Talking to Muslim Palestinians, Arab-Israelis, Turks and Turkish-Cypriots in Israel, Turkey and Turkish Republic of North Cyprus the last couple weeks, I was taken aback and delighted to hear that they, much like many American, Indonesian, Indian and Malaysian Muslims I have spoken to over the years, are upset at the Muslim extremist leaders who have perverted the practice of Islam — and want change!

Real change of political leaders and the extreme religious and political dogmas they advocate.

I was amazed at their frank open hostility to the leaders of Hamas, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia — and much to my surprise — Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

Two Iranians I met agreed. An Iranian businessman I met in Istanbul who was working in the UAE and an Iranian student working as a waiter in North Cyprus, told me they would not return to Iran unless there was regime change.

“How can Muslims grow and compete economically and have good relations with Christians and Jews with these kind of leaders?” was a common thread of their frustrations.

Everyone I spoke to was a Sunni, except for the Shiah Iranians. Only a couple had done the Haj to Mecca and all expressed a strong disdain for the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia and their brand of Islam.

All supported Wasatiyyah, the moderate Islam practiced in Indonesia — the country with the world’s largest Muslim population. Wasatiyyah promotes Middle Way Islam and Socio-economic equality — a moderate-middle way. A balance in all respects.

The more political savvy and knowledgeable people supported Indonesian Vice Presidential candidate Ma’ruf Amin and Nahdlahtul Ulama (UN), Indonesia’s largest Islamic organization Amin also led as chairman. It has more than 45 million members and played a key role in the development and promotion of Islamic compromise.

According to Ma’ruf Amin, Wasatiyyah Islam is “Islam Tengah (Middle Way Islam or centrist Islam) that produces the best community (khairu ummah).”

Islam Tengah, according to Amin, is anchored in at least six characteristics: tawassuth (the middle way); tawazun (balance); tasamuh (tolerance); musawah(egalitarian and non-discriminatory; musyawarah dan muakafat (consultation and consensus); and islah (reformism).

Ma’ruf Amin’s promotion of Wasatiyyah Islam is significant because of Indonesia’s strategic position in the Muslim world — especially if he wins and becomes vice president and his views become national policy. Indeed, Ma’ruf Amin has argued for the globalization of Moderate-Middle Way Islam. “Given its importance, Wasatiyyah Islam must not be seen to be exclusive to Indonesia. Wasatiyyah Islam can also be used to foster harmony and stability of the Southeast Asian region” — and globally!

Amen!

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