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    English for Ulama: Introducing Tolerant Islam and Pressing Islamic phobia in Europe


    Jakarta - Da'wah scholars from West Java, who are members of the English for Ulama program, about the beauty of Indonesian Islam in five European cities (London, Bristol, Glasgow, Manchester, and Birmingham) received a warm welcome from the local community.

    Since setting foot in London on Monday (11/4/19), five ulama from West Java, namely Wifni Yusifa, Ridwan Subagya, Ihya Ulumudin, Safitra, and Hasan Al-Banna, have received invitations, both from the regional head, members of parliament, parties the police, and religious communities, to be speakers or discuss about Islam.

    Ridwan, for example, went straight to the DKM of the Jami Auston Mosque, Afzal Shah. After that, he met with one of Bristol's politicians and Muslim community. The Bristol police chief was present at the meeting.

    Meanwhile, Hasan became one of the speakers in the Thurrock Interfaith Roundtable Dialogue or interfaith dialogue that took place in Grays, Thurrock - about 30 km east of London.

    Aside from Hasan, the dialogue held by the Thurrock Labor Party was attended by members of the assembly Qaisar Abbas and John Kent, Imam Grays Mosque Salim Rahman and Abdul Rashid, also Reverend David Peterson (St. Clements Church) and Matt Drummond (St. Stephens Church).

    According to the Education and Culture Attache of the Indonesian Embassy in London Aminudin Azis, the interest of the European community to welcome the arrival of five West Java scholars was already seen at the opening of the English for Ulama.

    "The opening was attended by three parliaments, the Jewish community, and the local church. Not to mention, the media there also reported the arrival of the West Java cleric," Aminudin said during a video conference with West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil, Tuesday (12/11/19).

    "The enthusiasm of the local community welcomed the West Java clerics because they hoped the arrival of the clerics could answer their questions about Islam," he added.

    British Council Indonesia Director Paul Smith argues, questions about Islam often arise because of misconceptions about Islamic values. So do not be surprised if Islam is often labeled negatively by the majority of the people of the Blue Continent, especially the United Kingdom.

    "There are often misunderstandings about Islamic values. Often Islam is seen as negative and wrong. I believe that Indonesia has a more moderate, warmer, and friendlier view of Islam," he said.

    Paul stated, messages about the warmth and beauty of Islam must be heard in the United Kingdom. Therefore, he appreciated the English for Ulama program initiated by the Regional Government (Pemda) of West Java Province.

    "This is the main program to bring the truth. We believe Indonesia has a fantastic story about Islam. We are happy to be involved in this program. Hopefully next year English for Ulama will be carried out again," he said.

    Meanwhile, West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil explained that the main mission of the five scholars was to preach and discuss in a number of campuses and communities, both Muslim and non-Muslim. Emil - greeting Ridwan Kamil - hopes they can change the negative perception of European society towards Islam.

    "They will tell about the tolerant hospitality of Indonesian Islam, especially in West Java. The hope, perceptions that exist after this visit, will bring experience and understanding of Islam in Indonesia by Europe to be good," Emil said.

    "Often information about Islam is not proportional and does not represent the whole. So, moderate and peaceful Islam will be represented by these five scholars and they will become ambassadors for peace in the world," he added.

    In addition to preaching related to the beauty of Indonesian Islam, the five scholars will tell about the diversity of Indonesian culture, especially the culture of Pasundan Land. They will also carry out its mission until November 14 2019.

    "Next year will be maximized until finally this program (English for Ulama) goes global. And in the end, messages about the beauty and warmth of Indonesian Islam spread throughout the world," Emil said.

    If English for Ulama is re-launched next year, then the hope of representatives of the Minhaj Welfare Foundation (Islamic organization in the United Kingdom) Adnan Sohail is realized. He even asked the West Java Provincial Government to increase the number of scholars.

    "Hopefully in the future this program can be even more massive. It might be possible to add and expand its territory, so that this could be a sustainable program and get a good reception from the UK," he said.

    "They (West Java scholars) can spread messages about the beauty of Islam. That makes the negative perception of the community, including Islamophobia, continues to diminish here (Great Britain)," he added.

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