Post D: Freedom of Religion in Indonesia

Since the fall of Indonesian President Suharto in 1998 the public have begun expressing long suppressed views about religion, unfortunately many views are intolerant towards religious minorities.

A 1965 presidential decree demands all Indonesians adhere to one of six religions (Menchik 2014), which citizens were required by law to declare on national identification cards. The current Population Administration Law allows citizens to choose whether they declare their religious faith on ID cards. As this law only recognises six religions; Islam, Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Confucianism (Hertzke 2013), if a religion is not declared individuals risk being labeled as “godless” by Muslim clerics or officials and may be subject to blasphemy prosecution. (US Department of State 2011)

In 2012 a three citizens, a Shia cleric, a spiritualist and a self-declared atheist who had listed Islam as their religion were jailed for blasphemy (Kine 2014).

Even though Indonesian law protects freedom of religion, past governments have failed to make a significant effort to protect minorities or prosecute those responsible for the violence, intimidation and harassment. Unfortunately much of this can be linked to the previous government of president Bambang Yudhoyono, who ruled from 2004 to 2014.

In 2005 Yudhoyono gave a speech to the Indonesian Muslim Council (MUI), promising them “a central role in matters regarding the Islamic faith” and “pledging the government’s openness to their fatwas” (Rogers 2014). Within days of this, MUI issued a series of fatwas against people for heretical beliefs.

Protesters cover their mouths during a rally in Jakarta, demanding the president do more to protect their freedom of religion. (Dawn 2010)
Protesters cover their mouths during a rally in Jakarta, demanding the president do more to protect their freedom of religion. (Dawn 2010)

The constitution and other laws in Indonesia protect the religious freedom of their citizens, however certain laws and policies contradict this and restrict religious freedom, leaving some citizens unprotected by the government based on their religion.

Across Indonesia religious minorities have increasingly become the targets of violent harassment, intimidation and threats. In August 2013 a bomb was planted inside a Buddhist temple in Jakarta, injuring three people. The very next day Molotov cocktails were thrown into the yard of a Catholic high school in Jakarta. Over the last ten years Setara Institute has documented that cases of attacks on religious minorities has risen from 91 cases in 2007 to 220 in 2013 (Kine 2014).

 Police investigators gathering evidence inside the temple of Ekayana Buddhist Centre in Jakarta where an explosive device went off (Hariyanto, J. 2013).
Police investigators gathering evidence inside the temple of Ekayana Buddhist Centre in Jakarta where an explosive device went off (Hariyanto, J. 2013).

The central government has authority over religious matters but in some cases has taken no measures to overturn local laws restricting people’s rights based on their religion (US Department of State 2011).

Newly elected president Widodo faces a major challenge in stopping the rise of extremist Islamism and tackling increasing violence against minorities due to religious intolerance. After his election in July 2014 Indonesian minorities have gained hope as President Widodo is against radicalisation and proceeds against religiously motivated violence, punishing these acts severely (Heiligers 2015).

References

Dawn 2010, Religious Minorities in Indonesia Push Back, viewed 28 April 2015, <http://www.dawn.com/news/910550/religious-minorities-in-indonesia-push-back>

Hariyanto, J. 2013, Indonesian Police Arrest Three More Suspects In Buddhist Temple Bombing, The Wall Street Journal, 28 April 2015, <http://blogs.wsj.com/indonesiarealtime/2013/12/16/indonesian-police-arrest-three-more-suspects-in-buddhist-temple-bombing/>

Heiligers, E. 2015, Harmony comes from religious freedom, EMS, viewed 28 April 2015, <http://ems-online.org/en/news/article/21-04-2015-harmony-comes-from-religious-freedom/>

Hertzke, A. 2013, The Future of Religious Freedom, Oxford University Press, United States of America

Kine, P. 2014, Indonesia’s Growing Religious Intolerance, Open Democracy, viewed 28 April 2015, <https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/phelim-kine/indonesia’s-growing-religious-intolerance>

Menchik, J. 2014, ‘Productive Intolerance: Godly Nationalism in Indonesia’ Comparative Studies in Society and History, vol. 56, no. 3, pp. 591-621

Rogers, B. 2014, ‘Indonesia’s Religious Tolerance Problem’, The Wall Street Journal, 24 February, viewed 28 April 2015, <http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303775504579396030447465804>

US Department of State 2011, Indonesia, United States of America, viewed 28 April 2015, <http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/171653.pdf>

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