IBRAHIM ISA'S – FOCUS
ON RELIGIOUS (IN)-TOLERANCE IN INDONESIA
Thursday, November 17, 2011
The Other Indonesia
Tolerance Draft Bill ‘Not the Answer’
Enforcement Needed For Religion Tolerance
THE OTHER INDONESIA
A lack of tolerance for religious minorities undermines Indonesia's moden image. -- By EMILY RAUHALA, Time – 21 Nov, 2011.
A year ago Barack Obama returned to Indonesia, where he lived as a boy, as President of the United States . In a speech at the University of Indoenesia, he reminisced about catching dragonflies, flying kites and running through rice paddies in the Jakarta of his youth. “Indonesia is a part of me” he told the audience, while lauding the nation and its people for their new democracy, commitment to the rule of law and tolerance for religious diversity. Obama's affection for Indonesia is understandable. But as he prepares to go to Bali on Nov. 19 for the East Asian Summit. He needs to ditch the nostalgi and deliver a stern message to the one time home for not living up top its pouported ideals.
A KEY MEASURE OF THE LEVEL OF JUSTICE and compassion in any society is how it treats its minorities-often its most vulnerable citizens. On that score, Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, is failing. In the past year, public violance against religious minorities, who together make up about 12% of the 240 million population, has been relentless.: there has been a slew of incidents, from burnings and bombings of churches to attacks by radical Muslims on moderates. The autorities appear unable or unwilling to firmly intervene.
That seemed to be the case when I was in a packed courtroom outside Jakarta a few months ago. On trial were 12 men charged in connectrion with a mass assaults early this year on members of the peaceful Ahmadiyah sect. Ahmadis believe that their Indian founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) was also a prophet, after Muhammad-a claim orthodox Muslims find heretical. This plus other differences have made Ahmadis a target for hard-liners in Pakistan, Bangladesh and of late, Indonesia too. The attack on Ahmadis was brutal. A hundreds strong crowd gathererd at opposite ends of a remote rice-farming village on the western edge of Java and converged on an Ahmadi home. The people inside were surrounded and attacked with matshetes, sharpened sticks and stones. Three men died; five were badly injured.
At the trial, before the judges entered the chamber, an Islamic cleric in a white robe stepped from the gallery and led the courtroom in prayer. Those inside – plus many more pressed against the outside gate – prayed for the mob, not those killed. People in the crowd told me the Ahamadis has it coming, that the mob was provoked and the violence spontaneous.
One of the accused, 17 year-old Dani bin Misra, was filmed smashing an Ahmadi man's skull with a rock. He and the other defendants were convicted of “participation in a violent attack that results in casualties”. Dani was sentenced to three month's jail. The rest, including two clerics, received five to six months. (By contrast, an Ahamadi got six months for wounding an attaker when defending a family property). Said New York City-based Human Rights Watch: “The trial sends the chilling message that attacks on minorities will be treated lightly by the legal system.”
WE EXPECT BETTER FROM INDONESIA
When the 1997 Asian financial crisis sparked mass protests that helped bring down longtime strongman Suharto, the majority Muslim nation shatterred the trend myth that Islam is antithetical to democracy. Today, Indonesia is freer and more open than ever. Indeed, many see the country as a model for the postrevolutionary Arab world. Yet institutions are weak, corruption endemic, and militarty repression persist in the forgotten territory of Papua. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has condemned the various religious attacks, but not, say his critic. forcefully enough. Extremists have florished on the fringes of the modern mainstream, spawning radical groups and religious vigilantes. Their actions undermine everything good aabout contemporary Indonesia.
I raised the Ahmadiyah verdict with Suryadharma Ali, Indonesian Minister of Religious Affairs, one of whose responsibilities is to keep the peace among all faiths. Suryadharma was unapologetic in tone: he said Indonesia respects religious freedom, but that minorities could not use that freedom to “completely modify” Islamic beliefs. He also defended regulations that ban Ahmadis from proselytizing or openly practicing their faith. The minister compared antgonism towar Ahmadis to flag burning: “Your country would get angry if you burned their flag. And the case of religion is higher than the flag.” Perhaps so, but for Indonesia to be truly the modern, moderate society it claims to be, it needs to show through word and deed that it will not tolerate intolerance.
(note: all bold printed - by I.I.)
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Tolerance Draft Bill ‘Not the Answer’
Ulma Haryanto | November 15, 2011 --
A draft bill on religious harmony being prepared at the House of Representatives is likely to
promote intolerance rather than counter it, a human rights watchdog said on Monday.
Lawmakers preparing the draft bill have touted it as providing a long-term solution for the religious conflicts plaguing the country. It was among the priority bills for this year, but it has remained unaddressed as the House has turned its attention to other issues.
However, the most recent draft of the bill, dated August this year, includes articles that are
“discriminative” and “could threaten the country’s pluralism,” Setara Institute
for Democracy and Peace researcher Ismail Hasani said on Monday.
“From early on, Setara has said that in order to give the right treatment to a
social problem, there has to be a carefully analyzed social diagnosis,” Ismail
said, pointing out that the drafter of the bill had failed to consider weak law
enforcement as a reason why many religious conflicts linger.
“Religious harmony can only be achieved if the state can guarantee everyone’s religious
freedom and rights,” he said. “But the draft even fails to mention what responsibilities the state has. It also fails to acknowledge the importance of maintaining Indonesia’s pluralism.”
Setara deputy chairman Bonar Tigor Naipospos sad the current version of the bill was a “shortcut,” not a long-term solution.
“The bill pinpoints issues that are believed to be the source of conflicts, and then sets restrictive provisions around them,” Bonar said.
“There are articles that are unnecessary, as well as impossible to enforce.”
As an example, Bonar cited an article that requires the consideration of “the local community’s wisdom” prior to the construction of a place of worship.
“How exactly can you measure people’s wisdom? How do you define wisdom?” he said.
The chapters of the current draft, a copy of which was obtained by the Jakarta Globe, specifically regulate how people should spread their faith, celebrate religious holidays, construct places of worship, hold funerals and organize religious education.
Firdaus Mubarik, a spokesman for the embattled Indonesian Ahmadiyah Congregation (JAI), also was less than impressed.
“Our Constitution protects religious freedom, but instead of enforcing that, the government is caving in to the so-called majority,” he told the Globe.
Setara said it planned to submit an alternative draft to the House by the end of this month, alongside groups with similar concerns such as the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Jakarta),
the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (Elsam) and the Human Rights Working Group.
Abdul Kadir Karding, chairman of House Commission VIII, which oversees religious and social affairs, insisted the bill would ensure minority rights.
“When there is a non-Muslim person living in a Muslim community, he or she has the right to have the same access to services as the majority,” he said. “We want all people to understand the importance of respecting people from different religions.”
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Editorial: Self-imposed tolerance
The Jakarta Post | Wed, 11/16/2011
Tolerance and pluralism are like two sides of the same coin, one complements the
other. However, in reality, neither functions as well as might be hoped.
It is for these universal principles that many countries in the world have
incorporated the two interrelated ideals into their national mottos. Be it the
European Union’s United in diversity; Djibouti’s Unity, Equality, Peace; the
United States’ E pluribus unum (Out of many, one) or Indonesia’s Bhinneka
Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity), all in agreement that both concepts are main
ingredients in achieving global harmony and peace.
The commemoration of the International Day of Tolerance Wednesday is therefore
the perfect moment for all nations, including Indonesia, to refresh and at the
same time enforce the spirit outlined in the 1995 Declaration of Principles on
Tolerance and the 2005 World Summit Outcome, which sought the commitment of
heads of state and governments to advance human welfare, freedom and progress
everywhere, as well as to encourage tolerance, respect, dialogue and cooperation
among different cultures, civilizations and peoples.
It is true that talk is cheap and it is implementation that is key. There will
always be deviations from, if not violations of, the spirit and principles
enshrined in the two international treaties above. Global history and news
reports have revealed such anomalies here and there – Indonesia is no exception.
Being the world’s largest Muslim majority nation and also a home to many
religions and ethnic groups, Indonesia has been praised worldwide as a champion
of cultural and religious pluralism. However, several incidents against minority
groups have provided proof that implementing ideals is more difficult than
formulating treaties, laws and regulations.
One case in point is the mob attack on the Ahmadiyah community compound in
Cikeusik, Banten, last February, which cost the lives of three Ahmadis. Another
is the much criticized government licensing process for houses of worship, which
has triggered a prolonged legal conflict that has prevented a Christian
congregation from holding Sunday services in their own church in the West Java
city of Bogor.
The latest example is the controversy surrounding the House of
Representatives-initiated draft of the so-called religious tolerance bill, which
observers claim could actually threaten the very essence of pluralism and tolerance.
The draft bill, which aims to regulate religious sermons and segregate graves
within public cemeteries according to religion, is seen by many as a potential
trigger for religious intolerance. The bill does not propose an alternative
system to the current problematic licensing of houses of worship that majority
groups have used to make it difficult for members of minority religions to
congregate for prayers and religious ceremonies in several regions.
Cases of violence have frequently occurred in the absence of true and proper
implementation of laws and regulations, but in the case of the religious
tolerance bill, it is the draft law itself, and the loopholes within it, that
needs revision so as to prevent, or at least reduce, the potential for future
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Editorial: Enforcement Needed For Religion Tolerance
November 15, 2011 - The Jakarta Globe
The freedom of religious belief and the right to practice one’s faith are
protected by our Constitution. Indeed, Indonesia — with its myriad religions and
ethnic groups — has been touted as a role model for religious tolerance, despite
having a strong majority of people who belong to the Muslim faith.
We can point to many examples of mosques and churches standing side by side, and
of communities celebrating different religious holidays in harmony and a spirit
But with recent instances of religious strife and discrimination against
minorities, the nation’s social fabric has begun to fray.
To restore religious tolerance and harmony to the country, lawmakers are now
working on a draft bill they are touting as a long-term solution to the
religious conflict that has plagued the country in recent years.
Human rights groups and minority communities are not convinced, though. Many
have raised concerns over some of the articles in the bill.
They rightly point out that the root cause of many cases of religious conflict
is weak law enforcement, not an absence of regulations. Religious harmony, they
note, can only be achieved if the state guarantees every citizen’s religious
freedom and rights. The new bill, as it currently stands, does not clearly spell
out the state’s responsibilities and duties in protecting religious freedom.
What it does is to set out regulations for how people can spread their faith,
celebrate religious holidays, construct places of worship, hold funerals and
carry out religious education.
The bill, therefore, must go further. It must spell out punishment for those who
attack places of worship or who injure those of a different faith in the name of
religion. The punishment must be severe if it is to act as a deterrent.
Maintaining religious harmony in this country is as crucial as having a strong
military defense against foreign invaders. Religious tolerance is the very
fabric of this multi-faceted nation. If we do not protect minority groups and
ensure their safety, the nation’s internal security will be undermined.
The state has a responsibility and a moral duty to every citizen in the republic
to enable and preserve their freedom of worship. This is what the new draft bill
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