In his first public speech as Religious Affairs Minister , Lukman Hakim Saifuddin said Islamic schools foster " Keindonesiaan " – the Indonesian national character that embraces both diversity and unity.
"Pesantrens act as guards to preserve and protect diversity in Indonesia. Therefore, there is no place for radicalism in pesantrens ," he said at the Indonesia Sharia Economic Festival in Surabaya on November 5th.
"We should be proud of them, and they should continue to teach good, correct and true Islam . I am pretty sure the results will be excellent. Pesantrens will produce students with strong nationalism, tolerance, and openness, but not radical[s]."
Diversity is common in pesantrens, he added.
"Students learn from each other's cultures and various ethnic backgrounds. Therefore, they are commonly exposed to and appreciate diversity," Lukman Hakim continued. "They should utilise these differences as an opportunity to learn from one another and not to build enemies."
A student, a teacher and a Surabaya resident who attended the event agreed.
"[Lukman] made good points. I think each of us should realise that we are coming to learn to be good santri (students). We want to have a strong understanding about Islam so we can preach according to Prophet Muhammad's teaching. But we are also learning about science and among other things, learning tolerance," Tebu Ireng Pesantren student Muhammad Nugraha told Khabar Southeast Asia.
Nugraha said he enjoyed studying in the pesantren.
"I think I made a good choice, and I will keep today's teaching in my heart that pesantrens are our guards for unity in Indonesia," he added.
Salahuddin Wahid, a teacher at Pesantren Tebu Ireng, said listening to Lukman's speech was a good opportunity for students.
"It gives students added motivation, and our school will continue to do our part and provide a good understanding about Islam for every student and also provide them with knowledge of science, languages and morality," he told Khabar.
Inclusiveness encourages tolerance, Salahuddin added. "It's the key , in fact," he said.
More such motivational and spiritual speeches would go a long way to improving attitudes and possibly reducing radicalism , suggested Surabaya resident Rahmiati Sutanti.
"I think we need more speeches like this. It is inspiring and encouraging," she told Khabar. "Pesantrens are not the only places where radicalism can grow. Radicalism can grow in the community or even at the personal level with lone-wolf radicals."