21 December 2007

Peace, Love, and Tolerance

Religious intolerance has reared its ugly head in West Java with the continuing attacks on the Ahmadiyah sect. This attack destroyed a Mosque and houses by burning them to the ground. The Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI) has declared the sect heretical and issued a fatwa or edict stating that fact.

I have posted earlier on this issue.

Yet, despite pleas by the Vice President it seems that people just do not get it!

The Indonesian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Perhaps this was, in hindsight, a mistake that slipped through the heretical net during the post-Soeharto euphoria of greater democratic and social freedoms. But mistake or otherwise it is in the Constitution and it is high time the police stepped up to the plate and acted in the manner they must. The right to practice one's faith is protected and therefore must be free form attack by others.

The MUI must also make it explicitly clear in its fatwas that even though the Ahmadiyah sect has been declared heretical, people cannot take the law into their own hands and hand out justice as they deem necessary.

If Indonesia is the law state and a state based on order and where human life is valued, it is time to prove it. The legal framework can deal with heretical sects and does not require the vigilante justice that we are seeing now. Even so, this particular issue needs to be characterized as a public law and order issue and not a religious one.

The Constitution appears to provide a blanket right to freedom of religion. Islam is not the only religion that has issues regarding sects or the development of different faiths from a common faith. It was not so long ago that the current pope suggested that Protestant churches were not real churches.

This is a chance for Indonesia to show how much it has matured and how much it values the greater democratic freedoms its citizens enjoy since the fall of Soeharto - Take It!

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