I love Indonesia. It is my second home. My wife, Dyah, is Indonesian and my son, Will, will always be aware of his Indonesian heritage. So, it is with a heavy heart that I read stories of religious intolerance and organised mob violence and murder in the name of religion. In this case the religion is Islam. Heinous acts of gratuitous mob violence of this kind is a stain on all those good Indonesians who are peaceful, tolerant, accepting, and respectful of difference. After all, the state ideology relies on the very idea of unity in diversity; the idea that there is a oneness to the Republic of Indonesia in spite of the vast differences of the peoples that make her.
The government has wavered on its commitment to pluralism and religious tolerance. It has been wavering for a long time as it panders to ultra-conservative religious elements for reasons best known to those responsible. What is certain is that this pandering has allowed the government to avoid its constitutional responsibility to protect religious freedom in Indonesia. This failure has led to the Indonesian Council of Ulemas declaring the followers of the Ahmadiyah tradition a heretical sect. The consequences of this decision and the failure of the government to step in and clarify that there is such a concept as religious freedom in Indonesia, has led to murderous violence on a number of occasions. Most recently, today.
In the Cikeusik district of Pandeglang in West Java a mob of some 500 or more decided that they did not like the presence of some Ahmadiyah followers in their midst. These goons then set out to rectify the situation. That rectification was the destruction of the Ahmadi's place of worship and the subsequent murder of at least three people. These three were then strung up in a tree in front of their place of worship as a warning to other Ahmadis not to mess with the people of Cikeusik.
It is hard for those of us with some knowledge of US history not to see the similarities to the lynchings of African-Americans that occurred in the south at generally at the hands of those who were active members or sympathisers of the Ku Klux Klan or KKK.
There is no justification for the murder of these three individuals. The perpetrators are unlikely to be ever prosecuted because of the nature of the mob attack. Yet, there needs to be justice, there needs to be punishment. Perhaps if this was, as it seems, an organised attack, then perhaps those behind the scenes that organised it and incited the violence must be found and held accountable.
It was bizarre to read that a spokesperson for the Cikeusik district was arguing that this was an instance of self-defense as the Ahmadis attacked the mob of 500 with sharp weapons. I wonder who the numbers favoured in this contest?
The reality is that Indonesians need to know that their government and their law enforcement agencies are not going to sit idly by while a select few destroy Indonesia from within.
It is not too much for Indonesians to ask that their leaders have some testicular and ovarian fortitude and come out in no uncertain terms and condemn the violence. It is also not too much to ask that the perpetrators be found and punished to the full extent of the law.
What will be SBY's legacy?