News / Asia

Indonesia Experiencing Increase in Religious Intolerance

A Muslim protester holds up a sign during a protest against an anti-Islam film made in the U.S. mocking the Prophet Mohammad, outside the U.S embassy in Jakarta, September 21, 2012.A Muslim protester holds up a sign during a protest against an anti-Islam film made in the U.S. mocking the Prophet Mohammad, outside the U.S embassy in Jakarta, September 21, 2012.
x
A Muslim protester holds up a sign during a protest against an anti-Islam film made in the U.S. mocking the Prophet Mohammad, outside the U.S embassy in Jakarta, September 21, 2012.
A Muslim protester holds up a sign during a protest against an anti-Islam film made in the U.S. mocking the Prophet Mohammad, outside the U.S embassy in Jakarta, September 21, 2012.
Kate Lamb
Acts of violence against minority faith communities in Indonesia are rising, casting doubt on the nation's tolerant image and what some have seen as proof that Islam and democracy can coexist. Analysts say violence is leading the country down a dangerous path.

In Madura, East Java, a local sports hall that is typically the venue for noisy afternoon badminton matches has for two months been a safe house for Shi'ite Muslims.
 
Umi Hani was among those who fled her home after a 500-strong Sunni mob attacked her village - torching houses and killing two Shi'ite members in her community.

“They want to burn our houses and kill us,” the 31-year-old said as she nursed one of her four children on her hip.
 
That was in August. Today Umi, and 200 other Shi'ite Muslims, are still in the sports hall - afraid to return home, to work and send their children back to school.

To appease local tensions the government has proposed relocating the entire Shi'ite community. But for Indonesia’s Ahmadiyah, a minority Muslim sect, it is no solution.

Persecuted also for their beliefs, some Ahmadis on the island of Lombok have lived under refugee-like conditions in local town halls for more than a decade.

Fathan Harun, the spokesperson for Indonesia’s coordinating justice ministry, says the government is trying a different approach to diffuse current religious tensions.

“The Shi'ite community in Madura rejected the relocation plans so we are coming up with alternatives,” he said. “We are trying to educate people in the villages about religious intolerance and to teach people that it is wrong to discriminate against the Shi'ites and people of minority faiths.”

Religious tolerance is embedded in Indonesia’s constitution, but it still is not embraced by many. The world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation is home to some three million Shi'ite Muslims.
 
A nationwide poll by Indonesia Survey Circle this week indicates 61 percent of Indonesians with a low level of education say they are not comfortable living next door to Shi'ite Muslims.  Sixty-three percent said the same of the Ahmadis.

But it is not only followers of minority Islamic faiths that face discrimination.

Despite a Supreme Court ruling, a Christian congregation in Bogor, West Java, has, for years, been forced to pray on the sidewalk after local authorities sealed off their church.

In the past week alone, nine churches and six Buddhist temples were closed in the Sharia-ruled province of Aceh.

Under the leadership of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, almost 80 churches have been closed across the country - 10 times more than under former dictator Suharto.

Andreas Harsono of Human Rights Watch says faith-based vitriol is undeniably on the rise and the state is helping to enforce it.
 
Asked if Indonesia can legitimately claim it is a pluralistic and tolerant nation anymore, Harsono was doubtful.

 “No, not at all, because of at least three phenomena," he explained. "One, the government and police are helping, either actively or passively to inflame this religious intolerance and there is a lot of evidence, in Madura, against Christian churches, and against Ahmadiyah. The second there is more and more legal frameworks against the minorities.”

Harsono cites the blasphemy law, the anti-Ahmadiyah decree and more than 100 discriminatory regional by-laws as examples of how the state is undermining the rights of minorities. He also says that government institutions that discriminate are not being admonished.

“They include the ministry of religious affairs, the Indonesian Ulema council," he said. "And last but not the least the religious harmony forum, which is in fact discriminating against minorities in setting up houses of worship.”
 
With a coalition including Islamic-based parties, the president has been unwilling to crackdown on religious violence and discrimination.

Harsono worries that if things do not improve, Indonesia could head down the same road as Pakistan and Afghanistan, where religiously motivated violence is almost routine.

For Umi, 31, it is Indonesian attitudes that need to change, because she says she will never convert to a different faith out of fear.

You May Like

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More