Yahya Cholil Staquf, 51, is one of Indonesia’s most influential Islamic leaders.
The general secretary of the Nahdlatul Ulama, the country’s biggest Muslim organization (about 50 million members strong), Yahya advocates a modern, moderate Islam, and he pulls few punches about the relationship of violence and fundamentalist Islam in an interview reposted in TIME magazine recently.
Below are translated excerpts from the interview, first published on Aug. 19 in German in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Check out how Yahya confounds the interviewer, who is clearly uncomfortable with the Islamic leader’s frank answers about the “religion of peace”:
Many Western politicians and intellectuals say that Islamist terrorism has nothing to do with Islam. What is your view?
Western politicians should stop pretending that extremism and terrorism have nothing to do with Islam. There is a clear relationship between fundamentalism, terrorism, and the basic assumptions of Islamic orthodoxy. So long as we lack consensus regarding this matter, we cannot gain victory over fundamentalist violence within Islam.
Radical Islamic movements are nothing new. They’ve appeared again and again throughout our own history in Indonesia. The West must stop ascribing any and all discussion of these issues to “Islamophobia.” Or do people want to accuse me — an Islamic scholar — of being an Islamophobe too?