Regional neighbour Indonesia has criticised former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott over his call for Islam to reform, saying he is “unhelpful” and “divisive”. Indonesia’s ambassador, Nadjib Riphat Kesoema, delivered his response to Mr Abbott’s critique by adding that violent extremism is “common in all faiths.”
“This is a time when all nations must unite to defeat the scourge of terrorism,” Mr. Kesoema said. “A rhetoric boasting of cultural and religious superiority over other cultures and religions is unhelpful to the cause and divisive.”
The representative of the country with the world’s largest population of Muslims called for strong cooperation with Australia against terrorism.
“It is important for us including the multicultural societies of Australia and Indonesia to keep our focus on efforts to creating a long-term solution to the common challenges of violent extremism that we face,” Mr. Kesoema continued.
“Violent extremism is the common challenges of all religions: Buddha, Christianity, Hindu, Islam and all faiths.”
“We’ve got to work closely with live-and-let-live Muslims because there needs to be, as president [Abdel Fattah] Al-Sisi of Egypt has said, a religious revolution inside Islam,” Mr Abbott said.
“All of those things that Islam has never had — a reformation, an enlightenment, a well-developed concept of the separation of church and state — that needs to happen.”
Mr. Abbott’s time as prime minister was marked by his strong stance against Islamic State and other terrorist organisations like Boko Haram. The London-born politician and Rhodes Scholar was brutally deposed by his own conservative coalition in a leadership coup in September.
“Cultures are not all equal. We should be ready to proclaim the clear superiority of our culture to one that justifies killing people in the name of God,” Mr. Abbott wrote in the column.
The former prime minister also attracted criticism from members of the Muslim community in Australia, interpreting his comments as suggesting Islam is culturally inferior to Christianity.
ABC news reported that Islamic Council of Victoria spokesman Kuranda Seyit said that position was “grossly disrespectful to the people of Islam”.
Sydney-based Islamic scholar Ahmed Abdo also criticised Mr Abbott’s approach and questioned whether he was qualified to call for a “reformation”.
“Those comments are in fact in line with what radical groups such as ISIS are actually calling for,” Mr Abdo said. “That is that the western world rejects Islam and Islam has no place in wider Western society.”
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