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Conference on Religion and Radicalism in the US and Indonesia

November 28, 2016

This week we will talk about our interfaith research symposium event from October. 

Senior lecturer Desiana Pauli Sandjaja organized a symposium entitled “Approaches to religious violence, radicalization, and deradicalization: Perspectives from US and Indonesia” on October 18th, 2016 at UW Seattle campus. This event was co-sponsored by Department of Asian Languages and Literature, Southeast Asia Center and the Indonesian Consulate General of San Francisco.

The event started by an opening remark delivered by Prof. Paul Atkins, the Chair of the Department of Asian Languages and Literature followed by a speech from The Hon. Indonesian Consul General, Mr. Ardi Hermawan.

This event drew over 50 people from diverse backgrounds, including undergrad and grad students from UW and other universities in the greater Seattle area, professors, student organizations, peace and social justice activists, and community members.

The symposium aimed to analyze the roots of religious violence and find ways to mitigate the issues.  The first panel presented 3 speakers, i.e. Prof. James Wellman (UW, Comparative Religion) “A Theory of Religious Violence across Time and Tradition”, Prof. Muhammad Ali (UC Riverside, Religious Studies Department) “Deradicalization and Disengagement Approaches against Extremist Violence in Contemporary and Pluralistic Indonesia”, Prof. Mark Smith (UW Political Science) “The Trajectory of Violence in Christianity and Islam”.

The second panel focused on ways to mitigate the issues of religious violence. It presented three speakers. Prof. Muhammad Wildan (State Islamic University of Sunan Kalijaga, Indonesia) “The Impact of Globalization on Re-Islamization and the Role of Islamic Higher Education in Re-mainstreaming Indonesian Muslims”, Prof. Gareth Barkin (University of Puget Sound, Anthropology and Asian Studies) “Commercial Islam in Indonesia: How Television Producers Mediate Religiosity among National Audience”, and Prof. Tonny Pariela (University of Pattimura, Department of Sociology, Indonesia) “Inter-religious Violence and Peace-making Effort through the Local Awareness of “Katong Orang Basodara” (We are brothers) in Maluku, Indonesia.”

One common point found in all of the presentations was that religion alone is not the key reason for religious violence and radicalism. James Wellman warns us about being cautious of the ways state and religion should mix, how policy makers should take religion more seriously, and the young charismatic male leaders who believe they are “God’s hammer” and make up the leadership of these radical groups. Muhamad Ali advises that the way to reduce radicalism is to look at the issue on a person-specific level in order to understand the specific factors (i.e., economic, educational, psychological) that led them to joining radical groups and then helping those individuals through disengaging them from the radical groups and re-engaging them into normal society. Muhammad Wildan recommends a Counter Violence & Extremism (CVE) approach to deal with the issue of radicalism, which involves reducing Western hegemony, government failure, and economic and social marginalization of societies. In conclusion, if societies are stable, peaceful and healthy, radicalism should not manifest.