Bad to ban me from Malaysia with radicalism brewing, says Indonesian Muslim scholar

Indonesian Muslim scholar Dr Ulil Abshar Abdalla said the Malaysian government has banned him from entering the nation at a time when the Muslim community needs more dialogue to stem radicalism in their midst.

BY LOOI SUE-CHERN Published: 12 October 2014

Indonesian Muslim scholar Dr Ulil Abshar Abdalla said the Malaysian government has banned him from entering the nation at a time when the Muslim community needs more dialogue to stem radicalism in their midst.

He tweeted via his Twitter handle @ulil this morning that the trend of Islamic conservatism appeared to be increasing in Malaysia, just like in his country.

The development, he said, is not good for Muslims in the region.

Ulil is on the Malaysian immigration’s blacklist, which means he will not be on the panel at next Saturday’s “Religious Fundamentalism Threat in This Century” forum in Kuala Lumpur.

“The event is organised by IRF (Islamic Renaissance). But unfortunately, my appearance is not gonna happen.

“Persatuan Ulama Malaysia filed a protest against my participation in the event. And I am now banned from entering Malaysia.

“I am sad that this ban happens at a time when Muslim society needs more dialogue to stem radicalism in their midst.

“As in Indonesia, the trend of Islamic conservatism seems to be increasing in Malaysia. And this is not good news for Muslims in Nusantara,” he wrote in a series of tweets in response to his entry ban.

Ulil, who is affiliated with Jaringan Islam Liberal (Liberal Islam Network), said he had endured a few bans in his country, which prevented him from appearing at public discussions in Surabaya and Riau.

He said such measures would not stop Islamic progressive ideas.

“What does this ban tell us? It tells that conservative groups won’t allow voices of difference to challenge them.

“What conservative groups want to do is to impose a mono culture of conformism on Muslim society.

“As sad as this ban might be, it won’t work. Authority might ban my entrance to Malaysia. But Islamic progressive ideas can’t be stopped,” he said in Twitter.

He also posted a quote by the 18th century English-American philosopher, political writer, theorist, and activist Thomas Paine.

“To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason… is like administering medicine to the dead,” he posted on Twitter.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times that Ulil has been barred entry because “he would mislead the Muslims in the country if he is allowed to spread his brand of liberalism here”.

Zahid said Ulil was invited by local non-governmental organisations to speak about liberalism but, at the same time, the authorities received various reports of those who were against his idea of liberalism.

On Thursday, director-general of the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) Datuk Othman Mustapha had called for the entire roundtable discussion to be stopped as it involved Ulil from Indonesia.

“Any effort to bring in teachings which contravene the Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah and can threaten the faith of Muslims in Malaysia must be stopped,” he said, according to Bernama.

There were mixed reaction to Ulil’s ban among social media users on Twitter.

Some were sympathetic, like Naomi Asyma who tweeted: “@ulil You don’t deserve to be treated like that, Mas Ulil. Hope you will get another chance. Radicalism is dangerous!”

Ambarwati said: “@ulil ketakutan yang tak beralasan, ikut simpati mas. (Fear that has no excuse, sympathies mas.)”

There were also negative tweets directed at the Malaysian authorities.

cor bloimey! who tweeted via the handle @bloimey said: “@patricklsk @ulil here you can be banned from entry for supporting human rights, democracy or environment protection. It’s about politics.”

Tinagar Gopal posted a sarcastic tweet: “@ulil @de_pudin Be happy Ulil. Malaysia only ban smart people from entering. The idiots r always welcomed.”

There were also those who were in favour of the ban, like Azmi Arshad who said Ulil was not needed in Malaysia.

“The muslim community here is fine. We do not need you @ulil nor the #Islamophobic @Ambiga_S to preach. Get another hobby,” he tweeted.

Another Twitter user iboy alghazali said: “@ulil Ask yourself why they banned you in the first place….your misleading liberal thoughts damaging Islam from within. @saidiman”

Ulil had made waves with his liberal religious views, and some of his articles were regarded as heretical by ulama.

In 2003, a group of Indonesian Islamic clerics from Forum Ulama Umat Islam issued a death fatwa against Ulil for an article that he wrote in Indonesian newspaper Kompas in 2002 titled “Menyegarkan Kembali Pemahaman Islam” (Rejuvenating the Islamic Understanding) that was considered heretical. – October 12, 2014.