On September 2, 2006, over 10,000 people gathered
to attend a pengajian (teaching session) held at the
prestigious Raudlatut Thullab Islamic boarding school led by Kyai
Haji Achmad Said Asrori ("Gus Said"), in Wonosari, Central Java.
Those in attendance included approximately 4,500 religious and
political leaders from throughout the region and far beyond.
The event was relayed on a large screen to crowds unable to fit into
the boarding school's central courtyard, and widely broadcast on
A respected leader of the
40-million strong Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), Gus Said welcomed
LibForAll CEO C. Holland Taylor (left) and Programs Director
Dr. Ravi Krishnamurthy (center) to the event, which was held
in Gus Said's boarding school. Younger brother to the
renowned K.H. Mustofa Bisri, Gus Said heads the NU's
Magelang chapter in Central Java, where the organization has
millions of followers.
Those in attendance included celebrated
kyais (religious leaders) from throughout Java (seated,
right), including the head of the Nahdlatul Ulama for East
Java, Kyai Haji Dr. Ali Machsan Moesa (delivering speech,
Dr. Ali Machsan used a down-to-earth and humorous approach to
warn NU members against the dangerous spread of extremist
ideology. He described the true purpose of Islam as
"the safekeeping of humanity and nature," and condemned
those who cry "Allahu Akbar!" ("God is great!") while
killing others or destroying their property. He called
on listeners to return to the true teachings of Islam
practiced by their Javanese ancestors, which entailed
non-violence and respect for others' beliefs.
He warned against "religious liars" who seek to spread a
doctrine of hatred and intolerance, calling them "ignorant
of Islam" and "full of false certainty as to its teachings."
Dr. Ali Machsan concluded his speech with a stirring call to
"return to our original beliefs, and be careful of those who
come spreading hatred."
|LibForAll advisor Kyai Haji
Achmad Mustofa Bisri ("Gus Mus") spoke of those who
proudly imitate the physical features of the Prophet
Muhammad, such as his beard and clothing, while failing to
emulate his noble character, especially his love for all
The renowned NU leader described God's greatest
blessings as a life "free of anxiety, free of suffering, and
free of fear," and advised listeners how to achieve this
state of grace, by following the path of sincerity,
simplicity and moderation.
Gus Mus advised his listeners to
reject extremist ideology and embrace the traditional NU
teaching of religious moderation and tolerance.
"Rather than hate or kill those who disagree with us, or
fail to understand religion as we do," Muslims should
recognize differences as God's will and embrace all
Following the event, Gus Mus and LibForAll CEO
Holland Taylor discussed plans to expand the Grassroots
Pluralist Network project, and produce an educational
curriculum that will promote a pluralistic and tolerant
understanding of Islam. Project deliverables will
include 30 videos (derived from events held throughout
Indonesia, such as this one in Wonosari), suitable for
distribution to Indonesia's 14,000 Islamic boarding schools
and broadcast on national television.
Gus Mus is a key advisor in the project. Also
working on the project are Kyai Haji Yusuf Chudlori ("Gus Yusuf,"
below right), another renowned Nahdlatul Ulama leader whose father
taught LibForAll co-founder and board member Kyai Haji Abdurrahman
Wahid, and LibForAll Programs Director Dr. Ravi Krishnamurthy (below
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