been known as an economist with a “people’s economy” approach.

Before dedicating himself to society, Dawam worked for Bank of America.

Realizing that the office job was not his passion, he resigned from the prestigious company after two years and joined the Institute for Economic and Social Research, Education and Information (LP3ES).

“I felt the excitement, being free. I could grow out my hair and had a beard. I enjoyed being in the field, dedicating myself to the public,” recalled Dawam, who headed the respected think tank for six years, between 1980 and 1986.

His interest in social development and empowerment can be seen from his involvement in various NGOs, including the Institute for Social Science Studies, the Institute for Development Studies, the Agriculture Society Development Center and the latest LSAF.

The man, who has a penchant for writing, is also the brains behind the establishment of the now defunct intellectual magazine Prisma.

Apart from being so active, Dawam is also a dedicated academic.

The man was awarded a professorship from Mummadiyah Malang University in 1993, and currently is a rector at Proklamasi 1945 University in Yogyakarta, occasionally giving lectures.

Dawam has proven that old age cannot stop someone with drive. The scholar said he still has things he wants to achieve in life.

Those ambitions include preparing the new generation of modern Muslim scholars, reviving the Muslim Trade Association complete with its people’s economy approach, and continuing the legacy of Ulumul Qur’an.

During the interview, he also revealed his surprising and recently discovered aspiration to become a politician or a president, an ambition that he is gladly letting go due to his condition.

“I didn’t have political ambitions, but I regret that. I should have them because with politics I can make changes. Now what I can contribute is only thinking without being capable of effecting change,” Dawam said.

He may not be the president or a politician, but he is still as busy as ever. Despite his health, he still goes to work every day, dividing his time between Jakarta and Yogyakarta offices as LSAF director and rector.

The word retirement seems to have never existed in his dictionary.

The old man confessed that his work fighting for peace and pluralism has turned into passion. And for him, working passionately does not know the word stop or retire.

 

Source: thejakartapost.com

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