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New state-of-the-art Islamic university to begin maiden academic year

Jakarta Post - September 21, 2021

Dio Suhenda, Jakarta – Indonesia International Islamic University (UIII) in Depok, West Java, is finally ready to open its doors to students starting next week, the institution's administrators have said.

Officials have touted the Rp 700 billion (US$50.4 million) project, which has been under construction for just three years, as the answer to the growing need to establish an academic center on modern Islamic civilization in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority country. The new state university is also expected to catapult the nation's Islamic studies scholars onto the global stage.

UIII rector Komarudin Hidayat, himself a notable Islamic studies scholar, hosted a number of officials and Muslim figures at a convocation on Monday, among them former vice president Jusuf Kalla and incumbent Religious Affairs Minister Yaqut Cholil Qoumas.

Kalla, who attended the groundbreaking ceremony in 2018 with President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, said that the university's establishment was a noteworthy progress that would enable the country to contribute greatly to global Islamic studies.

He said that, amid the escalating conflict in the Middle East, Indonesia must take on the responsibility of providing good religious education. In a thinly veiled critique of the Taliban's new regime in Afghanistan, Kalla added that offering a fundamental, conservative and radical interpretation of Islam was not Indonesia's aim.

"We want better thinking, more modern interpretations of religion, [and more] moderation," Kalla said at Monday's ceremony.

"What is very important is that now Indonesia has a university, facilities and human resources that [can compete] at the international level," he emphasized.

UIII is to welcome a total of 98 students for its maiden academic year, all on scholarships who were selected from a pool of over 1,000 applicants from 59 countries. It has opened just a handful of academic departments in its inaugural year: Islamic studies, political science, Islamic economics and education sciences.

Due to COVID-19, classes for the first semester of the 2021-2022 academic year are to be conducted fully online, although the campus was prepared to begin in-person learning as early as next year, once the mobility restrictions were lifted.

"With [an admission] ratio below 10 percent, UIII has shown itself to be a highly competitive university, even in its formative year," Bahrul Hayat, the university's deputy rector for student affairs, said during the event on Monday.

"This has brought us some optimism that UIII has [already] become a university of choice for prospective students from all over the world."

Bahrul assured that the selection process was fair and that despite being an Islamic university, consideration of a student's tribal, religious, ethnic or societal background was excluded from the admission process.

Located on a 142-hectare plot in Depok, a city that was previously considered among the most intolerant in the country, the new campus has a futuristic design to reflect the progressive, moderate Islam that has flourished in Indonesia.

Since independence in 1945, Indonesia has been sending its brightest Muslim students to study in the Arab world as well as Egypt, Iran and Turkey, which were once centers of ancient Islamic civilization. Now, it intends to become a new center of Islamic studies and research.

Over the past decade, partly due to the rise of violent extremism in the Middle East and elsewhere, Indonesia has sought to promote a plural, tolerant and open kind of Islam that is compatible with democracy.

Jokowi included UIII among his administration's strategic national infrastructure projects for education, mandated in a presidential regulation he signed in 2016.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2021/09/21/new-state-of-the-art-islamic-university-to-begin-maiden-academic-year.htm