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    Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country, has a constitution that recognizes other major religions, and practices a syncretic form of Islam that draws on not just the faith’s tenets but local spiritual and cultural traditions. As a result, the nation has long been a voice of, and for, moderation in the Islamic world.

    Yet Indonesia is not without its . Though most are on the fringe, they can add up to a significant number given Indonesia’s 260-million population. In the early 2000s, the country was  by  (JI), a homegrown extremist organization allied with al-Qaeda. JI’s deadliest attack was the  that killed 202 people. While JI has been neutralized, ISIS has claimed responsibility for recent, smaller terrorist incidents in the country and has  — Indonesians who could pose a threat when they return home. The country has also seen the rise of hate groups that preach intolerance and violence against local religious and ethnic minorities, which include Shia and Ahmadiya Muslims.

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    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?

    What basic assumptions within traditional Islam are problematic?

    The relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims, the relationship of Muslims with the state, and Muslims’ relationship to the prevailing legal system wherever they live … Within the classical tradition, the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims is assumed to be one of segregation and enmity.

    Perhaps there were reasons for this during the Middle Ages, when the tenets of Islamic orthodoxy were established, but in today’s world such a doctrine is unreasonable. To the extent that Muslims adhere to this view of Islam, it renders them incapable of living harmoniously and peacefully within the multi-cultural, multi-religious societies of the 21st century.

    A Western politician would likely be accused of racism for saying what you just said.

    I’m not saying that Islam is the only factor causing Muslim minorities in the West to lead a segregated existence, often isolated from society as a whole. There may be other factors on the part of the host nations, such as racism, which exists everywhere in the world. But traditional Islam — which fosters an attitude of segregation and enmity toward non-Muslims — is an important factor.

    And Muslims and the state?

    Within the Islamic tradition, the state is a single, universal entity that unites all Muslims under the rule of one man who leads them in opposition to, and conflict with, the non-Muslim world.

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    Growing religious conservatism is threatening LGTB rights in Muslim-majority nations across Southeast Asia, say activists, with a new claiming serious abuses against Malaysia's transgender community.

    On Thursday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published I’m Scared to Be a Woman: Human Rights Abuses Against Transgender People in Malaysia. The document makes serious allegations of physical and sexual assault committed against transgender people while in official custody.

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    There have been many theories of how the Middle East lost out economically to the West. But they have generally felt unsatisfactory. One argues that European colonialism suppressed the economic progress of the region. However, the dominance of the West is a symptom of the Middle East’s economic decline, not a cause. If the Arab world had maintained its edge over the West in economic clout, it is unlikely that European imperialists could have advanced very far in the region. Another theory claims that Islam itself is biased against economic progress. This argument, too, falls very flat. If Islam was inherently un-economic, how can we explain the vibrancy of the Muslim world’s economies in the centuries after the Arab conquests? And in modern times as well, certain Islamic nations, especially Malaysia and Indonesia, have been among the world’s best economic performers. Remember, Mohammad himself was a merchant before he became the Prophet, and Mecca, the first city of Islam, had been a major center of the caravan trade.

    A much more compelling argument was outlined by economist Timur Kuran in his 2010 book The Long Divergence. He makes the intriguing case that Islamic law was at the root of the problem. Its strictures, he claims inhibited the emergence of the institutions of modern capitalism as they developed in Europe. And the Middle East is suffering for that failure to this day.

    How’s that? When first developed, Islamic law was actually quite progressive for its time on economic matters, allowing, for example, for the easy formation of partnerships and clear rules to guide commercial behavior in a fair fashion. However, over the centuries, it fell out of touch with the times and failed to adapt to the new world economy being designed by European capitalists. While Europeans were creating innovative types of institutions that allowed them to amass and mobilize resources on a mammoth scale – such as joint stock companies and modern banking systems – Islamic law in the Middle East prevented these same institutions from forming. Partnership practices, which allow any partner to dissolve the arrangement, and inheritance laws, which mandate the deceased’s assets go to certain family members,  discouraged the emergence of the modern corporation, for example, by restricting the Muslims’ ability to form long-standing business organizations. Ordering the death penaly for apostasy made it extremely difficult to do business in non-Muslim legal systems.  The new institutions of capitalism gave the West an edge that it has never relinquished.

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