Muslim Religious Leaders Visit IRLA Headquarters

Muslim Religious Leaders Visit IRLA Headquarters


Mitchell Tyner (left) legal counsel for the IRLA, explained the history of religion in the U.S. to the delegates. Looking on is IRLA vice president, Dr. Eugene Hsu, and Dr. Jonathan Kuntaraf, a native of Indonesia, who was a participant in the dialogue.

SILVER SPRING, MD, USA… Two Muslim religious leaders from Indonesia visited the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA) headquarters, July 13, 2004, as part of an international visitor leadership program study tour (sponsored by the U.S. Department of State). 

Mr. Tabrani Syabirin, vice chairman of the Special Dakway Council and Central Board Muhammadiyah Movement based in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Imam Syuja’, chairman of the Muhammadiyah Organization and Banda Aceh, Naggroe Ache Darussalam, met with IRLA officers and staff. Mr. Syabirin and Imam Syujá were here to learn about religious freedom in the United States by examining the Constitutional provisions for the separation of church and state and the legal rights of religious minorities in the U.S., and to understand America’s commitment to tolerance and the role of inter-faith dialogues.


Dr. Gallagher chairing the meeting that day.

“Our impression of the United States is that there are many different religious groups living together peacefully,” said Mr. Syabirin. “Our government is interested in promoting peace and tolerance among religions of all faiths in our country as well. We have had some challenges the last few years, but we are committed to continue our efforts to maintain peace and harmony for everyone.”

Speaking on behalf of the IRLA, Dr. Jonathan Gallagher, deputy secretary-general, said that “It is important to dialogue with representatives of different faiths especially in regard to religious freedom and human rights. We appreciate the opportunity to exchange views and explore positive ways of reducing violent conflict and building religious tolerance. The IRLA remains committed to upholding fundamental principles that bring mutual respect between religious groups and freedom of conscience to all parts of the world.”


L to R: Mr. Tabrani Syabirin, Imam Syuja and translator.

The meeting, which was chaired by Dr. Gallagher, provided insights to IRLA participants of the Muslim leaders’ thoughts on the Shari’a law (Muslim law) that was introduced in the Aceh province (located on the westernmost tip of Indonesia) in December 2000, the death penalty for conversion in other parts of the world, and other religious matters handled by state courts. While the Shari’a court was established in February 2003, Iman Syuja’ said that it has not been completely implemented. He clarified that currently the legal system established by the government is being utilized.

The world’s largest archipelago, Indonesia is also home to the world’s largest Muslim population and has held a record for religious tolerance for many decades. However, since 1999 this country of over 200 million people has experienced conflict in areas such as the Maluku Islands, Ambon, and Aceh.


Part of the delegation that attended the meeting that day.

In November 2003, Dr. John Graz, secretary general for the IRLA, met with synod general secretary Reverend S.J. Mailoa and others at the home of Deputy Mayor Sari Hadler in Ambon to discuss working closely with the synod for healing of the communities. 

The IRLA, organized by members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and chartered in 1893, is a non-denominational organization, established to promote and defend religious freedom for all groups and people around the world. For more information about the IRLA, visit www.irla.org. [Viola Hughes]