Travel Bans, Isolation and Making our Nation Great Again

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The news of the Travel Ban imposed upon a number of Muslim majority countries to enter the USA has been headline news worldwide. Shortly after the Travel Ban was announced, one of the Associations that is a resource for this website made the following announcement:

The International Qur’anic Studies Association (IQSA) is an academic society whose mission explicitly is to build “a bridge between different global communities of Qur’anic scholarship” and “promotes cooperation across global boundaries.”…. Critical scholarship is the most effective weapon against extremist, fundamentalist narratives. This executive order directly threatens the work of IQSA to further dialogue between cultures and promoting peace and mutual understanding through scholarship.

Some view isolating the West from Islam (so to isolate it from the extremist element) as the solution to peace. During the era of Muhammad, the Arabian City of Medina was made up of a large Jewish population who had emmigrated centuries before from Palestine; and and a divided Arab tribal population. Medina had a leader committed to “Making the Arab world great again,” (sounds familiar?), as was promised to the descendants of Ishmael in Genesis 17.

The Arab tribes had been united and experienced prosperity as a “nation” probably atleast 3 times since the time of Abraham, the last time being centuries earlier. Beginning in Medina under Muhammad,  this was an effort to unite the Arab peoples once again. After the creation of the Constitution between the religious and ethnic groups, based upon verses in the Qur’an, no doubt there was violence in the pursuit of this goal. Despite this, in the context of ethnic tension, the Qur’an communicates the following:

We created you from a male and female, We made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. 
QS 49:13

The Muslim reformers who navigated a way for the progressive segment of the Muslim world have something in common, they were not isolated, instead experiencing and interacting with other cultures.  Even on a local level in Indonesia, many Islamic Training Centres are increasingly exposed to other cultures through all sorts of means, including overseas exchange programs. This has helped, Muslim majority countries, as well as the West, overcome many prejudices concerning other cultures.

In contrast to this, the santri of the pesantren, or students of the Islamic Boarding School, traditionally do not have an opportunity to interact outside of their own environment. Even though they rarely directly support any form of violence, the isolation makes them vulnerable to itinerant extremists. (Fortunately the Indonesian Government has brought in various programs to respond to this issue)

Isolation does not negate extremism. In fact the opposite, interaction is a key component in the breaking down of  prejudices, and is something we can all contribute towards.

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