A Broader Understanding of the Meaning of Pluralism

Pluralism is often explained as a concept that approves of all religions, leading to the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) to issue a fatwa that identified pluralism as haram or forbidden. Yet for the members of the CRCS program that participate in collaborative effort with four countries called the “Pluralism Knowledge Program” (PKP), the definition of pluralism is much broader. In their view, pluralism is defined as the acceptance and valuation of diversity, and for people or groups from different backgrounds to endeavor to work together to accomplish something positive. This was the definition of pluralism that was presented at the launching and book discussion of “New Directions in the Politics of Diversity in Indonesia” that was held by CRCS on the 25th of March 2011 in the Graduate School Building at UGM. Both a book entitled “Civic Pluralism” and a monograph regarding “The Politics of the Public Space in Schools” were introduced at the launching. Dr. Zainal Abidin Bagir, acting director at the Center For Religious and Cross-Cultural Studies (CRCS) explained that pluralism should be understand as not just pertaining to tolerance, but as active efforts to understand difference. Central to the discussion was the explanation that pluralism is not the same as relativism, and that it does not call for groups to leave or lose their individual identities. While some definitions of pluralism focus on the idea of discovering similarities, here there is a stress on difference – or more specifically, on valuing difference.

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