12 September 2010

Religious Tolerance in Indonesia...

The past week has seen the President, SBY, supposedly send a letter to President Obama asking him to prevent a clown pretending to be a pastor somewhere in Florida from going ahead with a plan to burn the Koran. Supposedly, the letter talked about religious tolerance and the need for Obama to show some leadership on this front. This post is not going to be a critique on the pros and cons of burning books, or even more particularly religious tomes, but it will pick up on the religious tolerance theme.

If religious tolerance is such a concern Mr. President, then why do you remain silent when your citizens are finding themselves victimised and the victims of violent attacks because they follow a minority faith in your country?

Mr. President, if you are a real leader of men and women, then why is it that you cannot ensure that the constitutional rights your people have to practice their faith is not only enforced but protected from those who seek to create an Islamic state?

Mr. President, religious tolerance is a two-way street. You cannot have your cake and eat it too! If you want to talk the talk, then perhaps it is time to walk the walk. I wonder, if President Obama was to send you a letter asking you to be more pro-active in promoting religious tolerance in Indonesia, maybe even specifically President Obama may mention a Batak Christian congregation being hounded and victimised in Bekasi, would you do it? Would you take a principled stand and enforce the Constitution and the prevailing laws to ensure that these fellow human beings of the Christian faith were protected from those seeking to do them harm?

The truth be told, religious tolerance in Indonesia is quite often nothing more than an intellectual academic debate among elites...those at the coal-face see every single day the ugly side of religious intolerance. It is time, Mr. President, to practice what you preach.

Ho hum...


Ultratupai said...

Hi Rob,

Thomas Belield here. I am working on a paper and I was wondering if you could help me with a citation. I am curious about Indonesia autonomy law. Law 29/2004 I believe is on regional autonomy. Specifically I am looking to find out about the law(s) which allow for group formations (Betawi and others)which are operating in Jakarta. Sorry to contact you through your blog but I could not find your email. I am at tbelfield@gmail.com.

Rob Baiton said...

@ Ultratupai...

As I recall, they are generally formed under the Mass Organisation law. I will have to track it down as to Act No. and for specific provisions.

I will email this to you later today.

tikno said...

"However, he suggested that the 2003 Law on Terrorism be amended to allow the prosecution of clerics who criticized the government in their sermons or advocated for the implementation of Shariah law."
Quoted from:

"In some of his strongest comments against terrorists yet, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Monday called on all Indonesians to join the government in combating terrorism and their plans to establish an Islamic state governed by Shariah law."
Quoted from:

tikno said...

Thankfully for the good news above.

Rob Baiton said...

@ Tikno...

This is my point about talking the talk and walking the walk...words vs. actions.

Your defense of the President is admirable ;)

Good news? Hmmmm, how so?

If the man was serious about ending this as an issue then he would have done it by now.

A difference of opinion and a healthy debate is always welcome around here.

I am not as confident as you that SBYis in control of this thing. It is one thing to say what he is reported to have said in the links you provide, it is another to actually put into practice concrete measures that will protect the rights of all Indonesians as guaranteed under the Constitution.

Have you posted on this, aside from your Koran burning post? (which I might add was a fine read!)

tikno said...

@ Rob,

If you read my comments there, then you will know my attitude towards this issue. But definitely, I would not dramatize a tiny scale cases, moreover the government has responded harshly and even most moderate Muslims themselves also disagree to this violence.

Overall, Indonesian Muslims certainly was different if compared with Afghanistan or Iran. Indeed there is hard-line but I'm seeing overall because hard-line (including hard-line / fanaticism on another religious) could be happened anywhere.

Rob Baiton said...

@ Tikno...

It is with all due respect that I post this reply.

I have read your original post and the comments posted there. I even complimented you on them in an earlier comment to this post.

I understand and appreciate what your comments are and were to the issue.

This is not dramatizing a tiny case or an isolated incident. A collection of isolated and tiny incidents may in fact be indicative of a much larger problem or issue that needs serious responses.

A difference of opinion can be a healthy thing. I am not at all worried that we might disagree. I am of the opinion that the president and the police response to this incident is inadequate.

The president coming out and saying that this particular act is bad is not enough in light of the consistent occurrence of these types of attacks.

The police response only really got warmed up after there was significant public backlash about their lack of concern.

You suggest that I believe this is a problem with Islam and Indonesian Muslims, I do not. The radical and fundamental element is a fringe element. Yet, it is undeniable that they poison / contaminate the perception of the whole. The vast majority of Indonesians are good people.

Religious intolerance does and can happen anywhere, and it does. I have been critical of the pastor in Florida wanting to burn Korans.

Nevertheless, two wrongs do not make a right. The response is significantly disproportional to the incident that sparked it.

Take the Lombok cases which see two expats facing blasphemy charges. These are official charges initiated by Indonesian police. Yet, there has been no real focus on the vigilante justice that has seen private property stolen and destroyed in the name of defending the honour of Islam.

So, yes, I beg to differ, these are not tiny scale cases that are being dramatised or sensationalised without thought. They are, in fact, indicative of much deeper problems and issues that will have to be confronted by all sooner or later. The choice is up to Indonesia and Indonesians when that might be.