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Indonesia: Increasingly intolerant

Hundreds of families are huddled in makeshift shelters, unable to return home, either in Madura, East Java, or in Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara, because they profess a different faith than most other Muslims.

Ahmadiyya Times | News Watch | Int’l Desk
Source/Credit: The Jakarta Post
By Editorial | December 21 2012

This year seems worse than the days when three followers of the minority Ahmadiyah faith were killed last year in Banten. The human rights watchdog, the Setara Institute, which released its annual report on Monday, recorded 371 incidents against religious minorities, compared to 299 last year.

In late October, three people were killed in Aceh’s Bireuen regency. Two were reportedly burned alive in an attack on the house of a 60-year old leader who was accused of disseminating heretical teachings.

If the Constitution is any guide, one may think the aftermath would have seen demands for better security to protect people’s freedom of worship. Yet the incident led to heightened demands that the governor issue a decree banning heresy, profanity and apostasy in Aceh.

Aceh is indeed the only province legally allowed to apply sharia under its special autonomy law. However, Jakarta has continued to endorse old and new policies that dictate which faith groups may or may not exist across the country — further legitimating what a number of surveys have revealed to be widespread intolerance of different faiths.

Thus, in this nation, Ahmadis, for instance, cannot marry unless they convert to “proper” Islam. Under regional autonomy, hundreds of bylaws have been issued to restrict or ban minority faiths. Thus, the Setara Institute cited local administrations as the worst violators of religious freedoms.

Regarding bylaws on religious issues, Home Minister Gamawan Fauzi once said, “What’s the fuss?” Many of the bylaws regulating religious aspects of Muslims, such as the requisite level of Koran-reading proficiency for prospective civil servants, only affect Muslims and do not bother anyone else, he said. Related to this is the attitude that the bylaws restricting minority faiths are in line with national laws, such as the 1960 Blasphemy Law.

However, Indonesia is not only bound by the UN Convention on Human Rights, but it is also among the midwives of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration — just born on Nov 18 in Phnom Penh. Together with nine other member states, the declaration stated, among other things, that “Every person has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. All forms of intolerance, discrimination and incitement of hatred based on religion and beliefs shall be eliminated.”

The road to the declaration was colored by Indonesia’s protest of what its officials and activists said was a watered down version of the UN Charter, which would bring ASEAN’s standards of human rights to a collective low point, to accommodate “new” democracies. But what do we have to show for our protests?

Hundreds of families are huddled in makeshift shelters, unable to return home, either in Madura, East Java, or in Lombok in West Nusa Tenggara, because they profess a different faith than most other Muslims. A few hundred others cannot hold mass this Christmas in their own churches, which were forcefully closed or burned down.

Observers and activists have acknowledged that the presidential and general elections in 2014 will be the main backdrop for all political maneuvers, including the abuse of religion. A clear national policy ensuring mutual tolerance of different faiths would at least show a President committed to the ideals of the founding fathers, to establish a free country protecting its citizens, regardless of their backgrounds.

Read original post here: Indonesia: Increasingly intolerant

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