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Obituary: Remembering a remarkable man

28th Dec 2017
Obituary: Remembering a remarkable man

Professor Sofjan Saury Siregar: January 5, 1951 – October 23, 2017 (Photo: Creative Commons)

Professor Sofjan Saury Siregar an academic, activist, Indonesian presidential candidate and a man I proudly call my father had the exceptional ability to unite people of all backgrounds.

My reflections on the lifetime achievements of a great man can never truly do him justice and offer only a glimpse of his accomplishment and what he imparted to all around him.

Siregar, son of Syahmin Azhari Siregar, was born 66 years ago, in Gunung Tua, Tapanuli Selatan, Indonesia. He went to school in Sidimpuan, Sumatra. He obtained a scholarship to study Islamic Law at the prestigious University of IAIN Sunan Kalidjaga in Yogyakarta

Despite a modest start to life his youthful ambition secured a columnist post at Waspada newspaper, enabling him to not only send money to his family but also to buy his first true valuable: a watch. He was president of the student association.

He commenced his postgraduate studies in Madinah, Saudi Arabia, where he obtained his Master’s degree cum laude and was offered a job by the country as a representative for cultural and religious affairs in The Netherlands. In 1980 he married my mother, Berlian Tri Astuti, in Sumatra, before moving to The Hague.

In Saudi Arabia he became invaluable to Ambassadors, he was also invited to many conferences and international meetings as a speaker and expert on religious and cultural affairs in Europe.
Driven by a passion to promote peace he joined the Forum for World Peace and Interreligious Harmony, where he worked alongside head of states, monarchs and world leaders.

He proved to be an incredibly valuable asset for the Indonesian expatriates in The Netherlands and across Europe, and with a handful of fellow Indonesians, he founded the Indonesische Stichting Rotterdam.

As chair of the Forum Komunikasi Masyarakat Indonesia di Nederland, he represented Indonesians in the Netherlands of all faiths.

He had a series of published books throughout his career includingTuinen der oprechten a collection of the Prophet’s hadiths, Basisboek Islam and a Guide for Hadj and de Edele Koran, a contemporary Dutch translation of the Qur’an which it has become the standard Dutch translation of the Qur’an in the Netherlands and Belgium. He also contributed many columns to the Indonesian online newspaper detik.com.

A long-time passion for Indonesian politics led him to join the race for the presidency in Indonesia in 2002 and 2014. He ran as an independent candidate for his modern and enlightened vision of Indonesia’s future was incompatible with party politics.

In the 2002 Indonesian presidential election, he founded a new political party: Partai Masrahat Rakyat. He chaired the European branch of the Indonesian Association of Muslim Intellectuals founded to spearhead the educational development of Indonesian Muslims’.

After his retirement in 2016, he remained active as a visiting professor at many universities and institutes worldwide. His journey ended in Novi Pazar, Serbia, where he did what he loved most: academic work.

I will remember him as a caring father, with an incomparable love for his children. Everything I have achieved and will achieve I could not have been done without him. He formed my character with an emphasis on kindness, ambition, perfection, and perseverance.

Professor Siregar is survived by his wife Berlian Tri Astuti, daughters Syarifah Siregar, Sabrina Siregar and son Sjahdian Siregar.

Sabrina Siregar

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