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 Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites 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.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid