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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

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