Islamist movements such as al-Qaeda, ISIS, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb ut-Tahrir and Boko Haram share a common ideology, which constitutes a very real and rapidly evolving threat not only to international peace and security, but also to the noble values of religion itself. In response, renowned Muslim theologians from the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) have joined world-class scholars from the University of Vienna’s Institut für Orientalistik, to create the Vienna Observatory for Applied Research on Terrorism and Extremism (VORTEX). Dr. Rüdiger Lohlker, a senior professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Vienna and respected counter-terrorism advisor to the European Union and various Western nations, heads VORTEX, along with research fellows Dr. Nico Prucha and Dr. Ali Fisher. LibForAll Foundation has worked closely with Dr. Lohlker since 2014.
This strategic initiative is designed to produce academically rigorous applied research concerning the ideology of religious hatred, supremacy and violence that underlies and animates Islamist terrorism, and contribute to developing the societal consensus, and sound government policies, that are necessary to marginalize, discredit and defeat Islamist extremism, which is contributing to the rise of Islamophobia throughout the non-Muslim world.
VORTEX partners include the University of Vienna; the Nahdlatul Ulama; GP Ansor (the NU youth movement) and a network of closely-affiliated organizations founded by H.E. Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid—Indonesia’s first democratically elected president and former chairman of the NU executive board—and Kyai Haji A. Mustofa Bisri, former chairman of the NU Supreme Council.
These organizations include Bayt ar-Rahmah li ad-Da‘wa al-Islamiyah Rahmatan li al-‘Alamin (Home of Divine Grace for Revealing and Nurturing Islam as a Blessing for All Creation); LibForAll Foundation and its International Institute of Qur’anic Studies (IIQS); Markaz al-Islam al-Mo’asser (the Center for Contemporary Islam, or CCI); and Majma’ Buhuts an-Nahdliyyah (the Forum for NU Religious Teachings, or MBN)—which are active on four continents and have been the subject of extensive international media coverage, as well as counter-terrorism research conducted by the Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies at Sweden’s National Defense College, among others.
Based in Indonesia, the NU is the world’s largest Sunni Muslim organization, with over 50 million members, 14,000 madrasahs and a rich, longstanding and well-documented tradition of promoting tolerance, pluralism and mutual respect among those of different faiths. In 2009, senior NU theologians—in conjunction with top leaders of the Muhammadiyah, the world’s second-largest Muslim organization—published a landmark book entitled The Illusion of an Islamic State, which the Wall Street Journal described as “pioneering” and the Washington Post hailed as “remarkable… a roaring success.” In his introduction to the book, President Wahid wrote: