Cultural Ambassador of the RHSSS in Indonesia

A Cultural Ambassador who represents The Royal Hashemite Sultanate of Sulu and Sabah to Indonesia and Timor leste is The Honorable Datuk Sir MYR Agung Sidayu,Bt,DRK,KRSS, base in the Capital of East Java Province Surabaya, he was appointed as the Cultural ambassador by the HM Sultan Fuad Abdullah Kiram I and granted Kinghood as the Datuk Katurunan, installed at Al-Zaytun Campus in the Western java together with the Grand Chancellor Datuk Katurunan AS Panji Gumilang and Datuk Sir Nurdin Abu Sabit, Datuk Sir Abdul Halim and Datuk Sir Iskandar Syaifullah.

What does a Cultural Ambassador do?

The Royal Hashemite  Cultural Ambassador is a representative of the Sultanate and the Sultan in the Republic of Indonesia and Timor Leste , like other Ambassador of the sovereign  Country but just of the cultural matters not political duties.

Take advantage of some of the services that the RHSSS Cultural Ambassadors provide:

  • Answering your inquiries about the Sultanate of Sulu and Sabah
  • Maintaining the relationship with the formal and informal leaders in both Indonesia and Timor leste
  • Promoting peace and tolerance development in the Southern Philippines especially in the sultanate of Sulu and Sabah
  • Finding and monitoring new Cultural Representative of the RHSSS in all over the world

The history of 1st Muharram

The ‘new year’ in Islam is marked in a way which perhaps no other nation or community marks their own ‘new year’. In fact most, if not all civilizations, take this as a time of happiness and joy in which the people party and celebrate, committing sins most of the time. However in Islam, and particularly the school of the Ahlul Bayt, the new year is one which begins with grief and sorrow and a call to stamp out corruption, evil and sin – not to indulge in it! It is a time in which we not only call for the eradication of all forms of outward tyranny by whoever is enacting it over ANY oppressed individuals, but it is also a time to purge the inner tyranny which our own lower passions and desires pull us towards.

This belief is best seen in the beautiful supplication which the Prophet used to recite when he saw the new moon of Muharram, a portion of which reads: “O’ Allah! You are the Pre-Existing Lord and this is a new year so then in this (new year), I ask you for protection from the Satan and strength against this lower soul which pulls towards evil and that you make me busy with that which makes me closer to You, O’ the Noble … O’ our Lord! Do not divert our hearts after You have guided us and grant us, from Yourself, mercy. Surely You are The Granter.”

The events which put the Ashura movement in motion stemmed from these two factors – the outward Satan – the likes of Muawiyah, Yazid and the previous “caliphs” who came before them who laid the groundwork for the destruction of Islam, and the inner passions and desires which also affect us today. Without doubt, both of these have always worked in tandem with one another. It is the small instigation and whisper of Satan which puts the wheels of the inner desires in motion – giving them the lubrication and energy to run on their own.

With the politics and climate of the world changing as fast as they are, this year, it becomes ever important for those who are participating in the Majaalis of Muharram to ensure that the message of Kerbala is not relegated to the year 61 AH. Yes, Imam Husain died in the plains of Kerbala on the 10th of Muharram, however, he ensured that his message was not limited to his time. When he was proceeding forth, he continuously reminded us that his mission was timeless and borderless. He sought to ensure that we too would be ‘Husaini’ in our outlook and efforts and that we would reject any “Yazidi” forces. For this reason perhaps, he gave Muhammad al-Hanafiyyah an important testament which to this day, remains the blueprint for his mission, and should also form the plan of our life. The Imam stated, “Now know that surely the aim of my stand is not inspired by vain exultation, nor is it for the quest of kingdom. It is not to cause dissension, nor to spread corruption. It is also not for the goal to wrong anybody unjustly. Rather, the purpose of my stand is the reformation the Ummah (nation) of my grandfather. I only intend to enjoin good and forbid evil (and in doing so), emulate my grandfather, the Messenger of Allah and my father Ali ibn Abu Talib.”

He further spoke on this Divine movement and once again, generalized his struggle, a hint for us, by saying that, “The one who sees a tyrant leader making unlawful as lawful; violating the pledge (of God); opposing the Sunnah of the Prophet; ruling on the servant of Allah with sins and oppression, and by his words and actions does not oppose the leader and does not strive to reform the state of affairs, then it behooves Allah to hurl him into Hell along with that ‘leader’.”

This Muharram, if anything, we need to keep the movement of Abi Abdillah in mind and heart and make a conscious decision to make a change in our lives and work towards a reformation within our own hearts and beliefs. Islam is in no need for reform – there is no ‘trouble with Islam’ as some ‘enlightened’ people will have us believe. Rather, it is the followers who need to heed the lesson learnt through Kerbala and the victory of truth over falsehood – and apply it to our lives and reform ourselves.

also see

Hussein (A): The End of a Tragedy or the Beginning of an Uprising?

When certain seasons of worship come around like the months of Ramadan and Muharram, it is very important that we re-evaluate ourselves to see what blessings we have gotten from them. Were they in proportion with the power of the season? Have we preserved these blessings? How can we best invest these blessings after the season is over? Many people are pleased with the condition they have at the time, without worrying about what will come after the season. The Devil is eager to take away whatever the believer has earned at the first possible opportunity. Are we cautious about that?

The movement of Imam Hussein (A) was a method for dealing with one’s own soul and with others, for he wanted to teach us a lesson about servitude at every stage of his blessed movement. We see him depart from the safety of the Divine Kaaba when he saw that it would please his Lord. We see him exposing his family to capture when he saw that his Lord willed for them to be captured. He exposed himself to the greatest forms of insult and torture when he saw that his Lord willed for him to be killed. His sister Zainab summarized all of these lessons when she confronted the oppressor of her era saying: I didn’t see anything but it was beautiful. God willed for this group of people to be killed, so they came out to be killed, and God will gather you and them together to be judged. So wait and see who will be victorious on that day!

The principle of dialogue through speaking is the well-known method of explaining the messages of the Prophets (A), and this is what was referred to when Almighty God said, {And each nation had its own warner.} But the corruption of the leadership sometimes reaches the point where warning and explanation are not sufficient to put an end to the greatest falsehood: the corruption of one who corrupts the entire nation by his actions – because the people follow the religion of their leaders. So it would be necessary to establish a movement beyond explanation and dialogue, an unusual movement in which blood is sacrificed. This movement would awaken the nation from its depths, to see the corruption of the leader’s soul after it had neglected the corruption of the leader’s deeds! And thus the rule of the Umayyads collapsed shortly after the killing of Hussein (A). His revolution was considered the source of all revolutions which arose throughout the nation which hadn’t been seen before the killing of Chief of Martyrs (A).

We notice this year and every year the spread of the majlis of Imam Hussein (A) all over the world. This revives our sense of hope that there is still a heart beating in the body of this nation, a heart which draws its blood from the pure blood that was spilt at Kerbala. All of that is by the blessing of the commemoration of one of the Imams from the chain of the Holy Family of the Prophet (A), so how many more blessings would there be if the last in this chain were present? We can imagine how much the hearts which thirst for justice would welcome this Imam after they lost hope in all the theories which promised to bring human happiness.

One of the lessons of Kerbala is connecting between the highest degree of chastity and the defense of the religion by whatever power the individual is given. Thus we see Zainab (A) who observed hijab and shyness like no one else. Ali (A) would even try to keep her shadow from the view of outsiders by extinguishing or turning down the lights when she was visiting the grave of her grandfather the Holy Prophet (S). However when it came time, she was the tongue speaking in the name of the sacred law even in the presence of the Imam of her time, Ali ibn al-Hussein al-Sajjad (A). There is a saying that Islam owes its existence to Muhammed but its preservation to Hussein. While this is correct, we could also say that the origin of the reform movement was Hussein, while its preservation belongs to Zainab.

There is a great likeness between Ibrahim (A) the beloved friend of God and Hussein (A) the sacrifice of God. God made the hearts of the people incline towards both of them. What we notice amongst those who gather for the remembrance of Hussein (A) and establish his mourning is something truly amazing! Just as we see people who don’t follow the sacred law throughout the year attracted to perform the Hajj, we see the same group showing a loyalty towards Hussein (A) which is not in proportion to their nature. This shows us that there is divine control over the hearts, and it appears that the movement during these two seasons of Hajj and Muharram are an answer to the prayer of Ibrahim (A). The reason for loving the family of the Prophet (A) in their valley of martyrdom is no less than the reason for loving the family of Ibrahim (A) in their valley of barrenness!

Whatever we have done during the days of Muharram is a divine lesson in which God tests us for the heat of love for Hussein (A). The Holy Prophet (S) made it one of the tests of true faith. At the same time it is a claim against us, because after we get these divine blessings the judgement against us is swifter than if we hadn’t participated in them. The one who receives these blessings is not like the one who does not, and the one who has knowledge is not like the one who is ignorant. Is it enough to emerge from this season with tears and crying without seeing an important change in our life?!

One of the important lessons of Ashura is to beware of coming to a bad ending in our lives. Some of the companions of Ali (A) participated in killing Imam Hussein. There are many people like this in history who have been cursed by the Imams and who were once their companions! All of us have to beware of the hidden seeds of major corruption, especially in the area of our beliefs, as one of the signs of the end of time is mental corruption. Some of the causes of this are committing major sins, companionship with corrupt people, profiting from what is forbidden, taking the material world over religion, finding pleasure in the fancy words which the Devil distributes to his friends, as the Holy Qur’an says, {The devils inspire their followers to argue with you.}

Ashura, an eternal saga of conviction and courage
By Hedieh Ghavidel, http://www.Press
Many westerners do not understand why it is that Shia Muslims mourn the martyred Imam Hussein as though the event did not occur a thousand years ago but as if it happened as recently as yesterday.

The 10th day of Muharram, Ashura, marks the martyrdom of the third Shia Imam, Hussein ibn Ali, in the year 680 CE/ 61 AH.

Shias beat their chests, cry and mourn, because Ashura is a sad, sad story. It is a story of cruelty, loss and grief; a story of love, faith and courage.

Hussein (PBUH), the son of the first Shia Imam and the grandson of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), along with 72 of his faithful companions, fought the army of the Umayyad caliph Yazid bin Muawiyah who had no reverence for the Ahl al-Bayt (the Infallible progeny of the Prophet) and did not adhere to Islamic values.

One needs only envision the events leading to and of that painful day and it will be a mystery no more.

The heat and thirst have drained the children, their questioning gazes asking what their lips dare not speak for fear of embarrassing the Imam, who cannot quench their thirst as the enemy has ruthlessly prevented man, women and child from the water of life.

The Imam’s brother Abbas volunteers to bring water for the camp. He advances toward the river Euphrates to fill his water sack, his fingers touching the cool surface of the water. He does not drink although every fiber in his being cries out to him to relive his thirst.

The enemy attacks and Abbas loses an arm. He picks up the water sack with his remaining limb and when that is severed he picks it up with his teeth but he is knocked out of the saddle and a blow to his head leaves him with no power to move. He calls to the Imam, ‘Brother, where are you?’
The Imam fends off the enemy and rushes to his brother’s side, holding Abbas, who has been blinded, in his arms until he draws his last breath.

The baby Ali has no strength left to cry and no more water left in his body for tears. The Imam decides to reason with the enemy; surely they will understand that a father cannot watch his child wither away in front of his eyes and do nothing; surely they will be moved upon seeing the six-month-old Ali’s condition.

Imam Hussein faces his enemies and shows them Ali, telling them he doesn’t seek water for himself but for the children. He tries to persuade them, but to no avail; hostility radiates in their every response. The sound of an arrow pierces the air and there is a shower of crimson rain.

The baby’s body shakes no more with dry sobs. The Imam looks down and sees the arrow in the infant’s throat. Ali needs water no more. The Imam fills his hand with the lifeblood of his son and throws it to the skies, crying ‘Allah, please accept this small sacrifice from me.’

How much pain can one person bear? How much loss can a person tolerate?

Imam Hussein’s sister Zaynab has to be calm so as not to worry the Imam. She must conceal her anguish and give strength to all the women in the camp who look up to her. If she breaks down, so will they.

Instead, she displays strength, and carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders, never showing the slightest hint of weakness.

She has watched the torn bodies of her sons brought in one by one, her limbless brothers one after the other, and not a word of complaint has escaped her lips. She has been the same calm Zaynab whom everyone turns to in their moments of despair.

When the grief is too hard to bear, she only says, ‘The will of Allah is my will.’
She is atop the hillock overlooking the battlefield now, watching her pillar of strength, her beloved brother, racing toward his destiny of martyrdom as was prophesied so many years ago.

She follows her brother with her eyes, feeling the pain of every sword blow he receives. It is almost too much to take and she drops to the ground only to stand tall again.

He races toward the enemy and her heart races after him.

Her legs again give way beneath her when she sees five-year-old Abdullah, who has slipped out of his mother’s grasp, racing toward the battlefield. The little boy is running to his uncle, trying to make his attackers stop delivering blows.

His childlike logic tells him he will be able to overpower the assailants and make them leave his uncle alone. Abdullah reaches his uncle and tries to protect his body with his small hands, but blades do not understand reason.

Blood is gushing from the little boy’s severed hand and he starts crying but is not willing to abandon his uncle. The Imam is near the end and has little strength left to comfort Abdullah.

‘It’s alright, little one…we will join your father and mine soon…soon we will be free,’ he consoles the terrified child.

The attacking horde, not satisfied with shedding the blood of the Imam, raze the camp of defenseless women and children, set fire to tents, flog the petrified survivors and loot what they can lay their hands on.

The children run across the thorn-covered sand with nowhere to escape and no one to turn to. Possessing not a whiff of humanity, the savages revel in the havoc they have created.

The Ahl al-Bayt’s suffering and agony is not yet over, as they will be forced to walk barefoot to Damascus. The camp, which has lost all, is forced to walk behind as the decapitated heads of their fathers, brothers and husbands precede them on spearheads.

One need not be Shia or Muslim to be moved by the horrific incidents of those sorrowful days.

The tragedy of Ashura will leave a permanent mark on the soul of any free and compassionate spirit, regardless of religion or race.

Indonesia – Embracing moderation

Indonesia – Embracing moderation

James O’TOole, Post-Gazette
Monday 2007-06-18 13:41:21

(With a limited knowledge about Al-zaytun this article should be a coffee morning reading and as a proof that the western Journalist can do more is nonsence)

Some recent visitors braced for Jakarta’s notoriously ferocious traffic were pleasantly surprised with their swift passage from the bougainvillea-draped airport through the city’s long boulevards and broad traffic circles.

The capital of a nation that’s home to the world’s largest Muslim population was uncharacteristically quiet as it embarked on a four-day weekend celebrating the Christian feast of the Ascension.

The break in commerce for a Christian commemoration reflected the island nation’s Dutch colonial heritage and, more to the point, the relatively open and embracing strain of Islam that dominates the world’s fourth-largest nation. Muslim women routinely appear in public with their heads uncovered. Full-length burkhas are much less common than in the Middle East or even India. Rock music, indigenous MTV and shows such as “Indonesian Idol,” are vital parts of urban popular culture.

In recent years, however, dozens of smaller jurisdictions across the country have taken advantage of the nation’s renewed and newly decentralized democracy to enact laws mandating various Islamic-rooted practices, such as prohibitions on alcohol or mandates for headscarves on women.

In keeping with what some Westerners see as an increased “Arabization of culture,” some clerics have preached that it is a breach of Muslim faith to wish Christians “Merry Christmas.”

Although Muslims make up roughly 90 percent of its population, Indonesia had been more lightly touched than other large Islamic countries by the wave of fundamentalism that rose worldwide through the last decades of the 20th century. Now there are clear signs that stricter observance of Islam and an overlapping, but by no means identical, affinity for a fundamentalist, Middle Eastern version of the religion are on the rise in the island nation.

There is widespread debate on the extent and significance of this trend on Indonesia’s future and its relations with its neighbors. And while questions about the intersection of secular and religious culture are significant, they are not the only ones, or, according to many observers, the most important ones occurring at this pivotal point in Indonesia’s history.

One glimpse at the forces tugging at Indonesia is found miles beyond the omnipresent smog of the capital. East along the northern coast of Java, past forests of rubber trees and oceans of brilliant green rice paddies, a complex of modern buildings suddenly looms over the flat rural ricescape. The raw gray shell of what will be one of the largest mosques in Asia dominates multistory dormitories. This is Al-Zaytun, a pesantran, or Muslim boarding school, temporary home to more than 8,000 students from across Indonesia and as far away as Somalia and South Africa.

The students, from primary to the university level, will have memorized the Quran by the time they are 18. But this bears little outward resemblance to many of the fundamentalist madrassas that have sprung up across the Middle East and Asia.

From all appearances, the institution enthusiastically embraces modernity. Students cite career goals such as engineering, medicine and agronomy. Staff members proudly show visitors bioengineering labs where they genetically screen and cross-breed the species of trees that the institution has planted by the hundreds of thousands on the vast acreage surrounding the school. Staff members call the tree-planting program “green gold,” claiming that the new foliage has actually changed the micro-climate surrounding the school. The bioengineering lab also seeks the optimum strain of grass to feed the cows raised on site — all part of its ethos of self-sufficiency. The school boasts of raising much of its own food supply.

University-level students help in the teaching of younger students. Last month, under the proud eye of its leader, Panji Gamilang, its workers steered heavy equipment around a vast construction project, building a dam to corral rainy season downpours for irrigation year-round.

Students at the school say they are taught an open, tolerant version of Islam, eschewing divisions such as Sunni and Shiite and accepting adherents of other religions.

Reflecting on the school’s legacy last month, two university students, one majoring in English and education and the other in agronomy, joined in a confident prediction that it was only a matter of time before Al-Zaytun produced a future president of Indonesia. To the casual visitor, the students and the institution that has grown with them present a seemingly impressive tableau, an example of modern Islamic education.

But not all Indonesians accept that view. One book, “A Glance at Al-Zaytun,” by Al Chaidar, brands the school as a cult of personality surrounding Mr. Gumilang, who some have charged has links to a banned militant group, Darul Islam. The 2000 book depicted the moderate image the school seeks to project as a facade concealing a training ground for the shock troops of a new caliphate. Mr. Gumilang has also been accused of having financial links to the ousted regime of the former dictator Suharto. The controversial educator has denounced such reports in the Indonesian press. The Jakarta Post quoted him in 2002 as branding such charges as “all rubbish.”

After the 2004 elections, the first direct presidential elections in the nation’s history, a report issued by the election monitoring arm of former President Jimmy Carter’s Carter Center questioned thousands of ballots cast at Al-Zaytun for the presidential candidate of a party linked to the former Suharto regime. The votes were eventually thrown out.

In an interview with a group of American journalists last month, the charismatic Mr. Gumilang was charming and expansive in his vision for the school’s future but adroit in ducking questions about the school’s funding, financial origins or political ties. While his staff said that the school’s tuition supports less than half the cost of the education it provides, Mr. Gumilang waved off questions about the balance of its revenue, insisting that it was self-supporting, helped by “small donations” from “friends.”

A few days later, former Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, a moderate Muslim scholar as well as a key figure in the nation’s transition to democracy, told the journalists that the school was the beneficiary of Saudi and Kuwaiti funding, as well as the support of a former Suharto intelligence chief.

Mr. Wahid, also known as Gus Dur, spoke in the cramped office of the Wahid Foundation, which promotes moderate Islam, along with a related group, Libforall. Mr. Wahid has warned of the dangers of a radical shift in Islam, both in his country and abroad. But, while citing multiple threats to his country’s new democracy, the nearly blind leader invoked Richard Nixon in saying that he was ultimately confident that “the silent majority” of Indonesians would continue to support moderation, rejecting minority agitation to impose an Islamic state on a country that, through dictatorship and democracy, has successfully balanced its Muslim identity and a largely secular government.

One tacit sign that the country continues to support that equation comes from a political party sharply at odds with Mr. Wahid’s point of view.

The Prosperous Justice Party, an avowedly Islamic party with intellectual ties to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, has achieved clear political momentum in recent years, its popularity growing particularly among the nation’s university students.

But in crafting its political appeal, it has sought votes across sectarian lines by casting itself more as a force against corruption than as any sort of vanguard for a more traditional Islamic state.

At its Jakarta headquarters, the party’s president, Tifatul Sembiring, insisted that he “couldn’t imagine” Indonesia becoming an Islamic state with shariah as the formal basis of its laws. He noted that the party has gained Christian support through its anti-corruption platform.

“We are a party of morality, not of a specific religion,” he insisted.

He denounced in particular one militant group, the Islamic Defenders Front, or FPI, that is known for violent street demonstrations, including attacks on bars and entertainment establishments.

Given the signs of more overt public adherence to Muslim traditions and the nation’s recent outbreak of terrorist attacks, questions about the direction of Indonesia’s government and the nature of its Islamic character are bound to persist, just as the lack of transparency about Al-Zaytun will nurture questions about its motives.

While such questions are important, however, some Indonesian analysts suggest that they are not the most critical ones to ask about the nation’s future. In particular, they said imposing a struggle-for-the-soul-of-moderate-Islam narrative on the country’s complex dynamics obscures other fundamental issues for a fragile democracy still emerging from the trauma of the Asian financial crisis 10 years ago. The trajectories of Indonesia’s economy and democratic institutions are likely to have more influence on the extent to which its 235 million people will be vulnerable to calls for radicalism of any persuasion.

Defense Minister Juwono Sudarsono said that the politically influential army was devoted to a tradition of moderate Islam. Any public sympathy for terrorism, he said, had been undercut by the televised images of the many Muslim victims of bombings in Bali and elsewhere. He pointed out that the country’s per capita income had just crept back to the level of approximately $1,500 that it had reached before the economic collapse of a decade ago, and he said that the country’s greatest challenge was extending a measure of prosperity to the 39 million Indonesians who exist on less than $2 a day.

Meidyatama Suryodiningrat, managing editor of the English language Jakarta Post, argued that a debate over the appropriate extent of Muslim influence was a healthy one, largely suppressed during decades of dictatorship.

But more immediate and crucial questions, he said, involve the extent to which the nation’s still fledgling democracy will take root, and what role the army will settle into in the post-dictatorship era.

He dismissed the prospect of a shift toward an Islamic state, suggesting that this would split the nation, which the army, sworn to defend the nation’s identity, would never tolerate. While non-Muslim religions constitute relatively small minorities within Indonesia, they are geographically concentrated — Hindus in Bali, for example, and Christians in Papua.

Speaking at the East-West Center in Hawaii recently, Alexander Downer, Australia’s foreign minister, was uniformly upbeat about the prospects for his sprawling neighbor.

Mr. Downer said he saw a decrease in support for terrorism and a similarly welcome lowering of the army’s political profile.

In a world worried about the rise of sometimes-violent radicalism within Islam, he said, “Indonesia is a counter-narrative … the United States should recognize these changes in the Muslim world and embrace them. America should be excited by the democratic change in Indonesia and do all it can to make sure it’s a success.”

James O’Toole is the politics editor for the Post-Gazette (, 412 263-1562). He recently visited Indonesia on a study tour sponsored by the East-West Center.

Source: Indonesia – Embracing moderation

Islam and America — Bridging the Perception Gap

Date: 08-11-2006

The East-West Wire is a news, commentary, and analysis service provided by the East-West Center in Honolulu. Any part or all of the Wire content may be used by media with attribution to the East-West Center or the person quoted. To receive the East-West Center Wire, please contact John Lewis at (808) 944-7204 or

Richard Baker, special assistant to the president of the East-West Center and coordinator of the Center’s Islamic Initiative, wrote the following commentary.
A researcher who has polled Americans on their attitudes toward Islam and Muslims finds that the most significant factor differentiating those who feel comfortable with Muslims from those who do not is whether they have ever known one. This is clearly not the entire story — after all, most murderers and their victims know each other. But when basic cultural differences are coupled with wide geographical separation, as is the case for most Americans with Islam, it is all too easy for negative stereotypes to dominate. And despite the omnipresence of American culture around the world, most Muslims have little personal familiarity with America or Americans.

In the aftermath of 9/11, the East-West Center undertook to help correct the misperceptions and misunderstandings between Asia’s Islamic societies (home to more than half the world’s Muslims) and Americans. We chose to work especially with journalists, whose role as communicators gives them impact far beyond their numbers.

There is need for such programs. In general, journalists from the Asian Islamic world “know” more about the United States than American journalists know about Islam in Asia. But much of what they “know” are stereotypes of the United States as a hot-headed, deeply prejudiced nation engaged in an international “crusade” against Islam. Americans’ perceptions of the Islamic world in turn are largely colored by the images and stories coming from the Middle East. Most Americans are even unaware that two-thirds of the world’s Islamic population lives not in the Middle East but in South and Southeast Asia.

The program has also demonstrated how direct exposure can reorient perspectives. In 2004, for example, the Asian journalists had an intense hour-plus discussion with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, considered by many the architect of the Iraq campaign. The meeting didn’t change minds, but it did show that Wolfowitz was not engaged in an anti-Islam crusade and in fact knew much and had thought deeply about Middle East issues. The Asian journalists have also had opportunities to meet Americans engaged in inter-faith dialogues. They have been impressed that these efforts exist (as is rarely the case in their countries) and that American Muslims are regularly involved with their Christian and Jewish counterparts.

This summer seven journalists from Asian Islamic communities and six American journalists took overlapping two-week study tours in America and Asia, respectively. The experience was enlightening, even uplifting, for the journalists.

The highlight of the Asians’ trip was a visit to a Jewish synagogue in San Jose, California. For most of the group this was the first time they had set foot in a Jewish house of worship, or engaged in direct discussion with Jewish leaders on interfaith issues. The Asians also visited an Islamic school in San Jose, established by a staunchly moderate American convert whose long-range plan is to produce American-trained Islamic preachers (imams).

The American journalists visited Indonesia and Bangladesh, and met with a broad spectrum of political and religious leaders. The Muslims in these countries welcomed them and were eager to talk. While Asian Muslims in general practice a more moderate Islam than in the Middle East, and most fear and denounce terrorism, the journalists also found pervasive feelings of hostility and suspicion toward U.S. policy on the Middle East and Islam in general. In Bangladesh they encountered the view that the American response to 9/11 had in fact kindled Islamist extremism in much of the Asian Islamic world. They also met the leader of a hard-line Islamic party who made clear his long-term objective to turn the country into a true Islamic state.

In Indonesia the Americans had a rather different experience with two prominent forces of conservative Islam. In the capital, Jakarta, they met with the leaders of a young, puritanical Islamic party that has captured the majority of the city legislature and a good number of seats in the national parliament. These leaders sounded less like religious zealots than enthusiastic participants in the give and take of national politics. Still more intriguing was an overnight stay at Al Zaytun, a huge new Islamic boarding school and college in a rural area several hours east of Jakarta, a school that is controversial within Indonesia due to uncertainty about its funding and suspicions of links with extremist causes. There the journalists saw hundreds of students behaving like curious, fun-loving children of any society, and heard the founder expound on his objective of educating a new generation of Indonesian leaders who are both modern and moral (in the Islamic mold).

What is the net impact of such experiences? Many of the negative stereotypes are deeply engrained and not easily changed. But in general, the journalists come away with a more sophisticated understanding of the complexity of the countries they visit. They also see directly that most people share similar values, interests and concerns, even if they have profound disagreements on the nature of the forces affecting the world and the policies needed to address the issues.


Mr. Baker is a former U.S. Foreign Service Officer who served a number of years in Indonesia. He is currently serving as special assistant to the president of the East-West Center and coordinating the Center’s Islamic Initiative. He can be contacted at the East-West Center on (808) 944-7371 or via email at

For daily news on the Pacific Islands, see For links to all East-West Center media programs, fellowships and services, see

7 Grandest Mosque in Indonesia Version TourWestern

Tour Western version:

1. A brief history of Baiturrahman Mosque in Banda Aceh

Baiturrahman Mosque, Bandar Aceh, Indonesia

There are two versions of the history of Masjid Raya Baiturrahman. Some call Johan Mahmud Sultan Alauddin Shah built this mosque in the 13th century. Yet another version states Baiturahman Mosque was founded in the 17th century, at the height of the reign of Sultan Iskandar Muda. But certainly that Baiturahman name, given by the Sultan Iskandar Muda. At that time the mosque has become a center of Islamic teachings in the development of the sultanate of Aceh Darussalam.

Laying the first stone of the rebuilding of the mosque conducted in 1879 by Tengku Adil Malikul, witnessed by the Military Governor of the Dutch East Indies in Aceh at the time, G. J. van der Heijden. Construction of this mosque Dutch architect designed Italian descent, De Brun. Building materials mosque partly imported from Penang – Malaysia, marble from the Netherlands, marble for stairs and floors of China, the iron to the window of Belgium, timber from Myanmar and poles mosque from Surabaya. The rebuilding of the mosque with a dome, completed and inaugurated on December 27, 1883. During the residency Y. Jongejans ruling in Aceh mosque was re-expande.

2. A brief history of the Great Mosque of Pekanbaru Riau AN-NUR

Mosque AGUNG AN-NUR Pekanbaru Riau

This mosque was built in 1964 on the leadership of the governor of Riau Kharudin Nasution in the Village of Fifty, Fifty district, Pekanbaru City. The mosque is located in the heart of the road between Hang Tuah and Sisingamaraja road. Renovation in 2002 made ​​a complete facility owned such as the Islamic Center, it is not surprising because this mosque by the community known as a center of Islamic activity Riau Province.

3. A brief history of Mosque Al Markaz Al Islami Makassar

Al Markaz Al-Islami Mosque Makassar

The initial idea was born from the late General M. Jusuf that when in 1989 became Commander of the Hajj (pilgrimage leaders) expressed his desire to establish a monumental mosque in Makassar. Who listens to spark the idea was one of them is M. Jusuf Kalla, now the father of our Vice President. Great mosque is deliberately placed in Makassar not because of the late M. Joseph came from South Sulawesi. The reason is precisely because of Makassar is central eastern Indonesia, and fairly religious society, seen from the number of pilgrims who pretty much from here. At the beginning of its construction, it was agreed the name of this mosque is Al-Markaz Al Islami. Over the years, the name was changed. After being used for ten times the Month of Ramadan, Masjid Al-Markaz Al Islami using his new name, namely Masjid Al Markaz Al Islami General M. Jusuf. Replacement of the name as a tribute to the late M. Jusuf who had initiated the founding of the largest mosque in Southeast Asia.

Great mosque that shelter under the Islamic Center Foundation is able to accommodate up to 10,000 worshipers. Its existence is very famous throughout the archipelago, even to foreign countries, under the name Al-Markaz Al Islami. Aside from being a place of worship, the Al Markaz Al Islami also became the center of development and research and education. Here there is a TK Islam Al-Markaz, trainings, lectures Duha, and youth camp.

4. A brief history of Mosque  Dian Al Mahri, Depok – WEST JAVA

Masjid Dian Al Mahri, Depok – WEST JAVA

The mosque was built by Hj. Dian Djuriah Maimun Al Rashid, a businessman from Bantam, which has bought this land since 1996. This mosque was built since 2001 and was completed around the end of 2006. The mosque is open to the public on December 31, 2006, to coincide with Eid al-Adha is the second time that year. With a total area of ​​50 acres, the building of this mosque occupies an area of 60 x 120 meters or about 8000 square meters. The mosque itself can accommodate approximately some 20,000 pilgrims [1]. Mosque area is often referred to as the region most magnificent mosques in Southeast Asia.

5. A brief history of the Istiqlal Mosque Jakarta

Istiqlal Mosque Jakarta

In 1953 some scholars had the idea to set up a magnificent mosque which will be the pride of the citizens of Jakarta as the capital and also the people of Indonesia as a whole. They are the KH. Wahid Hasyim, the first Minister of Religious Affairs, who threw the idea of ​​building the mosque together with H. Agus Salim, Anwar Tjokroaminoto and Ir. Sofwan along with about 200 people-an Islamic figure KH leadership. Taufiqorrahman. The idea was later realized by forming the Istiqlal Mosque Foundation.

On December 7th, 1954 established the Istiqlal Mosque Foundation, chaired by H. Tjokroaminoto to realize the idea of ​​the national mosque. Deca Park Building at Merdeka Square (now Jalan Medan Merdeka Utara in the Garden of the National Museum), a silent witness for the formation of the Istiqlal Mosque Foundation. Istiqlal name is taken from the Arabic for Freedom as a symbol of gratitude for the Indonesian nation to freedom granted by Allah SAW. The first President Sukarno of Indonesia welcomed the idea and support the establishment of foundations Istiqlal mosque and later formed the Committee for Development of the Istiqlal Mosque (PPMI).

Siting Istiqlal Mosque

Determination of the location of the mosque had caused a stir among Bung Karno and Bung Hatta, who was then serving as Vice President. Bung Karno proposed location of the former Dutch fort in Frederick Hendrik with Wilhelmina Park was built by Governor General Van Den Bosch in 1834, located between Jalan officer, Jalan Lapangan Banteng, Cathedral Road and Veterans Road. While the proposed location of Bung Hatta mosque is located in the midst of his people on Jalan Thamrin, which was then surrounded by many nearby villages, but that he also considered the demolition of the Dutch fort will take no small amount of funds. But ultimately the President decided to build on land the former Dutch fort, because the church has stood across from the Cathedral in order to show the harmony and the harmony of religious life in Indonesia.

6. A brief history of Mosque Raya Batam

A brief history of Masjid Raya Batam

This mosque was built on a land area of ​​75,000 m2 in 1999, on the initiative Ismed Abdullah Batam Authority chairman and diarsiteki by Ir. Achmad Noe’man in Batam Center, Batam. The mosque building is shaped alloy between the beams at the bottom of the square and equilateral cross on top of which is the head of the building. Area of ​​2515 m2 entirely praying spaces and can accommodate 3500 pilgrims, the outside is able to accommodate 15,000 worshipers, Living area 506.7 m2 wudlu men, women wudlu runag area 178.1 m2. Space area of ​​39.96 m2 nursery goods, Space activities of 2190.3 m2. and 66 meters high tower.

7.  A Brief History of the Mosque Rahmatan Lil ‘Alamin – West Java

Mosque Rahmatan Lil ‘Alamin – West Java

The mosque is the heart and center of all the inhabitants of Al-Zaytun Ma’had (MAZ). On campus students are trained and accustomed to live godly lives, be it Isha salat, Dawn, Noon, Afternoon and sunset in the congregation, as well as disciplined in kepesantrenan tradition, but living in an atmosphere and modern management.

Mockups: Mosque Rahmatan Lil ‘Alamin in maket.Untuk image was first built the Masjid Al-Hayat, as preparation I’dadi mosque, in the land area of ​​5,000 m2 three-storey capacity power approximately 7000 pilgrims. Laying the first stone made ​​on January 1, 1999 and the process is completed within three months. Then, with respect to the rapid increase the number of students and residents MAZ cause Masjid Al-Hayat was no longer able to accommodate the pilgrims, both on weekdays and Friday.

So MAZ must immediately build a huge mosque named Masjid Rahmatan Lil ‘Alamin. The mosque stands on 6.5 acres of land, covering an area measuring 99 x 99 m storey 6 (six), which can accommodate 150,000 pilgrims. One of the largest mosques in the world. The mosque is being built is a cost approximately 14 million U.S. dollars, or about Rp 135 billion. After Mosque Rahmatan Lil ‘Alamin is used, the building of Al-Hayat will be a library function MAZ.

Private school or personal fiefdom? (USA today,2007)

We’re standing on a sun-scorched spot in a clearing among the rice paddies and rubber tree groves surrounding a small, poor village four hours outside Jakarta. We’ve come to see the Sheik of Al-Zaytun, a bombastic entrepreneurial character named Panji Gumilang, the Grand Chancellor of Al-Zaytun, in full performance at a new project he’s developing, a school for the tiny village.
blog post photo
Gumilang is the visionary – or Svengali – behind a vast, secretive Islamic utopian enterprise called Al-Zaytun in rural Java. It’s a private boarding high school for 8,000 students from primary schoolers to the first university class. It’s also a farming complex with vast fields in cultivation, an agricultural research laboratory, and herds of cattle and sheep. It’s a publishing enterprise that sells a magazine all about, what else, Al-Zaytun and the Grand Chancellor himself.

The Al-Zaytuncampus features numerous dorms, classrooms, 150-seat computer lab and gardens – and separate marked paths for the men and for the scarf-clad. At the main gate, he’s building a six story mosque, clad in Chinese granite,to hold 100,000 worshippers in its main floor and six balcony levels.
blog post photo

Where will all those people come from? Gumilang calculates that the school will grow to 25,000 students. Then he adds in their visiting parents, the faculty, the workers who run the facilities and surrounding self-sustaining agricultural projects, and the nearby villagers. He expects to pack the mosque and accommodate 50,000 more outside. blog post photo

What’s the source of the incalculable millions needed to build and run a fiefdom that is completely unchecked by any local, regional or national rules or regulations? For that, we get no answers. Indeed, Indonesians have been debating about Al-Zaytun ever since the first stones were laid in 1996, during the final years of Suharto’s rule before democracy was established in 1999. (Only recently did Gumilang admit support from the Suharto family).

Another rampant rumor is that funds are coming from Saudis seeking to import a more puritanical form of Islam. Islam in Indonesia has adapted and adopted elements of myriad island cultures ever since 14th century traders first brought Islam to the region.

Everywhere we’ve been for four days here, officials, academics, journalists and politicians all laugh at how no one has penetrated the real story of the funding behind Gumilang.

However, no one has proved that anything nefarious is going on in the school. The students seem healthy, well taught in morality, ethics and secular subjects, in Indonesian and Arabic languages. Islamic history and culture lead the curriculum of 40 courses overall and everyone is expected to have the Quran memorized by high school graduation. We met students, toured the campus exhaustively and found no contradictions.

Muhammad Fahrozi Zaelani, 22, from Jakarta, and Seruni Putri Tanjun, 23, from Sumatra are among the first batch of university students who have spent a decade here.
blog post photoblog post photo

Friendly, ambitious (he wants to be an ambassador, she wants to be a doctor) and well-spoken, they present a moderate vision of Islam. Zaelani says, “We don’t read the Quran literally like fundamentalists. We read it contextually. We don’t think the way to go to heaven is to blow your self up. It is to sacrifice yourself by working for the good of others.”

The entire faculty, our minders on the tour (we were followed, filmed, recorded and photographed by a battalion of people with Al-Zaytun tags) and the students we met all stressed a belief in peace and tolerance. No intra-Islamic sectarianism such as Sunni, Shiia rivalries, is allowed. “Our sheik tells us all are created by Allah,” they say.

So, are the rumors that this is the leading edge of dangerous radical education just sour grapes from other smaller or less successful pesantrans? Could be. Somehow, Gumilang has built this vast complex at a time when the economy is in crisis. And the charismatic character and his staff of recruiters have convinced thousands of parents to pay tuition, room and board fees with a non-refundable six-year front charge that’s 30% more than the Ivy League of pesantrans on the other side of Java.

To see Gumilang work a crowd is quite an experience. He’s a paunchy fellow with an emphatic way jamming the air with his forefinger and shouting his speech. At the school dedication, he leads everyone in a familiar prayer praising the 100 unique names of Allah. Then he calls up representatives from the village, the school children, the Al-Zaytun students and faculty – even the visiting East West fellows – to take a turn cementing a rock into the foundation of the five-room school he’s building for the village.

blog post photo
The village is about two miles down a rutted dirt road from the Al-Zaytun campus. Its state school consists of two shacks with broken benches and holes in the mat walls. Evidently, no teacher shows up regularly.

blog post photo
A mile away, Gumilang is overseeing construction of a new reservoir with a million dollars in heavy equipment lurching along the banks. Again, it’s his donation to the community – and a way to improve and expand his own farming operations.

You’d think we’d know more after the East West fellows had an hour interview with the sheik himself, but I assure you, he was as crafty as any politician who stays on his own message no matter what is asked. Seven reporters gave it their best shot to draw out some explanation of his funding, his politics, and his vision of Indonesia’s future. But all we heard back was a message of the great goals of Al-Zaytun, the value of great teaching, and the mission to create a thriving nation of well-educated Muslims.

Over the next few days, we asked the same questions of some of Jakarta’s leading print and broadcast journalists. For the most part, no one had penetrated into the mystery of Al-Zaytun any farther than we did.

Al-Zaytun is just one thread we pursued in our five days of meetings here. We’ve asked whether people think Islamic law should or could rule this state. Will anyone be able to overcome the culture of corruption here? Can 17,000 islands scattered across 3,000 miles with myriad languages, cultures and ethnic loyalties hold together in a democratic state?

In the next few days, as we East West Fellows make our way back to Honolulu for our final meetings, I’ll share views we gathered from the Minister of Defense to the Indonesian Bono, a rock star who calls himself a Sufi.

I’m also eager to catch up with the Asian East West Fellows. They’ll rejoin us in Hawaii and to offer their vision of two weeks in America.

See photos of: Indonesia

The Honorable Datuk Sir Iskandar Syaifullah, KRSS

We are glad to present the personal and exclusive Knightly Arms of The Honorable Datuk Sir Iskandar Syaifullah, KRSS (Datuk/ Knight of the Royal Order of Sulu & Sabah) of Gantar, Indramayu, Western Java, Indonesia. Granted the honors as Knight for his valuable work on closer friendship and brotherhood between the Tausugs, Filipinos and Indonesians and for his exemplary support to His Majesty Sultan Fuad A. Kiram I, the 35th Reigning Sultan of Sulu & Sabah, and to recover Sabah from the unlawful occupation of Malaysia to benefit the Tausug and Filipino owners of Sabah. Congratulations to our Datuk Sir Iskandar. Best wishes.

The Honorable Datuk Sir Nurdin Abu Sabit, KRSS


We are pleased to present the personal and exclusive Knightly Arms of The Honorable Datuk Sir Nurdin Abu Sabit, KRSS (Datuk/ Knight of the Royal Order of Sulu & Sabah) of Gantar, Indramayu, Western Java, Indonesia. Granted the honors as Knight for his valuable work on closer friendship and brotherhood between the Tausugs, Filipinos and Indonesians and for his exemplary support to His Majesty Sultan Fuad A. Kiram I, the 35th Reigning Sultan of Sulu & Sabah, and to recover Sabah from the unlawful occupation of Malaysia to benefit the Tausug and Filipino owners of Sabah. Congratulations to our Datuk Sir Nurdin. Best wishes.


The Honorable Datuk Sir Abdul Halim, KRSS


We present with pleasure the personal and exclusive Knightly Arms of The Honorable Datuk Sir Abdul Halim, KRSS (Datuk/ Knight of the Royal Order of Sulu & Sabah) of Gantar, Indramayu, Western Java, Indonesia. Granted the honors as Knight for his notable work on closer friendship and brotherhood between the Tausugs, Filipinos and Indonesians and for his exemplary support to His Majesty Sultan Fuad A. Kiram I, the 35th Reigning Sultan of Sulu & Sabah, and to recover Sabah from the unlawful occupation of Malaysia to benefit the Tausug and Filipino owners of Sabah. Congratulations to our Datuk Sir Abdul. Best wishes.



Board of members MIM awards


Royal communiqué: Royal Grant of Award of Knighthood to The Honorable Datuk Sir Abdul Halim, KRSS; The Honorable Datuk Sir Nurdin Abu Sabit, KRSS and The Honorable Datuk Sir Iskandar Syaifullah, KRSS.

7 November 2011

Royal Maimbung, Sulu

A Royal communiqué from His Royal Highness Prince Omar Kiram Dux de Legazpi Duque de Vivar-Maniquiz, Grand Prince & Prince Marshal & Grand Master of the Royal Orders.

To All and Singular: To all whom this Royal communiqué shall come, greetings!

“Be it hereby duly known with the most gracious Royal assent and approbation, and after due deliberation by the Royal Council which unanimously agreed and recommended to His Majesty Sultan Muhammad Fuad Abdulla Kiram the First, The Sultan of Sulu & The Sultan of Sabah, Head of Islam & Head of Sultanate, The 35th Reigning Sultan – for the three (3) select personages to be granted the illustrious and honorable award, rank and title as “Knight” and are entitled to be called “The Honorable” and they can use the letters “KRSS and LRSS” (Knight of the Royal Order of Sulu & Sabah) after their names as post nominals announced hereto.”

Citation reads:

For their personal acts to better understanding and friendship between the Tausugs of The Royal Hashemite Sultanate of Sulu & Sabah, and the peoples of the Philippines and Indonesia and their support for our advocacy to recover Sabah the three (3) grantees of honors and distinctions whose names appear below shall become Knights of the Royal Order of Sulu & Sabah with immediate effect as from today the 7th day of November in the year 2011:

The Honorable Datuk Sir Abdul Halim, KRSS

The Honorable Datuk Sir Nurdin Abu Sabit, KRSS

The Honorable Datuk Sir Iskandar Syaifullah, KRSS

All of Ma’had Al Zaytun, Gantar, Indramayu, Western Java, Indonesia.

Their personal Knightly Arms shall be designed and marshaled by the Royal College of Arms and to be granted by His Majesty Sultan Muhammad Fuad Abdulla Kiram the First, with their names inscribed on the “motto scroll” as a mark of favor and recognition of their achievements for their exclusive use in any of their honorable pursuit and endeavor.

His Majesty Sultan Muhammad Fuad Abdulla Kiram the First thereafter ordered and issued a Royal Edict to be signed and sealed today at Royal Maimbung, Sulu this 7th day of November in the year 2011.

This Royal Edict appears as a matter of public records and to be made known accordingly and we congratulate the three (3) well-deserving Royal grantees.

Note: This Royal grant as Knights of The Royal Order of Sulu & Sabah appearing hereto is free and without any fee or payment from any of the grantee, as this Royal award is based on achievements and contributions to society and not the ability to pay for the recognition. We have many Royal Grantees globally and no one paid any fee to us to receive the much sought after Royal recognition from the oldest unbroken royalty in the Philippines since the year 1405 to this day to be declared as our Honorable Knights of The Royal Hashemite Sultanate of Sulu & Sabah.

We are:

HRH Prince Omar Kiram Dux de Legazpi Duque de Vivar-Maniquiz
Grand Prince & Prince Marshal & Grand Master of Royal Orders
The Royal Hashemite Sultanate of Sulu & Sabah