Ulil defies ban with Skype speech

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KUALA LUMPUR: Despite being denied entry into Malaysia, Indonesian Muslim scholar Dr Ulil Abshar Abdalla prevailed yesterday when he addressed an audience of 100 in Kuala Lumpur via Skype.

Ulil was speaking at the 3rd International Conference on Human Rights and Peace and Conflict in Southeast Asia, held at the Swiss Garden Hotel here.

Other speakers at the plenary session entitled “Religion and human rights in Southeast Asia” included Dr Melissa Crouch, currently a research fellow at the Centre for Asian Legal Studies, National University of Singapore and Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa, director of Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF).

Ulil had been scheduled to speak at a roundtable discussion organised by IRF in Damansara Heights tomorrow.

However, the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) said the discussion should be stopped because Ulil was well known for his liberal views.

The Immigration Department subsequently put Ulil on its blacklist and was denied entry into Malaysia.

In his address, Ulil said the use of the term “kafir” (infidel) or “murtad” (apostate) to label Muslims of different views was a dangerous trend.

“Stopping the use of such terms is taking a big step towards eliminating or minimising religious violence,” he said. “The use of such terminology creates an atmosphere of hatred and intolerance, and at the same time, discourages peaceful dialogues and discussions.”

Ulil said Salafism, a puritan sect within Islam, had begun to take root in Indonesian society and was spreading fast. One characteristic of Salafism, said Ulil, is to view Muslim followers of different schools as “kafir”, “murtad” or deviant. “For example, Ahmadiyyah (another sect of Islam) followers in Indonesia have been attacked by other Muslims, who see them as being different. —The Malaysian Insider

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on October 17, 2014.